The Germans and the Japanese have shown the world what exemplary work ethic is; how one can live a life where an individual is dedicated to one's work, perform all tasks with perfection, think of how one can do it better-on time and at all times, keep the best interest of the organization that one serves in mind at all times.
When everyone thinks, believes and practices the above, collectively, we have a dynamic, vibrant and efficient work culture that contributes to the welfare and development of a nation. This should inspire us and we have a lot to learn from them. Learning is not about technology and processes alone but imbibing the work ethic in its best form.
However, in Haryana we live in a different planet altogether. Our work culture is in sharp contrast with the Germans and the Japanese and that contrast is seen most in the work ethic of government employees who believe that it is their god given right to be paid in full and in time but in return the work quality or work input must never be questioned. Neither should their attendance.
The problem of proxy attendance has become so severe and widespread that the level and method of misuse has become both innovative and frequent. Staff at all levels either do not come on time or not come at all, while they get someone to sign in their attendance, on their behalf. Someone who acts as their proxy.
Getting a proxy to sign in for you is almost a usual practice that does not ruffle anyone's feathers nor bothers anyone's conscience. This is the extent that we have allowed this problem to get embedded into our daily lives.
At the class III & IV level, there are several government employees who are drawing salaries from government offices but are actually working in private jobs or running their own self-employed units. This category does not come to office at all instead pays someone to sign in on their behalf.
Then there is a category that comes to office, signs in the attendance and then leaves office to pursue his or her private venture.
The next category are the habitual late comers who find it humiliating to come to office on time and expect a junior staff to do the needful, on their behalf. They visit the office at a time that's convenient to them.
Lastly, there are fictitious employees shown on the employment roster and their salary gets deposited into their accounts but they simply don't exist! In addition, there are a number of persons who even go onto continue claiming pension of persons who are later found to have died a long time ago. Everything happens in Haryana.
So how did the situation become bad to worse in our state?
Proxy attendance was always a problem in Haryana but the situation has become worse in the last 10 years under the Hooda administration. The government has wrongly tried to signal an employee friendly government image, which has been misused by the staff, at the cost of work efficiency.
If the government staff has been taking liberties, the blame squarely lies with the administration which takes its cue from the Chief Minister. In all these years in power, the Chief Minister has been fully aware of the problem but has shown complete lack of will to tackle the problem head-on, since it is politically unwise to have a large segment of the vote bank go against you. Mr Hooda has let politics rule over governance.
What can be done to tackle this problem of absenteeism and proxy attendance?
This problem has to be addressed at two levels. The first are a set of measures to ensure foolproof attendance compliance and the second is at the policy level, with checks and balances introduced into the system.
Let's look at the first level. There are enough technologies that offer fool-proof compliance of attendance requirements. The use of biometric attendance must be made compulsory in all departments and offices of the government. Biometric scanning is a machine that scans your retina or palm and re-confirms the same against the database it already has.
Once confirmed, the record is updated in the software which is managed by the human resource department and is linked with one's salary calculation for the month. The software automatically manages the number of leaves that one is entitled to each month and can also factor in any late coming timelines that the organization may permit. The system is secure and only needs constant electricity to operate. The organization must ensure that there is a back-up available, in case of break down.
The current system of manual entry using cards has to be done away with immediately. In raids conducted over the years in various government offices, several employees were found to possess more than one card, thereby, increasing the chance of misuse. This manual system is obsolete and all offices must adopt the bio-metric system immediately. The Punjab government has already initiated steps towards this.
At the policy level, the government must ensure that the punishment/penalty on the employee not complying with service rules, is stringent. The problem is, while there are laws already in place, they are rarely enforced with the consistent monitoring, as a result, the employees realize that the lengthy bureaucratic procedures will carry on a long time with little outcome.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency for each department to protect its own, as everyone takes advantage of the laxity at some point in time. This has to change. Which means there has to be a central auditing system that verifies the attendance records and holds all departmental heads responsible of their respective departments. Unless, the responsibility is delegated and included in the appraisal system, the existing system will not change easily.
The state government has to do away with time bound promotions and include performance based evaluation, as part of the criteria for promotions. This will force the senior staff to enforce discipline and output of the junior staff, at all levels.
Lack of political will
The biometric technology has been around for more than a decade, the same time as the Hooda administration. So why is it that all departments in Haryana have still not adopted these, especially when integrated solutions that are available would have made life easier for the state government? Was it lack of funds or was it lack of political will?
Why did the state administration not enforce compliance of service rules that already exist? What measures has the Hooda administration taken to ensure that there are no fictitious employees on its rolls? How often have the audits been conducted in all departments and what was been the outcome? The people have a right to know since the government runs on taxpayer's money.
It's time for change
For too long we have allowed inefficiency, dishonesty, and lack of integrity to creep into our work ethic. The world is now a competitive place and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi well understands that to make a nation more efficient, the work culture must start at home. The central government staff are already experiencing a new culture in work attitude that is led by the Prime Minister himself. It is time for us to bring the same to Haryana. Naya Haryana is about to be born again. Let's all join hands with renewed hope.