The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mandarins & MLAs on clash course

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 18: Bureaucrats and legislators in Orissa appear to be heading for a serious face-off, with disgruntled MLAs belonging to the ruling coalition spewing venom against a cross-section of IAS officers.

The legislators have long been sore over the Naveen Patnaik government’s “over-dependence” on bureaucrats. But yesterday, battlelines between the executive and the legislature were clearly drawn after a cross-section of parties came together to serve notices on two women IAS officers, accusing them of breach of privilege.

As many as 45 MLAs in the 147-member Assembly are reported to have served privilege notices against the IAS officers over a meeting of the IAS Officers’ Association on Friday.

The officers, in their emergency meeting, expressed displeasure over the discourtesy and use of unparliamentary language by ministers and legislators. They were particularly sore over the discourtesy shown to Malkangiri sub-collector T. Wapangao by cooperative minister Arabinda Dhali. Although the privilege notice by the legislators was admitted by the Speaker, it is yet to be discussed.

The tension between the bureaucrats and legislators came to the fore yesterday as several MLAs took turns in IAS-bashing. Biju Janata Dal MLA Kalpataru Das, who has no love lost for the IAS fraternity, accused the officers of absenting themselves during question hour.

Das, who has brought a privilege notice against principal secretary in the health department, Meena Gupta, accused the senior IAS officer of embezzling funds to the tune of Rs 500 crore from a government scheme.

“The House is supreme. The people have given us licence to rule them. Who are the bureaucrats to criticise us'” said Congress MLA Suresh Routray. Other members like Ramakrushna Patnaik and Nalini Mohanty also used the opportunity for IAS-bashing.

The face-off between the executive and the legislature started on December 9, when a BJD member drew the deputy Speaker’s attention towards the near-vacant officers’ gallery during a discussion over AIDS awareness programmes.

During the discussion, the legislators hurled invectives against state AIDS Cell project director Ranjana Chopra and the health secretary, accusing them of embezzling the funds meant for AIDS awareness programmes. Later, the deputy Speaker summoned the health secretary to the officers’ gallery at the instance of the members.

The IAS officers said the ministers and the MLAs should not use intemperate language against them. The verbal attack on the Malkangiri sub-collector by Arabinda Dhali was termed “unfortunate” as the Naga officer is not conversant with Oriya.

“It was a very trivial issue. The minister should not have abused an officer who came to Orissa just four months ago,” said a senior IAS officer.

The parliamentary department has just issued guidelines to officers over the ways to deal with MPs, MLAs and ministers. According to the circular, every official should rise to receive them whenever they come calling. It also advises all district-level and sub-divisional level officials to set aside a fixed time everyday for MLAs and MPs. Government servants should not preside over ceremonies where ministers and MLAs are participants, it said.

“The guidelines are a small beginning to bring the legislature and the executive together,” remarked deputy speaker Ramachandra Panda.

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