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By Biplob LohoChoudhury
By Biplob LohoChoudhury

BENGAL’S daughter Uma returned to Kailash by two days delay after this Dashami, courtesy a directive of the West Bengal government that deferred the Idol immersion to accommodate Muharram processions peacefully.

Bengal government has also been kind to bless its leisure-loving employees with a longer vacation lasting until the Laxmi Puja.

A large number of organised and un-organised sector labour-force in Bengal has long been habituated to no-work or half-work custom for a good part of the year. This legacy in Bengal has subverted the stated objective of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to create asset through guaranteed work into a 100 days of half-work full wage (at least on paper).

Four years ago, entry of Mamata Banerjee into Writers’ Buildings was no less a saga than that of Mahisasurmardini. Her style of functioning made us believe that Bengal would emerge out of its slumber. Government offices would become hubs of activity to deliver results.

However in the fourth year, Bengal is witnessing another Avatar of the government! In this new Avatar, failing a bandh “for the love of work” is rewarded with a paid leave; never mind if peoples’ work is getting delayed.

But why cry foul? The defenders of the present government view such “small wait” legitimate as the people of Bengal have waited long during the former regime without showing any grudge!

The present government, already running office mostly for five days a week, has only ensured that its staff gets many stretches of extended holidays in a year. Cunning babus are planning in advance to chip-in casual leave and earned leave in between, before or after to create trips or trappings of siesta in feisty mood.

It is full pay with least duty that the Mamata Banerjee government is furthering and this is a time-tested method to gain support of government employees, especially when the Assembly elections are only six months down the calendar.

This Puja has been a new height in Bengal’s celebrated work culture! Bengal government employees can take satisfaction in the fact that they are now closer to achieving the right to no-work that has so far been close-chested for educational institutes.

Offices will pulsate after long lull with addas that will dish out the memory of the just ended long vacation. And if the lesser mortals approach for a pending work to be done, they will be played out the old record: “See everyone has just returned from Puja vacation and the files are yet to be cleared. Come later or better after the Kali Puja.”

Delaying Uma in getting back to work at Kailash by two days, although, is a different story! That’s a journey from the rituals to the practise of secular politics.

(Biplob LohoChoudhury is a professor of journalism at Visva-Bharati. He lives in Santiniketan, Birbhum. Click here to read his previous articles.)

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