Tuesday, March 02, 2010

To: Home minister; From: My Name is Not Maoist

To: Home minister; From: My Name is Not Maoist
- Ministry’s fax machine meant for rebel talks offer flooded with grievances from common people
ARCHIS MOHAN

New Delhi, March 1: Guess who the people need to thank for bringing the government closer? The Maoists, short and simple.

Not to forget T.N.G. Prabhu, a senior principal private secretary (PPS) at the Union home ministry, who is at the receiving end, so to speak.

Phone No. 011-23093155 hasn’t stopped beeping and belching messages since last Tuesday when home minister P. Chidambaram asked the rebels to fax him a statement that they would “abjure” violence.

The Maoists have not bothered to respond yet, but dozens of ordinary citizens have been faxing in complaints to the number at Room No. 126B at Raisina Hill, the seat of the Indian government.

On Tuesday, after the Maoists had come up with an offer of a conditional ceasefire, Chidambaram had said: “I would like a short, simple statement from the CPI (Maoist) saying ‘We will abjure violence and we are prepared for talks’. I would like no ifs, no buts and no conditions. I would like the statement to be faxed to 011-23093155.”

Senior officials confirmed that the fax machine had been rather busy since Tuesday. “People probably think they can get to speak directly to the home minister on this number,” said an official.

Prabhu, an elderly man with a calm demeanour, sits beside the fax machine that answers to the number 011-23093155.

Prabhu, senior PPS to additional secretary (Naxalite Management) D.R.S. Chaudhary, is tight-lipped about the contents but sources said they ranged from complaints against unresponsive public servants, corrupt police officials and even on infrastructure problems.

Many also write with the hope that the Union home minister himself would look into their problems. For the record, Chidambaram looks at each and every fax, irrespective of who it comes from.

Officials said the minister not only looks at the dozens of faxes that people have sent every day on the number but also follows up on whether any action has been taken. If the faxes are in regional languages, officials ensure that the minister gets a translated version.

Not that the home ministry does not have a grievance redress mechanism. K.C. Jain, joint secretary (co-ordination and public grievances), heads the division. His fax number is 011-23092392. People also send emails at jscpg-mha@nic.in and dirpg-mha@nic.in or lodge grievances online at http://www.pgportal.gov.in.

“It isn’t that our grievance system was not working properly. The publicity the media have given to this fax number is the reason for the huge public response,” said an official.

No if and buts about that.

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