Imitation, it is said, is the best form of flattery, and though it’s still too early to tell whether the newly appointed chief secretary Sanjay Mitra is out to flatter his boss but he’s certainly making a mark if being a workaholic is a criteria.
After coming to power, Mamata Banerjee ushered a breakneck work schedule into Writers’ Buildings by remaining in office till late at night, a rare phenomenon while the Left was in power.
On his very first day in office, on Sunday, Mitra informed his assistants that he would reach office at 9 am, sharp, a whole 90 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of arrival of his predecessor Samar Ghosh.
“I will be in office by 9 am. I hope you will be there before I reach,” Mitra told his office peon Swapan Das. Das, who has been working at the state secretariat since the days when power minister Manish Gupta was chief secretary, was not amused, but recovered quickly from the shock.
“Sir, aapni ele to amake astei hobe (If you’re coming in that early, so must I),” said Das. True to his words, Mitra turned up at work at 9 am on Monday morning, an ungodly hour when no one else can be seen in the offices. When HT approached him on Tuesday evening, a public holiday, Mitra did not want to comment, stealing some quality time with his family.
But, Mitra, a man of few words, has already made his mark as a no-nonsense kind of bureaucrat who wants to be known more for his deeds than his words. He has already earned distinction as a health secretary, which finally prompted the chief minister to promote him ahead of 13 senior colleagues.
Mitra has spent seven years at the Prime Minister’s Office, a record that has lent his career a rare halo. “He emphasised work culture in the health department. He introduced a finger print scanner, to record the attendance of Grade I officers,” said an employee at the health department.
Soon after taking charge, Mitra ordered the transfer of two of his predecessor’s personal secretaries, Tapash Girir and Rahul Roy, replacing them with two people of his choice. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee also focussed on reaching office early, and initially employees would begin to arrive by 10.15 am.
However, the system has become somewhat lax with employees coming in only at 11.30, despite the official working hours being 10.15 am to 5.25 pm. Mitra is the youngest chief secretary and, as a 1982 batch IAS, has more than 7 years of service left. A Harvard Mason fellow, Mitra was on central deputation, first in the finance minister, then rural development and finally in the PMO.