‘Staff should clearly know the procedures and follow them’
The head office of the Tea Board of India stands tall at the corner of one of the busiest intersections of the city’s old business district. It serves as a landmark, with its glowing signage almost acting as a beacon at night. And, now, the Union Commerce Ministry-administered organisation is trying to emerge as a trend-setter by proposing to put in place systems in office-management seen hitherto in only the private sector.
Its effort to tone up the administration and put in place an Office Procedure Manual (OPM) has rattled employees, long used to a cocooned office life where, for many, hours could be whiled away sipping the famous brew, over chit-chats with colleagues. Cajoling was needed to get the days work done. All that is set to change now.
At a Tea Board meeting last week, a proposal for putting in place an OPM, which sets guidelines on a raft of issues, was moved. This included drafting communications, records management, forms and procedure of communication, conduct and discipline, check on delays as well as some general guidelines.
An amendment to the present recruitment and probationer appointment policy of the Tea Board was also proposed. The OPM seeks to install, among other things, a system of creating a pendency statement to check delays in office administration. A particular watch is proposed to be created on disposal of communications received from members of parliament.
The general guideline section, which lays down the do’s and don’ts of personal behaviour in office such as discouraging use of private e-mail, ban on internet chats and use of office telephone for private calls and keeping cell phones in silent mode, is being found irksome by most employees.
Curiously, the unions at the Tea Board office, the Tea Board Employees Union and the Tea Board Workmen’s Association, normally the first to cry wolf on such occasions’, have remained silent till now.
Efforts to draw comments on the issue were met with silence with union office-bearers saying that they need authorisation from their executive committee to speak to the media.
When contacted, Tea Board Chairman M. G. V. K. Bhanu said that staff should clearly know the procedures and follow them in the interest of the organisation. To a question whether a summary dismissal policy was being planned, he said “If probationers fail to perform, then we may ask them to seek their future elsewhere.”
Mr. Bhanu, who joined as Tea Board chairman in November 2011, is seen as a strict disciplinarian.
Last year, he had taken the unprecedented step of cancelling the licences of some 159 tea exporters for non-performance after it was found that lackadaisical follow-up action by the relevant department had allowed many exporters continue for years with a temporary licence which entailed a host of fiscal benefits. It now remains to be seen whether his efforts at bringing a near-paradigm shift in Tea Board’s office management yields the desired result.