Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The vintage rally called India!

An uncle of mine was telling me an anecdote the other day. He was the Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee, constituted to raise money for a free school for children of Construction laborers in South Bangalore. The land was to be donated by the Church for free occupancy. After getting the required funds, he approached a Malayalee ex minister in Bangalore for help with the required permissions to start the school, after encountering red tapism, demand for bribes and other delays you would encounter if you took the straight and narrow path.

The minister did get him the permissions but asked him for a tidy sum as his commission. Uncle was aghast! The sum asked by the minister was more than half of what he had collected for the school. But the minister was adamant. Finally after many negotiations, he agreed to a more reasonable amount.

I am now working weekends for a Non Profit organization. Before this organization entered India, they were advised to grease palms if they wanted to fulfill their goal of making a difference in the lives of the poor. An American lawyer attached to this organization had this anecdote to tell us the other day! After the organization had identified a cluster of villages to be adopted for their work, they were asked to meet the local MLA. When the group visited him, he told them rather pleasantly that they if hoped to work in the villages under his jurisdiction, they would have to pay him one crore. The lawyer expressed his inability to pay such a huge amount as the organization was a non-profit unit and survived on grants. The MLA without batting an eyelid told the lawyer to shell out the money from his pocket as he was a high profile lawyer in New York!!! The work came to a stand still and they adopted another village were the MLA was “cheaper". The village flourishes, while the other languishes and now has barely any residents left.

All the people I have talked to, specially those working for NGO's and non profit organizations, express their frustration at the ancient walls of outdated rules and regulations erected between them and their beneficiaries that only serves as a loop hole for opportunists like the above two men to make money or stall work. Apparently there are millions of dollars of unspent funds lying in various banks, grants that were released for upliftment of the rural poor that will never reach them due to red tapism and corruption. Most NGO’s and non profit organizations in India function because they have realized that it is no use fighting against the system and grease palms to carry on their work.

Two interviews by central ministers, one on the Jaipur blasts and one on the fertilizer crisis in Karnataka, opened my eyes to another startling fact. Most States don’t even know what their powers are. They blame the centre for everything and then central ministers have to point out as the Home Minster put it so succinctly in an interview “Read the laws” The Rajasthan CM didn’t even know that she could have taken several security measures to prevent such an incident because the State had the power to do so.

The above incident only brings to fore the fact that, elected representatives in the States are not even aware of their constitutional rights as a State of the Indian union. Nor do they make an effort to do so. People get elected, attend the legislative assembly if they don’t get a cabinet berth and if they do, then attend office and dance to the whims and fancies of the bureaucrats and occasionally take some populist measures.

India today is like a vinatge vehicle in a Formula One race! A very old vehicle with outdated parts, some new parts that had to be replaced because they were so worn out, trying to keep up with the world that is using the latest technology in its engines. Unless we clean the accumulate dirt in our engines and change what is outdated, we cannot keep pace with the world.

Plastic can now be decomposed!

17 comments:

Philip said...

Super. Good to hear that someone out there is actually doing something about causes they believe in.

Indian politicians are a class apart. Much has been written about them and much more will be written, before they decide to change.

emmanuel said...

There is a program called NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) that is being conceived by the current UPA government for guaranteeing work for at least 120 days for adults in rural areas, from every family. Since 80-90% of Indian population is in rural areas and some 60-70% of the same is definitely poor, you can imagine the magnitude of the funds allocated for the same. Unfortunately, in many states it is being failed by the “axis-of-evil” comprising the politicians and bureaucrats which is mainly because they have found an easy way of making money which is because they know that the people won’t even have any idea that such a programme is being implemented and lots of money is allocated for them.

Even in urban development that we have seen recently in India; we can take the example of Bangalore where massive changes happened, but just take the basic infrastructure. It’s pathetic. Again the culprits are obvious. But something that has to be noted is indifference from people; educated people. By the term “educated” I don’t mean a person with degrees, but just simple social sense. The main reason is that everyone has now come to a conclusion that “One person can never change the world”. So he/she 'goes with the flow'. Even if you see the giant leaps made by our corporates, I’m sure that they would have done enough of bribing the govt. machinery and arm-twisting of laws because they too wanted to avoid these unnecessary bottlenecks. But for a politician or a bureaucrat who is forced into this vicious cycle because of the “vintage and unwritten” rules of the mafias (which is again 'naturally' because of obvious reason called corruption), a non-profit NGO as well as an industrial giant is all the same. They just want “bribes” which also can be lovingly called “commissions”.

And about exerting the power. I don’t know whether you remember where I wrote in my blog where I mentioned about me going to attest a copy of my certificate. What I understood was that they feared that something 'bad' would happen if they do so. I have had a lot of similar experiences in Kerala too. It’s simple. They don’t know their powers that are being bestowed upon them by the constitution. Or basically, they don’t know what they are supposed to do in govt. machinery. This is applicable to the people in the higher echelons of power too. So at the end of the day, we can ‘proudly’ say together in one voice. “We are like this only! And the show will go on!”

The disheartening fact is that number of people who are genuinely "concerned" about the society is coming down. The indifference that has reached its peak in the recent times has made many to consider government and the political system as pure rubbish. This is very much an area of concern as when thinking people move from the mainstream, the ones like you mentioned will rule the roost, which will do no good to our country and we will be still having the statistics that say “60% of the population is under BPL”, “51% of our children are malnourished”, “Every 34 minutes a woman is molested”...etc...etc.....

It’s indeed sad. What else to say!

Neena Padayatty said...

Vintage vehicle with vintage drivers too...So is the solution the participation of young blood?Of course a lot of young people are interested in politics for the wrong reasons.That's not what we want.We need legally and socially aware people at the helm.Governance and running the country should be free of ideological influences and personal interests.You are so right there's a lot of dirt to be cleaned.
Just remembered that ad of a brand of tea which shows the tea-drinker asking the election candidate "what's ur qualification?"

An illuminating post...and good luck to the work u are doing,quite exemplary.

Deepti said...

Wonderful post anjali ...
When the so called law makers themselves dont know the laws, the common man cant expect much can he?
NGO work and all .. Atta girl, way to go Anju!!!

Sriram said...

and one more HUGE problem is... our politicians are OLD.

Take the case: Mr. Old Fart, with barely five years of govt service left, is put in charge of some important portfolio... the logical thing for Oldie to do is just sit and wear the chair out for five remaining years of his office life, continuing eveything that has been in practice, rather than take some new project up ambitiously and wear his arse out before he retires gloriously.

Take the case of Mr. Ambitious Youngster, out of a B school or something similar, and having some years of experience in a reputed company... put him in the chair instead. He now has power and money in his hands - and will not hesitate to prove his merit, thus benefitting himself and the country.

But who listens to anyone here? Mr. Old Fart will continue to park his bum on the worn out chair while Mr. Ambitious Youngster decides to go abroad and serve another country.

Pradeep said...

It's also about commitment of our politicians towards the society. In a democracy it's the politicians who hold the key, even if the work is done by any one else. They are the catalyst or dampner. It's admirable that NGOs are making their mark, inspite of all odds.

Anonymous said...

btw, was this minister in your post an ex-IAS officer?

Philip said...

@sriram: I don't think being old has anything to do with it. There are these 2 'stodgy, old' bureaucrats E. Sreedharan and Jagdish Khattar. They may be old, but they have done remarkable things near their retirement age and beyond.

Once, Lalu Yadav was asked how he turned around the railways in so short a time. His reply was that he didn't do anything, he just let the bureaucrats do their job. I don't know how much of this story is true, but the fact remains that people who go into civil service are some of the smartest ppl in the country (yeah, maybe even smarter than the MBAs. If not, at least more in touch with reality than the MBAs).

The problem here is not age, it's lack of integrity and commitment. When politicians without integrity start meddling in the working of these bureaucrats, things start going wrong. Even a 'young and ambitious' MBA will face the same problems. The problem is not age, the problem is the lack of accountability, both for politicians and bureaucrats.

silverine said...

Philip: I think they will change as the people are now aware of the power of their vote!

emmanuel: Thanks for the very insightful inputs. The indifference you mention is because as people move into the cities, the population become more cosmopolitan, with people not even knowing who there neighbors are. This dilutes community spirit! But this elections, I saw a change. People were asking politicians coming around from house to house, what they would do instead of making promises! :)

Neena: No person can enter politics and hope to win unless you become like the politicians, with muscle power, criminal record etc.Which is why educated people do not even attempt it!

Deepti: Thank you! :)

Sriram: You are right when you say that the old people do not innovate and go through the motions. And thats because most of them take their seat for granted. They would have been voted on caste and religious considerations! I agree with Philip though that it is not just age but lack of integrity and commitment as Pradeep also pointed out!

Pradeep: "commitment of our politicians towards the society" Very true!!

Anon: No! And I don't think he was a minister. Maybe an MLA. My uncle doesn't remember the details!

Philip: You heard right that it was Laloo's non interference that turned the railways around.I have a relation in the railways. And he confirms it!

JustSo said...

hi, which NGO is that? I would like to work for an NGO as well. you can email me at just dot keepsakes at gmail dot com

Sachin said...

India today is like a vinatge vehicle in a Formula One race! A very old vehicle with outdated parts.......... very true .........but as a voter aren't we responsible for this messy state of affair.......we have voted this people to power........ we have the power to change it.........the only question is has the tipping point arrived........ are we read to change this god damn state of affair.........

mathew said...

We might be probably one of the few countries where politicans might want to make money out of even the noblest of deeds..really sad..

and so nice of you with your NGO effort..best wishes and pray the motivation stays high inspite of the hurdles..

Dipu Shaw said...

The article is a good pointer. Corruption in our country at all levels has curtailed development for long. Recently India was ranked a lowly 74, two steps down since last year on the worldwide Corruption Perceptions Index(CPI). It is high time we got rid of the disease before it becomes incurable.

George said...

From a class of 50 students , the first 20 will go for civil service, medicine, engineering ,in the Defence forces. The next 20 will go for commerce,finace , teaching , pure science, the next 5 will start own business. the last 5 will join politics.. What kind of ethics and vision do you expect from them????

scorpiogenius said...

Its a shame...a big shame, these so called public servants and politicians are doing to out country.

The less said, the better...

Jeseem said...

Lets face it, most ministers that we choose are not the educated lot, but they have the backing of the masses. Ministers and MPs/MLAs should be given some basic training on laws/rules, when they get elected into the parliament.
A model would be how chandrababu naidu did with his MPs/MLAs and ministers

Vivek Menon said...

I wish we resorted to some sort of some semi-martial rule, so that we could have a joint India again??