This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“The Bureaucrat Who Does Not Go Home”: Of Sleepless Nights At The PMO

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Anupam Srivastava

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

The bureaucrat who does not go home” could have been the headline of a story that was published recently by a major newspaper. The story extolled the “hard” life a senior bureaucrat who sometimes does not go home at night in order to keep up with the punishing schedule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, it has been frequently drilled into the Indian head, does not sleep more than four hours a day.

What does the poor bureaucrat—living at a stone’s throw from his office in imperial Delhi—oops Lutyens’ Delhi—do? He arranges to have a diwan—a settee—in his office on which he lies down—but only for a brief while because he works even at night.

Photo courtesy: Laurie Jones/Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy: Laurie Jones/Wikimedia Commons

All this is very well, especially with the Modi government completing one year in office, having little to show on ground, except for some industrialists’ shares skyrocketing and a slew of decisions, which are yet to benefit the common people.

The importance of the diwan in the story was supreme, even though the journalist who seemed eager to buy the story did not put it in the context of the diwans and settees that are abundant in bureaucrats’ (read Indian Administrative Service officers’) offices.

While working as a reporter for another newspaper, I first saw the diwan in the back room of the office of a bureaucrat who went on to become the chief election commissioner of India. The diwan lay in a small but plush room which was at the back of his office, accessible through a door. “This is where I rest a little after lunch,” he told me. It immediately rang a bell since the officer, otherwise accessible at almost any time of the day, was somehow “in a meeting” between 2 and 3 pm every afternoon.

The reason why the bureaucrat rested on the diwan was that his home was at considerable distance from his office in Old Delhi and it would have been a strain to go home, have his lunch and daily siesta. I met many other officers in due course who always went home for lunch and never returned before 3 pm. They had a diwan if the design of the room permitted (it often did), and on bad days or if their home was far, rested on it.

While I was keenly interested in the other enviable aspects of their lives, it was their freedom from the drudgery of routine which was an eye-opener. Rules are for the masses, not the classes. It is not an uncommon practice in organisations where the management sets stringent rules for others while keeping itself free from these bindings. From this perspective, the top slot belongs to the district magistrate (DM) who usually lives in his sprawling bungalow in the district, is in-charge of things great or small, and the nearest person to lord over him—the divisional commissioner—is miles away.

I got a chance to closely interact with a DM in Rajasthan, where I represented a development agency offering to support drought relief measures in his district. I went to the office of the DM to make the first contact. A sash-bearing, turbaned attendant stood outside the door. Finding the man alert and standing stiffly, like the imperturbable Bobbies in London, the attendant gave the impression that either the officer was inside or was expected any minute. I checked with the DM’s office if he would be in and was told he could come in any minute. I congratulated myself for being at the right place at the right time and took a place on the wooden bench which had no one else.

Then began my wait.

An hour passed, then two, but the DM did not appear. The man with the sash kept standing stiffly, occasionally taking a walk in the corridor. All this while, the DM’s staff sat in his office. Some files came in or were taken out but by and large the scene was static.

With the day coming to an end, I went to the turbaned man whose military posture was beginning to sag, and asked him what to do. I had wasted one full day and was scheduled to return. “Go to his residence,” he replied sympathetically but stiffly, and I went to the DM’s bungalow where I was let in.

After a short wait, a man slightly older than I emerged in sports attire and my day-long wait ended. Subsequently, I spent many friendly hours with the DM, mostly at his home. Files were brought to him; he received and made calls while the birds chirped in the lawn. It was his “camp office“—with two offices he was never away from office even while dressed in shorts or having tea with his wife.

Since then, I became aware of the camp office of senior officers in the police and administration, who have two or three sets of staff to help them in their homes. These officers are supposedly always at work—even when swinging a racket with their friends in clubs or taking a nap after lunch. It’s a good life, and perhaps it is not a good idea to question why they have these privileges while their staff members dutifully give full hours to their work.

Should one call this inequality or the perks of a job? Those who benefit from this will justify the siesta as a necessary break to help make better decisions. The intriguing part is that so many Indians see inequality as privileges which are legitimately due to people in positions of power. Many of us believe in the necessity of the diwan. So what if it is only the IAS officers who get to sleep on these.

Anupam Srivastava is the author of The Brown Sahebs, a novel.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Abhishek Padiyar

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below