Punjab Governor’s public hearing has few takers

Chandigarh : Having been cancelled quite a few times in the last two years, public hearing sessions of Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil have hit a new low. This week’s session saw only four people turning up with their complaints.

The sessions are held at the secretariat complex in Sector 9 here to hear the grievances of residents of Chandigarh. Patil listens to these problems and issues in his capacity as union territory administrator. Since the beginning of this year, the number of complainants coming to Patil’s public hearing sessions have been fluctuating, mostly owing to their abrupt cancellations by his office.

The only high of 38 complainants came Sep 15 this year. On other dates the number of complainants were 26 (Jan 17), 20 (March 7), 24 (May 16), 11 (July 4), 21 (Oct 20) and four (Nov 22).

A former union home minister and former Lok Sabha speaker, Patil has been Punjab governor and union territory administrator since January 2010. He also holds the additional charge of Rajasthan governor and keeps shuttling between Chandigarh and Jaipur, the capitals of Punjab and Rajasthan respectively.

The public hearing sessions used to be held twice a week by Patil’s predecessor, S.F. Rodrigues. The number of complainants coming to those sessions were higher. Rodrigues even used to get his wife, Jean Rodrigues, along to the sessions and she used to actively participate in listening to issues brought up by common people.

Another former governor, J.F.R. Jacob, a hero of the 1971 Bangladesh war, used to be the most active Punjab governor and union territory administrator (2001-2004). He was popular for his frequent raids and visits at various places and used to keep officials on their toes all the time. A number of development projects in Chandigarh were executed in his tenure.

“Shivraj Patil has become a political recluse after joining as Punjab governor nearly two years ago. He does not attend too many functions too unlike some of his predecessors who were quite active and always in the limelight,” a senior Congress politician from Punjab, who did not wish to be identified, said.

Patil’s public hearing sessions have been cancelled by the authorities at least 12 times in 21 months. His first session was held Feb 1 last year, just days after he joined here.

“He (Patil) holds the additional charge of Governor of Rajasthan besides being Punjab governor. Sometimes the public hearings (in Chandigarh) have to be cancelled due to his preoccupation in Rajasthan and for meetings in New Delhi. No hearing has been cancelled when he is in Chandigarh,” an official of the administrator’s office said .

In 2010, the number of complainants at Patil’s public hearing sessions hovered between 28 and 50. Its popularity started going down this year.

Local media in Chandigarh has highlighted the frequent cancellations of Patil’s durbars and the dwindling numbers coming to it.

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