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Absence of government allows Delhi's babus to take a chill pill

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 - 12:17pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Bureaucrats at the Delhi Secretariat are enjoying the political vacuum in the national capital. With the impending president’s rule in Delhi, inactivity at the Delhi Secretariat, which has been a dormant house for the last two months, will continue unabated.

The current Delhi assembly will be dissolved today, and the national capital is headed for President’s rule after the Bharatiya Janata Party said it won’t be able to form a government and the Aam Aadmi Party sought time to decide on the issue last week.

“Politicians keep us under a lot of pressure. Now, that pressure has vanished. We can take independent decisions,” said one officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

For the last few weeks, the Secretariat corridors have been silent, there are no queues at the reception for gate pass requests to meet ministers and secretariat officers don’t rush from one meeting to another. The lack of activity reminds some bureaucrats of the time when Delhi was a Union Territory. In the absence of a house, Delhi’s annual budget will be sent to the home ministry by January without being tabled in the Vidhan Sabha — a first in two decades.

With no deadlines and no pressure to get work done, bureaucrats often pack up for the day by 5-5:30 pm. “There is not much to be done during the day. And on some days it gets difficult to kill time,” admitted a clerical staffer with the education department.

The much-at-ease officials feel that routine work in the secretariat will continue as usual and the absence of elected representatives only means that new schemes won’t be introduced. Secretary-rank officers have the power to allot funds for works upto Rs 5 crore and only projects worth more than Rs 100 crore need cabinet approval. “There aren’t any such big projects in the pipeline. The projects that have already been approved by the cabinet will not be stalled,” said a senior officer in the planning department.

Likewise, all officers who reported to the chief minister through the chief secretary will now report to the Lieutenant Governor, which has been witnessing increased activity. Since Delhi does not enjoy complete statehood, all matters related to planning, administration, security and land need final approval from the LG. Now, the chief secretary can directly bring these issues to the LG, said an officer in Jung’s office.

Ever since the election code of conduct for Delhi assembly elections came into effect in October, all the welfare schemes of the government have come to a standstill as new beneficiaries cannot be added to the schemes in the absence of a government.

“Benefits for the food security scheme, the old-age pension scheme, the ladli scheme for the girl child are being disbursed to those who have already enrolled,” said an officer. “But the bureaucracy cannot identify new beneficiaries for these schemes. Till the time a government is in place, the benefits of these schemes cannot be extended to more people.”


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