Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Meal Cell, WhatsApp and young Maharashtra IAS Astik Pandey

Photo Courtesy: Pandey's Facebook
HMC is a WhatsApp group with a difference. Run by a young IAS officer and Kalwan’s sub-divisional magistrate Astik Pandey, HMC, meaning Happy Meal Cell, facilitates sharing of reports and photos on food provided to children in Ashramshalas and hostels in the sub-division under Nashik district of Maharashtra. According to a report published in…DNA on October 19, head-masters, superintendents and wardens send pictures of breakfast, lunch and dinner along with the names of the dishes through WhatsApp every day, and HMC officials take out prints of these photos and Pandey monitors the quality of food served there. A few students were also given mobiles so that they could also send photos which in turn are compared with those sent by head masters and wardens. Pandey is also the project officer of the tribal welfare department.
In the DNA interview, Pandey said there was no effective tool to monitor quality of food before WhatsApp was introduced. Senior officers would occasionally conduct inspections (unlike now when there is a daily update). Head masters, wardens and contractors were “at liberty to act according to their whims and fancies”, he was quoted as saying. 
Pandey, 29, originally hails from UP. An MA in history, Pandey is a 2011 batch IAS officer belonging to Maharashtra cadre. His wife is Mokshada Patil, an IPS officer of Maharashtra cadre, currently serving as the assistant superintendent of police (ASP) in Nashik.
According to follow-up articles done by the same newspaper, more Maharashtra officers have resorted to WhatsApp to spread government messages and monitor government policies. Divisional commissioner of Nashik, Eknath Rajaram Dawale, for example, has started a WhatsApp group which includes collectors of five districts  -- Nashik, Dhule, Nadurbar, Jalgaon and Ahmednagar. The messages sent out in WhatsApp are such that they contain information which is useful to all collectors. Dawale is an engineer-turned IAS of 1997 batch, and had earlier served as collector of Akola and Latur.

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