A flock of rosy starlings on a clear evening at Rajpath near India Gate, in New Delhi, India, on Friday, April 10, 2020. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
Union ministers and all senior officials will start attending office again from Monday, government functionaries told HT, marking a step towards the resumption of normalcy in government establishment even as the lockdown is likely to be extended.
According to two officials who refused to be named, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all ministers to start working from office from Monday, a move that is also aimed at instilling confidence among citizens about how government establishments are on their way back to normalcy even as social distancing and other health norms will remain firmly in place.
Senior functionaries said that officers of joint secretary rank and above will be mandatorily working from office.
“In addition, one-third of essential staff will come,” said a secretary-level officer.
While the non-essential staff has not been asked to come, the essential staff who stay near the office will be asked to be present in person, according to the official. There will also be a rotation system for the essential staff to ensure everyone gets a chance to stay at home and also meet the obligation of coming to office.
Since the lockdown was announced by Modi on March 24, many ministries have been working at merely 3-5% of their actual strength as employees were confined to home.
While most of the staff stayed home, top officials often came to office especially since the financial year was coming to an end, the official said.
Ministries had to file their expenses and submit vouchers to the virtual expenditure logbook of the finance ministry to show how much money they have actually spent in the FY19-20. “Closure of accounts is of vital importance in the government system. Otherwise, the release of money would get stuck. So, only a handful of officials would come to office—which is hardly 3-5% of our usual strength to primarily work on the annual closure of accounts,” said the official.
Another officer added that while the top brass of the ministries was physically not present, all of them have been working from home and had a pressing schedule, especially with regards to handling the crisis arising out of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and ensuring the government’s aid reached to the right beneficiaries.
Officers held their meetings through the NIA-promoted video conference platform and files were moved and cleared through the e-office tool. The e-office, which came into existence in 2015, is an online platform for clearing files and fixing accountability of bureaucrats.