The people of Punjab heaved a sigh of relief on March 18 as the Congress government under Capt. Amarinder Singh abolished the "halqa incharge" system at its first cabinet meeting.
The previous Shiromani Akali Dal government that was thrown out of Punjab like a bad penny, had introduced the post of a "halqa incharge"—area incharge. These appointees were all members of the party, and without a nod from them, nothing could be done. In the countryside, it meant no help from the panchayats, and all over the state it meant no complaint would he heard by the police, and no FIR registered , until the halqa incharge approved. Even a loan or any of the subsidies would not reach the poor, until the halqa incharge had okayed it.
The much misused post is said to be one of the biggest factors contributing to the decline of the Shiromani Akali Dal and its ouster.
The chief minister also asked the police to carry out a manpower audit to immediately withdraw police personnel from personal security and other non-essential duties.
On Monday, the people saw some more relief, when the chief minister, in the course of his meeting with the deputy commissioners and senior superintendents of police from all the district, made it clear they had to function under the Right to Service Act, which guarantees time-bound services to people. He asked police officers to crack down on corruption and file chargesheet against the corrupt within three days.
Singh asked officers to deliver quality attention in dealing with the public in the departments of sub-registrar, tehsil, sub-division, transport, food and supplies, power and police stations.
He asked officers to be present in their offices from 9 AM to 5 PM on all working days, with tours to be announced on website and notice board. Appointment hours should be fixed and appointments should be given on the phone or online, and all applications should be scanned and followed up on computer, he said. Reply should be sent to the applicant via email, SMS or post within the time limit set under the Right To Service Act, Singh told officers.
He also focussed on the much abused transport department of the state.
While these would percolate down to the people in a few weeks or months, he told the officers to be polite, courteous and kind to the people. They are not at all little steps.
(With inputs from agencies)