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Babudom quietly buries Buddha smart card

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s plans to promote work culture in Writers’ Buildings by getting, among other things, a few thousand employees to report for duty on time appear to have hit a speedbreaker, with the employees’ lobbies successfully stopping the introduction of ‘smart’ cards for the babus.

According to knowledgeable sources, the government is in the process of quietly burying the smart-card proposal. The coordination committee, the largest organisation of state government employees in the state, has been opposing the move from Day One, calling it “a matter of prestige’’ for babudom.

Though officials of the home (personnel and administrative reforms) department claimed the smart-card plan had to be scrapped because of technical reasons and also because it involved a lot of money, the actual reason behind the backtrack, say officials, is stiff opposition from the association, which is controlled by the ruling party. Officials in the state secretariat say the government did not want a confrontation with the coordination committee, which is capable of blocking the process of governance.

Bhattacharjee, after being sworn in chief minister replacing Jyoti Basu in 2000, had promised to restore work culture in government offices. To buttress his “do-it-now’’ slogan, he had initiated a move to ensure timely attendance and departure at Writers’.

Inspired by multinational companies, the chief minister adopted the smart-card idea. According to the plan, each and every Writers’ employee would have to enter office and leave by punching the card. The mother computer kept at the home (PAR) department would automatically record the time of card-punching. The card would have the details of the employee concerned.

A committee was formed, headed by then chief secretary Manish Gupta, to implement the plan. All departmental heads were asked to furnish details of their employees to the committee to feed it into the computer.

NIC and Webel were entrusted with computerising employees’ details.

Dissatisfied and angry over the move, the state coordination committee protested. The leadership met the chief minister and told him a majority of the employees were against the card system. The coordination committee even discussed the matter in the party forum and decided not to accept the card.

“The smart-card idea itself is unrealistic. It may be in use in multinational companies but it is not feasible in government offices. What’s more important is that Writers’ is not a jute mill or a factory, with a time office, where employees enter or leave by punching a card,’’ said coordination committee general secretary Smarajit Roychowdhury.

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