With over 150 employees in the offices of district collectors and revenue department in Telangana infected with Covid-19, 'Prajavani' or the weekly public grievances redressal day is giving jitters to the staff.
Collectors, Revenue Divisional Officers (RDOs) and Thesildars or Mandal Revenue Officers (MROs) are in a dilemma whether to go with the programmes held every Monday or cancel them.
Fifteen employees each have been tested positive in the offices of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district collectors in the last couple of days. Twelve employees in six other district collectorates have also contracted the virus.
Several employees in the offices of RDOs and MROs have already tested positive. A MRO died of coronavirus in Mancherial district.
'Prajavani' is conducted every Monday at the offices of district collectors, RDOs and MROs. District collectors, additional collectors, deputy collectors and other district officials attend the programme held at the offices of all 33 district collectorates.
People submit applications to the officials about their problems and seek their redressal. The applications pertain to correction in land records, pensions, ration cards, caste certificates and benefits under various government schemes.
Hundreds of people turn up at collectorates, RDO and MRO offices to lodge their complaints. Employees concerned receive the complaints and upload them on the website. After the applicants call on the officials concerned, orders are issued on the action to be taken. At least 7-8 staff members have to speak to the people while registering their grievances.
Some employees in the revenue department say this was leading to the spread of the virus. Concerned over the recent spike in cases, the officials have installed boxes at MRO offices so that the people can drop in their complaints.
The Covid-19 cases in the offices of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy district collectors have sent the other staff members in tizzy. Several top officials have stopped coming to offices and few have gone into home quarantine as they had come into contact with those who tested positive.
Three drivers and 12 other employees at Hyderabad collectorate tested positive during the last couple of days.
Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy are the two worst affected districts, accounting for over 70 per cent of more than 42,000 cases reported so far in the state.
The state secretariat and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) recently saw many employees testing positive for Covid-19.
The staff at RDO and MRO level are scared as they not only have to attend the meetings but also make field visits to conduct an inquiry into land related matters or identify beneficiaries for schemes like double bed room houses for poor.
RDOs and MROs at few places in the state have already asked people not to come to the office but either drop in their applications in the boxes installed outside the offices or contact the village revenue officers on WhatsApp.
Some district collectors are considering the proposal to conduct 'Prajavani' through video conferencing to avoid assembly of large number of people at their offices.
Telangana Revenue Employees Services Association (TRESA) president V. Ravinder Reddy has demanded that the government cancel all the meetings and public interaction programmes till Coronavirus is completely contained.
"Several employees who tested positive are facing severe hardships as they are unable to pay the hefty bills at private hospitals. To save the employees from further inconvenience the government should cancel all meetings and such programmes where they have to interact with people," he said.