our Ministers be Punctual?
being late to any function have become so customary these
days that a delay of half an hour is taken by organisers
and the guests, to be normal. In fact any appearance of
the chief guest (read ministers) earlier than that is taken
to be a special gesture or a mark of importance of the host.
So a thirty minute delay has become our routine and we quietly
live with it. So what we are complaining about today is
when the delay is of an hour or even more.
makes things worse is that some of them don't even bother
to extend the courtesy of an apology for having kept the
audience waiting for so long. On occasions I have felt like
protesting but gave up the idea thinking of the plight of
the diplomats who need to attend so many functions as a
part of their duty. They usually arrive on time, though
some are getting wise these days. Imagine them in their
ties and dark suits sitting under a big shamiana
(outdoor canopy) waiting endlessly for the function to start
and the electricity suddenly playing hookey. Thinking of
their sufferings I have decided that I am far better off.
At least I can chose which functions to attend and which
ones to not and also leave early.
ministers' late arrival always has an explanation. A sudden
call from the PM's office is of course the most sacrosanct
of reasons and for which those of us who have wasted our
time waiting are not supposed to even think of raising questions.
Then there is the meeting that went longer than expected,
the sudden visit by a cabinet colleague, the group of MPs
who came unannounced, and the unexpected foreign visitor
(as if by saying that the visitor was 'foreign' we are all
supposed to forget the pain of our wasted time).
there is of course the God sent traffic jam. Blame everything
on it and you are safe. The fact those of us who came to
attend the function did arrive on time, navigating through
the same traffic is, of course, of no consequence. I attended
a function where the chief guest was an hour and fifteen
minutes late. But he was outdone by the special guest who
was two hours late. As an explanation he said he went for
a boat ride with another minister for another function where,
surprise surprise, he was also a special guest. He could
not cut short his presence there as he was on a boat and
had to wait till it came ashore. Otherwise, he wanted us
to believe, he would have been only an hour late as he would
have cut short his stay there and rushed here. He expected
us to feel sorry for him as he was a prisoner of circumstances.
The question why he accepted invitations to functions the
time of which overlapped, did not seem to occur to him.
often wondered why our ministers agree so easily to attend
endless functions overstretching their time and their energy.
Obviously the answer is that ministers, who are politicians
at the end of the day, have their party constituencies to
pander to. Add to that the need to please various social
and professional groups, business community, foreign and
local investors, diplomatic community, newspapers, journalist
bodies and of course relatives and friends. To be fair to
them often we force them to come to functions knowing that
they have no time. One thing I have never understood, why
two, or sometimes three ministers agree to come to the same
ceremonial function. Of course, the host will try to impress
the guests by demonstrating how many ministers he could
bring to his function. But why should ministers agree?
is the solution? I suggest that we introduce the practice
of starting functions on time without waiting for the chief
guest and special guests etc. As and when he or she comes
they join the function. This way we can show respect to
those who attend events punctually and also save everybody
else' time. The other solution is that instead of inviting
chief guests to come at the beginning of a function, we
invite them to come at the very end. This formula can be
adopted for all ribbon cutting, launching, inaugurating
and closing ceremonies.
functions where the purpose is to make a minister listen
to issues, debates or complaints of some specific groups,
there is no short cut. In such cases we should brief the
minister properly, tell him/her exactly how much time is
needed and work out the details beforehand. In such cases
the minister must come on time and the hosts must also promise
to end the event on time.
is another idea. We usually give a time for the starting
of an event. Suppose we also start giving a time for its
ending. In other words we stop sending out open ended (time
wise) invitations and specify when a function will begin
and end. Each guest will know how much time he/she is committing
for a particular event. This may help to make our functions
more time efficient and may be, just may be, make our ministers