Thiruvananthapuram, June 6: Trrring! You may not have to cool your heels in a government office in the future while the officer you want to meet yaps endlessly on his mobile.
If you are in Kerala, that is.
In an effort to end the mobile menace, the Kerala government has called on employees to “restrict” private calls on the cell phone at work.
A circular, issued by the personnel and administrative reforms department on February 6, reached government offices yesterday. Sources said the circular was in the nature of an advisory and non-conforming to it would not invite penal action.
The circular read: “Government have been receiving complaints from various quarters that Government employees are engaging in private conversations through mobile phones during office hours without giving due care to the public which cause much hardship to the general public who visit government offices for various official purposes.
“Government have viewed this matter seriously and they hereby instruct that all government employees should restrict private calls through mobile phones, during office hours and avoid it while attending to the public, except in extremely unavoidable circumstances.”
For the heat-struck people of Bengal, however, there was no such luck. Sources said no circular had been issued in the state, where people are encouraged to get in touch with government officials over the cell phone.
In Kerala, the circular left government employees divided with the Left and the Congress using it to score brownie points.
CPM-backed employees reacted negatively. “It’s only an attempt to show the employees in poor light. There is no such grave situation in the state to warrant such rules,” said S.U. Rajeev of the CPM-backed Secretariat Employees Association.
“If government staff are not working, it’s up to the officers to control them and there are already laws for that. Such blanket orders will only demoralise the workers and call into question the government’s credibility.”
However, Congress-backed employees rose to the government’s defence. “There is no controversy. It’s only a circular and not a government order. As such it entails no punitive action. It’s only a people-friendly measure and should be seen in respect of the hundreds of government offices we have across the state,” said Prasanna Kumar, the general secretary of the Congress-backed Kerala Secretariat Association.
“If any member of the public is made to wait in any one of these offices, it will only affect the image of the government. This is only a restriction and it should be seen in a positive light.”
An employee at the city corporation said she would have been happier with a total ban. “Most of the calls we receive at work are from members of the public asking for details of their personal files. It will keep us immune from public interference and give more time for official work,” she remarked.
The matter came up at the Kerala chief minister’s post-cabinet briefing. Oommen Chandy said the government had no intention to ban use of cell phones by employees.