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Calcutta, Dec. 22: 
“Who shall I ask to work? The chairs and the tables?” Jyoti Basu had made this remark about a year ago.

Had he gone to Writers’ Buildings on Friday, seven days after successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee imposed his work ethics, Basu would have been surprised to find many he could have asked to work but no one to ask them to.

The Telegraph took a look at Writers’ on the day the rules came into effect. Yesterday, it paid a second visit.

Had the attendance of secretaries been checked, 27 out of 30 would have been marked absent because they came to office after 10.30 am.

The four good boys are, Asim Barman, animal resources development secretary (9.30), P.K. Biswas, judicial secretary (10.05), Amit Kiran Deb, chief minister’s secretary (10.10), and Arun Bhattacharjee, information secretary (10.20).

Most others turned up between 11 and 11.30, the chief secretary at 11.20 and home secretary at 11.25.

Under the rules framed by the chief minister, secretaries are to monitor punctuality and attendance. The first minister to arrive was Biren Maitra, agricultural marketing minister, at 11.45.

Here’s the difference between Friday December 15 and Friday December 22:

Time: 10.15 am

Place: VIP corridor.

Dec. 15: Ten ministers, 15 secretaries have reached office.

Dec. 22: The long corridors on both first and second floors are deserted. The caretaker is roaming around with bunches of keys. Jaya Dasgupta, special secretary, commerce and industry department, is the first officer to reach. Proceeding towards her office at the end of the first-floor corridor, Dasgupta, perplexed by the deserted look, asks: “Is today a holiday?”

Time: 10.15 -10.30 am

Place: Finance department

Dec. 15: Almost all employees in the budget section are present. A senior official is distributing work. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta with secretary Ashok Gupta checks the attendance register. He enters the audit section at about 10.30 and asks the departmental-in-charge to send the register immediately to the joint secretary.

Dec. 22: Although many employees have arrived on time, there is no one to check the attendance register. A number of them sign even after 10.30 without a late mark.

Four outsiders are waiting to submit some letters at the receiving section.

“Am I a machine or computer? Let me settle properly, clean the dust on the table, what’s the hurry?’’ an employee asks. Neither the minister nor the secretary nor any other officer is around.

Time: 10.30

Place: Water resource development department

Dec. 15: Minister Nanda Gopal Bhattacharya checks the attendance register and asks the official concerned to send it to his office as it’s 10.30.

Dec. 22: Both minister and secretary are absent. Fifty per cent attendance recorded at the time. Employees are still signing, unfazed by the presence of some senior officials. Middle-ranking officials do not want to become enemies of the staff and don’t bother either. “It is easy to be tough, to take action, to be stiff, sometimes I need to be flexible. I have to get the job done by my employees, so why should I incur their wrath?’’ asks an official.

Time: 10.30

Place: Agriculture department

Dec. 15: Secretary Sumantr