A power tussle with a difference. Jolted by astronomical electricity bills, the state government has swung into a curb-power-consumption overdrive against its officials, and ministers as well.
The monthly power bills in the corridors of power ' Rs 50 lakh ' has left the government with a bitter realisation that its much-vaunted austerity drive, launched two years ago, has been a damp squib.
To prepare a set of guidelines for its babus, it has taken up an elaborate exercise of 'energy audit'.
The audit ' to cover Writers' Buildings, the New Secretariat and a host of other government offices across the city and in Salt Lake ' will ascertain power consumption by air-conditioners, fans, lights and electric heaters.
'We want to cut down on the power bill by at least 20 per cent. The main targets are the air-conditioners, as they consume maximum electricity,' an official said.
A team of public works department (PWD) officers and engineers will undertake a 'door-to-door survey' at government offices and inspect electrical equipment. 'Our officers are working on ways to reduce power consumption,' said PWD minister Amar Choudhury.
Though there is no comprehensive list of the number of air-conditioners in government offices, Writers' Buildings' caretaker B.P. Karfa said more than 300 such machines chill the main seat of power. Six air-conditioners, on an average, cool the conference halls and computer rooms.
Another 100 at least are installed at the New Secretariat and other offices.
Elaborating on the misuse of electricity, an official said a minister's office is fitted with four air-conditioners and two or three cool a departmental secretary's room. 'In Calcutta, you need only one machine for a small room and two for a bigger one,' he observed.
Earlier, air-conditioners were installed only in the offices of ministers and secretaries. But in the absence of any specific rule, even officials of the rank of deputy secretary or deputy director now have them. 'Most babus don't bother to switch off the machines before leaving,' said a Writers' insider.
Citing other examples of power waste, he added that in some offices, heavy-duty heaters are lit to make tea. Lights and fans are kept on even if there is nobody around.
The bill per month at Writers' is Rs 15 lakh; at New Secretariat, Rs 13 lakh and Rs 8 lakh at the Salt Lake addresses. The CIT Building accounts for Rs 3 lakh of the bill; the Ganesh Chandra Avenue offices Rs 1 lakh and the other government offices in the city Rs 10 lakh.
'At a time when we are not being able to implement several development projects for want of funds, we must be cautious about expenditure,' said PWD minister Choudhury.
'Officials must remember that we are not a multinational company that can afford lavish expenditure,' he added.