| Mollah: Tough taskmaster
Calcutta, March 7: On a mission to weed out corruption, land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah today said he would employ private agents to collect levies if the officers refuse to cooperate.
A section of officers is up in arms against their boss since he embarked on the drive to cleanse his own backyard.
But Mollah hit back at them threatening to outsource one of the most crucial tasks in his department after coming across a leaflet being circulated by the officers.
'The leaflet says the officers are disappointed by my rude behaviour with them and that it is bound to affect work. They've hinted that land reforms and collection of land revenue will be hampered in future. I consider this a threat,' the minister said.
Last month, when a group of union leaders went to Mollah with demands for a salary revision, he kept them waiting for three hours. They were later told that it was a lesson to show how common people felt when the officers made them sit out for hours. 'You should know the discomfort now,' he told the leaders.
Adding insult to injury, he called them 'thieves'.
Today, the minister said, he would wait for some time to see if the officers are mending their ways. 'If I find them shirking, I will employ private agents at the block level and even the village level to collect land revenue. Work cannot suffer because of them.'
Over 3,500 officers are engaged in the collection of land revenue from 18 districts.
Asked what would become of the officers if their work goes to outsiders, Mollah said: 'They will be entrusted with some other work and soon become dying cadre.' He was 'willing to face the consequences' if his party stood in the way.
A CPM leader said he is known not to mince words.
Mollah had created a flutter last year by saying two departments ' police, which is looked after by the chief minister, and his own ' were the most corrupt and known to harass people. 'I keep hearing about how my officers have cheated and overcharged poor farmers. My department is corrupt at all levels.'
He also earned the officers' ire last month for getting all 12 employees of a land reforms office in Purulia transferred because they did not turn up for work by 11 am. A surprise visit by the land records and surveys director had revealed that the office did not open before 11 though the register showed everyone was in by 10.