The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Efficacy sermon after Do it now

Calcutta, Sept. 22: Seeking to tackle the perceived politicisation of the bureaucracy in Bengal over the past 25 years, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asked bureaucrats to be “responsive, sensitive and transparent” for the sake of the state’s economic rejuvenation.

Addressing government officers of the state cadre at the annual meeting of the WBCS (Executive) Officers’ Association today, Bhattacharjee called for a “committed and efficient bureaucracy to sustain development in Bengal” and asked the WBCS officers to improve their work culture and punctuality, which, at present, was not satisfactory.

“Officers should work within their jurisdiction and remember that their promotion depends on their performance,” he said.

The chief minister also reaffirmed his call for austerity. “The government simply cannot afford wasteful expenditure anymore,” he added.

Bhattacharjee said the people’s continuing trust in his government — unprecedented in the country — should be rewarded with a “responsive and transparent administration”. Last year, he had come up with the “Do it now” slogan to instill life in the bureaucracy, but apparently the results were yet to show.

The chief minister said his government’s success depended considerably on WBCS officers and highlighted the bureaucracy’s role in the districts, where the Left Front’s “achievements in agriculture and panchayats need to be consolidated”.

The state enjoys a “bright future” in agro-industry and information technology, he said, adding: “We attract considerable industrial investment nowadays.”

From the chief minister’s viewpoint, rural infrastructure development was one of his priorities. “Electrification, roads, primary education, public distribution system, drinking water and medical facilities should be improved in the villages,” Bhattacharjee said and pointed out that West Bengal had the lowest population below the poverty line. He also claimed that the state’s rural economy was the most “organised” in India.

Bhattacharjee stressed on speed in administration and welcomed innovations such as e-governance. He said officers should work towards a sensitive and pro-people administration. “Unnecessary car travel, telephone calls and refreshments should be curbed as the government cannot afford any such expenses,” he added.

While conceding that Bengal was going through a financial crunch, Bhattacharjee also claimed that the state was better off than most others in the country and blamed the Central government for the present crisis. He pointed out that the Centre paid only seven per cent interest on loans incurred but compelled the states to pay 12 per cent interest. “This is unjust and should not be allowed to continue,” he said.

The chief minister said officers should share the government’s problems and try to increase the state’s revenues. “West Bengal’s Rs 4,000-crore (plan) budget should be properly utilised,” he added.

Bhattacharjee supported the officers’ demands for promotion and said a WBCS (executive) officer had been appointed district magistrate of North Dinajpur. He claimed that this decision was taken despite the Centre’s disapproval. “Officers would also be placed in charge of entire departments once we have the all-India scenario and the government may also accommodate more such demands in the future,” he added.

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