The unusual sight of serpentine queues at the entrance of two blocks of Writers’ Buildings, the seat of West Bengal’s government, came as a surprise to many a State employee and visitor on Monday.
People were not awaiting their turn to get in. It was pairs of shoes they wore that were waiting to be polished; the attraction being the automatic shoe-shining machines installed by the State’s Public Works Department at Block no. 2 and 4 — something that State employees, security personnel on duty and visitors made best use throughout the day.
Two more of such machines will be set up on the second floor of the heritage building that once housed the clerks (writers) of the British government and now functions as the State Secretariat with over 8,000 employees working there.
Since May 2011 when Mamata Banerjee’s government assumed power, the heritage institution has seen many changes, including a new Press Corner, removal of temporary food outlets and a new look to a number of offices.
She clearly stated her disapproval of the surroundings indoors when the Left Front government was in power at the very start. She had even ordered a total renovation of the Chief Minister’s office, ruing on various other occasions about the absence of a “work culture” in the administration she had inherited.
Many view the installation of the shoe-shining machines as an attempt to impart a “corporate look” to the State Secretariat that fits into the “work culture” Ms. Banerjee talks of having brought about.
There are some who never have had access to the seat of power, who have, however, not taken particularly kindly to the initiative.
Narayan Das, a cobbler who has been polishing shoes for the past 17 years on the pavement opposite to the Writers Building said he might lose many of his regular clients. He is even considering shifting his worksite.