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Saturday, April 6, 2002

We just have too many holidays. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a workaholic reformer who shuns fun and frolic and wishes to scrap the few fun and festival holidays we enjoy. Its just that because of State government, Central Government, Bank, and other myriad holidays there is too much disruption in the work routine. Then if you throw in a Congress, BJP, or TDP Bandh, a VIP death, a bank strike, the result is chaos. Not to forget the Election holidays. I am not exaggerating. Take the last 10 days of March for instance. On Saturdays banks work only half days and cheques are not cleared. So we had March 23rd Saturday, followed by 24th Sunday, Moharam on Monday, a strike by some branches of Andhra Bank on the 27th, followed by Good Friday/Holi on 29th, 30th again a Saturday followed by 31st March and April1st which are both bank Holidays.

The saving grace in this is that Good Friday and Holi fell on the same day and RBI ordered the banks to provide customer service on Saturday and Sunday. I am told that banks in the US don’t have any special holidays where services are closed to customers and hear this -Good Friday is not one of the observed holidays in the US! I am also told that colleges in America don’t have any declared religious holidays. They just have midterm breaks, semester breaks and then summer holidays. Thanksgiving is the only long weekend (our Sankranti).

Three months into the New Year, we already had three unscheduled holidays in 2002. January 22nd was election holiday, and the day Speaker Balayogi died and on his funeral day. This is apart from the declared five religious holidays so far.

It’s not just holidays that bother many of us. It’s the general work culture. For a tropical country we start work very late in the morning. Again its not that we are late risers. We wake up very early in the morning, discuss the problems of the entire world and country and then leisurely get ready to go to work. Maybe one of the major problems of the country would be solved if we discussed less and worked more. In the Western countries where the weather is unbearably cold and snow is a big problem and there is very little daylight, offices start work at 8.00am. and people leave by 6.30-7.00 and quite a few leave earlier than that. And here in India with bright light from 5.00am our work day begins only at 10.00am or later!

A few years ago I spent 15 days in the Netherlands. I had to take early morning bus to office. The bus driver was always on time – to the minute. Its not that he lived next door. He had to travel 200kms every morning. Rain or hail, he was always on time, never late and always cheerful. This kind of predictability and professionalism is what makes work a pleasure for everyone. We can then plan work properly and avoid a lot of anxiety and pressure.

Whenever a major public figure – present or past – is ill, all that most officials and employees can think of is the holiday declaration in the event of his death! And when employees do come to work, they rarely get to work!

Hyderabad has a double disadvantage – as a State capital and as a laid back city with a languid style. Wealth creation is a function of work, resources, skills and brains. There cannot be economic growth without hard work. Our politicians, for all their faults, do work tirelessly. But much of their work is so unproductive, or even counterproductive, that they do not set an inspiring example. What we need is hard work combined with productivity. Can we make meaningful work itself enjoyable, without having to look forward to a break from work at the drop of a hat?


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