New Delhi, June 3: Dont want to go to office? Become a minister.
You can even saunter in late and leave in a jiffy. No one will question you.
In a reply to a right to information (RTI) query filed by an activist, the cabinet secretariat has said there are no rules that prescribe that ministers have to attend office.
Nor do they need to be punctual. There are no rules that a minister has to attend office at a fixed time, the reply said.
It means railway minister Mamata Banerjee, accused by her rivals of frequently bunking office and being more in her home city Calcutta, cannot be criticised for flouting rules.
Chemicals and fertilisers minister M.K. Alagiri, too, can now thumb his nose at critics. The DMK leader has also been criticised for preferring to spend more time in home state Tamil Nadu.
Activist Debashish Chatterjee had wanted to know if it was compulsory for a minister to attend office.
The point is that when these ministers draw salaries and the government pays for their staff and they have their perks, then why cant they be present in office to look after their ministry work?
If they are interested only in their constituents, then they shouldnt take a central post. I filed this application as I started wondering why some ministers are never seen in their offices and if there is a rule to ensure that they do, Bhattacharya said.
In reply, the Lok Sabha secretariat said there was no provision either in the Constitution or in the rules of House procedure that defined duties and responsibilities of members of Parliament or through which accountability could be fixed on non-performing MPs.
Constitutional experts are with the MPs on this issue and say legislators have far greater accountability than an ordinary citizen.
A modern-day politician has complicated demands. One cannot treat them as schoolchildren and expect them to be in office from 9am to 5pm. In my experience, I can say that presence in office is no indication of productivity, said political analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
The basic thing is that they have to ensure output. Some ministers do it by delegation. How and when they do it is their headache. The question that one should ask Banerjee is about railway accidents and safety issues, not why she isnt there in her office. For all you know, she might be burning the midnight oil to clear her files.
Sources, however, said Mamatas frequent absence from Delhi had led to a huge backlog of files.
In the last month, the sources said, Mamata hasnt been to her office at all. In the week leading up to the Bengal civic polls, she was in Delhi but didnt turn up at Rail Bhavan. She also chose to skip a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, though she was in the capital.
Criticised by the Opposition for her frequent absence from Delhi, Mamata had defended her stay in Calcutta, saying the national capital was not her home.
Delhi is not my home. When there is no Parliament session, why should I stay in Delhi? Kolkata is my homeland, she told a public meeting in Calcutta.
The comment came in the wake of the recent stampede at a New Delhi railway station that left two persons dead and several injured.
The Opposition, including arch rival CPM, had said she was neglecting her duties as railway minister.
It is a ploy by the CPM to send me to Delhi. No one can force out Mamata, she had said.
Now, with her partys impressive run in the civic polls, the Trinamul chief can say you dont need to go to office to get it right.