Vol. 5 Num 863 Wed. November 01, 2006  
Star City

Secretariat revisited
Our correspondent spends four hours in the hub of administration

The Bangladesh Secretariat looked deserted with most of the officials out of station and absence of visitors' rush on Monday, the second working day after Eid holidays followed by two-day weekend and turbulent political situation.

There were hardly any official activities at different ministries and divisions at the secretariat. Attendance of the officials was between 20 to 30 percent at different ministries. Only a few secretaries were found attending office.

The handful of officials present at the ministries were found passing idle time or gossiping with others with most of the sections lying empty or kept under lock and key.

Members of the police and armed police battalion were guarding the gates and offices at the secretariat but they too were found relaxing, as there were very few visitors.

"We are free from tackling the rush of visitors over the past two-three days but more alert in keeping watch," said one of the on-duty security personnel at the main gate.

Visiting a good number of ministries and divisions from 11:00am to 3:00pm Monday this correspondent found an uneasy calmness and carefree mood of the officials.

"I was reading newspaper in another room, as I have no work today," said a senior assistant secretary of the Finance Division seeking not to be named. "Very few officials have turned up at the office today, as transport is not available in the streets."

He said he too would leave the office soon. No urgent work is left undone, he added.

"This is an usual scene particularly after the Eid holiday," he said. "But this year the situation has prolonged further with millions of people stranded outside Dhaka and all modes of transportation staying out of operations because of political volatility."

Most of the sections were without officials and a number of rooms under lock and key at the shipping ministry at 12:20pm. Secretary Md Rafiqul Islam was found busy inspecting the sections to prepare the offices for the new adviser.

A deputy secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education said he came to office by rickshaw as he was confused about availability of the government transport. He had left the office quite earlier on Sunday.

"Today I attended a monthly coordination meeting and will leave early," he said. "I have instructed my driver not to take the transport out today as well."

Secretary AKM Shamsuddin was in the office.

According to on-duty police personnel, Cabinet Secretary Md Abu Solaiman Chowdhury came to office at 10:00am and left for Bangabhaban at 11:00am.

Muhammad Mohsin Chowdhury, personal secretary (PS) to the cabinet secretary, was found very busy coordinating communication with the cabinet secretary every moment.

The third and fourth-class employees of the establishment and home ministries were observing the situation cautiously as these two ministries become centre of attention during the caretaker government period.

Few staff were seen at the establishment ministry at 2:00pm with both the secretary and his PS out of office.

An administrative officer of establishment ministry said he said he could not turn up for office on Sunday as there was no public transport from Mirpur.

Sheikh Momena Moni, a senior assistant secretary of the home ministry, was passing time reading newspaper at 2:30 pm with no other staff in sight in the Law Section.

Though attendance of the officials of Environment and Forest ministry was noticeably thin, Secretary Barrister Muhammad Haider Ali was in the office at 11:15am.

"The reason behind thin attendance of the officials is severe disruption in transport operations in the face of ongoing violent political situation," said personal officer of the Cultural Affairs Ministry Abdul Mannan Hawladar.

Secretary ABM Abdul Huq Chowdhury is in Colombo to attend a Saarc senior officials' meeting.

Most of the sections at Science and Information & Communication Technology (SICT) remained empty at 12:00 noon.

Kutub-ul-Alam, personal officer to the secretary to the ICT ministry said, "I reached office on foot from Green Road on Sunday and today (Monday)."

Secretary Khan Muhammad Ibrahim Hossain is abroad to attend a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Note: Our correspondent was in the secretariate on Monday. Some of the officials quoted in the story were transferred to other departments Monday night.

Less crowded entrance of the Bangladesh Secretariat after Eid holidays. PHOTO: STAR