Karnataka’s anti-corruption drive has received a setback when the State Government refused permission to the State Lokayukta to prosecute V.P. Baligar, a senior IAS officer in connection with two land denotification cases. Apparently Mr Baligar, who reportedly wielded a lot of clout in the earlier Yeddyurappa Government, continues to be powerful despite the change of regime in Karnataka. Babu-watchers say that Mr Baligar, a 1980-batch IAS officer, is one among 17 senior officials who are being considered for the post of Chief Secretary. This factor would have weighed in the minds of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his colleagues at the Cabinet meeting where it was decided to deny permission to the Lokayukta to proceed against Mr Baligar. The Lokayukta has also sought to prosecute a neta, former Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani, but the Government seems to be undecided on that.
Mamata’s new diktat
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s idea of improving the work culture is to centralise all control over the Atate’s bureaucracy. Naturally what Mamata wants, Mamata gets. A new diktat emanating from the Chief Minister’s Office in Kolkata directs all officials above the rank of Special Secretaries who have to travel on work assignment to seek the CM’s sanction before they proceed. And apparently the Chief Minister means it. For, one babu has already discovered what it means to flout a directive from the Chief Minister. Barun Roy, a 1992-batch IAS officer has been removed as Chairman and Managing Director of the State Power Development Corporation for going on holiday to Australia without following “due process”. Oddly, Mr Roy was once a blue-eyed babu who was brought back from central deputation by Ms Banerjee when she became Chief Minister. Will other babus get the message?
Road block ahead
The rumours refuse to go away despite Secretary of Road Transport and Highways Vijay Chibber denying that the Ministry is at loggerheads with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) over the move to restructure contracts in stalled highway projects. The NHAI is reportedly against the move. There is also disagreement, sources say, over transfers and promotions at NHAI. The Ministry has taken the stand that the contract appointments made by NHAI are in violation of the Central service rules. NHAI chairman R.P. Singh has reportedly been ordered by the Ministry to send all matters relating to promotions and transfers of NHAI babus to the Ministry for approval. Meanwhile, while the Ministry and NHAI continue to wrangle over administrative matters, the road sector continues to struggle, with the Government repeatedly failing to meet its road building targets in the country.