Patna, Sept. 14: After Afzal Amanullah’s puzzle, the chief secretary’s letter, or “diktat” as some officers put it, has ruffled a few feathers in the state bureaucracy.
In what can be seen as to step up the chief minister’s mantra of systematic work culture, chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha on Tuesday sent a letter to senior officers — all principal secretaries, secretaries, divisional commissioners and district magistrates — asking them to strictly attend a fixed number of meetings every month.
“Only in unavoidable circumstances, they can send their representatives in such meetings but the deputed person should be conversant with the subject,” reads the letter.
“Going by the list, departmental heads would have to attend around 16 meetings in addition to the present ones. I fail to understand the logic behind it as no chief secretary in the past came out with such a directive,” principal secretary of a key department, who also holds additional charge of another, told The Telegraph. Another principal secretary-rank officer said: “On an average, one has to attend around 50 internal meetings a month if one is heading one department and in addition to this around 30 meetings are convened at the government level. If one adds other works like court cases, tender finalisation, one can easily assess the kind of free time heads get to assess the progress of various works being carried out by their respective departments.”
Another secretary rank-officer said they should get some spare time to think, to ideate, to put the department on right track. “People talk of ‘out-of-box’ thinking but no one is willing to understand that mostly we do routine things like attending meetings,” added the officer in veiled criticism of industries department principal secretary Amanullah’s nine dots puzzle circulated to be cracked at a meeting.
Chief secretary Sinha, however, justified his decision. “The issues, which are going to be taken up in these meetings, are top priorities of the government. Anybody going through the list would find that two meetings would be held every month at my level to assess the progress in power sector,” he said.
Citing another example, Sinha said one monthly meeting would be held to assess the compliance of decisions taken during the chief minister’s Seva Yatra. Explaining that his decision would virtually reduce workload of officers, he said: “Departments would now know in advance the topics which are to be discussed in the meetings.”
“I hope things turn out the way the chief secretary foresees, but right now we are still thinking how to crack this puzzling letter code,” said another principal secretary-rank officer with a smile.