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Saturday , March 16 , 2013
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Holi yes, holiday no for babus

Ranchi, March 15: Holi hai is not a festive war cry but an uneasy question for Jharkhand bureaucrats this year who have to sweat it out on holidays to utilise at least Rs 6,000 crore before the fiscal year ends.

Enforced holiday workaholism this March-end is making jaws drop in shock at government offices across the state under President’s Rule. The powers-that-be in Jharkhand, under pressure to utilise the maximum planned budget funds for development activities by March 31, have decided not to let the holiday spirit get officials all easy and relaxed.

The state administration has so far utilised just over Rs 7,000 crore of planned head funds out of an earmarked allocation of Rs 16,300 crore in 2012-13. But as the state is set to lose central allocations under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Backward Region Grants Fund (BRGF), a quantum over Rs 3,000 crore, effectively, the budget comes around Rs 13,000 crore.

It is a Herculean task for a state to utilise Rs 6,000 crore in a fortnight.

Too bad the March holiday calendar is otherwise so promising. Holi is scheduled on March 26 and 27 (Tuesday and Wednesday), while Good Friday on March 29 is also a holiday. March 30, a Saturday, though a working day, is normally light. March 31, Easter Sunday, will anyway be a holiday.

Normally, bureaucrats would have probably taken strategic days off to wrangle a whole week of holiday, lazing around at home or going for a trip or something.

A letter issued by the principal secretary (state cabinet co-ordination department) N.N. Pandey has put paid to all such hopes. It sternly asks all additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries, secretaries, heads of different departments and DCs of 24 districts not to leave the state, commissionary or district headquarters during March-end even on holidays.

There’s more. Sources said the government is planning to prepare a roster of department officials and employees so that offices stay open on holidays. In a rotating manner, employee groups will be asked to attend office.

“This apart, there should be alternative arrangements in case of absence,” Pandey’s letter sternly says. “The idea is to ensure that money allocated for different projects in this fiscal gets utilised before the end of the financial year.”

In case officials do need to travel outside the state for work, they need to take prior permission from chief secretary S.K. Choudhary.

Even if he or she gets permission, the departmental secretary/head concerned should ensure that his or her absence does not make any material difference in taking decisions related to different projects/schemes.

Adviser to the governor Madhukar Gupta had claimed they aimed to utilise 80 per cent of the state plan funds in the current fiscal.

Resigned to their fate, senior bureaucrats are toeing the line virtuously. “Otherwise also, we do not leave headquarters without prior permission of the government. But at this crucial stage, we certainly won’t,” said one.