In Karnataka, popular perception has it that nothing moves in the government irrespective of the party at the helm. But in the election campaign that brought them to power, the Congress and chief minister Siddaramaiah made it out to be the handiwork of a BJP regime mired in scams. Sixteen months later, the belief that nothing moves in the government has only been strengthened. As on August 28, over 2.03 lakh files were pending with various departments in the state secretariat. Of these, a whopping 63,000—roughly 31 per cent—had been pending since the Congress came to power in May 2013.
At a cabinet meeting on August 28, Siddaramaiah, said to be upset with media and opposition criticism that his government wasn’t working, cracked the whip. He ordered all ministers to ensure that pending files were cleared by directing officials to work on a second Saturday and Sunday. In two days, the babus cleared 40,000 files, thus bringing the backlog to around 1.6 lakh files. Now, the revenue department, which has the most pending files with 17,361, has asked its secretariat staff to work on three holidays next week to clear the files.
The fact that officials could clear 40,000 files in two days makes one wonder why they allowed the files to pile up. Will this one-time clearance help the people? Not really. Siddaramaiah is not the first chief minister to order a “kadata” or file yagna. The late R Gundu Rao initiated it in the early 1980s. Files keep piling up because of red tape or other considerations. While a delay is an injustice to genuine beneficiaries, the hurry shown in a file clearance drive without due diligence and application of mind could cause greater damage. Siddaramaiah, who promised to bring transparency into the administration, should extend Sakala, a programme that ensures services are rendered within a time frame, to the secretariat. The move has been resisted by IAS officers heading various departments. Interestingly, the file on widening the ambit of Sakala has been pending with the CM for a few months.