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January 19, 2015

Is Punjab govt really on an austerity drive?


January 19, 2015

A ‘high-level’ important meeting to review security arrangements was in progress at the historic Government College (GC) University when one after another; at least, four officers of Higher Education Department Punjab (HED) reached the university in their separate vehicles.
Three of these were deputy secretaries while the last one was an additional secretary, who reached when Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan was all set to talk to the media (waiting outside the meeting room) about the decision of the meeting.
It was January 10 and the meeting was held with regard to government’s decision of reopening of campuses which remained closed for a couple of weeks in the wake of Peshawar school attack on December 16, 2014.
Vice-Chancellors (VCs) of almost all the public universities of Punjab as well as VCs/ Rectors of private higher education institutions ((HEIs) attended the meeting. One can understand the extraordinary circumstances and urgency behind this meeting.
It is also understandable that the Punjab government’s much-trumpeted austerity drive could be set aside as well for a cause much greater and more important. Thus the idea of having a conference through video link in which the VCs could have participated while actually being at their own campuses could be ignored for a while. But what about the Higher Education Department officials, stationed at the Punjab Civil Secretariat situated near the GC University, who ‘flouted’ the real but undocumented austerity measures such as sharing a vehicle? There were officials from School Education Department and many other departments in the meeting too and the wild guess is, they might have come separately like the other officers.
The university is literally at walking distance from the headquarters of provincial bureaucracy, commonly known as Secretariat, and in an ideal situation these HED officers should have walked to attend the meeting. But as the officers might be

unfamiliar to the ‘culture of walking’ for official business there was another option too i.e., the Punjab government’s most famous landmark, the Metro Bus Service (MBS). The bus service has a stop each at Secretariat and the GC University. But unfortunately, like many other social welfare projects this also seems to be only for commoners and hence ‘discriminatory’ in a sense.
This is the tale of just one meeting. Of course, government meetings are an everyday occurrence. This all pains especially when the Punjab government claims to be on an austerity drive. It is therefore; there is a prevailing perception that like many other moves the austerity drive was on papers only.
The ‘Babu-ism’ (in simple words, the superiority complex at the expense of others!) among the government officers has in fact penetrated too deep and the same needs to be dealt with ‘iron’ hand to make them realise that they are public servants and they are accountable vis-à-vis the use of taxpayers’ money.
——[email protected]

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