The change in office hours may be not be practical for all and it appears that the decision was taken taking into consideration the situation in the State Secretariat and not the conditions prevailing elsewhere.
Updated 30 Mar 2022, 5:13 am
The need to have two time zones in India has been debated now and then. Unfortunately there is as yet no logical conclusion and the debate will suddenly flare up and after some time keep in cold storage till it again flares up. The north-eastern states felt the need more. The reason is simple. In that, say the local time difference between New Delhi (77.14 º East) and Imphal (93.5 º East) is 61 minutes that is one hour while Imphal local time is 44 minutes ahead of the IST (82.5º East). Even though the proposal to have two time zones is not an easy matter to settle, the use of daylight time can be more judiciously applied with the change in office and school timing.
Hoping for a more judicious use of day light time, in the 100 works within 100 days of the newly sworn in ministry it was included in item number 8.
The chief minister had also announced about the change in the office timing and the matter was put into motion with the issue of notification on March 26, 2022 effective from April 1, 2022. As per the said notification, issued by General Administration Department, the working days in a week shall be from Monday to Friday for all departments, including all offices, agencies, Bodies, PSUs under the state government except vacation departments and the working hours shall be from 9 am to 5.30 pm for Summer (March to October) with lunch break from 1.00-1.30 pm and for Winter (November to February) from 9.30 am to 5 pm with lunch break from 1.00-1.30 pm. School hours will start from 8 am for all institutions be it government, aided or private from Monday to Saturday, with a view to stagger the timing for schools and offices to minimise traffic congestion.
Minor changes in the office timings have been made in the past but this time the change is major. Some wants to advance the office timing while others felt the need to retain the existing timings. Both sides have logic in their arguments and it is a question of weighing which argument has better equation with the ground reality. For the employees, in a sense, to have a 5-day working week is good in that he or she can devote two days a week to personal matters, including quality family time. Due to the local time difference, early start of office timing has merit. An eight hour duty for five days equals to 40 hours week which is the general norm.
There are, however, other issues other than the location relating to local time which also should have been considered including infrastructure, cultural, social, etc. Manipur has the habit of having lunch early before going to office (more like a heavy brunch) and have a snack in the afternoon and then have early supper. It is only the ministers and senior officers who go for lunch at around 1.00 or 1.30 pm.
This writer, while in service never go for lunch as it is not only time consuming but waste petrol unnecessarily. With the change in timing many may not be able to continue with the habit of having brunch and may therefore be forced to have lunch at the office or schools.
Is our office equipped for all the employees to have lunch at a time? Almost all offices do not have proper canteen which can supply meal at affordable cost and the space in the canteen is limited for all to have lunch at the same time. Therefore, most will have to carry tiffin and have it in their offices which may be inconvenient with visitors all around during the whole of office hours as it will be impossible to check visitors during lunch hours especially in offices other than the Secretariat.
The situation in schools is worse as the teacher common room could not even meet the requirement of seating all the teachers at one time. In other words, space is a major constraint. For students of lower classes, carrying tiffin has been the norm but for higher classes it was not. With the early timing, all students may need to carry tiffin. With all children eating at one time, the only option is to have in the classes; not a very hygienic proposition.
Another aspect is the transport facilities. In Imphal, the fresh timing may create some inconveniences but is doable as many stay in or around the city, though for some who came in bicycle or two wheelers from say Andro or Bishnupur, it may be a bit difficult. With limited public transport and the cost of the public transport, using it for daily commute is not an ideal option.
Further, the number of official accommodation is limited and the private rent is high which makes it beyond the reach of most employees. If one considers about the district and sub-divisional headquarters, the situation is worse as there are very few official accommodations and private accommodation is not easy to get. Even the official accommodations, when available, are really not livable as quite a few do not even have proper power connection. Those from Imphal posted in say Moirang or even Churachandpur commute daily with many pooling vehicles to reduce cost. With the timing from 9 am, most will find it difficult to abide as even for 9.30 am start, many find it difficult to meet the deadline.
The situation in Manipur is very different from that prevailing in metropolitan cities, where the public transport is reasonably good and affordable while here it is literally non-existent and costly. With limited public transport, most have to rely on private transport choking the roads unfortunately with many drivers not fully aware of the traffic rules and most are impatient trying to bulldoze through blaring their horns even if one violates the traffic rules. This is compounded now and then by VVIPs getting the right of way; whatsoever happens to the plebs!
While on the traffic congestion, it will not be inappropriate to mention that the Uripok-Kangchup Road was artificially congested as the road from Lamphel via RIMS was closed to public as the road now falls within RIMS complex. In respect of MU, even though the road on the west of the campus falls within the allotted land it was left for the public and the peripheral fencing is done keeping the road outside the campus. If similar arrangement was made with fencing on both sides of the road with the road allowed for public usage, the U-K road would not have been so congested and blame would not have been solely cast on the lone flyover.
If the notification is strictly enforced people will have to overcome their difficulties whatever it may be, but the question is whether the government will be able to enforce it on a continuing basis. Many were asking, while taking the decision whether all aspects were considered by the government or whether it was a sudden decision without proper assessment as is the norm with governments believing only in top down approach and was uncomfortable with bottoms up approach. There is always a belief that even now except for the Secretariat where the timely attendance is more rigourously monitored, in all other offices, most of the staff comes late.
The new system may not ensure proper timely attendance and the staff may continue with the laissez de affaires attitude in attending office in time or even attending at all while getting one additional day holiday. Quite a few staff is regular absentees in connivance with his superiors who in many a case was given part of his salary and he physically works as a sub-contractor as he is close to the power to be to get contract or claims to attend the office of a minister to which he is officially not at all connected..
Some of the issues raised are perhaps pertinent and the plea is to consider them and make provisions to ensure that the gap in the infrastructure is made up though it cannot be done overnight, especially in the far flung locations so that the employees are available and attend office to serve the people. It may be appreciated that many SDOs operate from the district headquarter as there is hardly any security in the correct location or there is no office building there with no facility for the SDO to properly function. It seems that the decision was taken taking into consideration the situation in the State Secretariat and had not taken into consideration the conditions prevailing elsewhere.
(The views expressed is personal)
First published:30 Mar 2022, 5:13 am
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The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur
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