The Man from Madras Musings’ meetings with Government officials prove to be learning experiences. One aspect that MMM has long found puzzling is that not one department, ministry or officer ever uses a Government email ID but invariably asks you to communicate with him/her via some private account. In fact MMM doubts if the Government even has an official email network. Sure enough the man whom MMM met up with recently handed him two email IDs and both of them were variants of MMM wondered as to why this was so.

It was explained to him that the root cause of all this proliferation of private email accounts is the Government policy of transferring senior Babus at the drop of a hat. Here today gone tomorrow is how most of these departmental heads function though mind you, the rate of rotation is nothing as compared to the time when Mater Dei ruled over us all. Off with their heads was the motto then. Now officials last somewhat longer but still the transfer is always around the corner, at least for some of them. And when the transfer does happen, officials leave without a trace – they clear off taking away the passwords of the official email IDs and the ego of the successors is such that they cannot ask their predecessors for them. And this is where these private email service providers score – a forgot password request can unlock doors and so this is what everyone wants.

That having an email ID does not in any way mean these bureaucrats read what you send them became evident to MMM when he eventually did send an email to the two IDs given. That they did not bounce like rubber balls was relief enough and indication that the messages had been delivered. But after a couple of days stage wait and not having received a response MMM decided to make bold and call the Babu concerned. No email received was the curt response. How could that be asked MMM, for after all they had not bounced. To this rejoinder the bureaucrat had no answer and promised to check, no doubt by setting up a full-fledged interdepartmental enquiry.

After a couple of days there was a reply – he had not informed his secretary that there would be an email from my account and so no print out was taken for his perusal. That made matters as clear as a pikestaff – secretary babu takes print out of messages from accounts that main babu tells them messages will come from. These are then read and probably a mail will be dictated, which when secretary babu finds time, will be typed and sent to the recipients. All of this means a process of a week or more and as for those of whose email IDs secretary babu has no intimation, they will never ever get a reply, write they ever so wisely.

MMM is right now in more exalted company – his email was searched for and then located. A print out was taken and presented to main babu who has promised MMM a reply in due course. The matter as they say in Government circles, has been taken into file and that by itself is a major achievement.