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Reminiscing about bygone times – “Food For Work”

This article was written in the 90s.

I stumbled upon it while cleaning old papers and diaries at home.  I hope it helps the people of my generation take a stroll down the memory lane. Those who worked during those times particularly in public sector undertakings, they can reminisce and relate easily. For the new generation, it illustrates how day-to-day work was like back then.

Article draft is produced as it is. A transcription is also provided for those interested.

Happy Reading!


    Food For Work

    Our joy knew no bounds when we received a circular indicating that henceforth part of our salary would be paid in kind. We heaved a terrific sigh of relief thinking that the price hikes would not pinch us any more, in any case, very powerfully. All our prayers appeared to have been answered at last.

    Next day, we got down to work out the specifics of arrangements to be made to implement the guidelines of the new circular. As is usually done, we planned to entrust this work to an officer. Not till then we realized the other dimensions to these problems like what are to be purchased, where are they to be stored, how to keep control over distribution and how to cope with the related accounting problems. Fortunately, our Head Office did swing into action, though belatedly. It gave elaborate guidelines, though certain loopholes were left out. The offices in south and east were advised to buy rice , as it is the staple food in these regions and in other regions advices were given for the purchase of wheat.

    Poor Mr. Khukreja who opted to come down to south not to miss a promotion did not think of this angle while arriving at that decision. Had it been known earlier, Mrs. Khukreja would certainly have objected to that. Things did not end there. More were in store, literally too. When it came to the crunch of the problem, i.e. distribution, we had to requisition the services of an employee of a kirana store. So far as purchase of rice was concerned, we were in a quandary whether to go in for Rs.2/- a K.G. rice (sold here by the State Government of A.P.) or not, for we were not certain as to the stand of the Central Government on this subject. Later it was authentically learnt that the State Government would have refused our request on the ground of our reportedly being high wage islanders, more particularly in a Central Government undertaking. As regards storage, we had to hire a new place, as these provisions, when they were stored along with other stationery did attract rats and vermin and in consequence gave them good food in all the nicely printed stationery. And hire we did.

    Things were moving.

    One day when we opened mail from our controlling office, we noticed that “Incurred Consumption Statement” is still due from our side. We thought it might be a typing mistake for “Incurred Claims Statement” which in fact was submitted well in time. A week later we got a confirmatory copy of the telegram followed by telegram itself emphasising the urgency of submitting “Incurred Consumption Statement”. We all had to engage ourselves in preparing this statement giving item-wise details for Rice, Dal and Cashew nuts etc.

    A few days later, we had Sri Daduji from R.O. who, it was learnt later, came for surprise check. We thought he would start with verification of cash. But, instead, much to our surprise he rushed to store room, took out the special weighing machine he brought and started weighing the various items. Mr. Daduji was reportedly chosen for this job in view of his long standing in this filed for more than 10 years. After verification he pointed that there was a variation of 50 gms of cashew nuts between the stock and the stock as per books.

    We politely told him that the difference is due to intermittent pecks he had in the course of weighing. Apart from other comments and suggestions he observed that the incurred consumption ratio of certain items like spices, oils and cashew nuts was high. He established a co-relation between this and high medical claims resulting from problems to liver and stomach.

    Some days slipped by. We were in for a bigger surprise when it was announced that Mid-day meal scheme be started forthwith by all the offices. This is said to be an improvement over the existing part payment in kind. As much as is required for this scheme, we were advised , may be slashed from the quota of the employees.

    A searching brain immediately enquired as to who would cook the food. A reference was immediately made to the Regional Office. It was ultimately decided that the cooks be employed through the employment exchange.
    Pending these appointments, we were advised to tactfully utilize the services of the women employees. Tactful management, being no alien concept to us, we got down to the business. But, one problem still persisted. In our office, some are vegetarians and others non-vegetarians.

    The vegetarian sect threatened us with very dire consequences if their demands are not met. We had to utilize the services of two employees. A few days later officer in the concerned department complained that because of utilization of his subordinates for cooking, work in his department is affected. Further, as is not wholly unexpected, the associations of these employees came out with the plea that persons engaged in cooking be paid “Cooking Allowance” on the lines of “Functional Allowance”. But, as luck would have it, this experiment proved to be a blessing in disguise for the eves, as they could get rid of their single blessedness because of the culinary acrobatics they could master. From then on wards the quality of their cooking deteriorated.

    The unions and associations did not take this lying down. They sat on a hunger strike. The cooking section had to be closed and we started getting the food from hotels. Slowly it was found that we have eaten away all our budgetary provisions. Our R.O. took serious view of this problem and has advised us to order the food available at State Government rates. We have dutifully carried out these orders. This, in its wake, brought forth sleepless nights resulting from stomach disorders leading to very high medical claims under MBIS.

    A big hue and cry was raised. Various representations poured into Head Office protesting against these blessed schemes and strongly urging their withdrawal. After a series of consultations, considerations and confabulations by various committees specially constituted to look into these grievances, our Head Office has mercifully withdrawn these schemes.