Directing its field staff to wear "decent" clothes to work, the women and child department (WCD) in Haryana has asked them to desist from wearing jeans and T-shirts to work.
The controversial order has virtually termed jeans and T-shirts as 'indecent' clothing. Its subject line read: "To wear decent clothes in office."
The circular, issued on April 18, has been sent by the WCD director's office to all its field offices which run the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).
Advising the field staff, the directive describes "decent" clothing as "sari/salwar-kameez with dupatta" for women and "pant-shirt" for men.
The circular states, "It has been observed that some officers/officials come to office in jeans/T-shirts/Western dresses which sometimes not only look odd but are also in contravention of government rules."
The staff, majority of which happen to be women, has been directed to comply with the fresh orders and any violation would be "viewed seriously".
Social Welfare Minister Geeta Bhukkal defended the decision saying: "Maybe the problem is due to the usage of the word decent dress. Otherwise, there is a dress code for various professions. Judges, lawyers, doctors etc, everyone has to adhere to the prescribed dress code."
"What the (WCD) order says is that the dress code is as per ICDS and ICPS norms since the staff have to go for field work. Even anganwadi workers have a dress code. Dress codes exist in government offices and even in private sector. If anyone is hurt by the order, we can review its wording."
Bhukkal said, "Wearing jeans is not indecent. I can understand that the usage of words in the order was not proper."
Incidentally, the social welfare minister, under whom the WCD functions, the secretary of the department and the WCD director are all women.
A woman ICDS employee in Ambala district said, "We do not understand the logic of this strange order. Most women and staff anyway wear Indian dresses to work. We don't even know if we can protest against this order as most staff members are on contractual jobs."