After the usual breakfast given by the watchman, Jain and I sat at the dining table to discuss generally about the work involved and the immediate requirements of staff and equipment needed to start the work within few days.
“You may be wondering why I am not able to give you the full complement of staff and other needed items in one go”, Jain said as if reading my thoughts. “There are rules and codal formalities to be followed before taking any action in our system. Every organisation has to have it’s budget sanctioned for the year before incurring expenditure on its staff, equipment and activities. The organisation then allocates a part of the budget to its regional/subordinate offices for meeting their expenditure as per requirements. It is similar to the budgeting done by a house-wife to meet the expenditure of the family”. Jain continued. “But there is a difference. In this system, the more you spend the budget allotted to you, you are considered more efficient i.e. it is just opposite to a family’s concept of minimum spending and maximum saving in its budget”.
“This means that if one is extravagant with funds, he would be assessed as an efficient engineer?” I asked him, not able to believe the way the system works. “Supposing I try to save and spend less money out of the budget, what happens then?”
Jain said “You will get less amount to spend. i.e. less money in the next year’s budget, because the organisation considers that you are not efficient in doing the job. This is what happened to one of my colleagues last year. Being careful in using the official vehicle, his petrol requirement was less than 100litres per month . Except for unavoidable circumstances, he always used public transport to reach the destinations within his jurisdiction.” Jain paused for a few minutes giving me some time to digest the subject, then he continued “This year, the administration enforced a cut of 20% on petrol based on last year’s consumption level for all its offices. Hence my colleague had to strain to restrict his use of petrol to 80 litres a month. He had to even cut down his monthly visits to the sites which could be approached only by using jeep, so as to restrict the demand for petrol. His boss was very unhappy about the slow progress of works at such sites and was critical of his lack of supervision. He found out that his other colleagues who were liberal in using the vehicles the previous year and drawing more than 500 litres a month that year, could still afford to have the luxury of using 400 litres per month for their vehicles without any strain.”Jain said. “The moral of the episode is that in this organisation, if you spend more in a year, even with budgetary cuts, you would get adequate funds to spend in the subsequent year!”
I was getting introduced to the way one has to work in the system. I had heard that red tape is an integral part of the way of working in any organisation. But I did not know how it restricted taking actions. I therefore prodded him with more questions to understand his limitations in taking actions to post staff, procuring the requisite equipments etc. After all, the staff and equipment are essentially required to carry out a work entrusted to any office to complete the task within the scheduled period. I also wanted to know the rules governing my tours etc. needed for supervising the works and for interacting with him at his office.
“The posting of any staff is to be done either by transferring the requisite officials from other offices or by recruiting locally, depending on the level.”Jain said.”In our office, unless the official transferred is interested in the posting, any transfer would be resisted and the transferred individual would try all available avenues to get the orders cancelled. Thus there would be a delay in filling up the post. For junior posts in the administrative and technical cadres, I can recruit the staff locally, but I have to get clearances from various offices that they have no staff to spare, and then start the recruitment process. Even for taking this action, the approval from headquarters is required and then the local employment exchange is to be contacted to recommend candidates.”
Jain continued .”If that office gives clearance stating that they have none to recommend from their list, then the posts can be advertised in the local news papers detailing the level of staff needed, the expected vacancies to be filled, age limits, minimum and desirable qualifications needed and the pay scale and allowances for the posts concerned. Minimum one month time has to be given for interested people to apply. After interview and selection, it would take another couple of months for the selected candidates to join the posts. Thus at least a year would be needed for getting the posts filled after initiating the process of direct recruitment due to the clearances and approvals required as per rules. Hence I always prefer a combination of transfer and recruitment approach for filling the posts as I am sure that I would be able to get some man power for the work”. Jain looked at me to see whether I am able to follow his clarifications on the rule position.
“Similarly, if I want to buy some equipment, I just cannot to go to the market, pay cash and get the requisites.” Jain continued. “I have to first get a clearance from the Headquarters, call for tenders or quotations, set up a committee to examine the bids and on the basis of their recommendations, place the order for the supply., a process which may take months and even years to fructify. If the requirement is of stationery such as writing paper pen, pencils etc., then I have to place the indent on our Stationery Department who would after examining my needs, send the items in a sealed parcel by train, which I would have to collect from the nearest railway station. Of course, for requirements of small value, in an emergency, I could call for quotations and decide on the lowest quotation and buy the items from the local market so long as the cost is within the financial powers given to me by the headquarters. Same is the case with buying stationery items”.
“This would show that in WADA, the integrity of an official is always suspected”, I remarked. “But, I do not understand why the system looks at its employees with suspicion, as if all of them are out to eat up money? Even in criminal cases, it is said that everyone is innocent unless otherwise proved.”
“In every organisation, the financial Wing or Section considers, otherwise”. Jain said. “For them, every official is a crook unless otherwise proved!”
I was slowly getting to understand the fundamentals of working of the system.
“My postman, who is knowledgeable about rules, tells me that even for going out of this place, I have to send an application in triplicate and get approvals before leaving the place”, I told him. “Is it not a curb on my freedom of movement?”
“When you are in charge of an office, you are under a discipline and would need to take certain approvals for your intended actions even if it be for leaving the head quarters for attending to your personal work”, Jain patiently explained to me. “You have to get your tours approved, leave sanctioned etc. If you do not get the requisite approvals, your monthly pay would be withheld, your tour allowances would not be released and you may end up without any money in hand.”
“You mean to say that at the end of this month, I would not get my salary for want of approvals?” I asked him surprised. “How long I have to wait to get my current month’s salary?”
“It depends,” Jain said smiling. “Being a newly recruited officer, your charge report i.e. a report in the prescribed format that you have joined duty has to be sent to our headquarters in seven copies by my regional office. The Hqs. in course of time would send copies to concerned Accountant Generals(AGs), in this case the AG of Andhra Pradesh, and other concerned officers notifying about your appointment .The concerned AG, in turn, would issue a pay slip in your favour authorising the District Treasury Officer to pay your salary. Since in your case, you are under a sub treasury, the district officer would endorse a copy of the pay slip to the Sub officer with a copy to you. Then you have to prepare and claim your salary in the prescribed form, in triplicate of course, and submit it to the sub treasury who would release your salary through a cheque drawn on the local bank. The whole exercise normally takes 4 to 5 months. But if one or two clerks in the chain of offices involved remain on leave during this period, you had it!! it would then take many more days for you to get your pay”.
“If I am to go on leave for a month, what is to be done?” I asked him.
“Your leave has to be sanctioned by the headquarters and to be notified following a similar procedure,” Jain clarified. “Then your leave salary would be authorised by your AG through another communication designated as leave salary pay slip and you would be able to draw the salary for the period you were on leave. This process may take a couple of months, but your salary for the period after return from leave could be claimed by you on the basis of your earlier pay slip which would remain valid when you return and join the duty. However, some ignorant treasury officers might quote obsolete rules and demand a certificate that you were alive during the period of leave to release your pay for that period! The certificate as per those rules has to be from a government officer who knows you.”
“Is it not absurd to demand such a certificate after I join duty alive and kicking?” I asked. “Does it not amount to harassing an individual?”
“The rules were meant for cases when an officer dies during the leave period.” Jain explained. “A certificate would enable the treasury officer to release the pay for that period of leave when he was alive. But the overzealous treasury people do not want to take any chance about the leave pay and hence insist for such certificates irrespective of the officer joining the duty after leave. After all, rules are rules”. Jain chuckled enjoying himself the joke. He continued after a pause. “The moral is not to go on leave as far as possible if you want to get your pay without any hassle.
“I am told that rules are meant to help people,” I told him. “But from what you told me I am to understand that rules are causing only impediments in the smooth execution of works.” Jain concurred with my views “If you go strictly according to rule book, no work can be done but it all depends on the individuals who are entrusted with the task.”
“Now regarding our work, let us go to the site to study the lay of the land and to decide the possible locations for the project across the river.” Jain asked me to follow him while getting into his vehicle.
After reconnoitring the site, Jain said “You have to do a number of surveys to prepare the detailed plan of the sites selected, drill a few holes in the river bed and on the banks of the river to ascertain the depth of overburden and rock levels etc. This mighty river has to be controlled and the flow diverted through turbines to generate power. Lots o f planning is involved before taking up the construction of such major projects. Hence you can take credit for accomplishing an important part of this gigantic project“.
“I am sure with your guidance I would be able to complete the preparation of the project report.” I told him.” But why do you say that I alone should take the credit?”
Jain said. “I am shortly being transferred to Delhi Hqs. as I have completed my tenure of more than 3 years in the regional office. An officer has already been identified by Hqs. to take my place at Vijayawada .If he does not delay his relief from there through manipulations, he would be here within three months. By that time I would get you the minimum staff and equipment so that you would be able to start the work and achieve some progress in investigations.”
“Where are you likely to be posted?” I asked him.
Jain said “In Delhi office normally since I am to retire within next two years. I do not expect the administration to post me outside other than at my requested place of posting, which is Delhi.”
By evening, we were back at Gopalapuram. While sipping tea in the guest house, he told me about his vast experience in the organisation, his happy moments and crisis ridden days during his service and of his family.
“Looking back, I feel happy that I had an interesting life in this organisation. The bosses, colleagues and subordinates have been good to me and cooperated with me throughout so that I could successfully complete the assignments given to me. I am sure you would not regret joining the organisation and you would have enough opportunities to prove your mettle in the long run”.
After a late night dinner, he went back to his room wishing me good night. Jain was to return to Vijayawada next day morning as per the tour programme.
Next morning ,while getting into the vehicle, he told me. “You have a long way to go and you would be enjoying the powers and privileges of a senior officer during your service, which may at times try to swerve you from the right path, prompting you to do things wrong. Be ever watchful”. After a pause, he continued “Your powers should not be used to punish an innocent official nor to acquire wealth through foul means. If you keep yourself level-headed, you would be able to achieve many great things in life. Keep smiling and be helpful to every one- that is all I have to tell you. Till we meet again, bye.”
The jeep disappeared in a cloud of dust thrown up by the metalled road to Eluru.
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