Talking Off Days   (17 Apr 2009)

A series of successive holidays in the last two weeks has brought the entire government machinery to a grinding halt at both centre and states in India. The holidays have come as double whammy on top of the election code of conduct, which had already gagged the working of government departments through the ongoing elections. Many government employees took advantage of two or more holidays falling in a single week; availed leave for the remaining days and went off-work for the full week. Those who actually wanted to work were forced to sit at home. Now there is a suggestion that offices should be open during holidays and employees who report for work should be paid an extra day’s salary. This will at least ensure some productivity in our country where government employees are entitled for 201 holidays in a single year.

There is a large section of government officers and employees who recognize fully well this productivity issue and want to cut back on holidays. However, absence of other staff ensures that they cannot function even if they come to work on holidays. Many of these holidays commemorate birth or death anniversaries of prominent personalities, who ironically worked tirelessly; day and night for the nation and its society.
It is little wonder that a file that takes three days to be processed in all developed nations takes more than three months in India because of so many holidays. Sadly, the nation’s development and progress is held hostage by its government departments.

Clearly, it is time for the governments and political parties, trade unions and even people of India to reflect upon the damage caused by so many holidays. Indian Parliament’s standing committee and labour commission have both recommended limiting the number of official holidays.

Rajeev Shukla