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No Broom In Govt Offices

Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, other state ministers and BJP leaders have all more than once picked up the broom to clean a public place since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about cleanliness and better sanitation by sweeping the streets of Delhi on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2 last. However cleanliness, like charity, begins at home. Even before launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Modi worked with his staff to clean up his office, goading his cabinet colleagues to do the same to their offices. Why are offices of the state government still not swept clean? What is the point of raising awareness about cleanliness among citizens and not raising it among ministers, officers and staff of government departments?

Reports and photographs published in this newspaper on Tuesday showed that none of the directives of the central government about keeping the offices and the common spaces like stairs and corridors clean and tidy had been implemented. It is nine months since the Prime Minister picked up the broom, and nothing has changed in Goa government offices. From June 22 to June 26, a special cleanliness drive was observed by the state government but even this failed to make the offices clean. There is this problem of behaviour, in the first place. Ministers, officers and employees have come to accept lack of cleanliness as an irremediable part of government offices. There might be cleanliness in the cabins and attached toilets of ministers and high officers, but there is total lack of it where their subordinates work and in their common toilets and other common spaces. It is like segregation of colonial officers and native clerks. The natives are condemned to filth, old furniture, cupboards and shelves bursting with files, corridors and passages cluttered with almirahs of files, and chipping-off walls. Naturally, the natives develop the tendency of adding to the filth, since their ministers and officers are not bothered about giving them a neat workplace and clean washroom.

So, the first thing Governor Mridula Sinha and Chief Minister Parsekar need to do is direct their attention away from parks and markets toward the state government offices. To begin with, they need to give their employees some respect. They must see that the offices where subordinates sit and work are as clean and tidy as the cabins where ministers and officers sit and work. One of the major reasons of the offices being unclean is sheer lack of space. You can’t blame the subordinate employees entirely for unclean offices, because where there is space, for example in a private company’s offices, the offices are clean. Over decades, the government in general and ministers in particular have gone on hiring people for government employment without ever thinking of where they would seat them without affecting the cleanliness and hygiene of the offices.

To expect that the behaviour of employees will change by sheer motivation at the sight of Governor and Chief Minister – and the Prime Minister, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Mukesh and Nita Ambani and other celebrities – sweeping public places will be wrong. We need more than symbolism to motivate them: we need to create conditions to induce such motivation. One of them is adequate space. The state government would have to allocate funds for providing more space for their offices. Two other associated policies could help a great deal in keeping space requirements to optimal levels: one, downsize government; and two, digitize government work.

Then, the Governor and CM have to resolve the day to day problem: the problem of housekeeping, the problem of collecting waste, segregating it and properly dumping and treating it. Raj Bhawan has always been clean, because it has an army of staff to go after the lone spider that sneaked up to a corner of the ceiling to weave a cobweb when everybody slept the previous night, the birds that did not flush their droppings on the pathways and the trees that shed their dead leaves on the grass. The state government departments have never had that good fortune of having any battalion for housekeeping. Maybe CM Parsekar can dip his hands into the purse of the Swachh Bharat Kosh for hiring housekeeping staff and equipment. Or he can outsource the task. He can get business houses and individual citizens to contribute fund to the Kosh for the purpose. He can begin by asking his housekeepers to first remove the junk furniture from offices.

Well then, the Governor and CM’s tasks are clear: Provide government offices adequate space, speed up digitization of work and introduce daily housekeeping for clearing junk and wastepaper and cleaning toilets and corridors. If the walls are clean, no employee will dare to spit on them.

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