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Plan to reimburse data usage in work-from-home hits hurdle

June 15, 2020 06:27 AM

COURTESY HT JUNE 15

Plan to reimburse data usage in work-from-home hits hurdle
Deeksha Bhardwaj

letters@hindustantimes.com

New Delhi : The Union finance ministry’s expenditure department has for now opposed a proposal for ₹300 monthly reimbursement for increased data usage for officials working from home, saying it is unnecessary since remote working saves the travelling costs, officials aware of the matter said.

The proposal has been made as part of deliberations for the formulation of the Centre’s work from home policy. The policy is being drafted in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic that has prompted social distancing norms and remote working globally to check its spread.

An official in ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions familiar with the developments, said the department felt the proposed reimbursement was “unnecessary” in its feedback last week. “The feeling is that since officials have to bear less travel costs, data usage reimbursement is not necessary at this point,” said one of the officials on condition of anonymity.

An expenditure department official, who did not wish to be named, said there is no question of such reimbursement as officials are paid for travel and other costs. The official added that the no formal proposal has been made as yet, although officials from other departments confirmed that it has been debated.

The department of administrative reforms and public grievances (DARPG), which is drafting the guidelines, has held at least 35 meetings with representatives of over 80 ministries and departments over the last month. The proposal for the monthly compensation for data usage has been discussed at the meetings.

Extending virtual private network (VPN) access to officers below the secretary level, creation of a cloud large enough to store all the information, and providing support like laptops are among other suggestions DAPG has received apart from the one for the data usage reimbursement. Officers above the rank of deputy secretary were allowed VPN access in 2019.

A VPN works usually through the internet and connects remote users to an organisation’s network. A third official said they have sought VPN access for nearly 20,000 officials. “At present, nearly 3,000 officials have the access,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“Another key aspect is access to sensitive files [for] which the ministry of home affairs is yet to take a call on,” said the second official from the personnel, pensions and grievances ministry

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