The winds of change are blowing noticeably in the corridors of power. Saturday has become a full working day for the Prime Minister’s Office. So has Sunday for many senior officials. “Our five-day week has gone for a six but it’s good,” quipped a senior bureaucrat.
Many ministries have issued circulars reminding officials that the work hours are from 9 am to 5.30 pm, with sources hinting that 8 to 6 too is under consideration. Secretary Anil Goswami has started holding daily meetings with joint secretaries at 9.15 am.
With PM Narendra Modi himself starting the day early after yoga, some of his ministers are seen entering their offices even before 9 am. One afternoon last week, a septuagenarian minister met Modi and was preparing to go for a siesta when he got a call informing him that the PM would like to see him again at 7 the next morning.
Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was among the first to be apprised of the changed rules. The day after taking oath, he had decided to go back to his electorate in Lakhimpur to thank them. Barely half an hour after he had boarded the flight, his office got a call from the PMO seeking to know the minister’s whereabouts. As he landed in Guwahati, Sonowal got a call from his Delhi office. He had apparently not been aware that a minister too has to keep his boss informed about his movements outside Delhi.
If the PM is putting pressure on his ministers, the latter have been passing it down the line. NHAI chairman R P Singh got a snub from Roads Minister Nitin Gadkari during a highway authority presentation last Friday. “If you (NHAI) have done so much, how come not many roads were built (during the UPA regime)?” Gadkari is said to have snapped at Singh, who reportedly derived his powers straight from 7 RCR during the previous regime.
And HRD Minister Smriti Irani, at a meeting with officials last week, picked up the phone and thundered at an official: “I have been waiting to hear from you for the last two days.” After her first cabinet meeting, she landed in her office in the evening, only to find it locked. The man keeping the keys was jolted awake to open the office.
Citing the ordinance issued to clear the appointment of Nripendra Mishra as principal secretary to the PM, a minister told The Indian Express, “That sums up Modi’s style of governance. If he has made up his mind to do something, it has to be done immediately, come what may. And he expects all of us (ministers) to do the same.”