From banning flower bouquets and mementoes (barring dignitaries from outside Bengal), meetings at private hotels, frequent installation of AC machines, beautification of offices and state government guesthouses to encouraging the use of carpools and cheap lunch packs —- these are some of the new austerity measures announced by the cash-strapped state government.
A high-powered committee under Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De, set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on Monday prepared a list of dos and don’ts and circulated it to various departments. “This is a welcome move by the chief minister. What is the need for flower bouquets and mementoes when the state government has to shell out crores of rupees on interest of loans undertaken by the former Left Front government? Instead, money should be spent for people’s benefit in welfare projects. Our chief minister initiated so many initiatives for the benefit of poor, tribals, youths, girl child and minorities,” state Consumer Affairs Minister Sadhan Pandey told The Indian Express.
“There is no point in wasting money on frequent tours or calling officers in Kolkata for meetings when there can be video conferencing. Unnecessary beautification or office furnishing has also been banned,” he added. The government has also ordered that no bureaucrats will be allowed on foreign tours without a nod from the chief minister and chief secretary. Restrictions have also been placed on frequent visits by officials to Delhi or other states.
“Strict instructions have been given that no new vehicles will be bought (except for emergency services) and officials should have a habit of using pool cars. Departments had been asked to use minimum decorations for government meetings and have simple, cheap refreshment packs. Government officials will also have to go for more video conferencing instead of calling for meetings, be it in Kolkata or the districts,” said an official at the state secretariat, Nabanna.
The state government had already adopted a two-pronged strategy to curb government expenditure and rationalise manpower utilisation in various departments. Mamata will hold another meeting to discuss these issues on July 5, sources said. As part of a policy to utilise manpower efficiently, the government has identified three categories of departments: those with excess manpower, those with less manpower and perfectly populated departments.
The committee is also looking into the progress of all projects to ensure timely completion and no cost or time overrun. The financial aspects of fresh projects are also looked into before the government gives the green signal.