Biometrics Terror

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The Manipur government`™s new initiative to introduce biometrics attendance recorders in all government offices and institutions is welcome, and we must add, long overdue. The government, according to records made public, employs a little less than one lakh, and this, if labour norms were to be strictly applied, should amount at least 60 lakh man hours in a day, if as per the same norm, each working man (or woman) were to put in eight hours of office a day on a 9am to 5pm office routine, with a one hour lunch and tea break in between, and after giving allowance for employees who would be on entitled leaves on any single day. But this has been hardly the case, as any ordinary citizen who has had to deal with government officials for routine petty official works such as acquiring a ration card, domicile certificate etc, would vouch. Needless to say, practically everybody would have gone through these mundane but necessary exercises sometime or the other, therefore know the working of government offices pretty well. All will therefore agree that there is hardly a time when they have had not to return to the same offices several times a day and sometimes for several days even for simple official jobs because the concern official to clear the matters, were out of office, and for ludicrous reasons such as attending the feast of a relative to mark the chagumba (solid food initiation day of a new born) and sometimes simply for unexplained reasons pronounced with a look of askance by a colleague: `he was here a while ago, but not sure when he will be back`, as if this is a perfectly legitimate practice and therefore part of the accepted everydayness in government offices. What Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said upon being sworn in to the country`™s number one job, reverberates loud here. As he said, it is for not for no reason that government employees are referred to as government servants. They are employed on the tax payer`™s money so that they may provide their various services to the people. This is the unwritten contract continually being breached on a daily basis in Manipur today by many if not most government servants.

Under the circumstance, if work done were to be translated only in terms of man hours put in by a worker, instead of the estimated 60 lakh man hours daily that the Manipur government should have optimally got out of its one lakh work force, it is probably getting only about a third of it. This has a number of very obvious inferences. One of them is that to achieve the level of productivity the Manipur government currently has, it would probably need only a third of its current work force if each worker were to give his due of eight man hours a day to his profession. If the Manipur government were run by a private company, where ever redundant expense is a threat to the overall welfare of the company, this would probably have been the employment scenario. The inference can also be on a more positive note. Since the Manipur government is able to afford a huge work force of one lakh employees, when all of them are working optimally, with the aggregate sixty lakh man hour a day the government`™s productivity would have gone up by as much as three times of where it is now.

If this had been so for just the last 15 years or so of the present government, all of Manipur`™s roads would have been of international standard, quality of education would have been comparable to the best in India, therefore there would have been no need for parents to send their children away for school and college education out of the state, many of the short-lived public sector undertakings, such as the Manipur State Road Transport Corporation, the cycle reassembly plant, etc probably would not only have survived, but become blue chip companies by now. But, as they say, it is better late than never. The government`™s move now to at least streamline office attendance is a necessary move in the right direction. Only those who want the benefits of being a government employee, but are averse to also shoulder the responsibilities which come with it, would be against such an initiative. There are of course many genuine reasons why the government`™s attendance norms cannot be an absolute and universal standard, especially when it comes to extremely remote postings, but we will leave these unique cases as the subject of a subsequent discussion.

Leader writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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