Life for govt employees has become a little harder under the Narendra Modi

New Delhi, 23 June-2014(TNN): There aren’t too many people taking long, leisurely lunches at Delhi Gymkhana Club these days. And fewer out on the greens at Delhi Golf Club, even allowing for the blistering summer heat.

Life for govt employees has become a little harder under the Narendra Modi

Life for govt employees has become a little harder under the Narendra Modi

Life for government servants has become a little harder under the Narendra Modi government— they’re expected to clock in on time, stay late when needed and even give up holidays, besides cutting out the little pleasures in life such as lunches at Delhi Gymkhana and Golf Club.

Employees at a defence ministry office in Delhi were last week asked to sign up to a notice pledging that they would be in by 9am or face disciplinary action. One habitual latecomer has now taken to leaving home half an hour earlier as result.

READ ALSO: Be in office by 9am, Venkaiah Naidu tells officials

Rakesh Tomar, a bus operator who ferries civil servants to the Central Secretariat government office complex, has been asked by the customers to advance bus timings.

Habits are changing. “Earlier, I used to wait at stops. Now they are already waiting for me,” he said.

At 9am, outside the bhavans that house the main government departments, there’s a stream of employees running in to beat the clock. Delays can mean getting a piece of the boss’ mind. At the housing ministry, employees have to report to their superior if they are late by more than 15 minutes. Biometric scanners track attendance and regular latecomers will get a notice after six months.

Many top bureaucrats who used to be habitudes of India Habitat Centre, India International Centre, Delhi Golf Club and Delhi Gymkhana are no longer in regular attendance.

There also seems to be an unwritten diktat in force that bureaucrats should not be seen playing golf. The Delhi Golf Club has about 200 bureaucrats as members. Many would put in a quick morning round and sometimes, weather permitting, even in the afternoon during the working week. It is said that a list of officers who played golf regularly was ordered to be compiled.

“They got the message,” said a senior bureaucrat. Officials have also been asked to remove all golfing equipment from their offices. Education minister Smriti Irani recently pulled up a bureaucrat at an office meeting when she saw him fiddling with his cellphone while discussions were going on.

Many senior officers are working longer hours, especially in the PMO, who have been in by 8am and are leaving at midnight.” There is no time for oneself and there is so much work to complete,” one PMO official said.

Another official was found complaining that his wife had to manage a water supply crisis at home on her own as he needed to get to the office. Another said he had to cancel a summer vacation in Goa with his wife and kids, although he seemed to welcome this. “They hardly get to see me nowadays. I am working on weekends, but this culture is good,” the official said.

While Modi’s predecessor also put in long hours and officials in key ministries never really switch off completely under any dispensation, it’s perhaps for the first time that civil servants across all government departments are being pushed to work harder and longer. Meanwhile, at the finance ministry, officials work long hours in any case in the weeks before the budget, which is expected to be announced in July.

READ ALSO: Need to work hard, Modi tells ministers

“It is certainly required to match the enthusiasm of the new political set up,” said former bureaucrat Ajay Dua, who was industry secretary before he retired.

“The PM and his ministers want things to be done as there are a lot of expectations and they need to have all cogs of the wheel move together at the same pace. “Part of the reason for the change is the need to make Indian bureaucracy more efficient, having been ranked the worst among 12 Asian countries for more than a decade by the Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy.

“We have been told files can’t wait on a table for more than two days, and an explanation will be sought if a file isn’t cleared for a week,” said a senior government official, who declined to be named. The urban development and housing and urban poverty alleviation ministries under Venkaiah Naidu are going a step further. A ‘file movement officer’ will seek to verify which files are pending, with whom and for what reason.

Officials in the two ministries have been told that an explanation will be demanded if files aren’t cleared for a week. Bureaucrats have also been asked not to depend on orderlies to move files when clarifications are required. The minister is encouraging officers to pick up the phone and talk to colleagues in their own ministries and elsewhere rather than sending files back and forth with their comments. “People are talking through files. This is the main reason for delays. People do not talk personally,” Naidu told ET. “And if there is a consultation needed between two wings, don’t talk through the file, talk to each other personally and then write your opinion together whether in agreement or disagreement.” [Input Source: TOI]
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