It sounds unbelievable,but true. The cabinet ministers in Himachal Pradesh,can’t carry their cell phones to the cabinet meetings in the age of technology and Real-Time Internet usages by the state governments.
The curbs,which are unprecedented in its nature in the congress ruled state are also made strictly applicable on the bureaucrats and officers attending the cabinet meetings.
The move,which apparently has approval of the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh intends to put the ministers under close watch to plug all possible chances of ‘unofficial’ leaks about important decisions,and ‘in-camera’ discussions at the meeting.
The advisory ,debarring the ministers from taking mobile phones to the cabinet meeting was issues early this morning,hours before the meeting started .
The move has surprised the bureaucracy more than media professionals ,who are always on look-out for clues about the cabinet at historic “Summit Hall” of the Ellersile the government secretariat .
Officiating Chief Secretary P.Mitra issued the advisory and requested the ministers to follow the instructions strictly whenever meeting of the cabinet is held .
The circular of the officiating Chief secretary did not surprise the ministers ,who willingly surrendered their cell phones to the staff from their offices.
There is no option.It’s an order,a minister admitted to media professionals .
Insiders say Chief Minister had,sometime back,conveyed to the ministers his ‘displeasure’ about the leaks,not alone relating to the important policy decisions,and also unofficial discussions. Though he did not single out any of his cabinet ministers but had admitted that lot of information and confidentiality of the the cabinet were being leaked-out .
Sometime back,two ministers-G.S Bali and Sudhir Sharma fought a pitched battle to top of their voice (in CM’s presence) in the cabinet on an issue pertaining to Kangra Valley Tourism action plan. Media published a detailed account .
It was only after the secrecy about the HPCA land cancellations by the cabinet and subsequent mid-night take over of the cricket stadium had reached the media,and even to the BJP ‘s top leadership,Chief Minister had been mulling about measures to stop use of the cell phones by ministers during the meetings.
Initially GAD (General Administration Department ) did on exercise to install mobile jammers but the move was dropped and today the gag orders came in the form of Officiating Chief Secretary’s advisory to the ministers.
Some of the ministers have more than two cell phones while Chief Minister has not taken any official mobile number.