SOMETHING SEEMS rotten in the state of Chhattisgarh. On 26 October 2012, H Kujur, additional collector of Narayanpur, was found hanging at his residence. The police found a suicide note, in which Kujur had written that he was under stress, especially for not following a circular with regard to issuance of caste validity certificates the previous year. What’s still not clear is that issues related to issuing caste certificates were not even his prerogative; it’s the Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s (SDM).
On 2 March the same year, the Bilaspur superintendent of police (SP) Rahul Sharma, a 2002-batch IPS officer, shot himself with his service revolver. His wife Gayatri Sharma alleged that Sharma was not being allowed to work in an independent manner. In his suicide note, the officer complained about interference by his immediate boss, and harassment by a judge. Sharma’s senior at the time was Inspector General (IG) GP Singh. The judge had allegedly admonished Sharma over the plight of traffic in the city. Sharma had even mentioned he was under tremendous pressure to raise funds for the upcoming Assembly elections: on Facebook, he had written to one of his friends, “They force us to work like bonded labourers. There is no self-respect. I have already been given the target for election expenses. Is this why I studied to become an IPS officer?”
In the same month, on 16 March, Manju Mehta, a project officer with the Panchayat department of Bilaspur, was found hanging at her residence. Her colleagues revealed to TEHELKA, on condition of anonymity, that her honesty had cost Mehta her life. Mehta was taking care of her mother and two disabled brothers when she was transferred to Masturi, about 20 km from Bilaspur, where she was posted as an executive officer. But within days, she was transferred back to Bilaspur. Happy with her posting and promotion, Mehta went back to Bilaspur but she was made to work as an assistant project officer, instead of executive officer. Her colleagues say Manju continued with the work but when questions were raised about her capability and competence, she committed suicide.
Competent and honest employees ending their lives after being tormented is not an isolated phenomenon in Chhattisgarh. Lack of transparency in the administration, corruption at all levels, and the stress associated with work are all pushing employees to the wall.
Pressure from above to sanction payments despite the noticeable discrepancies was too much for Kishore Sharma, a sub-engineer with the water resources department of Abhanpur. Kishore had noticed discrepancies in the construction of the Canal Area Development Authority project that came under his department. He refused to sign the note for the payment to the contractors. According to his wife, Anita Sharma, her husband was being pressurised by Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) Gopal Memon, and an engineer, KR Sahu, for his signature. On 29 July 2012, Kishore hanged himself. In a suicide note, he named Memon and Sahu for this extreme step. It is alleged that both Memon and Sahu have political patronage because of which no criminal case has been filed against them for abetment to suicide.
When on 16 August 2012, Rameshwar Prasad Soni, an executive engineer posted in the Maoist hotbed of Narayanpur district in Bastar set himself on fire, the spotlight was back on the plight of upright officials in the state. Soni’s wife Sarita alleged he was under pressure to overlook corruption.
Another conspicuous void in the state machinery is the shortage of civil servants. In July 2012, replying to a query, Chief Minister Raman Singh admitted that the state was functioning with only 126 IAS officers, against a requirement of 178. The state has been talking to the Centre in this regard but with no success. A senior officer told TEHELKA, on condition of anonymity, that after the creation of the state a large number of officers wanted postings here, both for the challenge and the experience. But of late, due to rampant corruption, upright officers are refusing to come here.
IT IS not just senior officials in the state; suicides due to work-related pressure are becoming common even among the junior staff. On 6 May 2012, Rajuram Ragde, a sweeper with the Balod Municipal Corporation, committed suicide when he was not allowed to report for duty even after being transferred to Arjunda Nagar Panchayat. On 30 July 2011, Bhuvneshwar Dhruv, a constable posted at Dantewada, committed suicide. In August 2012, another constable shot himself fatally with his service rifle. In December, a constable posted at the Mahasamund police station consumed poison and ended his life.
Although there are no official records of the number of suicides by government employees in the state, according to the data available with major police stations of 27 districts, around 200 government employees have committed suicide between 2008 and 2012.
Aruanshu Pariyal, a psychologist based in Chhattisgarh, says the number of government employees coming to him with cases of depression has shot up in the past five years. Most patients complain of work-related stress.
Refusing to acknowledge this, however, is N Baijendra Kumar, principal secretary to the chief minister, who maintains that all state employees should be able to withstand such stress. “We cannot discount personal reasons for the suicides,” he argued. Truth is, discrimination in postings, unnecessary pressure, and a total disregard of honesty is fast turning Chhattisgarh into a burial ground for its state employees.