It is well-known that our civil servants have many perks, and that scores of them, especially in the districts of Maharashtra, even get free rations from local shops, at times with their full knowledge, at other times arranged by over-officious and fawning assistants. Then there are the senior officers who pay for what they get and never ask for receipts, giving rise to another little racket. And there is a last category of meticulous officials who know the system’s working and make sure they make all payments and get receipts from their assistants.
Normally, the District Food Supply officer or his deputy is responsible for the supply of groceries to the official residence of the district Collector. Sometimes, being junior, these officers hesitate to ask the Collector to pay for the deliveries. At the same time, they cannot afford to keep underwriting these supplies, so they take the easy way out – get the stuff from the local shops and get something for themselves as well! By the way, groceries refers to anything from sugar to good quality Assam tea, spare parts of domestic electric equipment to fruit, clothing and fast food.
Dr. N. Ramaswami, district Collector of Satara and among those who prefer to pay for everything, has an amusing story in this regard. “For a district Collector, money is no constraint, at least for routine groceries. The Government pays us enough to pay these bills. But sometimes it happens, that due to pressures of work, we cannot attend to the details, and that’s when power can get abused.
“It happened with me too. In 2009, I took charge as district Collector of Buldhana. I moved into the official resident. As is usual, we inspected the bungalow, it was perfectly posh and clean. When I opened the refrigerator, it was full of fruits! I was surprised, since I knew the bungalow had been shut for a week, so I asked the officer, from where did you get it. He answered from the local shop. Again I asked him, how much did you pay for this fruit. He smiled and said we don’t pay, usually.
I asked him to go back to the shop and ask for the bill. He kept laughing as if he thought I was kidding!
“So I shouted, ‘It is my order. Go and get the bill’. It was some Rs. 300. I paid him from my pocket and warned him to get the bill with the groceries, henceforth.”