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Indian official fired after skipping work for 24 years

Indian official fired after skipping work for 24 years
NEW DELHI: An Indian public official has been sacked for taking leave 24 years ago and never returning to his desk in the country’s notoriously work-shy bureaucracy, the urban development ministry said Thursday.

Assistant executive engineer A.K Verma went on leave in 1990 after joining India’s central public works department (CPWD) a decade earlier.

Verma defied bosses’ orders to return to work after his requests for additional leave were denied, but it took until 2007 for formal dismissal charges to be brought against him, the ministry said in a statement.

Even after an inquiry found him guilty of “wilful absence from duty” in 1992, it took another 22 years and the intervention of a cabinet minister to remove him, the government said.

Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu ordered his dismissal in order to “streamline the functioning of CPWD and to ensure accountability,” it said.

India’s civil servants have long been notorious for arriving late, taking long lunches or spending parts of their day on the golf course.

A 2012 survey by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk consultancy rated India’s bureaucracy as the worst among major Asian countries.

India’s labor laws, which the World Bank says are the most restrictive anywhere, make it hard to sack staff for any reason other than criminal misconduct.

States, led by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, have recently changed the law to make it easier to hire and fire staff, in a move welcomed by industry leaders but opposed by labor unions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cracked down on rampant absenteeism by making New Delhi bureaucrats sign in at work using a fingerprint scanner. The results are publicly available online — at www.attendance.gov.in — in real time.

Modi has said he was shocked by what he saw in the corridors of power after moving to New Delhi following his landslide election victory in May last year.

During his first few months in office, Modi developed a reputation for paying unannounced visits to government offices.

Fear of being caught playing truant triggered a rise in attendance levels among civil servants and Delhi’s main golf course has reportedly been largely deserted on week days.

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