CHENNAI: Social entrepreneurs Gokul and Santhosh Kumar had convinced the State government to sanction funds to implement their innovative solution to manage solid waste, but funds were not released. Then, one of them sent a message to a Collector on Instagram. Within a few days, funds were disbursed. According to officials, the State government machinery has been paying attention to almost every newspaper report and complaint received through social media of late.
After The New Indian Express published a report on the plight of tribal children, who lacked bus services at Pazhaveli village in Chengalpattu district, Chief Minister MK Stalin instructed the transport minister to provide the facility immediately. In another instance, the Greater Chennai Police responded to a journalist on Twitter when she tweeted about how she was accosted. “The suspect was secured immediately and will be remanded soon,” the GCP had replied.
Higher-ups in the bureaucracy credited the development to a major reshuffle that took place in mid-June after the DMK took over. A Collector told The New Indian Express that of 38 districts in the State, about 30 have Collectors who are regular recruits (via UPSC). “This is in stark contrast to the trend (many of them were conferred IAS officers),” said a bureaucrat, pointing out that since the reshuffle, the average age of Collectors has been halved to about 33 years.
Recalling how procedures have changed, the official said, “Never before has a CM held a briefing with Collectors before they take charge. Earlier, it used to be a formal affair. A Collector would call on the CM and present a bouquet. But this time, Collectors spent more than half a day in the meeting.”
Corroborating this, a Collector said, “The new government appointed officers who are just seven or eight years into service, as Collectors. They are used to social media. Besides, their interest to bring change is contributing to the development.” He emphasised how the government is also following complaints keenly and paying attention to details, such as how complaints are being addressed.
Though such avenues were available previously, the official said they were largely untapped. The DIPR is responsible for taking note of every news report and sharing it with the respective officials. “At 6 am, soft copies of news reports are sent to the respective Collectors, and hard copies are placed on their tables,” an official said, adding that follow-ups are made on WhatsApp groups from the chief secretariat.
However, another Collector told The New Indian Express the DIPR sharing news reports is an age-old tradition and has nothing to do with the present regime. Mentioning the changes brought in by the new government, the official said, “The central DIPR office is taking note of issues (positive or negative) and sharing them with district officials and following up regularly. They are also taking note of the best practices devised by Collectors and giving them recognition.”