Women employees can only wear saris or churidars

It is now the turn of government employees to follow a dress code.

The State government has issued a circular on what its employees can and cannot wear to work in an apparent effort to ensure that they turn up in a “dignified manner”.

Circular

The August 12 circular issued by the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) is based on a proposal by the Karnataka Government Secretariat Employees’ Association and State Government Employees’ Association.

Appreciating the employee associations’ effort at “self-discipline”, Shalini Rajneesh, DPAR Secretary, said the move was to remind the employees that they are supposed to “maintain dignity and decorum in a government office”.

“We discussed it with the Chief Minister and got his approval. This rule applies to all staff, including those working on contract basis in government offices across the State,” she said.

“Although most government employees dress up in a dignified manner, there are some whose clothing attracts attention. When we ask them to ensure that the decorum of a government office is maintained, the usual question is whether there is a rule prohibiting the staff from wearing a particular dress. So the need for a dress code was felt,” said L. Bhyrappa, president of the Karnataka State Government Employees’ Association.

Who is who?

An employee of the Health and Family Welfare Department pointed out that some contract workers, especially data entry operators and programme officers in some departments (who are outsourced from agencies) sometimes turn up in jeans and T-shirts, which is not taken well by the seniors.

A State Secretariat employee said it was difficult to tell who is who when “some turn up in T-shirts and others come in politician’s dress (white khadi), creating confusion on whether they belong to a political party or are employees”.

Activists unhappy

However, this effort — particularly the strictures on women’s clothing — has left women activists fuming. K.S. Vimala of Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane described it as “nothing short of ridiculous”.

“What the DPAR has to do is to train employees to ensure that people get services when they come to government offices and schemes reach genuine beneficiaries. Instead, they are trying to determine what employees wear,” she said, describing it as a misplaced priority and an effort at controlling people, especially women.

‘Leave choice to us’

“The choice of comfortable clothing should be left to individuals,” she said.

‘Why dress code?’

“The government is unable to provide security to women, including its employees. Instead of tackling that, they are imposing a dress code. That is regressive and feudal,” said Mallige of Samanata Mahila Vedike. Ms. Mallige feared that what starts with government employees could later be extended to other sections of people.

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