BY: TED BARNABY
We’ve all played hooky: skipping out of school or work under the banner of illness, while secretly (and truthfully) prescribing to the occasionally necessary reasoning of “I just felt like it.” However, no soul on Earth can even come close to the incredulous absenteeism of Mister A.K. Verma, the former assistant executive engineer for India’s Central Public Works Department, who stopped showing up for work in 1990. The result? 24 years of paid vacation.
Verma’s good fortune began after he was denied extended leave, and in a fit of rebellious anger, decided to take it anyways. After receiving no immediate backlash, Verma realized that vacation-pay could actually become a consistently viable form of income, and never returned to work. His absence wasn’t investigated until 1992, when he was determined guilty of ‘willful absence from duty.’ Even more shockingly, it wasn’t until 2007 that the formal proceedings began for the purpose of discharging Verma, taking another seven years (until 2014) to actually implement the decision. Up until this point, Verma continued to receive his usual paycheque, despite never actually coming to work.
How is this possible?
The laissez-faire policies of India’s bureaucracy that led to this event have long fuelled a generally high level of absenteeism. These labour laws also make it unlikely for public officials to be fired for anything short of a criminal offence. For this reason, India’s civil servants have a reputation for tardiness, extended lunches and allocating a portion of their workday to the golf course. In fact the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy rated India’s bureaucracy as the worst among major Asian countries, according to a 2012 survey. Verma simply took full advantage of a faulty system.
India’s bureaucracy is notorious for its lethargic inefficiency
However, since last year’s election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concerns about bureaucratic officials’ behaviour, and has been known to pay regular unannounced visits to government offices. Connectedly, civil servants’ attendance levels have increased, and golf course presence has decreased on workdays.
India has also since implemented a fingerprint scanning system to keep track of public servants’ work hours. This data can be reviewed online, in real time.