Governor Syed Ahmed at the block development office in Ratu, Ranchi, on Monday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, March 18: If many say a government job is a paid holiday, governor Syed Ahmed today proved that those who think so had better sing a different tune or face the music, at least during President’s Rule.
From 11 am, Ahmed paid surprise visits across various government offices in Ratu block, 10km from the state capital, to see how diligent bureaucrats were on Monday morning. Truly a surprise visit and not a staged one, it saw many bureaucrats — both men and women — missing in action.
Ahmed, who started with Ratu block development office, got a reality check at first go. Not just BDO Ravindra Kumar, a whole lot of employees were missing. To add insult to injury, most rooms in the office building were locked.
When Ahmed demanded to see the attendance register, employees present loyally backed their truant colleagues. They told the governor that colleagues who were “missing” had either gone on Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) poll duty or had taken leave with prior sanction from competent authorities. A sceptical governor then demanded notifications specifying names of officials on RMC poll duty and the leave application file, neither of which came up.
Then, the governor strode into the nearby circle officer’s chambers, where he experienced a sense of déjà vu.
Circle officer Monika Rani Tuti and most of the others were missing. Employees who did the state a favour by being present on duty trotted out the same explanations but again failed to back them up with documentary proof.
After stumbling upon these two identically scripted misadventures, the governor went to Ratu police station crossing the opposite side of the road.
Here, too, officer-in-charge Anil Kumar was not present. When he arrived, he said he had come from “the civil court in connection with some official work”.
Kumar almost mopped his brow when the governor asked him why he came back to the thana if he was really busy.
“What will you tell the judge now?” Ahmed quizzed the cop.
The child development project office was the governor’s next target. Though CDPO Nirupama Shankar was present, many said this was a “rare occasion”, with her messy office lending credence to the allegation.
“How do you manage running your office like this?” the governor asked, before enquiring about the current status of schemes.
At the Ratu health centre, the medical officer was also missing.
Finally, after two-and-half hours of surprise raids, an unusually grim Ahmed finally asked Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey to take stern action against lax officials.
“It is a fact that Ratu CO Monika Tuti is the returning officer for municipal elections. But, BDO Ravindra Kumar was absent. Appropriate action will be taken against missing employees after proper inquiry,” Choubey promised.
Ahmed’s surprise visits have political significance in a state under President’s Rule that looks certain of witnessing many political shenanigans in the next few months. “Fresh Assembly elections in Jharkhand will be held within six months,” Union finance minister P. Chidambaram recently said in the Lok Sabha.
Earlier, too, many Congress delegations had urged the governor to make surprise visits to offices that triggered everything from unease to alarm to outrage in political circles. But for the time being, it is time to stay on tenterhooks for babus bereft of political bosses.