The recent visit of TSR to the national capital where he met a bevy of cabinet ministers and the supreme duo of saffron politics has again flared the unending talk of cabinet expansion in the Himalayan state. Three berths in the Uttarakhand cabinet are to be filled but the wait for a handful of hopefuls for donning special suit for the swearing in ceremony seemed unending. Just when they had given up, the resurfacing of the expansion talk has made them active again for one last hurrah for their cherished aspiration. It is expected that TSR would go for expansion soon after the budget session of assembly slated to start in Gairsain from March 1. However the skeptics point out that the cabinet expansion talk could be a ploy of TSR to keep some members of the treasury benches, some of whom consider them in reckoning for coveted berth in cabinet, silent during the upcoming assembly session. The government was left red faced in the last session when some members of the treasury benches raised uncomfortable questions both inside and outside the house. With only a few months left for the model code of conduct for the assembly elections to be enforced, it would be interesting to note whether the cabinet berth bait is taken or spurned.
The serious allegations of harassment levelled by the director of the culture department Beena Bhatt on a senior IAS officer Dilip Jawalkar has rocked the Babudom of Uttarakhand. In her letter which has gone public, the woman director who is said to be a protégé of a powerful politician of the saffron party has said that Jawalkar sat over her promotion file for more than two years and when she eventually got the promotion on the intervention of High Court, a post of Director General (DG) was specially created in culture department to undermine her authority. Though Bhatt has made some more allegations against Jawalkar who holds the reputation of being an upright officer it is apparent that Bhatt who held supreme power in the department was increasingly getting sidelined. Interestingly the letter is said to be old and it is rumoured that it was deliberately leaked when no action on her complaint was taken by the authorities concerned.
Even as the contagion of Covid-19 has staged a comeback of sorts in some states of the country the number of new patients of the dreaded pandemic is steadily declining in Uttarakhand. Though the decrease in the numbers is heartening it has also made both the authorities and the people complacent in dealing with the virus. The crowds are back in the markets, the marriage ceremonies are witnessing the return of good old times where things like physical distancing and Covid-19 protocols were nowhere in picture and it appears that the general caution that the people exercised a few months ago has gone on a sabbatical. This suicidal tendency of throwing caution to the winds coupled with the fact that the state would play host to Kumbh in Haridwar soon has all the potential to bring the contagion back to haunt the Himalayan state. The authorities and civil society should take a lead in launching a campaign against this complacency.
Friday, 26 February 2021 | Gajendra Singh Negi | Dehradun