The new timings in Punjab government offices came into effect on Tuesday with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann saying the move will not just save power but result in many other benefits.
The timings of state government departments have been changed from the earlier 9 am-5 pm shift to 7.30 am-2 pm.
The new timetable does away with the 30-minute lunch break. Still, employees will work an hour less than before.
The new work hours will remain in force till July 15 and result in an estimated saving of Rs 40-42 crore during the two-and-a-half month period, said Mann who, along with his staff, arrived at the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh at 7.28 am and went straight to his office before later addressing the media.
The chief minister said the new work hours will ensure that maximum sunlight is utilised in government offices.
The move will have a few benefits, he said.
“Before implementing this decision, we talked to the employees and the people and they agreed (to the decision on the changed timings),” Mann told reporters at a press conference in Chandigarh.
He said the move will help save power and added that ‘power is a big issue’.
When the government offices close at 2 pm and electrical appliances on the premises are shut, it will mean lower consumption by about 350 megawatts per day, resulting in savings of about Rs 16-17 crore per month on power bills. Thus, a total of Rs 40-42 crore will be saved during the period (till July 15), he said.
However, at the same time, Mann said the decision was not taken only to save on electricity, adding that there is no shortage of power in the state.
In the coming days and weeks, according to the Met office forecast, hot weather is likely to prevail in the region, Mann said.
When offices open at 7.30 am, people can also get their work done early in the morning and avoid the scorching heat. They can then attend to their daily routine and other work, he said.
Referring to the change, Mann said these were also set according to school timings so that parents or children don’t face any hassle.
According to the Power department, peak consumption hours are from 1.30 pm to 4 pm and the new timings will help ease the load during those hours, Mann further said.
“One thing that I want to clarify is that we are not imposing any cut on industry or domestic power consumers like we used to see earlier,” he said.
We also have enough power to supply for paddy sowing, the chief minister added.
Across Punjab, government employees were seen reaching their offices according to the changed timings. In the districts, senior officials, including deputy commissioners, reached their offices well before 7.30 am.
Several ministers reached their offices in Chandigarh according to the new timings.
A Punjab government employee, with his office in the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh, said the new timings will help beat the morning traffic rush witnessed earlier and also help him spend some quality time with his family.
However, another government employee from Phagwara had some concerns about the new work hours.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said even though he worked locally, he faced a lot of problems in dropping his school-going children.
“The bus timing of my children is also 7.30 am and I have to be in office at 7.30 am. I dropped my children near the spot from where the school bus picks them up at 7.15 am and rushed to the office. I keep worrying about my children who have to wait for the bus all alone and board themselves.”
Besides, there are some employees, including women, who commute long distances daily from their hometowns to reach their offices in another city.
The change will give a tough time to such outstation employees, some feel.
Speaking of the changed timings, Mann said the employees will come in a fresh mood and this will also improve their work efficiency.
Mann said three to four states have also asked him to share the results and benefits the change might bring so that they can also contemplate implementing such an experiment.
The Punjab chief minister said in big cities such as Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, where traffic is a problem, implementing such moves can ease the situation.
“Maybe some other states will also benefit from our experiment,” he said.
Replying to a question on if the changed timing can be extended beyond July 15, he said the government will see the results of the move and take feedback from stakeholders-employees and the public and then take a call on it.
Mann also asserted that there is no shortage of electricity and coal.
“We have the Pachwara coal mine. at present, we have coal stock for 35 days at the thermal plant in Ropar,” said Mann while slamming previous governments for not maintaining sufficient coal stock during their tenures.
To a question on transport services in the villages, Mann said his government will give new bus permits to unemployed youths to increase services in rural areas.