New attendance rules for Bengal government offices as COVID cases spike

Published : June 10, 2020 22:50 IST

In Kolkata, people board a bus at the end of office hours on June 9. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

Lack of transport and the spike in coronavirus cases in West Bengal has forced the government to modify its attendance rules in government offices. Earlier it was stated that government offices will function with 70 per cent attendance from June 8 onwards. However, on June 10, the government by an official memorandum announced that the attendance of officers and staff "up to the level of Deputy Secretary will be staggered". One shift will be from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and another from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

After announcing relaxations to the lockdown from June 1, and with government and private offices reopening from June 8, the people of Kolkata and its surrounding areas have been facing enormous problems owing to lack of transport. Even as COVID-19 cases have been rising at an alarming rate, the people of Kolkata have been forced to put aside social distancing norms and crowd in private buses and other modes of transport to get to their offices and later to return home. They have had to wait for hours on end for transport to come by, and while government buses have not been allowing more than the seating capacity, private buses have people hanging from the footboards.

"Since the implementation of the new attendance rules in the offices of the State Government from 8th June 2020, it has been observed that there has been overcrowding in public transport and work place. Due to this overcrowding, the basic social distancing norms are not being maintained, which increases the chances of spread of Covid infection among the employees and general public.

"In view of the above, there is a further need to avoid crowding of officegoers in public transport and work place to ensure maintenance of adequate social distancing," the government memorandum stated. The new rules will not apply to officers above the rank of Deputy Secretary "who use official vehicle".

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a press conference on June 10, appealed to the private sector to allow people to work from home as much as possible. "I appeal to the private sector to allow those people for whom it is possible to work from home, to do so. In cases where it is not possible and coming to office in unavoidable, I request them to consider making the attendance staggered, the way we have…. This way overcrowding can be avoided and the problem of transport that the people are facing can also be avoided," said Mamata.

Speaking on the subject of migrant labourers, Mamata said that 11 lakh migrant workers from Bengal who were stranded in different parts of the country owing to the lockdown have already returned to the State, and another 30,000 are expected to be back in a few days. In what appeared to be a reaction to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s allegation that Mamata had call the Shramik Special trains Corona Expresses, she said, "I have never said Corona Express. I have said the public are calling those trains Corona Expresses." On June 9, Shah, while addressing a ‘virutal rally’ of BJP workers in Bengal, had said "We called those trains Shramiks, Mamata didi named them Corona Express… Mamata didi, this was an insult to the labourers of Bengal, these Corona Express trains will take Trinamool out of the State."

On the COVID-19 front, as of June 10, a total of 9,328 cases were confirmed, of which 5,284 were active cases. The total number of COVID-positive patients who have died, as per government figures, stood at 449; on June 10 itself 17 people died in 24 hours.