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The procrastination plague

A veritable homage to the art of doing nothing; our sarkari daftars
04:00 AM Jul 05, 2024 IST | AIMAN SHABIR
the procrastination plague

A “not-so-peculiar” case of an octogenarian, arthritis-struck, retired school teacher making weekly trips to a government office to update her pension details came up. The victim-of-the-system woman was shuttling between sulking- screaming and thus giving up-holding on.  A misplaced file, an absent officer, a computer “under maintenance”- her ordeal was/is a microcosm of the pervasive culture of inertia that characterizes India’s most sarkari institutions.


Most of us will agree to the “peculiar phenomenon” which thrives in the labyrinthine corridors of India's governmental establishments. Nothing but a study in dormancy, a ballet of indolence and a veritable homage to the art of doing nothing. Step into most sarkari daftars and encounter a curious spectacle- employees engrossed in a delicate dance of procrastination, papers shuffled with languid precision and the ceaseless rumbles of yawns. Unfortunately, laziness, the indomitable force, has become an intrinsic part of the soul of India's government offices.


The Archetypal Government Employee: A Lifeless Portrait


Imagine, if you will, a typical government employee. What is the picture like? A person of indeterminate age, perpetually ensconced in a well-worn chair, staring vacantly at a computer screen. Fingers hovering over the keyboard in a suspenseful stillness, as if contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Cursors blinking lazily, waiting for the inevitable moment of getting coaxed into motion. The government office is a stage; most mulaazims are the masters of procrastination. The clock ticks, the calendar pages turn and yet the mountain of paperwork remains untouched- a testament to their steadfast commitment to the art of delay.


The Cultural Significance of Laziness


Laziness in government offices is not mere sloth; it is a cultural institution, a sacred tradition passed down through generations. It is a symbol of resistance against the relentless march of time and progress. “Don’t do today what can be put off until tomorrow” is the driving force behind. Embodying a profound philosophical stance, such employees echo the teachings of ancient sages who advocated for a life free from the burdens of haste. In fact, ancient texts suggest laziness to be a reflection of deeper wisdom. The Bhagavad Gita, for instance, extols the virtues of living in the present moment. Is it not, then, a form of spiritual enlightenment to remain perpetually in the present, unburdened by the worries of future deadlines?


The Science of Procrastination


Psychology offers insights into this P- phenomenon. Studies reveal that procrastination can be a coping mechanism. Avoiding work might mean avoiding the risk of mistake-making; a way to deal with fear of failure. Government employees, therefore, are not merely lazy; they are deeply engaged in a sophisticated form of risk management.
Moreover, a government office, with its Byzantine bureaucracy, creates an environment where inertia is rewarded. The sheer complexity of procedures, the endless layers of approvals and the impenetrable red tape all conspire to create a system where taking initiative is not just unnecessary but actively discouraged. In such a setting, the lazy employee is not a pariah but a product of the system—a logical outcome of the environment in which s/he operates.

The Aesthetic of the Mundane

There is also an aesthetic dimension to consider. The sight of a government office in full swing is a thing of beauty. The slow shuffle of papers, the rhythmic clack of computer keys, gentle hum of ceiling fans—all create a symphony of stillness that is mesmerizingly meditative. Consider the tea breaks- the hallowed moments of respite that punctuate the day. In the communal act of sipping tea and engaging in desultory conversations lies a prototype of the broader culture of shiftlessness. The prolonged chai breaks are not mere pauses in the workday; they are rituals, essential to the maintenance of the delicate balance between work and leisure.

Systemic Issues and the Need for Reform

While the cultural and psychological dimensions of laziness in Indian government offices are fascinating, it is important to recognize the real-world consequences of the pervasive issue. Delays in administrative processes have significant impacts on public services. The inefficiency hampers economic growth; erodes public trust in governmental institutions. Reforming this deeply ingrained culture of laziness requires a ‘’not-so-lazy’’ stakeholder spirit. A shift in organizational culture to promote accountability, streamlining bureaucratic processes through greater digitization and implementing rigorous performance metrics might foster an accountable and efficient government workforce.


In the grand theatre of Indian bureaucracy, every delay is an encore; every misfiled document is a standing ovation. These “temples of inaction” are prompt at passing the blame. In such a circus, the common man can only hope for days when efficiency takes the center stage and laziness is given its well-deserved intermission.