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Laloo locks out latecomers
- 500 Rail Bhavan employees lose a day’s pay

New Delhi, Aug. 10: Coming from Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav may be no stranger to indiscipline but he doesn’t have to tolerate it, does he'

So it turned out at Rail Bhavan this morning when over 500 railway employees found themselves marked absent and docked a day’s salary for not reaching office on time on the day the minister paid a sudden visit.

A repeat offence, they were told, would invite disciplinary action.

Accompanied by Railway Board chairman R.K. Singh, secretary V.. Mathur and the new director-general of the Railway Protection Force, A.K. Suri, Laloo Prasad descended on the sprawling office complex next to Parliament House and found that about 40 per cent of the employees were still not in.

Between 9.30 and 10, Laloo Prasad and his team stationed themselves at gate number 2 which is used by officials and later at 3 through which pass ministers and Railway Board members. Rail Bhavan has two more gates but those are closed now because of the Delhi metro rail construction.

All employees have to report for work by 9 but, going by today’s experience, at least 40 per cent obviously do not. The number may actually be more but of that later.

Laloo Prasad started on his rounds at 9.15 and, finding vacant seats in plenty, asked security officials to close the gates and seize the attendance registers.

He said: “Soon after I came to Rail Bhavan, I ordered that all the gates of the bhavan be closed. All those who came late were stopped at the gates. We found that 453 non-gazetted and 66 gazetted employees came late. They were sent back home.”

Some 2,300 people work at Rail Bhavan.

This is not the first time the minister has made a surprise appearance.

Soon after taking charge, he went unannounced to railway stations, apparently to check cleanliness. He also took a ride on a stretch of railway in home state Bihar where robberies on trains occur almost daily to see for himself what travellers experience on their journeys, without, of course, a dacoity thrown in.

So it’s not that Laloo Prasad only indulges in whimsies such as introducing kulhars (earthen pots) and refrigerated railway vans to carry vegetables from Patna to Delhi, a service that has now stopped. The kulhars continue, though.

He means business, too. “Indiscipline will not be tolerated. They have been marked absent. One day’s salary will be cut. I will conduct such checks in the near future, too. If they are found to be habitual latecomers, action will be initiated against them. The 9 am to 5.30 pm office schedule must be honoured,” he said.

An official who has spent about 28 years with the Railway Board wasn’t so sure. “Late in the evening yesterday, we learnt about the ‘surprise check’ but could not contact all our friends. It is a routine affair (the check) whenever a new minister or Railway Board chairman assumes charge and then it is back to normal. Even senior officials do not report at 9 am.”

The system is hard to beat, he’s saying. And so it happened, too. Once the check was over, employees who arrived between 10:30 and 11 worked as usual, though the registers had been taken away.

Some had been locked out when Laloo Prasad had ordered the gates closed. They chose the technology window to have themselves marked present.

“Mobile phones and STD booths around the place came in handy. We called up our friends and asked them to mark us present as we were just outside the office. I am not losing my pay,” said a stenographer who entered the office at 11.

Bihari babu smart, government babu smarter.

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