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All work and no play in babudom

- Leave nixed, chai-paani denied, bureaucracy sweats under central rule

Ranchi, Feb. 12: A for adda, Z for zzz. That’s the A to Z of Jharkhand’s babudom or so popular wisdom went before President’s Rule started on January 18.

Less than a month later, W stands for work and workstations. Junk all clichés of “forty winks, files for swatting flies and chai-paani” into the nearest waste bin and watch the power corridors of Project Building, the state’s main bureaucratic hub, hum with busy efficiency.

President’s Rule has jerked awake snoozing babudom. Red tape is now sweating on the corporate treadmill. Well, almost.

Catch a section officer of the state personnel department hurriedly disposing and dispatching pending files. To avoid interruptions, he has placed a “Do not disturb” placard on his table.

Jaldi karoji, tezi se haath chalao (Faster man, move your hands faster),” the babu scolds his junior.

Asked about the placard, he said: “I’m busy, can’t be interrupted, can’t risk keeping a file pending. I need to clear them all by this evening.”

Democracy, for all its obvious virtues of freedom and choice, has not been able to conjure up this marvel.

There’s more.

A circular was issued weeks ago asking employees to reach office on time. But there was no mention of the closing time. Fresh applications for leave are not being entertained till March-end.

The clear message — come on time, work hard, fast and smart, do not watch the clock.

Personnel sources said at least seven employees across different government departments received showcause for sauntering in late to office.

“We have become very punctual in our work. By 10.30am sharp everybody is at work. It is our daily routine. The new regime has indeed brought changes. You can feel it everywhere,” Nand Kumar Thakur, an under secretary rank official, said.

Jharkhand’s two “tough taskmasters” — governor Syed Ahmed’s advisers Madhukar Gupta and K. Vijay Kumar — are indeed living up to their reputations. They are working late and setting the tone for all the other bureaucrats.

Even senior officials are toeing the line, said a babu snidely.

“Earlier, seniors came late, left early, threw their weight around and no one questioned them. Now, you will see them in their chairs. And they are also working,” he said, grinning.

The reason is too well-known.

“At the state guest house, the official residence of the advisers, work goes till late evening. So everyone here has to stay back till Gupta and Kumar work. The advisers also ask for status reports, host marathon meetings at Project Building till late evening, set the agenda. For instance, they asked secretaries concerned to furnish details of pending projects and amount spent. The fiscal is ending so budgetary details have to be ready.”

Kumar is chairing meetings every second day, seeking precise data on pending projects. Gupta, another stickler for speedy work, is disposing of at least 50 files a day.

So, is workaholism suiting everyone?

It has been disorienting for those used to a snail’s pace.

“Too much of workload all of a sudden,” an official of the department of cabinet coordination said diplomatically. “They want everything precise and complete. They want daily reports. They even got us digging into old and forgotten files. It is good for those who want to work.”

Not good for those who want to relax and earn their sarkari salaries.

Not good for betel and tea shops in and around Project Building too.

Paan shop owner Om Prakash has been quick to sense the pulse of change and the plunge in his business.

“Office time mein yahan pakde jayenge to action hoga. Do logon ko warning bhi mili hai. Mera income gira hai,” he rues.

More work, less paan. “Will President’s Rule stay for long?” he wonders.


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