SHORT STORY: JOB ENRICHMENT … learn it from a tehsildar in Karnataka

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    Some bureaucrats have the gumption to transform even small positions, into powerful and meaningful ones, and some indolent bureaucrats would transform, even powerful and prestigious positions, into inconsequential jobs. So it’s all in the incumbent, and depends on the person occupying the chair. This is where B.N. Girish a tehsildar in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district outshines his bureaucratic fraternity. He shows the way as to how an upright bureaucracy can make a difference.

    As a tehsildar in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district he went undercover as a labourer to work at a stone quarry and check for irregularities then returned to raid the place.  This exemplifies the critical role of bureaucracy in India. Since January 2017, BN Girish has been on a crusade against illegal stone and sand mining in the taluk, following up on tips from local people, conducting raids and seizing vehicles. Sand mining owing to the construction boom has become a lucrative industry in rural India but the state’s limited capacity for regulation has inflicted severe ecological damage to hills, rivers and forests.

    Imagine, for a moment, if a corrupt or indifferent officer was in Girish’s place. He would have made enough black money for himself, and at the same time damaged the environment. Now size up the damage such rapacious mining in just one taluk wreaks on the environment, and the losses to public exchequer; and the weakening of law and order machinery when illegal activity gains impunity and profit. Then multiply this by the thousands of taluks in India and we will get a sense of the importance of the lower bureaucracy. Politics was meant to take power to the people and cut through red tape. But in India the Neta-Babu nexus has for long taken advantage of hierarchical inequalities to subvert the system.

    Says Girish. “Locals told me about the Gejjinahalli quarry in March. I had raided it earlier. But labourers stopped work when they spotted my vehicle. Miners have such a strong network that when unknown vehicles enter, they stop work and flee. That’s when I decided to go in disguise so that no one would recognise me.”

    He adds further. “They realised he was an officer only when he started the inquiry. Gejjenahalli has several stone quarries, but I could raid only four as the men in other places got information and ran away. I plan to use a similar method to tackle illegal sand mining problem in the taluk.”

    Such illegal happenings have run their course and have to change now. The RTI Act, the spread of education, ubiquitous smartphones, rising aspirations and worries over environmental degradation are empowering communities to speak up against illegality. It also helps when honest officers come to the aid of hapless citizens. Not surprisingly, the struggles of bureaucrats like Ashok Khemka against successive Haryana governments struck a chord with the public. Perhaps, a new breed of civil servants with a can-do attitude has emerged in recent years with popular following that even rivals politicians. But the likes of B.N. Girish who go the extra mile must become the norm, not the exception.

   So, a big salute to Tehsildar B.N Girish.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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