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Kaam Haram Hai: INDIA ON HOLIDAY, ENJOY!, By Poonam I Kaushish, 29 March, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 29 March 2016

Kaam Haram Hai


By Poonam I Kaushish


Enjoy! Its party time folks. Put it down to mid-spring madness. India is on a holiday, thanks to Holi followed by Good Friday and the usual weekend. But this is not an once-in-a-while four-day break because we desis’ revel in our expertise of manufacturing a chutti whereby the  country has come a full circle from the Nehruvian dictum of aaraam haraam hai to today’s maxim kaam haraam hai!


What can one say about a country where work is a dirty four letter word that has been erased from our collective psyche. All one needs is an excuse and before one can blink a holiday is ours for the asking. It comes in various forms: national, restricted, religious, regional, birth and death anniversaries et al. Perhaps, it has something to do with our laid back attitude dictated by a don’t-care-a-damn thinking and chalta hai outlook!


Consider March-April the Government was shut for 20 out of 60 days including Saturdays and Sundays. If the bureaucracy can do it, our Parliamentarians did one better! In their collective wisdom, our Right Honourables shortened the Budget session thanks to Assembly elections in four States. Never mind that Parliament works only for 100 days!


But, ki pharak penda hai! Think. Out of 365 days, the Government works a five-day week. This translates into 104 week-end holidays. Earned leave 30 days, medical leave 56, casual leave 12, gazetted holidays 17 and restricted ones 30. A grand total of 249 days of relaxation, leaving just 116 working days! For women there is an additional 90 days of maternity leave.


This is not the only instance of non-work trend. The normal working day in Government offices is of eight hours, with a one-hour lunch break. But from the moment employees drift into their offices, Modi or no Modi, tea time begins and continues every hour before lunch and again thereafter till the clock strikes pack-up time.


They have ‘work’ in other offices. The commuter has his plea of arriving late and leaving early. And yet, there is no dearth of overtime, hogs trying to put in work beyond normal hours for a little money. French leave apart, there are Roman holidays --- long lunch sojourns with pretty PAs or other woman colleagues. Extending over two long hours.


Worse is the judiciary. With over lakhs of cases pending, shockingly, the Supreme Court works for 193 days, High Courts for 210 and trial courts for 245 days a year. The break-up: 14 days registered holidays, a week in March for Holi and Good Friday, then summer vacation from 15 May to 29 June, two weeks in October-November for Dussera, Muharram and Diwali. Culminating with the Christmas-New Year break from 19 December till 2 January.


So unlike the US Supreme Court which does not have a yearly vacation and hearings are limited to a few months. With just 9 judges it is able to dispose all cases while our bejeweled 27plus Chief Justice have litany of pending lawsuits which carry on for decades. We don’t want our Justices to be sans vacations, but a little less vacationing and a little more judging would help the cause of justice for all.


Questionably, can a poor nation afford this luxury of aaraam, aaraam and more aaraam?  Can one live life king-size while fighting for survival? Don’t holidays eat into our national productivity and sap economic strength? Play havoc with the timetables of schools and colleges?


What about the crores lost in trading when banks and markets shut down? A day off means a slow-down in policy implementation, all which nibble away at the legislative, educational, economic and executive fabric of the nation.    


Should we simply shrug our secular shoulders and pin our endless holidays down to an occupational hazard of a multi-cultural heritage? No. The culprit is none other than our bankrupt politicians who, in a burst of competitive populism announce holidays as a sop to their vote-banks.


Remember, V.P. Singh who went overboard and announced Prophet Mohammed’s birthday a holiday, no matter that no Muslim country celebrates it. And ex-Prime Minister Vajpayee to prove his pro-Dalit credentials declared Ambedkar’s birth centenary 14 April as a national holiday in 2000.


Not only that. When national leaders die, the Government promptly turns these grave occasions into a farce by declaring a holiday. People gladly take off. Work is suspended and gaiety, not gloom, takes over. Not for them the fact that on such occasions sombre reflections are more appropriate.


And considering the surfeit of so-called national leaders, this has become a rule, rather than an exception. More. Different regions have still more holidays. The South shuts down for Pongal and Onam, Bengal closes five days for Durga Puja and Maharashtra for Ganesh Chaturthi.


True, none faults the desire to break free from the rough and tumble of contemporary existence. However, there are no free lunches in life. Every holiday costs the exchequer around Rs 1000 crores by way of industrial loss and business transactions. 


Questionably, why can’t the Government and banks adopt the principle private companies follow, of instituting sectional holidays or allowing compensatory offs? Simply, because work is at the bottom of the priority list.


Several efforts have been made in the past. But all came to naught. In fact, the Fifth Pay Commission suggested just two holidays against the list of 17 gazetted and 30 restricted holidays. However, its recommendations were rubbished.


The same treatment was meted out to the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission in 1971. It recommended even deleting Independence Day from the list of holidays as it felt it “unnecessary to declare holidays on both Republic and Independency days.  Since both have similar significance, an extra holiday meant an extra outlay of Rs 11 crore for maintaining the level of output.” Predictably, this had no takers.  


What next? Time we adopted the practice world-wide whereby a five-day week translates into loads of hard work. Britain has a five-day week and eight-and-a-half days of public and ‘privilege’ holidays with. The annual leave comprising three to six weeks.


In Germany, Government offices observe 14 holidays a year, besides the week-end. Japan has 12 holidays and Government employees are entitled to 20 days earned annual leave. In China it is just five days.


Alas, we Indians yearn for El Dorado. But we are not prepared to lift a finger for it. It is time now to decide whether we mean business or not.  When you like your work every day is a holiday. Should a Government or an organisation give itself a long week-end, if the five-day week fails to boost productivity or ensure punctuality and regular attendance?


Remember, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. Both were indefatigable workers. Boswell’s wondered “why we grow weary when idle.” Replied Johnson, “Sir because others being busy, we want company’ but if we were all idle there would be no growing weary’ we would all entertain one another.” Can we afford to entertain each other all the time? --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and  Feature Alliance)

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