On budgeting, not much has changed: The Tribune India

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Surinderjit Singh Sandhu

The government’s annual budgeting exercise often reminds me of the predicament of a revenue officer assigned to a not-so-lucrative tehsil. This officer had been chosen as tehsildar and this had excited his relatives who decorated him with garlands and took him on a procession around the village led by a rural alliance.

Everyone guessed the income he would earn. After two years of training, the villagers noticed a noticeable change in the family’s way of life. His first assignment was on the sidelines as a tehsildar on special duty. Since the job involved auditing tehsils, the lack of influence and lack of additional income not only chilled his spirit, but also that of his close relatives.

Finally, he was named tehsildar, Anandpur Sahib. The very first week of display saw visits from 11 dignitaries resulting in an expenditure of Rs 20,000, not to mention the consequent loss of time and public harassment due to the unavailability of officers .

Before joining the new station, he had met his predecessors. Even his quiet consultations with tehsil officials on lucrative positions did not yield encouraging dividends.

In the very first month, the expenditure for state guests exceeded Rs 1 lakh. He had to not only spend the money, but also receive it and see it go, according to protocol. After three months of posting, the debt on the tehsil stood at over Rs 1 lakh, in addition to actual payments of around Rs 2 lakh. The tehsildar worried that he had spent so much, but no more money was coming. He was also restless because of VIP visits at irregular hours and requests from family members and accompanying staff.

He wrote to the Finance Commissioner, Revenue: “I am grateful to you for appointing me tehsildar of an important tehsil and it is a privilege for me to serve the ministry under your dynamic and honest leadership. Many dignitaries frequently visit the area. A lot of money has to be spent to take good care of them. There is no provision in the state budget to incur such expenditures. All the money spent comes from the scam of innocent citizens. The region being very poor, we lack money, which obliges us to borrow. You are therefore asked either that the expenses be taken care of by the government, or that I can be transferred to another tehsil.

The commissioner was about to annotate the letter without reading it, but it said “Very Very Important” at the top in red ink. He was unimpressed by the officer’s impudent frankness. He inquired about the vacancy of tehsildars and immediately appointed him principal of Patwar school, Jalandhar.

My friend regretted his lack of tact as he had to languish as manager for about two years before he was able to reclaim a lucrative post. The system hasn’t changed one bit.

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