The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Holiday shock for babus

New Delhi, June 13: Fasten your seat belts, central government babus! Your long list of gazetted holidays could soon hit an air pocket.

A proposal to de-addict babus “addicted to holidays” is doing the rounds with the department of personnel and training saying government employees should have only three gazetted holidays a year.

Those three hallowed days would be Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti. The remaining 14 of the 17 gazetted holidays would be clubbed with the existing 30 restricted holidays, and employees given the option of availing leave on any 10 days.

The whole idea, the government says, is to improve work culture. But the “big advantage”, sources said, would be that the massive government machinery would grind to a halt only three days in a year.

“Except these three days, government offices will be open on every one of the five working days, right from Holi, Diwali and Christmas to Id,” an official said.

If that were not bad news enough for the babus, here’s some more: taking casual leave would be tougher. For instance, taking a CL would be a no-no if the day before and the day after were holidays.

That means babus wouldn’t ever again be able to ring in the New Year with an extended weekend as they did this time: Thursday New Year’s Day, Friday CL, Saturday holiday, Sunday holiday.

In a way, the proposal is an upgraded version of the Fifth Pay Commission and the Second National Labour Commission recommendations, which had said government employees should be made to work on Saturdays if there was a holiday during the week.

This isn’t the first time that the government is trying to pare holidays. Such recommendations were made as early as 1991 by the Customer Service Committee appointed by the Reserve Bank of India as well as the Administrative Reforms Committee, a national labour commission report said. But little action was taken.

Not surprisingly, therefore, babus stay home for as many as 170 days (gazetted and restricted holidays, weekends, earned leave and casual leave) a year. They work only 1,600 hours a year compared to the 1,700-1,800 put in by an employee in the US or Europe.

Officials are hoping the latest proposal does not end up stillborn like the earlier ones. The finance ministry has cleared it and the defence ministry does not have objections. But the home ministry feels there should be “wider consultations”.

Again, compared to the 19 holidays (17 gazetted plus two restricted) a babu gets, his counterparts in Brazil, UK, Sweden, Italy and Holland get only eight; those in France, Philippines, Australia and Australia 10; Finland 11; and Belgium, New Zealand, US and Switzerland 12.

The proposal will be put before the committee of secretaries for its approval before it is forwarded to the Prime Minister. Sources said the tricky part would be getting political clearance.

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