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Mamata clutter war reaches Writers’ letter heap

Mamata Banerjee conducted a surprise inspection of parts of Writers’ Buildings on Monday and came across the kind of clutter for which she had rebuked officials of the food supplies department 12 days ago.

She was angry on seeing stacks of papers in the chief minister’s office but calmed down on being told by employees that they were actually letters addressed to her.

“While the Left Front was in power, we hardly received 150 letters a day. But since you took over as the chief minister we are receiving close to 2,500 letters and faxes daily,” a senior employee told Mamata.

“We do not have the manpower to go through all the mails and forward them to the departments concerned. It will be very helpful if you install more computers and scanners in our department for speedy processing and despatch of the letters,” added the employee.

Mamata nodded in silence before admitting the need for a revamp of the office. She promised employees more computers, manpower and space in the next few months.

From leaking pipes that had not been fixed for 10 years to life threats by goons, the letters deal with a wide range of issues.

The chief minister was quick to spell out which letters should be given priority. “The first priority should be letters on life threats, missing people and abductions. Forward them to the departments concerned as early as possible. Next, try to clear the letters seeking financial help for education or medical treatment. Letters for promotion and transfers can wait.”

The chief minister then left the department and headed for her office through a back door of Block F.

CMO employees were happy with the visit.

“It is a morale booster. This is the first time in my career of 15 years that a chief minister visited our office despite the chief minister’s chamber being only three rooms away,” said an employee in his forties.

According to him and his colleagues, thousands of letters that could not be despatched to departments — because the Left Front government asked them not to once elections had been declared in March — have increased the backlog.

“Things have changed now. With the chief minister handling 10 portfolios, the number of letters has increased. We have been asked to regularly follow up on the letters in addition to forwarding them,” said an employee.

The CMO visit was the last stop on Mamata’s surprise tour. Around 12.15pm, she had entered Writers’ Buildings through gate No. IA and climbed up to the first floor along with postal department clerks, instead of using the VIP gate and lift.

She then walked to the office of industries minister Partha Chatterjee. Unable to find him there, she peeked into the adjacent offices of bureaucrats B.K. Shrivastava (legal remembrance in charge) and Indiver Pandey (secretary, personnel and administration reforms) but did not enter.

She turned right to the passage II of the main block and entered the office of the home department (political and police) and was surprised by the scarcity of computers in the wing, which has nearly 250 employees.

“You are still using typewriters and notepads? Don’t you have computers that can quicken the pace of work?” she asked some employees.

They replied that nothing had changed about the way they worked for several years.

As employees offered namaskars and clicked pictures on their cellphones, Mamata asked the head assistant to submit an estimate of the number of computers needed for the department to be upgraded.

On her way to the CMO, the chief minister paused for a few moments on the balcony and pointed to old computers, tables, chairs and stationery dumped in the passage between the main building and the F block.

“Why is it so dirty here? So many delegates visit Writers’ Buildings. What impression would this leave on them?” she asked senior officials accompanying her while walking towards the CMO.

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