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Indian Man, A No-Show At Work For 25 Years, Finally Gets The Ax

One day in 1990, A.K. Verma went on what you might call "extended" leave from his job as a senior bureaucrat at India's Central Public Works Department.

He's been a no-show ever since. And it finally caught up to him: Verma was sacked for his absence — on Jan. 8.

Blame (or credit) India's tough labor laws: They are some of the most pro-worker in the world and make it nearly impossible for employers, including state and local governments, to fire for anything short of criminal misconduct.

As Bloomberg Businessweek wrote in 2011, for Indian companies with more than 100 employees, "it is impossible to fire anyone without government permission. Such laws have long deterred foreign investors, hampered manufacturing, and prevented the nation of more than 1 billion people from experiencing an industrial takeoff similar to China's."

To be sure, in 1992, just two years after Verma first took leave (reports don't indicate for how long he'd been approved to be absent), he was found guilty of "willful absence from duty," the U.K.'s Sunday Express says.

"He went on seeking extension of leave, which was not sanctioned, and defied directions to report to work," the government in a statement on Thursday, according to the Express.

As for those tough labor laws? The Express notes:

"The law has recently been changed to make it easier to hire and fire staff, in a move welcomed by industry leaders but opposed by labour unions.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also cracked down on people not turning up to work by making New Delhi bureaucrats sign in at work using a fingerprint scanner.

"The results are publicly available online on a government website."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.