Friday, February 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Irked by CMís remarks, officer goes on leave
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 20
The chairperson of the Haryana Power Utilities (HPU), Mrs Meenaxi Anand Chaudhry, has proceeded on leave and sought her transfer from the prestigious organisation which she had been heading for the past over three years, according to informed sources.

The sources say Mrs Chaudhry, who is also the Financial Commissioner and Secretary of the Power Department, took this step following an incident which took place at a meeting of the high-powered purchase committee held here on February 18. The meeting was presided over by the Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala.

The committee negotiates the purchase of various goods needed by government departments and corporations where big money is involved.

The sources say on February 18 when the issue of purchase of certain equipment required by the HPU was taken up, Mr Chautala made certain remarks regarding the functioning of the utilities which were found to be uncharitable by Mrs Chaudhry, an officer known for her integrity and no-nonsense approach.

The Chief Minister was reportedly irked by the payment made by the HPU to the supplier of cable, about the quality of which Mr Chautala had reservations. Mrs Chaudhry, the sources say, told Mr Chautala that no payment was made to the supplier after his orders. The quality of the cable was got tested in a Delhi laboratory through the Inspector-General, Vigilance. The laboratory had cleared the quality of the cable.

The sources say the argument between Mr Chautala and Mrs Chaudhry continued for over 10 minutes in the presence of several officers, including a number of engineers working in the HPU. At one stage, the sources say, the Chief Minister also commented about corruption in the HPU. Earlier on many occasions, Mr Chautala had publicly acknowledged the integrity of Mrs Chaudhry and the performance of the utilities under her leadership.

When Mr Chautala, the sources say, continued to needle Mrs Chaudhry on certain equipment purchased by the HPU, she reportedly said that his (Mr Chautalaís) personal staff was not briefing him properly. Mr Chautala said he fully trusted his staff.

The incident has shocked the Haryana bureaucracy which feels that even if the Chief Minister had certain reservations about the HPU, the meeting of the high-powered purchase committee was no occasion to give vent to his feelings, particularly when several junior officers were also present. It is also appreciative of the manner in which Mrs Chaudhry, instead of being cowed by the Chief Ministerís personality, gave him point-to-point replies.

In 1999, when Mrs Chaudhry was given the charge of the HPU, the power sector of Haryana was in the doldrums. It was incurring perpetual losses. The World Bank was virtually blackmailing the state government to agree to its humiliating conditions before it would extend financial help.


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