When I look at one of the calendars at my workplace, a hefty list embracing 34 holidays seems soothing enough. Those red dates in the month are looked upon by most of us as relaxing and cheerful days. Being a secular nation with abundance of religions and customs, India is one of the most liberal countries in terms of work-offs. And if I will ask you the underlying cause for a specific holiday, most of us will search for the same on Google. Then why not search for number of public holidays allowed in nations that rank above us both in terms of GDP growth rate and Human Development Index. Sorry to say, but we would all welcome a declared paid holiday on ‘Ravidas Jayanti’; however only a few of us know about his contribution towards the society. Moreover, the exact motive behind declaring some days of the year as public holidays is unknown. Did we want just a reason to take some rest from work, or did we want the public to realize the meaning of such days when a prominent person was born or a critical event took place? Tell me justly, do we ever recall the teachings of great Indian men while relishing offs?
Anyways, we rarely care to remember the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi on the 2nd of every October; however, yes we plan the fun activities for the day weeks before. The Human Resource Management modules these days advocate ‘People First’ principle, wherein all workplaces must provide a harmless and enjoyable milieu to employees, incentives for innovation, recognition for traveling the extra mile, and breaks from work to maintain lasting interest. I can understand the role of the initial three concepts; however either we have misinterpreted the concept of breaks from work or we are willingly allowing the productivity to hamper. The new ‘5-days’ working culture became popular with the advent of IT and BPM sector. And then we have those ‘Monday Blues’ with feelings of anxiety and the ‘Friday Fever’ with the enthusiasm of the weekend. Yes, the same could have been an acceptable theory in case we valued the ‘Work while work and play while play’ idea. But are Indians, or more precisely, most of the Indians, ready for this model?
As per the directions issued by the Department of Economic Affairs (Banking Division), Indian banks relish 15 public holidays, which embrace occasions and celebrations for all the religions prevailing in the nation. Sunday is a universal rest-day. But, the local shops of any locality and even the multiplexes/ supermarkets work 24x7x365. Yes, they make profits, the workforce enjoys work, and the contribution to national GDP is eminent. But how do they manage such work culture? Rotational shifts, fun at work and roster offs balance the tough job and employees’ expectations. Even the IT and BPM industry calls the workforce for extended shifts and variable week-offs to manage the demand-supply equilibrium. In the public sector, however, the list of 15 holidays is abruptly enlarged by respective state governments in view of public appeasement. Not rare are the instances when political parties with specific vote bank declare public holidays on days which are of prominence to only a small cluster. Loss of business? – Who cares.
We repeatedly hear about caste-based reservation system and caste-based rallies (most common in states like U.P. and Maharashtra), but no one talks of caste-based holidays which are consistently eating up our viability. FYI- The BSP-led state government of the U.P. declared October 9, the death anniversary of party’s founder, Kanshi Ram, as a public holiday; however the SP-led government cancelled the same after assuming power in 2012. And the irony is that not even a trivial percentage of state employees or school children knew why they were off from work on October 9. Is someone caring for nation-building, or is everybody busy in luring the vote bank? Shouldn’t the government at the center revoke all such negative powers of states? If you take away all Saturdays and Sundays, public holidays, and paid casual/ sick leaves, almost every wage earner in India works even for less than 200 days. And then we wander for development. Adding to the curse is access to social networking websites, personal emails, messages, and calls during work hours. Isn’t banning the same while work lawful? Remember, until we take up our work as a fundamental social duty, we can never anticipate success.
As per the BBC, every bank holiday in the U.K. costs the U.K. economy £2.3 billion. In India, when the bank employees opted for strike against a change in the Banking Laws Bill, ASSOCHAM estimated per day loss to the economy as INR 15,000 crore. We know that the banking system is the backbone of our economy. Same is the case with other public departments which are set up for the sole purpose of uplifting the economy. The common men, most of whom are free from work liabilities on Sundays, face a condition of distress when every public office, be it the local municipality or a nationalized bank, have their doors closed. Imagine how weighty would be the detriment to the economy when apart from the statutory 15 public holidays, even most of the states have framed their own Industrial Establishment Holidays Acts, wherein firms are directed to declare a paid holiday for specific days, which most of the times are of regional connotation. The milieu is alarming as even during working hours, we deliver sub-optimal outcomes.
It is evident that offs from work are legitimate only to the extent they do not hamper productivity. Herein, declaring only the three days of national importance as statutory holidays and allowing five other optional days for paid leaves can be a workable notion. The optional holidays can be cheered by the employee on any of the days listed, which must be days of prominence. Yes, the culture of ‘5-days’ can be followed; however, the public offices must be made accessible 365 days a year. This can be done by employing extra workforce for Saturdays and Sundays, and also by effecting the variable week-offs system. Possibility of extending the working hours of public offices to 9 pm can also be established. Businesses seek approvals from the government departments, the general public hunts for easily accessible state offices, and the inter-state trade looks for same holiday policies in all states (specifically banks). The new government will have to find ways to cut down the evils of hefty holiday-list and to let the economic environment breathe zealously. Of course, the pain of a common man wandering to pay bills and to file documentation in government departments on Sundays is also to be paid heed to.
The month of October has gifted a lengthy holiday spell to most of the Indians wherein from the 2nd till the 6th many offices would observe paid holidays. As many as 8 holidays on weekdays in a month and then you have those Saturdays and Sundays again. To all- While we are pledging for a cleaner India this October 2nd, let us also give a deep thought to the concern that is hurting our throughput and development to the core. This vow is a must- “My nation needs my labors, urges for my commitment, and seeks pure work while work; Yes, I am ready to deliver, I am ready to serve my motherland.”