Winds of change in offices: Minister saab is watching
Most officials are reporting for work on the dot at 9 a.m. and, those who get delayed, especially those coming from outside Delhi, have to perforce take the day off as "minister saab", Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, is personally keeping a strict tab on the punctuality of his ministry staff.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself setting a fast pace of work, most ministers of his government have been ensuring that punctuality is maintained - a new trait in government offices where babus, the lower level officials, stroll in and out when they want without any sense of discipline or regimen.
Javadekar is not the only one.
According to official sources, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu have given their ministry staff strict instructions to come on time and monitor attendance registers.
Javadekar and Naidu issued guidelines on punctuality after they conducted surprise checks on their ministry offices one morning to find many lower level were still to come or were strolling in.
During the surprise check on June 30, Javadekar had directed that those who do not report to work on time should furnish casual leave applications. The surprise check, including photographs of Javadekar giving directions in an office room with most chairs empty, was circulated by an aide of the minister to media houses for publication.
The information and broadcasting ministry is acquiring a biometric attendance system to keep tabs on what time staff enter and exit, a ministry source told IANS.
"We all arrive sharp at 9 a.m. or even earlier. Those who get late, take the day off, according to the directions of the minister," another source said declining to be identified.
The ministry's top official, Secretary Bimal Julka, arrives much before 9 a.m. to monitor the time at which officials report for work.
Lunch breaks are no more the relaxed affairs they used to be. Most officials, especially the senior ones, keep working while grabbing a bite in between, another source told IANS.
While junior staffers are able to leave for home at 5.30 p.m., the senior officials and their aides are not so lucky. Most senior officials are in office till 7 p.m. and their staff too stay put.
Saturdays have turned slowly into full working days, said one official sounding none too pleased. And if people are complaining, it must be muted as no one is giving vent openly to any opinions any longer, as was the case during the previous UPA government when everyone gave free rein to their views and even planted stories in the media against the government.
Are staffers able to manage coming on time? "Well, it is tough on the women, especially those who have families and those coming from outside Delhi," said one bureaurcat, who had to be coaxed into saying something.
Javadekar personally keeps tabs on what time the ministry officials arrive. Many of his cabinet colleagues are also doing the same.
The Modi government's initial push for cleanliness and hygiene - that saw senior officials throw out old furniture and files and take rounds of the office premises to ensure everything is spick and span - seems to have slackened of late.
The old dusty floors and unswept corners are again beginning to be visible in government offices. The directives for hygiene and cleanliness were welcomed by all. Maybe it is time they were issued again, said visitors to government offices.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 27-07-2014)