field report bureaucracy
Secretaries with the Centre visit the place of their first posting to record changes over the decades and submit their recommendations to the state governments
On January 22 this year, when Ashok Lavasa, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, visited Mahendragarh, an arid town in South Haryana where he served as Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) from 1982 to 1985, he could barely recognise the place. It hardly matched the ‘frozen-in-time image’ he had had in his mind all these years.
For one, government employees who worked in the SDM office then, had retired. The building which served as his office in Maratha Fort had been abandoned. A water-harvesting structure in Madhogarh Fort, built by a Rajput ruler in the 18th century, about 12 km from the town, had dried up and undergrowth had left no trace of the 30-feet rainwater pool it once held. To top it all, the town, which only had 14,000 people in the 1980s, had bulged to over double.