Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

Harassment by autorickshaw driver and police constables, Gavi Gangadeshwara Temple, Basavanagudi

February 2, 2014

After getting her car stuck in dug-up areas of Bangalore roads, my friend KV yielded the wheel of her car to me. We were going to visit the Gavi Gangadeshwara Temple in Basavanagudi.

What happened as we turned the last blind corner to the temple felt like a sheer accident at the time, but in hindsight, appears to be a deliberately designed racket.

An auto driver came too close to me and hit the right-hand-side wing mirror. I was irritated at his driving, but since we were four ladies (my friend K V, her mother, her aunt, another friend, J V, and myself) in the car, I didn’t want to get into a slanging match. I knew that there had been no damage to my friend’s car or to the auto. I decided to let it go, as one does, countless times. I went further and parked.

The auto driver followed me, parked his auto next to me, and collected a group of other auto drivers (who all hang around with their autos there) and unleashed a storm of invective. Vituperative and abusive beyond belief, it was plain that he was angling to get some money. I refused to respond to his demands and told him I was wiling to go to the police station with him.

Quite magically, two constables appeared…with big grins on their faces, which I could not understand or explain at the time. They talked to the crowd of auto drivers, all of whom had become “eyewitnesses” to the “fact” that I had hit the auto. I stood my ground and they told me to come to the police station, just at the end of the road.

My poor friend, though a lawyer, is of a soft nature, and she did not want to respond to the threats by the auto driver and his cronies. Also, her mother and aunt were very perturbed, and the aunt tried the tactic of apologizing to the police and the auto driver, hoping that they would let us go. This only marked us down as being weak, and the auto driver’s behaviour became even more belligerent.

The constable on duty at the police station took down the details of the auto driver. When I said I too wanted to register a case, he was magically reminded that he could not book a traffic case, and told me to go to Basavanagudi Traffic Police Station. If this was so, how was he writing down the details of the auto driver’s complaint? I refused to go to any other police station, reminding the constables that it was they who asked me to come to this police station.

At this point, the auto driver touched me, inappropriately, and yelled again. I told him I would slap him if he touched me, and rounded on the constables who saw it happen and were enjoying the spectacle. By this time, I was indescribably angry.

Meanwhile, my friend called up another lawyer friend of hers, who advised her to book a case of harassment against the auto driver. At this point, she too was extremely angry. She came in, demanded that a case for harassment be booked, and promised to stay the night if necessary at the police station, until the matter was resolved. The police, who were there to protect citizens, were obviously not doing their job, to say the least.

The fact that we stood our ground, and clearly would not pay, and the fact that she was a lawyer, may not have had anything to do with the matter, but the inspector stepped in and asked us to go. And go, we did. We took the car right back to the temple, and J and I watched the car while my friend, her mother, and her aunt went in for darshan.

Whie we were there, the two original constables came back! They asked how we had come away. My friend J, with presence of mind, replied, “Go and ask your inspector that, he was the one who asked us to go.” They pushed off at this.

The person who takes care of the footwear outside the temple informed us that this is a regular happening near this temple, and usually, the frightened passengers of the car pay up to avoid trouble.

Therefore, the way the auto driver hit the car, the way he followed us and created a ruckus, calling in a crowd of other autowallahs, the way the constables appeared, the smiles on their faces, the attempt to intimidate us at the police station…all these conspire to make me feel strongly that this is an organized racket.

Here’s a photo of the auto driver and his auto. No, I could not get pictures of the police constables. I was far too upset arguing with them and trying to deal with the goons.

DSC08423

He’s the one wearing the khaki coat, and the two others in the photos are two of the other auto drivers.

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The culture of outsourcing

February 25, 2013

I am trying to articulate a theory that I have…that one of the reasons we, as a nation, don’t accomplish things, is our culture of Letting Someone Else Do It. We always delegate whatever we can (and several things we should not) to others. Power seems to be equal to Not Having To Do Things Oneself. There are always Anonymous Minions to carry out our mundane tasks. (I receive requests from so many people on this mailing list to unsubscribe them or add on another email id!) We do not feel empowered unless we do not have to do things ourselves. What we forget is that if we don’t do it ourselves, the other person assigned the task of doing it, will not do it as well. This, to me, explains the shoddy, chalta-hai ulture that vitiates much of our industry and endeavours.

Several senior managers I know are prime examples of Why-should-I-do-it-myself personalities. Whether it’s booking tickets,organizing an office party, or drawing up an agreement…it’s the myrmidions who have to slog through the details. I know someone who had the task of organizing a reunion of class members, and shovelled the whole task on to a hapless ex-colleague, who did such a shoddy job of things that at the end of the reunion, several others were left to sort out various messes and pay bills.

This culture extends everywhere, in every home, too. When we visit someone, they take great offence if we try to help out in the kitchen or try to carry in the used plates to the sink. “Oh, no, no, why do you do this?” we ask. The implication is that these tasks are somehow inferior, and one should not ask a guest to do them. (But of course, a hired menial can do them.) This puts such a negative light on doing any chores oneself. My daughter brought home a friend once (they were both 8 years old) who asked me, “Why do you make the phulkas yourself? In our house we have servants to do it.” Having servants to do work is not bad…but looking down on the work as “meniaL’ is definitely a bad attitude, I feel.

Every mother-in-law who does not want her son to cook or clean dishes, but expects her daughter-in-law to do it, is surely sowing the seeds for friction, not far in the future. Every mother who trains her child, whether son or daughter, to believe that cleaning and other household chores are beneath one, is laying the foundation for a lot of unhappiness and maladjustment. But…we continue to do so. How many Indian children do I know, who routinely do their share of household chores? Very, very few.

Every housewife knows, for sure, that hiring maids (and usually underpaying them) ensures that housework is shoddily done. But it’s such a prestige issue not to do it herself, and to blame the maids for bad work. Some of the mothers and grandmothers I know won’t even go outdoors to play with the children, but will send the child with a servant. No wonder the child comes back filled with the mindless gossip it hears.

The culture extends to the servant class, too. My maid, when I was hiring her, said, “But I won’t clean toilets”. She was flabbergasted when I told her I do clean my own toilets and the toilets in my daughter’s home, too. “But how can she let you do that?” she exclaimed….the underlying tenet being that cleaning toilets is not a job that one should do. Who, then, should do it? Of course our society has had an answer for it for ages…the Lower Castes, who not only clean our filth, that we should clean ourselves…. but receive (instead of good rewards and gratitude for helping us) our scorn and our contempt. I know so many housewives who want servants to clean their toilets, but will not let them use them…and see no irony or injustice in that.

If there is department in the government, there are officers, who delegate the task (say, laying of cables) to their juniors, who send men on to the road, who oversee the actual labourers, uneducated, lowly paid, and uninterested, who do the task as quickly and badly as they can get away with.

I wish we’d find a way to let someone else have babies for us. If only we had been able to outsource the process of having babies, such shoddy children would have been produced, that our population would have been well controlled, or even become extinct, by now…

Until the day comes when we learn to do our own work…we are not going to be effective or successful. The man who lets his accountant “take care of everything” is soon going to be parted from his money.

The irony, of course, is that so much of repetitive, brainless work is outsourced to us to do, and in the grand name of “information technology”, we Indians do it! When we are paid, we don’t mind. Event management is one industry that thrives on people not wanting to do things for themselves. There are services abroad which will remember family members’ birthdays and buy gifts for them! How ridiculous can things get?

I laugh when I see swanky cars on our roads…with a hired driver driving, and getting the enjoyment of driving the car! “The traffic is so bad!” is the explanation. Yes, the traffic is bad because the uneducated, underpaid drivers are driving…and because having a driver is a Status Symbol.

Corruption also, I feel, has its roots in this culture. If I have to book a friend’s ticket, I may ask him to do it himself…but if I can boast that “I have a person who can guarantee confirmed tickets”, then I am breeding corruption…I am bribing that person to get confirmed tickets at any cost. The presence of touts at any of our government offices is a testament to our reluctance to do things ourselves. When I can book tickets for myself on the internet, corruption in the Railway booking process does go down…except for the fact that the Railways website is so shoddily designed that it’s better to book through an “agent”.

The minute I do not want to do things myself, a middleman enters the picture. Costs go up, efficiency goes down, and transparency in the transaction vanishes.

We do not accord any dignity to labour…and try to place ourselves above it. I’ve seen so many parents bemoaning the fact that their children abroad “have to mow their own lawns”. Some of them even complain that when they go to visit their children, they are “made to do housework like servants”. What an attitude! One, it implies that a servant is an inferior being; two, it seems to postulate that one’s child’s home is not one where one, too, belongs, and does one’s share of the work quite happily. Surely, taking care of one’s own grandchildren, or cooking for them, can’t be such a distasteful task? When one thinks of all work as being “beneath one”, of course, it is.

I have expanded my theory into a post, and if I were an MBA graduate, with letters after my name, I would write a book and Become Phamus. But…I think I’ll wait for someone else to do it :))))

Everyone identifies…

August 23, 2011

Not everyone is capable of starting a revolution, but sometimes, when one person stands up for a cause, many others identify with him.

One of the moving scenarios about the slave, Sparatacus,occurs in the movie of the same name ….when the Roman masters come looking for him and ask, “Who is Spartacus?” so that they may punish him, each man in the hordes of slaves stands up, saying, “I am Spartacus!”..identifying with the rebel, and confusing the Romans utterly.

The same sense of identifying with someone has occurred recently, all over India….

large 200811

I hope we continue to identify with Anna Hazare in our actions, as well as in our thoughts.

Venality in the IAS….

July 6, 2011

I was watching this video, where an honest and committed IAS officer talks about the Service, and “babu”dom, and several people who realized their dreams:

My reaction, which I sent to an email list that I belong to, was this:

“There are two things that really bothers me about this video (and in general) and that is the fact that very often, such people are only preaching to the converted…and that to be heard (especially on the net) one needs to be proficient in English. I am sure we have honest “babus” and others, who are not good at English…how will their voices be heard, especially by the urban English-is-practically-my-mother-tongue (I include myself in this category) category?

“And how do we solve the gigantic problem of the category of “babu” who truly makes it a four-letter word, as Srivatsa Krishna says?”

I thought there was no doubt in my mind about my supporting honest officers such as these, and was, therefore, surprised to receive a one-line email from Srivatsa, asking:

“And so is it a crime to be a Harvard MBA or one to be an IAS officer?”

I felt, however, that his email needed a detailed reply, and did so:

“Oh…no.

“Srivatsa, the point I was making was that in our country, this whole knowing-English thing seems to be important…I have certainly watched Vivek Kulkarni “getting things done”, and so how could I subscribe to this view? For any administration, especially the mammoth “business” of the administration of the country’s affairs… the Service has the name “administrative” ….surely a degree from the world’s top business administration school would be a major help.

“Why do you feel that I, personally, have this view? I don’t think I do.

“I was asking, actually, if there could be ways to improve the performance of so many other IAS officers…..there is a reason why the image is so tainted. I’ve had this conversation with Vivek, but he is far less flamboyant (read, wanting to go public with his views) than you are, and the conversation didn’t really lead anywhere. When he started B2K, which later became Brickwork, I also remember asking him why he was quitting the IAS, when officers like him could actually work within the system to improve it. He said something to the effect that his personal goals were different…a valid enough answer!

“I had another IAS officer friend, Srivatsa, I need not name him here; but it was obvious that he wasn’t a model of integrity.I have a friend in Chennai who is in the Income Tax department…she is an honest person, but she is able to tell me that most of her colleauges are not. Mohan, my husband, has an MBA from IIM-A, and I know some of his classmates who are certainly not honest, sad to say.

“However, it’s not even always a question of corruption…sometimes it’s just inefficiency, I find, a rooted mindset of “we can’t”. Can’t change our methods, can’t change our delays…”this is how it’s always been done” seems to be the prevailing thinking.

“It’s not just the IAS…in every field, I find that often, the most qualified people seem to leave for other shores, and it is left to the mediocre and (in the words of one friend) “cannot-escapes” to do the job. IIT, for example, often teaches (at minimal cost) skills to our youngsters which they then promptly take abroad.

“We have two surgeons in the family; both of them are now practising in the US, and, when they bemoaned the state of facilities in India, we had a raging debate on why they could not have come back with their acquired qualifications and worked in India. It was only a debate, of course, because I respect their personal decisions…so, actually, when I find people like you or Vivek coming back, and working in the system, I am really happy to see it happening. I respect someone like Shiv Shankar Sastry for coming back after his FRCS and working in Bangalore.

“Well, if, by any implication or imputation, I have offended you, I am sorry….but I am hoping you are asking for a conversation, not expressing offence. I sent across the video to the mailing list (from your response, I assume you belong to it too?) because I wanted others to see it. What I was saying, in effect, was, how can we, or you who are working within the system, change the less-than-effficient and less-than-honest culture? How can we include the not-articulate-in-English section of the people into our efforts?

“The other point I was making was, it’s only people who already agree with the fact that there are also able and honest administrators, who see that video…that’s what I meant by “preaching to the converted”.

“If you have the time, could you tell me how your business school degree influences/guides you in your work?

“Sorry for the long-winded answer, but I felt your question merited a detailed reply”

I then received this reply from him:

“Thanks! I just saw an I complete post online and wanted to check what it was about. That’s all. Degree has nothing to do with work, except if posted in a few technical posts. Where do u work and your husband? Thanks.”

The topic of how his studies have helped him in his present job is not really addressed…unless he is saying that it is irrelevant?

Venality in our culture…how to remove (or at least minimize) it….is a hydra-headed monster that we are unable to tackle.

I loved it!

February 24, 2009

From this post from premkudva:

“Then there is an uncle who tells us that in Cochin they enforce the seat belt rule. And how he was once stopped. And how he said that buses should also have seat belts, and that Cochin with its clogged roads [and max speed of 20 kmph as per him] doesn’t require seat belts. All this he delivers to the local constable who has stopped him, in the hope that the constable is able to abolish the seat belt rule. The constable unfortunately is unable to do any such thing. So our high moral ground uncle bribes the constable Rs 100 and drives away.”

Read the whole post if you can, I enjoyed it very much! Thanks, Prem.

I think it’s a basic fallacy…

February 18, 2009

Disclaimer: I am no expert; my views are possibly simplistic.

One of the basic mistakes that I think the capitalist model of business rests on, is the concept of infinite increase.

This is the concept that the customer base, the demand, the need for the product, can be made to increase continuously, and without end.

How can this be? At some point of time, the curve *has* to flatten out, the supply will keep up, if not overtake, the demand. Saturation will happen. And the problem is that the economy, and the companies fuelling it, don’t think of it at all. This causes a lot of problems in the market and the economy…people seem to think of demand as a graph line going straight upwards, when I feel it’s more like a wheel, going up and coming down by turns.

Even where one would think of ever-increasing demand….real estate, for example, or mobile connections…a cyclical slump in the development of the businesses that keep the city’s demand for these fuelled, will have repercussions on the demand.

Land, and housing, is definitely a finite-supply commodity; so logic says that the prices will only go one way…up. But with the downturn in the IT sector, one is seeing a slump in real estate, too. Of course, the slump never seems to bring back prices to the pre-boom rates; a certain amount of escalation is always present..but certainly the high prices have been tamped down sharply. This is reflected in the fact that builders are bringing down their prices, and there seem to be so many housing developments that have been stalled. Rentals, too…”to let” boards springing up everywhere is a sure sign of the shrinking demand. In my own apartment building, where rentals and sales would happen quietly, there are now several flats vacant.

But sometimes, even before saturation in terms of demand occurs, the supply peters out…a classic case in point is the mess that the mobile service providers seem to be in. Their idea is to get as many customers as possible, through aggressive marketing..then, for those hapless customers, the woes start. The network is saturated, calls drop repeatedly; prospective customers are told that their area cannot support any more numbers…a sure recipe for disaster. In the old days, this is exactly the kind of lousy-service scenario that Indian Telephones got away with…because they were a monopoly. Today, customers will migrate to the rival service providers.

To an extent, the mobile phone mess is a reflection of what we see in Bangalore. Too many customers (citizens)…a creaking infrastructure that doesn’t beging to cater to their needs….patchy improvement plans that are short-sighted and do not, ultimately, solve the problem at all…. a situation where no one is happy.

I am beginning to think that what happened to Calcutta in the 70’s may be, after all, the best thing for Bangalore, too. Calcutta collapsed in its own inefficiencies, and business fled the city and the state. Then, the city was able to breathe and take stock, and is slowly building itself up once again.

Perhaps, this kind of collapse in Bangalore will make a kind of self-limiting remedy to the woes we see all around us. No more of our forests and wildernesses will be converted to housing layouts, transportation and roads will improve, not being under tremendous pressure; and who knows, Mr and Mrs Bengaluru Vaasi may have life a little easier…

A couple of years ago, I already found that in Kuala Lumpur, the government was moving its offices to Putra Jaya, forming the nucleus of a new satellite town. I wish, at least, that Bangalore would adop this policy and shift to a satellite town like Kengeri whose potential has never been developed.

Oh well…random thoughts while I cook….!

Mahatma Gandhi….

October 2, 2007

Gandhi has been iconized and reduced to an arty few line-delineations and I wonder how many Indians even think of him as anything other than a portrait to be garlanded….

I feel that we are watching the process of the deification of Gandhi, and in a couple of centuries’ time, he will be like Rama or Krishna…

On a wildlife and corruption note, my Metroblogs post on a wildlife documentary screening that I attended today:

http://bangalore.metblogs.com/archives/2007/10/shekhar_dattatris_monsoon_docu.phtml

How do we fight corruption? Especially when we seem to give in to it in small ways if not in the large context? Where do I draw the line? I let an auto driver overcharge me yesterday, and shrugged it off…I didn’t say anything when my apartment residents association give a yearly “gift” to ensure a better water connection….how then, can I have the moral authority to talk about a poor Forest guard who allows a slender loris to be killed so that his family can have better food and schooling?

(A few years ago, our apartment building committee decided to take a strong stand against the yearly “gift” demanded by the water Board people; and as a result, water to our apartments was cut off, only trickling in. For two months, people with elders and infants in their homes suffered, until finally the association had to capitulate,the size of the “gift” was doubled, and peace, and the water supply, were restored….)

Airport Station

November 28, 2006

….

That’s what I want to call the antiquated, outdated, badly-designed-for-today’s-needs Bangalore Airport. The explosion of the airlines (er…am I using the right term?) has resulted in air travel being affordable to everyone….good. But it has also resulted in the Airports Authority (of Bangalore at least) being caught with their pants around their air-traffic ankles. The crowds are vast, traffic in the airport is chaotic, and announcements just cannot be heard across the cacaphony.  We had someone bound for Delhi coming all the way to the boarding gate…we were bound for Mumbai. He ran …no….streaked back the way he had come, hoping to be able to catch his flight.

The only thing that seems to have happened is that one pays Rs 30 for a half-awful-plastic-cup of coffee (“Madam! That is not even a dollar!” said the vendor when I protested. What IS our national currency now?) and proportionally high prices for everything else at the supposedly-glamorous coffee shops. Yeuggh. Parking fees are Rs.50 onwards. Last week a friend lost his windshield wipers too.

The Devanahalli Airport has been on the cards and the planners’ blueprints for about 15 years now. If the Tirupati airport can be named after Venkatachalapathy, the ruling deity of the area, then surely the Devanahalli airport should be named after Apathy, the ruling deity of Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.

Oh I HATE the politics that puts its fingers in the pie of progress. Couldn’t we send our airport planners on a one-way flight to the Indian Ocean?

Crapola

June 11, 2005

Going through the wringer with the Honda City insurance…the local police station won’t take accident complaints, the one that does has a policeman who asks for rs. 500 to register the complaint, then it takes an hour to drive to the service place and another 2 hours to come back by auto through Blr’s beautiful traffic… most of the parts seem to be made of plastic for which only 40% of the insurance cost will be reimbursed….

From yesterday the home phone is dead, and the phone lineman and the building electrician will NOT come at the same time, but will alternately appear and blame each other…feel like burying them along with the phone…

We are lucky that this happens to us only once in a while….

Corruption is bad. Inefficiency is bad. But Bangalore has a combination of both…deadly!

why are we like this?

April 13, 2005

First the agency in charge of the flyover broke up the service road in front of our apartments, and cut down at least a dozen trees two years ago….the project lies abandoned.

Then the construction company which is building something two doors away has excavated ALL the mud and dumped it in front of our building, totally illegally.

Then the narrow strip of land next door, where I thought some little cubbyholes for the construciton workers was coming up, has prettified those self-same horrible ill ventilated cubbyholes and put up a sign, saying P G Accomodation is available. Also completely illegal.

Then to (quite literally) top it all, people have started dumping domestic trash on the piles of mud and broken cement. What a delightful prospect I face in the morning.

Rules are rules…until they apply to you. Then you flout them as long as you can. And sweeten the local authorities, sometimes in advance, so that you don’t get pulled up.

What can I do? I have written to the BDA office in Koramangala and tried to meet the Revenue Officer. He is NEVER around. I have written to the paper. It may or may not publish the letter, and that may or may not cause a reaction.

I feel so frustrated and helpless.

I have been battling for nearly a month in my own building not to allow unattended children in the pool after dark. NO action from the committee; the children continue to come by themselves, and play excitedly, often forgetting themselves and ducking each others’ heads in the water. This is an accident jut waiting to happen. How can parents be like this? One mother came back from work and knew where to come and call her son….a swimming pool-cum-creche….everyone assumes nothing bad will happen to THEM.

We are obedient and subservient when we have another authority over us, anywhere in the world. But when we rule ourselves, we are the most corrupt, unlawful people, from top to bottom.