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Why no one taking ‘acting’ chief secy seriously

Ranchi, May 12: It’s like sitting on a powerful chair that may or may not be snatched away any moment.

Sajal Chakraborty, acting chief secretary of Jharkhand since his illustrious predecessor R.S. Sharma was called on central deputation, is making field visits his priority over files.

His legwork has been visible, from inspections to health centres on Ranchi outskirts and night shelters to homes built for the poor under Ambedkar Awas Yojana in Chiroundi, among others, many of which are a first for any chief secretary.

He also held a few meetings with departments of HRD, drinking water and sanitation, forest and environment, but it was clear that his heart was in inspections.

But the “acting” or “caretaker” tag shakes Chakraborty’s gravitas. It is not yet clear if Chakraborty will manage to make his post permanent. That’s why many bureaucrats are quick to write off his raids as “headline grabbing stunts”.

A senior bureaucrat said as much.

“Nonsense. Headline grabbing stunts. A chief secretary doesn’t hit the streets or sleep in a hospital at night in the name of inspections. There are better ways to see how public services function,” he said.

“They look like election campaigns,” said another.

On the outcome of Chakraborty’s night shelter inspection on Sunday, an RMC official said: “Kya hoga, kuch nahin. Abhi kuch soche nahin (What will happen, nothing. Haven’t planned anything).”

“Political party members illegally occupy half the night shelters. And he (Chakraborty) won’t want to offend any party at the moment,” his colleague chipped in.

It seems Chakraborty’s carefree or offbeat style of functioning doesn’t strike the right chord with dyed in the wool bureaucrats used to following protocol.

Chakraborty apparently enjoys the backing of TMC’s Bandhu Tirkey and tacit support of Congress.

But names of other chief secretary contenders include senior bureaucrats Sudhir Prasad and Rajiv Gouba. Prasad is also supposedly close to chief minister Hemant Soren.

But Chakraborty feels he is a good choice as chief secretary minus the acting tag.

“I have worked in Jharkhand very closely, I have known the area and people well. Most importantly, I have the capability to bring drastic changes. Since I am a caretaker, I am unable to crack down on those who are corrupt at the moment,” he told The Telegraph.

A source close to Chakraborty was candid.

“No one cares about inspections. All know Chakraborty isn’t a permanent chief secretary. He also has a powerful anti-lobby in IAS circles. But he is sincere.”