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Friday, January 6, 2012

Environmental Blues!

I often wonder how Corporate headquarters, especially in the sarkari sector, most of which have abandoned any semblance of cleanliness or orderliness try to make their subordinate offices neat and efficient. Such claims or efforts, in my opinion are not even worth the paper which they are written on or issued. Only exceptions, so far in my career, have been experiences with the Rail Bhawan in Delhi and the Vallabh Bhawan in Bhopal. These two office buildings present quite a non-sarkari appearance and an equally appropriate working environment. They definitely smack of efficiency, whether they are or not is besides the point. A visit to the Rail Bhawan surprises even the hardcore Delhiite. The corridors, toilets and public areas are definetely a cut above the rest of the Bhawans. And even the archives are a class. One can locate a file or a noting made almost fifty years ago. But, a dekko of most of the sectional offices and officers chambers leaves one dazed, mainly because of the glaring contrast between the public and the private areas. Well anyway, the mandarins of the Rail Bhawan definitely deserve a pat on their back for their efforts in keeping the building clean and smart. I also remember my visits to the Paryaran Bhawan which houses the union ministry of environment. Well now matters seem to have improved but earlier I used to wonder how a ministry which cannot maintain its own environment do justice to the “environment” of the country?

Environment is perhaps the most important aspect that we experience, yet surprisingly fail to appreciate. My first brush with environment was during those heady days of probationary period at Calcutta, almost a three decades ago when while descending the stairs of the metro station at Calcutta, I came alive to the impact environment has on us mere mortals. It was an unforgettable experience. The same Calcuttan who treated littering and spitting in public places as his widely practiced birthright changed colors within a space of only a hundred odd steps. One does not dare litter or even spit inside the metro stations at Calcutta, merely because of the pride, which the clean environment instills. Similar experiences at have reinforced this belief and I am now convinced that one does not litter a clean place. Also having experienced the effect which cleanliness and orderliness had on me in almost all the offices I have inhabited so far in my career, I stand convinced that a neat, clean and organized environment generates positive vibes that have a multiplier effect on efficiency with consequent growth in deliverance.

And so my first task in joining any new organization is to try to effect a change in the working environment. It has happened in all my offices, in railways, the ministry of tourism, the India Tourism Development Corporation, the State Tourism Corporation and now the hot seat of Delhi. Cleaning up the seat of power and that too literally is the task for the first day, to be followed by beautifying the working environment, both hardware and the software. I find it strange how we sarkari babus manage to retain paper that is useless, out of date, irrelevant and often even dirty enough to soil our hands and the table it is put upon. And so we have piles and piles of files, piled up in almirahs, inside and on top of them in typical government offices, and absolute indifference on part of all of us to do anything about it. And it is not just files, but old cardboard boxes, file covers, old pieces of dusting cloth and if one looks hard enough, even old slippers tucked away under the almirahs. Broken furniture is omnipresent.

But before passing any value judgement, let us try to analyze why a sarkari mulazim maintains his home absolutely spic and span and yet fails to carry his zeal to the work place. Is it lethargy, aversion to cleanliness, too much work or just indifference? Indifference it is, but why? The answer lies in our not being able to correlate our actions with deliverance and that leads to indifference towards whatever we do at work and also the surrounding environment. Official work has become a drudgery that has to be endured. Nothing matters whatever we do has become the prevalent belief even amongst the elite in the ruling class – the bureaucrat. And this is something that has to change, if we are to change for the better.

Amen.