A state government department logge d nearly full attendance on Tuesday but none of its employees logged in.
More than 1,000 employees of the food and supplies department enjoyed a Vishwakarma Puja holiday lazing about in office, belying claims of improvement in work culture in Bengal under Trinamul rule.
Their excuse? Tradition dictates that all things mechanical, including computers and pens, be worshipped but not used on Vishwakarma Puja!
The employees had reached office by 10.15am as usual but clearly not to work. Once the rituals were over and they had partaken of the prasad, it was time to indulge in the other obsession of Bengal for the rest of the day: adda.
The picture at Khadya Bhavan, the headquarters of the food and supplies department located on Mirza Ghalib Street, was the opposite of what chief minister Mamata Banerjee had painted the other day.
“Around 78 lakh mandays were lost during the Left Front’s tenure but we have brought it down to zero,” Mamata had said on Monday during the inauguration of the MSME conclave at Milan Mela.
Food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mallick ordered an inquiry into the productivity of his department on Tuesday, thundering that dereliction of duty wouldn’t go unpunished.
“We won’t tolerate this. I have ordered an inquiry to identify the employees who caused harm to the state’s image today,” he said.
The attendance records show that of the 1,472 employees who work at Khadya Bhavan, 1,072 turned up on Tuesday.
“But none of them worked. They did not type a page or put pen to paper, citing Vishwakarma Puja tradition. Even the minister’s requests failed to convince the employees to do some work,” a senior official said.
For minister Mallick, the backdrop of chief minister Mamata’s remark about work culture just the day before may have made the mass shirking more embarrassing. “If the state government has not declared a holiday, employees have to work,” he said.
Hundreds of people visit the food and civil services department’s headquarters every day for enquiries about pending ration cards or to lodge complaints against ration suppliers in their areas.
“Anybody who went there on Tuesday had to return without any work getting done,” an official said.
Not just common people, even senior government officials were inconvenienced by the entire department enjoying a holiday in office.
“A West Bengal Civil Service officer who is supposed to join the department was told to come tomorrow for his joining letter because it hadn’t been typed out,” a source said.
Minister Mallick blamed it on the Left’s legacy. “My office and the offices of the secretary and the food commissioner functioned normally, but no other employee worked. We are yet to get rid of the Left Front’s legacy.”
Sources said Mamata’s attempts to root out the culture of shirking had made a difference in the first flush of political change. “We did not face a problem on Vishwakarma Puja last year. So this return to old ways is cause for concern,” an official said.