Living without a government vehicle isn’t easy. With all the extensive travel, officials need to reach many places on time. Which is why residents of Raigunj in North Dinajpur were surprised when they saw District Magistrate Arvind Kumar Mina walk the 250-metre distance from his residence to his office on Wednesday. What’s more, even many of his colleagues were seen walking to work instead of using government vehicles, reports the Indian Express.
This unique initiative has been conceptualised by the North Dinajpur district administration, which has decided to observe one day each week as ‘no vehicles day’. This is part of an austerity drive, a move that comes after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently issued directives for cost-cutting on July 5.
Arvind Kumar told the Indian Express that they were inspired by the Chief Minister and her initiatives. Most of the offices and quarters of the district officials are within a 2-km radius in Ranigunj. So, they all decided to shun the government vehicles, one day every week to ensure that fuel expenses are reduced. Also, health benefits and reduced pollution are added advantages.
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The decision was voluntary, the magistrate mentioned, without any State Government directive. There are 25 vehicles in the DM Office, which will stay in their garages for one day every week.
Raiganj MLA Mohit Sengupta welcomed the move, urging top state government officials to take such initiatives to reduce government expenses.
According to the DM, it depends on the distance between the residence of SDO or BDO or officers and their offices.
Apart from official use, North Dinajpur officials have also been asked to refrain from using official vehicles for personal purposes and to conduct meetings through video conferencing. The District Administration is also trying to cut down on food expenses during meetings, providing only small tiffins, tea or biscuits.
The West Bengal Chief Minister and Chief Secretary have set up a committee to look into cost-cutting. A set of dos and don’ts have been issued to officers, such as:
1. No flower bouquets.
2. No Mementoes (barring dignitaries from outside Bengal).
3. No meetings at private hotels.
4. No frequent installation of AC machines.
5. No beautification of offices and state government guesthouses.
6. Curb on tours.
7. Encouraging carpooling.
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The officials in Bengal are also prioritising manpower utilisation. The government has sorted departments into excess manpower, less manpower and perfectly populated so that the workforce can be used efficiently.