Governor's duo get portfolios

Ranchi, Jan. 24: Raj Bhavan today set the ball rolling under President's Rule by allocating portfolios to newly appointed advisers of the governor and requesting the Centre to stay the retirement of two key bureaucrats till this fiscal in a bid to speed up development work in the final lap.

Advisers Madhukar Gupta, a former Union home secretary, and K. Vijay Kumar, a former director-general of CRPF, have their work cut out for them in a state plagued by Naxalite insurgency, poor utilisation of funds and tardy pace of development work.

The state has utilised around Rs 5,500 crore out of the total plan budget of Rs 16,300 crore this fiscal, posing a major challenge to the custodians of President's Rule, who also have to act tough on Naxalism.

Gupta has been put in charge of 25 departments, including finance, IT, rural and urban development, agriculture and industry, revenue and land reforms, among others. Kumar's list includes the home, under which state police functions, health, mines, civil aviation among others.

Cabinet secretary N.N. Pandey confirmed notifying the distribution of portfolios to both advisers after Raj Bhavan's nod.

Bureaucrats across departments welcomed the move, saying it would bring clarity in the review process of development projects. So far, both advisers held joint reviews of government departments.

Today's Project Building meeting was attended by chief secretary S.K. Choudhary, development commissioner Debashish Gupta, home secretary J.B. Tubid, principal secretary of rural development department R.S. Poddar, his rural works counterpart S.K. Satpathy, Panchayati Raj department secretary R.A. Ekka, among others.

Raj Bhavan has also asked the Union home ministry to extend the services of experienced hands Choudhary and Debashish Gupta till March 31, 2013 as the last two months of the 2012-13 fiscal are crucial for matters related to funds utilisation.

Officially, Choudhary and Debashish Gupta are due to retire on January 31 and February 28, respectively.

Raj Bhavan has strongly recommended Choudhary's case, said an insider.

"Choudhary has a good service record. Considering the practical difficulties being faced by the state machinery, the Union home ministry may soon grant Choudhary the needed service extension," he added.

With this, speculation over the appointment of a new chief secretary seems to have subsided at least for the time being.

The buzz that Raj Bhavan wants director-general of police G.S. Rath to stay on till March 31 is also getting stronger. Like Gupta, Rath is also due to retire on February 28.

Both Gupta and Vijay Kumar held a review of various government departments to prepare for Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh's visit to Ranchi tomorrow.

According to the official itinerary, Ramesh will meet governor Syed Ahmed at Raj Bhavan and chair a meeting with the advisers and senior officials at Project Building, review the projects under rural development, rural works and drinking water and sanitation departments.

Then, he will be off to Jamshedpur by road. On Thursday, he will hoist the Republic Day Tricolour in Saranda, West Singhbhum.

More than a morale booster, Ramesh's visit will give impetus to the Rs 249-crore Saranda Action Plan, rural roads scheme under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, rural housing projects under Indira Awas Yojana, among others.

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