The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Holiday 201 days, work 164
- MPs demand rollback of leave facility, trade unions oppose

New Delhi, May 7: Want to work less and holiday more' Join sarkari service.

If you manage that, all you need to do is sign in on 164 days a year and put your feet up for the remaining 201.

The statistics came up in a special mention in the Rajya Sabha today, with members demanding a drastic cut in the number of holidays that Central government staff enjoy.

Congress member Saifuddin Soz and Loktantrik Congress Party MP Rajiv Shukla said national holidays should be limited to three days — Independence Day, Republic Day and Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.

The Fifth Pay Commission and the Second National Labour Commission have also suggested reviving the six-day working week and limiting national holidays to three days. The labour commission recommended 10 restricted holidays on religious festivals and five state-level holidays.

But trade unions, across the spectrum, bristled at the suggestion. “The private sector has less number of holidays because it does not close on religious festival days,” said W.R. Warda Rajan, secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

“There can be no abrupt reduction in the existing leaves. We can have discussions on this subject,” added Chandidas Sinha, secretary of the Indian National Trade Union Congress.

G.L. Dhar, secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, was more forthright. “We are totally against it,” the union leader said.

But the Left unions’ trophy government in West Bengal has also been trying to scale down the number of government holidays.

When Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took over as chief minister, among his first administrative initiatives was a plan to increase the number of working days. The 10-day Durga Puja holiday season was halved and Vishwakarma Puja as well as Mahavir Jayanti were made working days. Sivaratri holiday was restricted to women.

According to figures furnished by Shukla today, the Central government sector has 104 weekend holidays, 20 days medical leave, 30 days earned leave, eight days casual leave, two days of restricted holidays, 20 days of half-pay leave and 17 days of gazetted leave. The numbers add up to 201. By contrast, some employees in the private sector have approximately 176 holidays.

“I would like to know if Central government employees and officials are entitled to so much of leave. If they are, then are the remaining working days enough for the country to make progress. Nowhere in the world do government employees have so much of leave,” Shukla said.

A large number of MPs, including Union shipping minister Shatrughan Sinha — who as health minister spent more time travelling than in office — supported his contention.

“India should take a lesson from Saudi Arabia, one of the strongest monarchies, which sanctions only a two-and-a-half-hour holiday on the death of the monarch,” said Soz.

Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah chipped in, but her target was not the number of government holidays. Heptullah said there were many members who were frequently absent from the House. “This also should be looked into.”

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