Before IAS officer Uma Shankar Singh took charge as Bokaro deputy commissioner on September 20, a peon at his office used to parrot a jingle that served as a commentary on the prevailing work culture at the district collectorate.
“Sarhe barah baje se pehle office ana bilkul late nahin, aur do baje ke baad babu se kabhi bhent nahin (coming after 12.30pm to office isn’t late and after 2pm no official can be met),” he would proffer.
Merits of the jingle apart, it could not have escaped Singh, the new deputy commissioner (DC), IAS batch of 2009, that daily work hours had been crunched to 90 minutes. Bokaro had been virtually rudderless since February.
Singh, formerly the DC of Koderma, and in his late twenties, held a five-hour meeting on September 21 at Bokaro Club.
During the event, officers of rural engineering, human resources department, health, PWD, roads and other departments were asked to explain the reasons for delay in implementation of ongoing projects. Finding answers “unsatisfactory”, the DC directed them to come prepared for the next meeting and explain the progress made, “own up to your responsibilities and avoid pinning blame on others”.
MLAs of Dumri Jagannath Mahto and Chandankyari Umakant Rajak, Bokaro DDC Sri Ram Tewary, heads of departments, district board chairman M.K. Singh, elected members of district board and others were also present.
Officially, the pocket borough of the Shibu Soren clan and Congress heavyweights Rajendra Prasad Singh and Chandrashekhar Dubey, alias Dadai Dubey, cabinet ministers in the Hemant government with important portfolios, lacked a DC since August 9.
Arwa Raj Kamal, an articulate IIT-Madras alumnus, also the son-in-law of Union minister of state petroleum and natural gas P. Lakshmi, joined as Bokaro DC on February 7 and left on August 9 on study leave to do his MTech in the US.
In the 222 days, the suave Raj Kamal attended office for only 42 days. On joining, the 27-year-old took leave to go to Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. He attended office for six days in February and 10 days in March. Between April and August, he came to work for only 26 days.
Singh took over from Dhanbad DC Prashant Kumar, who was given Bokaro as an additional charge, despite the fact that the coal district has 12 blocks and the industrial counterpart eight.
“Without a regular DC, it is really tough to run the day-to- day administration,” the Dhanbad DC had agreed. “I try my best to see to it that no major work of Bokaro district faces a hurdle.”
Yet, in the two months, no regular meeting on development, welfare, revenue collection had taken place. No janta durbar had been convened at any of the eight blocks.
When The Telegraph team visited Bokaro DC office at 12.10pm on September 19, a day before Singh took charge, only three officials and 12 clerks were present.
The officials were deputy development officer (DDC) Sri Ram Tewary, district transport officer R.K. Gupta and welfare officer S.B. Mehra.
Many chambers of officials were locked or vacant, though in some fans were switched on.
The new DC will discover more troubles. Though Bokaro needs 31 deputy collectors, only 11 are posted. Simple maths is enough to say that one deputy collector is holding charge of some three or four departments.
Deputy collector Sandip Kumar holds six charges — officer on special duty to the DC, land records deputy collector, legal in-charge, land acquisition officer, confidential section in-charge, electoral officer.
His colleague, district transport officer V.K. Gupta holds the charges of transport, revenue, disaster management, labour monitoring officer.
Deputy collector Mahavir Singh has the responsibilities of general administration, certificate officer and arms magistrate.
District supply officer Rajesh Rai holds the charge of supply department, establishment and general law and order.
Welfare officer Shashi Bhushan Mehra holds charge of social security and nazarat deputy commissioner.
But first, Bokaro DC Singh must stretch the working time from 90 minutes to, well, 10am to 5pm, at least. Or is that too much to ask?