Posts Tagged ‘government’

Deepa’s Principle of Organizational Competence

January 21, 2014

All rights reserved. I am going to fluff up this one simple sentence into a 700-page book and mint money and become a Concept Guru.

The competence of an organization is inversely proportional to the number of desks and people that the customer is re-directed to.

I’ve been having severe problems with my BSNL internet connection. First of all, I had to figure out that it was, indeed, the internet connection that was the problem (my first thought generally is, Oh God, I’ve done something wrong again.) Then, I wanted to check on my BSNL broadband plan online. Lo and behold (or rather, NOT behold)….my plan was not to be found anywhere on the website.

So I went to the BSNL Customer Care Service Center in Jayanagar. It took me two solid hours and being shuttled around to NINE (yes) people before I could get the details of my broadband plan. (“Madam, that’s an old plan. So we don’t have it on our website any more.” “But why can’t those of us who are using the plan access the details?”..”We don’t know Madam, it’s not there.”) I had to go from desk to ao the next-pointed-out-to me desk to find out the details, which I found at the eighth person. It’s a fairly advantageous plan for the consumer, no wonder it was quietly rmoved without notice.

I realized that under this plan, even if I exceed my bandwidth quota, I only get charged Rs.0.30 per unit, and the speed is NOT supposed to drop. So why has it dropped? I was shunted around from Accounts to Commercial to Customer Care all around in a merry cycle.

All that has happened at the end of it is that one person has “asked” someone else, somewhere else, what is happening. I suspect that like most plans in existence today, when I exceeded my quota, my internet speeds have been throttled..which they should not be, under this plan.

I’m feeling giddy with the BSNL merry-go-round…and I’ve forumlated the Principle of Organizational Competence (in Airtel, for my mobile internet, I was shunted to 3 people) which I think will fluff up well into a book…now to think of a catchy cover title…

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A feel-good incident this time

January 23, 2013

I’ve been interacting, on FaceBook, with the MD of BESCOM (Bangalore Electricity Supply Corporation), Mr Manivannan (though our interaction is not mainly on civic issues..he’s quite a poet!). I have been getting the sense that he’s shaking up this behemoth and making them more accountable and user-friendly.

I realized that if I was going to be away for a long time, I could ask for minimum billing on my apartment. I wrote to the contact email (Ms Jayanathi) on the BESCOM website…and promptly got a return email from her, telling me whom I had to contact, and the phone nos…and additional ones if I wanted more details.

The first few times I called Mr Lokesh, the AE at J P Nagar 6th Phase office, there was no response on the mobile. However, a couple of days ago, he responded, and told me what to do. Since my electricity bill is paid by ECS (Electronic Clearance Service), it was even simpler…I did not even have to pay anything in advance by cheque. He told me to bring a letter asking for the minimum billing, and a copy of my latest electricity bill, for reference.

When I went to the BESCOM office, of course, I did get some of the usual runaround. I Go to Desk A, Desk A says Go to Desk B, Desk B says Go to Desk A, I say, Desk A sent me here, Desk B says go to Desk C, Desk C says go to Desk D…at this point, I ask why I am being sent from desk to desk in this way. I take Mr Lokesh’s name, and say that he asked me to come here. The mention of the name has a salutary effect. The person at Desk B takes up my paper, and goes through the records on the computer. He tells me that I will be billed only the minimum charges for the time period that I have specified in my letter. I come home, rather happy. I will have to check from the US, online, if my account is, indeed, getting debited with only the minimum charge.

Change happens slowly…but with a dynamic person at the top, it IS happening. I want to thank Mr. Manivannan, and other officers down the line, for making things easier for us consumers.

I’m boiling over…

January 22, 2013

On Friday, 11th Jan 2013, a few of us were going for a birding trail, and we were waiting at the chai shop at Mantri Residency Apartments, on Bannerghatta Road, for a couple of others to arrive.

Suddenly, in the pre-dawn dark, my friends (all young men) said there had been an accident, and rushed on about 10 yards ahead. Then one of them came back and told me that it was a girl who had been hit. A Tata Sumo driver had started the car and speeded up, and a young woman (about 19 or 20, I’d guess) had suddenly walked across without looking. There was no way he could avoid her, and he hit her. He stopped the van, and did not attempt to flee. One could say, literally, that he was petrified with fear.

I went to the girl, who was sitting, propped up against a tree. She was moaning, and unconscious. Her bladder had voided. I gently lowered her to the ground, and checked her pulse (it was steady, not thready) and checked her limbs for obvious fractures. There were no external bleeding or bruises.

The girl was dressed in jeans and a top, and we were surrounded by men, so I could not check her body beyond a limited examination. Someone had already phoned for an ambulance. I knew that if there were spinal or head injuries, moving the girl might result in an increase of the injury…or worse..so I held her head, keeping it low, so that she could get more blood into her brain. She tried, several times, to sit up, and twice, actually got to her feet, but had to lie down again.

At this point, another lady came up, and exclaimed that this girl was a maid, working in the apartment building (Mantri Residency). She said, “Her name is Sudha”. So I left the girl after trying to get her to drink some water, went to the security personnel at the gate, and asked for the identity card of any “Sudha” that they had. They produced one, and yes, the photograph WAS of the girl. It gave her name as Sudha Ramesh, but contained no home address or contact number. I asked the security people to call up the people for whom she worked, and get them to contact her home, and ran back to the girl.

The girl seemed to open her eyes and look at me. She said, “Madam!” twice or thrice. Some people tried to ask her where she was from, but it was obvious to me that she was in no coherent condition. But I held her.

The ambulance arrived, and a lady paramedic got out. I was intensely relieved, that now this young girl would be in trained hands, and she would get over whatever injuries she had. I felt that they would treat her for shock, too.

To my horror, the lady paramedic did not even come close to us. She stood her ground next to the ambulance door, and kept asking if we had phoned the police. None of us had thought it was necessary to phone the police as well as the ambulance, but someone then did call the police.

The paramedic also asked if any of us would come with the girl to the hospital. She said they would not take the girl unless there was someone with her.

I asked the paramedic to at least check the girl’s pulse, and check her for injuries. Her reply was, “I don’t know what happened to her.” Well, neither did we, and that didn’t stop me from checking the pulse and for obvious fractures, so why could the paramedic, whose job this was, not do this? No, she still kept her distance.

The girl was lying on the dusty road; I begged that they take out the stretcher and at the very least, put the girl on the stretcher instead of letting her lie on the road. They need not put her in the ambulance until some family member turned up. The driver and the lady paramedic turned a deaf ear to my entreaties.

Finally, the police arrived on a Cheetah motorcyle. Also, someone had succeeded in informing the girls family, and her brother turned up. Then, and only then, the girl was taken into the ambulance (not in a stretcher, she was made to stand up, and helped into it)….and the ambulance went off.

I was utterly horrified by the callousness of the ambulance people, but seeing that the girl had stood up and got into the ambulance (though with a lot of assistance) I hoped that she would be OK.

All this happened from about 6.15 am to 7 am.

On Sunday evening, I came to know that the girl had died at 9.30 am.

I am not sure if the ambulance personnel could have saved this girl. But I do know that the inordinate, inexcusable delay in their even touching her could have wasted precious minutes of the “golden hour” that follows any such accident…and they *might* have been responsible for her death.

Why are the ambulance personnel so callous? Surely, their job would be to help the victim first, and all questions later? Obviously they must have had some major issues with the police earlier, which is the only thing that would explain their stance.

Why must it be the duty of the general public to infom the police? Can the protocol not be ensure that the ambulance people themselves call the police as soon as they are informed of an accident? Knowing that the ambulance was calling, the police would also respond faster. And definitely, there should be not a second’s delay in the paramedics’ attending to the accident victim.

I am totally shocked by the fact that we, as bystanders, did what we could, and yet, we could not save the life of a young accident victim, and had to watch the indifference and red-tape attitude of the very people whose job it was to do their best to help her. Not even first aid was provided.

The ambulance was a BBMP ambulance, in the rush of events, I did not take the number or the names of the paramedic or the driver, as my attention was focused on the girl.

Please…somebody…tell me how and where I can take this up further. I want to ensure that other Sudhas do not lose their lives in this tragic, needless way.

A documentary, and my thoughts afterwards

October 20, 2011

Yesterday, as part of the

Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival

I watched a documentary, “Nero’s Guests”, made by Deepa Bhatia. There was extensive footage of P Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of the Hindu, as he showed how poverty is never properly covered by the mass media, even though farmers are regularly committing suicide. The film was made against the specific backdrop of the cotton farming areas of Vidarbha.

It was a moving documentary, and had the audience close to tears. At the end, Prakash Belawadi moderated a discussion, which, of course, ended in the air, as all such discussions do. Each of us probably came away resolved to try and do something about the tragedy of farmers pushed to the point of death…but I have been thinking about this and other documentaries, plays, and other such events…. and several rather negative thoughts occur to me. Let me state them and they are open to be debated on…or violently disagreed with.

Films of this kind, however moving they are, are not as effective as they should be. This is because the people who come to see them are NOT the consumers whose excessive materialism is fuelling the crisis…the audience usually consists of people who are already aware that there is a problem (even though they may not know the depth and complexity of it). What is the use of spreading the message amongst those who are already trying their bit to contribute to society, and right some wrongs, in whatever way they already can? Most of us in the audience, I’d say, are already people who are trying to live “green”, cut down conspicuous consumption, work with the poor or in the villages or forests. There is, sadly, only so much of spare time, money, and energy that we have. We cannot channel all of that into too many directions. The fat cats, the conspicuous consumers, the conscience-less administrators…the documentary should be viewed by them. But they never do.

Also, there seems to be a kind of guilt overload associated with such documentaries. “Nero’s Guests” seems to be particularly pointed in this…it points (as does Sainath in the documentary) directly at us, and says, let us not blame the government which has instituted such awful rules and regulations that make farmers’ lives, and livelihoods, such hell that they take their own lives. Rather, the blame is shifted to Nero’s Guests..the guests who attended the huge celebration that Nero organized when Rome was burning, and who ate and drink by the illumination of torches…that were human prisoners, who were set alight for the purpose.

I cannot agree with this viewpoint or shoulder this huge burden of guilt. Most of us (especially those watching the film) are law-abiding people, who pay our taxes, which are supposed to go for the betterment of our fellow-citizens as well a our own lives. Our own lives are not easy in India; we fight daily battles with the government and an establishment which is very user-unfriendly, and is deliberately kept so by vested interests which can then make money by bribery and corruption. To me, it looks as if the film targets those who are also victims, and says, “But you are more fortunate than these other victims, so help them.” We are those who want our elected government representatives to use the money we pay as taxes and cesses, and use them for the purposes stated…not salt them away in numbered accounts in Switzerland. It’s not we who are battening on the blood, sweat and tears of the farmers in the rural areas. We pay high prices, we pay for our fuel, are we to blame if it never reaches the sources, but is sucked away by the middlemen?

Then there is this whole “moral judgment” of such films. “I’ve brought this ill to your notice, now, if you do not do something about it, you are not a good human being.” Most of us feel that it is the job of the elected representatives and the civil servants, to administer our villages, not ours. We have our jobs, which we are doing with diligence. Surely the focus should be on revamping the administration instead of pointing accusing fingers at the citizens, and asking them to do something? And it is only those of us whose consciences are already sensitive, who feel this guilt, and squirm uncomfortably under its burden each time.The more I have a social conscience, the more I am constantly put in the dock, and asked, “What ELSE are you doing?”

Another factor, I feel, plays a role in our lack of engagement. Apart from the disconnect many of us have with the lives of people in rural areas, we are, from childhood, brought up to regard ourselves (the middle class) as the underprivileged. We are not taught to not look down, but up…at the billionaires and the magnates and the kingpins and their lifestyles. Our media and our newspapers and magazines splash pictures of malls and gadgets and cars and villas constantly in front of us…most of which we can never afford. And certainly, when our lives are so filled with strife and the need to earn our living,and face bribery, corruption and inefficiency at every level, it is difficult to see ourselves as empowered, privileged beings. The privileged people…are not us, so all we do is to strive to the extent that is reasonably possible, to lead ethical lives.

So…the constant refrain of “you must do something” begins to pall after a while. Should I teach blind children? Should I work with villagers on the edge of the forest? Should I work with spastic children? Should I only travel by public transport? Take bucket baths? Eschew our cars as much as feasible? Contribute financially to various organziations working in various fields? I’ve done..and am doing, all these, and to say so sounds as if I, too, am putting myself on some morally high ground…but I’m just trying to make the point that having done it, I am still loaded with guilt by such assaults, which point fingers directly at me, and say, “You are well-off and comfortable, you are not doing enough.”

Surely, we of the middle class have worked to be where we are today, and deserve what we have, without having to feel guilty about it? No one helped us, and we did not take crooked paths or cut corners to get to our present level of reasonable comfort. We still battle the establishment at every point, every government agency and social construct, that harasses us. We do not ask for mercy, we just get on with our lives; and yes, we do spare a thought for those less fortunate than we are, and try to spare whatever effort and time and money we can, for them. I like to think that the middle class is far more generous in spirit then we are ever given credit for. And yet, the message always is, “Do more, do more, do more, it is you who have to do it.”

Yes…I agree that we are the ones who have to bring in change, engage in the electoral process, and elect better leaders, and usher in transparency and accountability into the government, get rid of our attitude of apathy. But to be accused and told that it is we who have to constantly help our less fortunate brothers and sisters…we take it as much as we can, but there are times when it just turns us off, and we return to our own trials and tribulations (which no one helps us with) and decide, “We can’t do any more”. Too much of evangelism has an effect the very reverse of what it seeks to achieve.

But we will still go to see films like this, plays with a message, and still try to do whatever we can to ameliorate the lot of those who, we realize, are in far more of difficulties than we are..in comparison with whom, we feel grateful that, but for the grace of God or Fate, those unfortunate people could be…us.

So…I wish that those who make such efforts to sensitize common citizens to the plight of others, do not load them with guilt and reduce them by implicit accusation, into defendants, held responsible for the woes our society and country is suffering from.

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.

A new symbol for the Rupee

April 3, 2009

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/rupeesurvey.cms

(Thank you, enigmaticash)

I can’t understand…

1. Why most of these symbols seem so hung up on the “two short lines” that is associated with the Euro symbol. Shows a great lack of creativity in those who designed these symbols, I think.

2.What’s wrong with the “Rs.” as it is? Why do we need ad agencies and Govt agencies spending HUGE sums of money(whether Mohur, Rupyah, or Dum..gold,silver and copper…) to design something else (which might add to the devaluation of said Rs., too?)

3. Why not have an “Ag” symbol, (Latin for silver…Argentum)or the Sanskrit symbol for silver which is what “rupaiah” actually connotes, “currency of silver”? (the wiki entry says the Sanskrit word for “wrought silver is “rup” …also meaning “form”, or “rupyah”..and “rupyakam” is “coin of silver” ) ?

Let’s face it, the Rupee. at over 50 to the dollar, is never going to be a Gold Standard, so let’s at least make it Silver across the world!

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….!

KSTDC….

March 30, 2007

Hmm…first of all, I got to spend some time on the Net yesterday and had posted about my visiting our fair rajdhani, Delhi…I had to use the “date out of order” option….oh, the entries had got mixed and I had to rectify them…

And here’s what I posted today:

http://bangalore.metblogs.com/archives/2007/03/karnataka_tourism_counter_at_b.phtml

Karnataka State Tourism Discouragement Corporation…

Oh well….

I have been taking some pictures but finally, KM has ALSO decided to post to INW methinks…with the result that the camera was set to CR2 (the raw format for Canon) and the CF card, of course, got quickly full! Will download the pictures, and post a few of the decent ones (birding trips to both Okhla Bird Park and Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary)…and the campus where we stayed, the Anand Farm in Gudgaon, was a beautiful place with a wealth of birds. KM has taken the CF card today…tomorrow will be my turn!

Attended a Delhi wedding which, luckily, was not as glitzy as some weddings in that city can be…

Still wondering if the trip to Delhi was worth it…until I visited the home of someone I know, and found that their 13-year-old daughter writes beautifully. I tried opening a Live Journal account for her but the broadband connection in her home was down. She does nice anime sketching, too…a very creative child, I hope to introduce her in my LJ, at least, soon…..