The Government Servants of West Bengal

When I stopped eating the salt of the West Bengal Government (or, to put it less dramatically, when I resigned from Government service,) I had hoped that I would never have to enter a West Bengal Government office again. This was wishful thinking, because when I came back to West Bengal in 2004 to live in Siliguri, and bought an apartment here, it was imperative to visit several offices, those of the Registrar, the State Electricity board and so on.
Let me tell you of my experience a couple of days ago when I visited the offices of the State Electricity Board at Matigara, an outlying suburb of Siliguri. The work I had there should have taken all of three minutes. I had to pay a sum of money at the cash office and then get a form endorsed by the clerk in charge of the Office. The office is supposed to start functioning from 10 AM, so I went at 11. The person who was supposed to accept the money had not yet arrived. The cashier assured me that he would be there by 11 AM. When I looked puzzled (it was 11.05 by my watch) he pointed at the office clock which was kept at Government time, 40 minutes slow. I have a long experience of visiting West Bengal Government offices in the past, so I showed no resentment, but sat on a chair which was not offered to me and began to read a book I had brought with me. (Always remember to carry this essential piece of equipment when you go to a Government office in West Bengal.) The clock eventually reached 11 even by their clock. No clerk yet! One other person, who had been waiting with me began to get annoyed and asked the cashier to accept the payment. “No can Do” said the cashier. It was apparently a superspecialised job. However my calm demeanor (as I had intended) began to now get on his nerves. He asked to see my papers and furtively accepted payment, something he could be done 45 minutes ago. My method worked again!!!
There is no more parasitical class of people in West Bengal than the Government employees. This is true of those working for the Indian Government also, but those in West Bengal Government service area class by themselves. I was reading somewhere that the Government spends 101% of its revenues to pay their salaries. This means that the Government borrows money simply to pay their salaries. In return what do we get? We, meaning the tax payers who pay their salaries in the first place. Any government office looks like a pigsty. Even senior officers sit in offices that have not been dusted in months and with large cobwebs hanging form every corner. They are used to it and do not notice it, or perhaps they are too scared to ask their subordinates to do their job. Nobody ever dreams of coming on time, there are at least ten people to do work that one person can easily do. It is unbelievable that this parasitical class is allowed to rule the roost over all of us.
Fortunately, nowadays their power to impact on our (meaning middle class) lives has much diminished. While the poor remain totally in their power, we can manage to avoid these gentlemen fairly often. Utility bills can be paid into banks. You don’t need government services for most sectors as they are now available from the private providers also.The only time that you are forced to go to them is when you are faced with a monopoly service: electricity , for instance is one.
If you have to go to a Government of West Bengal office, let me tell you about some simple rules that will make life a lot easier.
1 Keep aside at east ten times the amount of time that should normally be taken to get your job done, i.e. if you have a 5 minute job, set aside 50 minutes at least.
2 Keep a book, or your IPod to entertain you while the clerks are entertaining themselves by delaying you.
3 Pretend to have all day and the next year on your hands, for some reason, I have found that this demoralizes them so much that they do your work much faster.
4 Speak very softy as if you were a country yokel visiting New York.
5 If you are young, (and you find it difficult to keep your cool), keep telling yourself that these gentlemen derive pleasure by wasting your time. Can you imagine what you have to do to derive pleasure? You may need to see a film, read a book, converse with your friends or play a game. If their needs are so minimal; give them a bit of your time, it really makes their day and they can go back happy. Let them enjoy themselves the only way they know how. Not only that, remember that when they retire, their own successors will treat them in exactly the same way. They will be kept waiting when they visit their own offices. Many of them will have to bribe their own erstwhile colleagues to get their medical bills passed and their papers readied for pension payment. Believe me this will make your ordeal very much more bearable.
These employees, be they Hindus, Muslims, high caste or tribals, have united to make West Bengal the scene of decay and desolation it is today. It is their pride that they get their salaries to come to the office occasionally, to work they need bribes. Long live the West Bengal Government service. How else would the Bengali race survive?


Nipon said…
I could not agree more. This is a chronic disease of the present society. This disease took its acute form since the government machinery was infected by union-raj.

Being cool in the face of their irritating behaviour is not a bad idea after all!

Regarding the dirty and cobweb-infested offices of top officers, let me point out that it is the work of the group d staff to keep things tidy which they don't. The top officers aren't afraid but they know their words will fall on deaf ears and instead of doing their job, the group d staff will flex their union muscles and continue shirking their duty. You can't blame the officer concerned since he has no power to dismiss or suspend his subordinate. Has he? At least medical officers in my college hospital don't have and the gda won't even wipe the dust off the table where the doctor will sit!

It's true that we have options in many places. Like paying bills online.

While it is true that a bulk of the government money is spent to pay its employees, but then these are utility services. Education and health, I think, are two sectors the government should bear the expenses.

Well a fraction of the Bengali race is employed in government services. So the Bengali race can't be typified by the government workforce.

The psychology behind this irritating attitude is plain jealousy and egotism. Sometimes this is seen in some small private places too, the psychology being same here as well.

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