| The health and family welfare department’s office on the second floor of Nepal House, Ranchi, wears a deserted look around 10.30 am. Picture by Ashok Karan
Jan. 2: State employees in Bihar and Jharkhand today hailed the five-day-week introduced by the two governments on the same day.
But the similarities ended there. While Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar arrived at his secretariat chamber at 9.10 am, Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda functioned from home, receiving Tata Steel managing director B. Muthuraman, among others.
Attendance in government offices was erratic in both states with several employees arriving late and leaving early, raising doubts over the well-meaning exercise.
Both governments, however, hoped that the new regimen would enhance efficiency in government offices and also allow employees to spend quality time with their family members. While Bihar opted to start working at 9.30 am, half an hour earlier than offices in Jharkhand, the latter has chosen to cut down on the lunch break, which is one hour in Bihar, to half-an-hour. In both states, however, the offices are going to shut down at 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
Essential services, police stations, hospitals and schools have been kept out of the new arrangement.
Opinion among the employees was mixed on whether the fewer number of working days would adversely affect work. But all of them expressed happiness at receiving an extra holiday. A section of the women employees, however, voiced apprehension over the “late” closure and pointed out that in the absence of safe public transport, they would feel unsafe leaving office so late.
In the process, the number of casual leave they can avail during the year has also been cut down from 16 to 12. But the reduction has been more than made up by the 52 Saturdays every year when they would no longer have to work.
Nitish Kumar hoped in Patna that the employees would honour the revised working hours. Bihar chief secretary Ashok Choudhary said the new arrangement would help reduce pending work.
Ranchi, however, presented a disappointing sight with most offices wearing a deserted look at 10 am. At Nepal House, one of the secretariats, employees and senior bureaucrats arrived between 10.30 am and 11.30 am. Puran Bahadur, a tea vendor outside Nepal House, said he had witnessed no change at all. “I entertain peak demand at 11 in the morning and today was no different,” he said with a grin.
The absence of an electronic attendance system threatens to derail the new arrangement. The attendance register from each department, said a sheepish official, used to be sent to the personnel department at the end of the month. From today, said Gauri Shankar Prasad, a deputy secretary in the mines department, the register would be produced before him by 10.30 am. It arrived on his table at 11 am.