FOR THE 24th time since he joined the IAS in 1967, St Stephen’s and Cambridge-educated Arun Bhatia has been transferred. The latest transfer came last week. He was shifted out from the post of Pune Municipal Commissioner after he ordered the demolition of illegal structures built by Pune’s rich and famous.
Ketan Tanna spoke to Pune’s demolition Man the other day excerpts:
Q: you have been transferred 24 times in 31 years. What does this indicate?
A: Transfer has become a weapon of punishment. One needs security of tenure to act independently. An officer cannot grasp the finer points of his post if he is transferred too soon. He should get at least three years in each posting. Transfers were meant to improve the IAS, but are being abused at public cost.
Q: you are accused of leaking a letter you had written to the chief secretary when you were the Pune divisional commissioner, criticizing him for lethargy and inefficiency in the Krishna Valley Development project.
A: I did not leak the letter. In any case, work on nearly five projects under the KVD scheme worth more then Rs 200 crore has come to a halt because the State Government is not releasing funds for the rehabilitation of farmers. It is just five percent of the entire cost. Despite my several letters and two meetings with the chief secretary, nothing has been done. And meantime, costs escalate. Can’t I pont this out to him?
Q: Many of your IAS colleagues say you have a knack of attracting controversy. They feel there’s a concept called “quiet, efficient work.”
A: I attract attention because my fight is against the system. That’s why it is rare and that’s why it rocks the boat. Please quote me that those who do not confront the system are without balls. I wonder how these people live with their conscience.
Officers like me do not have support within the system because we are fighting it. It is necessary to fight it. We are a corrupt third world bureaucracy.
You sound angryâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
It is humiliating. What is demoralizing is that they take away the mandate to work, to do something for the people. The government makes you impotent and posts you where you can do little.
Q: You demolished many structures in the week you were municipal commissioner. What was the hurry?
A: When I was divisional commissioner of Pune, many complaints came to me of illegal constructions. So when I became municipal commissioner, I took action. Yes, almost all the demolished illegal structures belong to the rich and well connected. But the rich and influential are not above the law.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna