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"Those Unwilling To Continue...": Ministry Warns Absentees Amid COVID-19

Those Unwilling To Continue...: Ministry Warns Absentees Amid COVID-19

New Delhi: At a time when the government is preparing itself to fight the coronavirus almost on war footing, it is facing an unusual crisis - its very own bureaucracy. After officers did not show up yesterday and today despite the government's directive on the weekend, a key ministry has put out a letter that warns that absentees will be sacked.

NDTV has accessed an office memorandum of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public distribution, an extremely critical ministry in these times, with the subject "unwillingness/continuation of services".

The note asks all officers and staff members of the Department of Consumer Affairs to inform whether they want to continue with the department by April 20, so that they can be "relieved".

"The undersigned is directed to say that all the officers and officials who are unwilling to continue in this department may intimate the same to establishment section by 20th of April 2020 so that necessary action may be taken for relieving them," - the letter reads.

The letter talks of the "unwillingness" of officials and staff who have refused to come to work.

Ram Vilas Paswan is the minister in charge of the department. It is not clear if similar action has been taken by other ministries.

Officials on the condition of anonymity said the decision to close down government offices came through a written order at the start of the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24.

The reopening of the offices, however, was conveyed on a phone call, said the officials. There was nothing in writing.

The ministry, sources say, has taken very strong note of what it sees as insubordination.

PM Modi today extended the lockdown till May 3, asserting that it would be strict in the first week and the restrictions would be reviewed on April 20 for the least affected parts of the country. While there is nothing official yet, it is believed that government offices may continue to function.

After the PM's meeting with Chief Ministers on Saturday, the government had asked ministers to resume work from office, but with precautions like masks and social distancing. This was seen by many as a signal that the government wants to gradually resume work and bring the economy back on track.

(Inputs and image from ndtv.com)

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