It is common practice for Indians to welcome guests with garlands and coconuts. The gesture conveys respect and love towards the guest and establishes that they occupy a higher place (in a literal sense) than the host.
Suraj Mandhare is determined to change this very notion of hierarchy with government officials and civilians.
Mandhare is the newly appointed CEO of Pune Zilla Parishad (ZP). He is an IAS officer who has worked as the Deputy Municipal Commissioner (land acquisition) with the Pune Municipal Corporation and as the Deputy Commissioner (revenue). He was recently shifted from the office of Chief Secretary in Mumbai to Pune.
Mandhare wants to remove the sense of importance that government officials get. However, he is sensitive towards the sentiments of civilians and understands the show of gratitude behind the garlands and coconut.
He urges citizens to swap garlands for books instead.
“The flower bouquet is nothing but a waste of money; they are also costly. People give it just to show gratitude. We do not want to hurt the sentiments of the citizens who gift bouquets, but replacing them with books would convey a stronger and more positive message. The change in tradition will also help in increasing reading habits among officers, which has become rare now. If they get a book as a present, they will be compelled to read it” Mandhare told Pune Mirror.
Mandhare has also issued circulars addressing all the HoDs (Head of Departments) insisting they do not accept flowers or garlands from citizens either or their official tours or in the office. He believes that if people genuinely want to show their gratitude to the government officers, books would be a more suitable gift.
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Mandhare has appealed to citizens to erase the notion that government officials must be felicitated for doing their duties. He believes that such customs portray a negative image of the officials and hamper work culture.
Sandeep Kohinkar is an officer in the Pune ZP. He told Pune Mirror, “All the HoDs have received the instructions, and are bound to follow them. This will help to connect with the people by keeping unnecessary formalities aside.”