The shoeshine boy at the office of the prime minister was social about being fired.

"This is natural," he said. "Each administration works with people it can get along with."

While the bootblack could be fired Turkish law virtually forbids dismissal of civil servants -- leading to a homegrown practice known as Kizaga almak , or "dry-docking." It is the Turkish equivalent of a political purge.

For decades, incoming governments have removed from positions of authority civil servants whose political allegiance was considered suspect. Since the mid-1970s, however, with the frequent changes of government and sharp polarization of the left and right, the practice has become practically epidemic.

Principally affected are senior civil servant such as governors and under-secretaries. But now no one seems immune. While one set of officials rises to prominence, another is consigned to bureaucratic hibernation. The dry-docking can take several forms.

One is "recalling to headquarters" and afflicts governors, police chiefs, ambassadors and the like.

Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, the conservative Justice Party politician who took office six months ago, has established a record in this field. He "recalled to headquarters" all of Turkey 67 provincial governors, dry-docked 45 and moved the rest.

Governors recalled in this manner become "headquarters governors." There some 120 of these compared to 67 active in the provinces. Headquarters governors live in the capital and do no governings.

There are also advisers -- hundreds of them -- who are given nothing to advise on.

Advisers are what many civil servants become when they enter the kizak, or dry dock.

A form of dry-docking that carries a stronger element of punishment takes the form of banishment.

In this method of a civil servant is posted from one of the big cities to a remote town, particularly in comparatively primitive eastern Turkey, close to the borders with Iran and Iraq.

A traffic policeman in Semdinli, one such town in the east near the mountainous border, recently complained about his "exile" from a large city.

"There is nothing to do," he said. "There are only three cars in the town and one of them is mine."

Other cases of banishment are more serious. A police chief and his wife, a teacher, found themselves posted to different parts of the country separated by about 1,000 miles.

Ankara these days is one big bureaucratic dry dock. Demirel has turned almost every bureaucrat he inherited from Bulent Ecevit, his Social Demcratic predecesor, into "advisers." Ecevit earlier had done exactly the same.

A dry-docked adviser can be a very happy man. He continues to draw his salary. He is promoted when his promotion is due just like his more active colleagues. He can take interminable leaves. And he need not go to the office. In fact, he is tactily urged not to go the office.

In any case, his office be a sort of halfway house for fallen civil servants -- a drab rented flat in the smoggy center of town furnished with threadbare carpets and old tables and chairs, rented for the specific purpose of housing the army of advisers.

No work is ever done in these offices, but most of them are crowded nonetheless because many civil servants apparently cannot drop the habit of turning up every morning.

In many government offices civil servants are required to sign a book every morning to show that they have come to work. Anyone who neglects to do this without an excuse for three days running can be fired. These rules do not apply to advisers.

"When I go to collect my salary I just put in 30 signatures," said a dry-docked official, only five months ago a director at the state-controlled Turkish television. "But it is not really necessary. There are people who haven't shown up for three years." He had just come back from a four-month vacation.