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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Writers’ Rebuilding

Furniture has to move,and also phones and computers. But in implementing the shift out of Writers’ Buildings,it’s 8,000 files that are giving Majumdar sleepless nights

Written by Sabyasachi Bandopdhyay | Published: September 8, 2013 4:59:36 am

Two months should be ample time to “pack up and move”. Perhaps not when that involves at least 8,000 files,and by Ashoke Majumdar’s own count,“50 computers,15 telephone sets,25 typewriters,20 photocopiers”. “We are still counting the chairs,tables and almirahs,” he sighs. “It’s a

Herculean task.”

Majumdar is the Deputy Secretary,Administration,Department of Information and Culture of West Bengal. Currently,however,his 9 am-8 pm schedule mostly involves a succession of meetings to supervise the shifting of his office from Kolkata’s heritage Writers’ Buildings to HRBC (Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners) Building at Mandirtolla in Howrah,

20 km away.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee issued an order on August 9 that all the 27 departments at the Secretariat be shifted in phases to various offices in the city,so that Writers’ Buildings—dating back to 1776—could undergo a renovation. The major departments,including those under Mamata,are being shifted to HRBC Building,located across the Hooghly. When the Writers’ Buildings reopens,half of it will house government offices while the other half will function as a museum.

Mamata also set a deadline for the shifting: October 1.

Majumdar,59,has been sweating ever since as one of those departments under the CM is Information and Culture. As the officer overseeing the shifting process,he has to ensure that nothing is lost in translocation.

A committee headed by the special secretary of the department and comprising 13 officials has been formed. The committee has had three meetings so far. Part of Majumdar’s task is ensuring coordination among different sections of the department for shifting.

Majumdar gets up around 6 am and the first thing he does is visit the local market to buy provisions for home. He reaches Writers’ Buildings from his home in Behala Chowrashta,a distance of 90 minutes,at 9 am.

“From then on almost the whole of my day is spent attending meetings,sifting and classifying the files,indexing them and putting them in cartons,” he says.

That’s a huge task,Majumdar explains,as all government files are retained for at least 20 years,and the very important ones forever. “So currently all the files are being separated cell-wise,‘dealing assistant’-wise and being put in cartons with the names of the cell and the dealing assistant written. We have hired 35 trucks which will move the cartons.”

An agency selected via bids will be assigned the task of securing the cartons,placing them in trucks and delivering them to the new office. Given the CM’s strict instruction that not a single file be damaged,Majumdar keeps a close track.

“Packing the files has been a very difficult job as many of them are in a pitiable condition. Most of them have gathered much dust,and some of them are even torn. Our people engaged in this job are really in tears,” he says.

The shifting also involves emptying of almirahs and sorting office equipment. “Typewriters and telephone sets are being stacked. At the end of the month,computers will be packed. The agency,decided latest by September 12,will move these too,” says Majumdar.

In case of all departments,the units dealing with service,accounts and budget will remain in Writers’ Buildings for some time as the others are shifted. Majumdar explains that the government wants to guard against any complications regarding pensions or other post-retirement benefits.

In the Information and Culture Department,he adds,“Out of about 400 employees,350 will move to HRBC right now.”

There is another complication. Unlike Writers’ Buildings where it had 25,000 sq ft of space,at the new office located on the ninth floor of HRBC,the Department of Information and Culture will have only 13,000 sq ft at its disposal. “We will have to make sagacious use of space,” nods Majumdar,who has visited the new office.

With the deadline fast approaching,Majumdar is often in office till 7-8 pm. “Sometimes I get calls even after I go back home,” he says.

His wife Moitri,50,has got used to these calls. Their two children,a son and a daughter,are both married and stay separately.

Another thing that worries Majumdar and other employees is transport. Writers’ Buildings is located in the heart of the city and is quite well-connected. “For me it is not that difficult because I come from Behala and at best will take some more time to reach office,” says Majumdar,who has spent 37 years in government service. “But there are scores of people who will face problems as transport for Mandirtolla from many parts of the city is still scarce. The government will have to arrange buses.”

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