Thursday, June 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Staff play truant to do business
From Raman Mohan

HISAR, May 31 — Truancy among government employees is on the rise. While no department seems to be totally immune to it, the tendency is more pronounced among employees of the Education, Veterinary and Health Departments, especially those posted in the rural areas where day-to-day monitoring is difficult.

A senior IAS officer, who was till recently posted as a Deputy Commissioner, says during his tenure he had an unofficial survey conducted by one of his senior officers. He found that the main reason for truancy was that more than 45 per cent of government employees were engaged in private businesses in the names of their family members. He says that situation was more or less the same all over the state.

But what he found most distressing was that there were hundreds of employees who rarely attended office and were engaged in political activities for the ruling party. He says this is true of every political party which happens to be in power. Most of these employees, he found, were active political workers of their respective parties even before they landed government jobs, indicating that they owed their jobs to their political masters.

Enquiries by The Tribune reveal that the tendency to play truant is most pronounced among school teachers. The rate of truancy is directly related to the distance of their school from the district headquarters. Primary and middle schools are the worst affected as their students rarely complain.

It was found that truants have devised a safe way to cover their absence. They generally leave undated applications for leave for half a day with the school head, a colleague or the office clerk, who put it up as soon as a senior officer happens to call for the attendance register. Even in that case, a message is immediately flashed to the truant who arrives at the school well in time. This camaraderie eliminates the chances of getting caught.

Besides, truants take turns, absenting themselves from office. The unofficially ‘duty roster’ for the next month is drawn up in the last week of the current month and any adjustments among truants thereafter are possible only through mutual consent. Anybody ‘overstaying at home’ without sufficient reason is likely to be boycotted.

Employees of the Vetreinary Department have found truancy to be of mutual benefit. Those who play truant, earn their salaries in addition to incomes from their businesses. Those who attend to work regularly have the liberty to make money as they wish. It is learnt that veterinarians posted in the villages generally leave the work to their assistants who keep the earnings from the private practice in the absence of the qualified veterinarian.

Similar is the case with the employees of the Health Department. Paramedical staff posted in the smaller health centres generally subsituted for their seniors and like their veterinary counterparts made an extra buck from private practice. The seniors visited the centres occasionally to pay their respects to the village headman and sign the official papers.

Old hands say overstaffing is the main cause of truancy. The workload is so small that the absence of a few employees hardly affects the efficiency of an office. In any case, in case of an emergency, an obliging colleague will always put up an urgent file if need be.

But what makes them play truant? While business or political interests are the two main reasons, people have been found to play truant for a variety of interesting reasons. For instance, you can have an extended honeymoon provided you are prepared to take care of a colleague’s work when he is busy building a house for himself.

Likewise, most female employees find the long official maternity leave too short. But this is no cause for despair. You can always find a helpful colleague who will do the needful provided you help her out the next time her sister delivers a baby.

Another reason which encourages truancy is the reluctance of senior officers to check attendance regularly. 

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