Irrespective of Whether it is five or six working days for government offices, the citizens will probably have to continue searching for officers missing from their seats…
All this needs to change else the government employees may end up being on a holiday for one-third of the year!
Effective this Monday, all government employees of Maharashtra would be working five days a week. In other words, they would be working for 241 days a year, considering that there are 52 Saturdays, 52 Sundays and 20 official state government holidays in 2020.
And of course, we are not counting the sick leaves, casual leaves and annual leaves of each employee.
Now, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray rightfully mentioned that the objective was to facilitate employees to devote more time to the family; improve the quality of life of employees and; save precious fuel and electricity! Consequently, 9.45 am to 6.15 pm is the notified working hour timings.
This is fair- no grudge against this policy – as private enterprises already are on five day weeks for the past several years and it is indeed relaxing to have the weekends free, to bounce back fresh and active on Monday.
My only bone of contention is that, while employees in private organisations have hard task masters and self-driven motivation to meet their targets and deadline, those in the government sector show lethargy. Often, they are given facilities, now like weekend holidays and increase in salaries without any accountability.
Hence, for the citizens (most government offices work directly or indirectly for the people) will they be at the receiving end of more inefficiency due to the lesser hours that the babus are now going to put in?
For example, early this week, when I was on a Marathi TV news channel, on the issue of yet another postponement of the death sentence of the Nirbhaya killers, Ujwal Nikam, noted public prosecutor mentioned that sluggishness and lethargy are the reasons why cases drag on for years. This is but a reflection of the general malaise in all government offices. And now, they have 52 days (Saturdays) more to give the excuse of postponing their work commitments.
Let me focus on just one public authority and that is the Pune Municipal corporation.
If you visit the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to get your work done or procure some information, very often you will find that officers are not on their seats. Or even if you meet them, they may not provide you the required information or your work may not get done that day.
Last fortnight, my friend who resides in the Boat Club neighbourhood wanted to find out how permission was given to a commercial building in her residential area, for which she wanted to see the building permissions and the layout plan. She visited the building department of the PMC along with her housing society colleague only to be told that the file is `missing.’
They returned, frustrated and disappointed and so called me up. I asked them to come with me between 3pm and 5pm on Monday as it is the `open day’ in PMC, for file inspection under Section 4 of the RTI Act. Which means, you can just walk into any office and demand to see the relevant documents. They made a show of how they are searching the file, when we all know that government departments are very methodical about keeping files Finally, my friend and her colleague were able to get the files and the officer provided Photostat copies of the same but the point is, they first make you run from pillar to post.
Besides, all layout plans of buildings are to be uploaded on the website but the PMC has not being doing so. No prizes for guessing why!
My point is, now that all the babus would be on holidays for one-third of the year, isn’t it time that they start abiding by some rules and laws that makes it compulsory for every government office to be efficient and transparent.
For example, former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi points out to the “Government Servants Regulation Of Transfers and Prevention Of Delay In Discharge Of Official Duties” which was passed in 2006 but was implemented only in 2013.
He says that, `under this law, ‘decision and necessary action’ on all files should be taken within 45 days. If more than one department is involved, the ‘decision and necessary action’ must be taken within 90 days.
Thus, in most cases a decision on a file must be taken within 45 days. If there is a failure to meet these deadlines it should be brought to the attention of the head of the department. The head of the department must enquire and fix responsibility for violating the law within fifteen days. The law provides for disciplinary action to be taken against officers guilty of ‘dereliction of duty’ by ‘any willful or intentional delay or negligence’.
Similarly, as per Section 4 of the RTI Act, every public authority in the PMC, that is, every department must compulsorily upload information on the website regarding most of its activities like tenders, agreements, concessions, work proposals, work progress, building pans, road development work, solid waste management activities, water supply, tree felling, garbage disposal, public health, and so on.
Besides, being a smart city, digitalization in terms of citizen conveniences like getting birth and death certificates with the click of the mouse are also mandatory. However, the rules are not abided by, despite zero pendency and digitalization of all files, being tom-tommed about.
The singular point of expectation of every citizen to the PMC officials is that, make all information transparent at the click of the mouse and be on your seats for most part of the 9.45 am to 6.15 pm working hours, unless of course there are meetings and travels.
As long as the people are not inconvenienced and they get their work done or get the information they want, please feel free to enjoy your weekends.
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and/or individuals quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,