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Bureaucrats lackadaisical: CM

CHENNAI MAY 9. The Tamil Nadu bureaucracy came in for the severest flak in the Assembly today from none other than the Chief Minister, Ms.Jayalalithaa, herself who accused the officialdom of being lax and causing a litany of errors in budgetary documents and policy notes.

``I admit they are lackadaisical... And, like a ringmaster in the circus, I am trying to whiplash them into action.''

However, she blamed the previous DMK regime's ``vindictive action'' and the slew of criminal cases filed against the officials for the ``totally dead motivation'' among the bureaucracy.

The provocation for her outburst was the DMK deputy leader, Durai Murugan's stinging remark, made during the debate on the Appropriation Bill. He charged that the Ministers were merely repeating in the House the ``wrong statistics'' given by the officials.

Instantly, Ms. Jayalalithaa, angrily intervened to say that during her 1991-96 Chief Ministerial tenure, enthusiasm ran high among the officials. However, after having suffered humiliation under the 1996-2001 DMK regime, their enthusiasm was ``totally dead''. When she took over last May, the Chief Minister said, she found the officials totally lacking in motivation and suffering from mental fatigue.

However, just as she was succeeding in her efforts at motivating them, the Supreme Court ousted her from Chief Ministership. ``Things were back to square one and for the next five months, it was a long extended holiday for the officials''.

But on returning to power this March, Ms.Jayalalithaa claimed, she had been asking department secretaries and heads, through letters and orders, to concentrate on their work. Despite such efforts, errors had crept in in the budget papers and policy notes, she admitted.

Earlier, Mr.Durai Murugan said a majority of the MLAs and Ministers were reading out from prepared text violating Assembly rules and asked the Speaker, K. Kalimuthu, to put an end to such practice. Barring a few Ministers, none of them responded to the queries raised by the members during the debate on the demand for grants for various departments, he charged.

Sufficiently provoked, the Treasury Benches rose in protest even as the Social Welfare Minister, B. Valarmathi, said the DMK deputy leader had no locus standi to give such advice.

The Chief Minister joined in to say the Ministers would not require notes if they made a political discourse without any preparation, like the DMK members. As they were required to quote statistics and as it was not possible to memorise the data, the Ministers were referring to the notes, she said.

Agreeing with her remarks, the Speaker too said the Ministers had to take the help of prepared texts while making announcements.

The DMK leader once again provoked the ruling AIADMK, accusing the police of having driven away Opposition party volunteers from the Andipatti constituency during the recent byelection, in which Ms.Jayalalithaa emerged victorious and returned as Chief Minister.

At this, Ms.Jayalalithaa said had the AIADMK flouted democratic norms and indulged in ``atrocities'', she would have won by a margin of one lakh votes and the DMK candidate would have forfeited his deposit. However, because the ruling party played by rule, she won only by over 40,000 votes, she said.

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