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Friday, July 20, 2018

Mumbai Underground: Cut to the chase

Mumbaikars may not be surprised at the number of excuses civic officials can come up with as reasons for delay in projects.

| Mumbai | Published: September 7, 2015 1:55:51 am

Soon after she came on deputation to the Railway Police Force, a senior woman officer made it mandatory for all the railway cops to come in uniform. Recently, when she was out on inspection at one of India’s busiest train stations CST, a RPF official who wasn’t wearing his uniform fled the platform on spotting her. Undaunted, this official gave a hot chase, forcing the scared official to take refuge inside the railway control room where she burst in. While officials in the control room looked baffled seeing this Bollywood-style drama playing out in front of their eyes, the man escaped from another door. Livid at seeing the RPF cop escape, the senior officer told her subordinates to get hold of him only for them to find that he had gone on leave for a week, after the chase. With the “hot pursuit” story now trending across departments in the railways, staffers are all eyes and ears on how this unfolds when the man turns up for duty.

Babus’ cultural woes

Mumbaikars may not be surprised at the number of excuses civic officials can come up with as reasons for delay in projects. While technical fault, tender errors and department tussles have become common reasons, people would not have heard of cultural differences to be an excuse hitherto. Recently, a senior civic official was heard telling journalists that a recent Rs 100-crore project is running late on the timeline as babus are finding it difficult to coordinate with their French counterparts. The official said, “Meeting these cultural differences took a lot of time. Now that we are quite at par with the French team, we are expecting quicker progress in the project.”

Do not disturb

Bringing in transparency was a key promise of the BJP-led government in Maharashtra, but that doesn’t seem to apply to the chief minister for his daily schedule. For years, the media would receive a comprehensive list from the chief minister’s office about his important meetings and events for the day to make it easier for journalists to preset details of the deliberations and decisions in these key meetings to the public. However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ office gives a one or two-line schedule about his general whereabouts for the day, often leaving who he is meeting and what issues he is pursuing a mystery. The chief secretary’s office, which would also share the administrative head’s meeting schedule when requested, has also apologetically clammed up. “The chief minister has strictly told us not to share any schedules as then officials are disturbed by calls from the media,” a source said.

2-minute noodles loyalists

Maggi may be off the shelves for now, but just like its fans, certain government officials are also not very happy with their quick-fix meal gone. At a conference at Wockhardt hospital recently, Dr Girdhar Gyani, head of the Association of Healthcare Providers (AHPI), quipped, “the lead in Maggi is not that high if you ask me”, to an approving and laughing audience. He was referring to a lot of food products other than Maggi, which, according to him, have excessive lead. Earlier, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officer, who was involved in the laboratory analysis of the two-minute noodles, had admitted, “I had Maggi in its last days,” a day before Maharashtra announced a ban on the product.

Tough talk

Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has issued a stern warning to all government departments to not make hollow promises without getting the budgetary sanctions. A senior officer in the ministry said, “It has become a trend these days for every minister to declare something new when addressing a pubic rally. What is completely ignored is the budget allocations.” Once the commitment is made, there is growing pressure on the finance department to accommodate the new schemes. And when it sends a negative note, it is not acceptable to many ministers. To put an end to these problems, the finance minister had to talk tough and put on hold some schemes that can wait.

No calls please

Being readily available for media to dole out quotes seems to have become a headache of sorts for Education Minister Vinod Tawde, who has been lately complaining of the same. He apparently gets calls from journalists over extremely trivial issues and that too at odd hours, and that has forced him to divert his calls to his office number. “How can I reply to why a school expelled one of its students or why results of a particular subject was delayed by a university? These can be confirmed or verified with the departments or officials concerned. The media can definitely ask me questions pertaining to policy issues, they are most welcome,” he said. As a result, the minister, who was known for always answering calls from the media, now mostly has his staff receiving his calls, who promptly say, “Saheb busy aahet, nantar call kara, kivva ek sms taka (Sir is busy, please call later or send an SMS).”

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