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PC’s babus rush Home on time

Clock work Home Ministry’s month-old biometric system improves attendance, invites queries from other departments, reports Aloke Tikku.

delhi Updated: Oct 19, 2009 01:40 IST
Aloke Tikku

Don’t be late to work! The biometric attendance system may be closer home than most government officials expected.

The Ministry of Home Affairs’ attendance system is just a month old but it has already won itself a bunch of admirers. And several government departments are now hoping to emulate Home Minister P Chidambaram’s project to get the bureaucracy to report on time.

Chidambaram had introduced the attendance system last month that requires all officials to place their finger on the fingerprint scanner to mark the time when they reach office, and when they leave in the evening.

A review of the results last week indicated over 90 per cent of the subordinate staff and 70 per cent of junior officers were in office by 9.05 am. According to one account, the figure for senior officers wasn’t as impressive but officials pointed that some of them were also the last ones to leave.

Home Ministry officials associated with installing the system said they had been receiving requests from several places including the Railway Ministry and Himachal Pradesh government for sharing their experiences on the new system.

“Some departments said they intended to move proposals within their respective departments for a similar system, others wanted to explore the possibility,” he said.

“We too have been receiving many inquiries from government departments,” said Pawan Kaul, business associate at Fortuna Impex, the private company that manufactures the biometric authentication system installed at the home ministry.

Kaul named ministries of railways, coal, fertilizers and chemicals and finance as some of the ministries which had contacted the firm to understand how the system would work.

“We have made presentations at different levels, at this stage to familiarise them so that they can arrive at a firm decision,” he said.

Besides “abundant cooperation” from MHA officials, Kaul suggested one key reason for the success of the system was Chidambaram’s decision to mark his attendance on the same system.

In this, the home minister was following a basic management principle that resistance to a new system would be minimal if there are not deviations, or exceptions.

Lack of punctuality has often been counted as a problem common to most government establishments in the country.

The working hours in the central government offices are 9 am to 5.30 pm, with an half-an-hour lunch break in between.

But a surprise check at the home ministry in July revealed that a “large percentage” of officials weren’t in their offices by 9.30 am Some accounts had then suggested every third official was late.

Unlike other attendance systems tried on experimental basis by other ministries, home ministry officials said they had taken care to ensure that no one damaged the machines and made it the responsibility of the Central Industrial Security Force to ensure its safety.