Thursday, November 20, 2008

Karthika

Karthika (name changed) was the wife of Ravi (name changed) a peon working in a government office in Gods Own Country (GOC). Ravi died of Cirrhosis of the Liver ten years ago. He was employed at the time. As per the rules and regulations, Ravi’s son was the natural successor to his father’s post. He had already graduated by then and the family was sure of him securing the job and Ravi’s pension soon. Like the proverbial twist in the tail shown so brilliantly in Hindi movies, the family’s fortunes sank with Ravi’s death.

When Karthika approached Ravi’s office for the pension and the job she was asked to come a month later and check on the status of the pension and her son’s induction into his father’s job. Today, ten years later, Karthika still haunts the office for the pension and her son’s job. She has sold off her house, land and cows to pay various people in the office as instructed by the Trade Union Ravi was a member of, to get her files moving. Her younger daughters have grown up and after their SSLC got employment in a Housekeeping Services company. Her son does odd jobs in the hope of getting that coveted government job soon. He is in his thirties now, married with a kid.

If you are wondering why Karthika did not approach the courts, then you will be surprised to know that people like Karthika are a tribe in themselves. They are simple people, intimidated and or impressed or plain awed by offices and officers and people of power and education. They trust anything told to them by people posing to be well wishers. They think the pseudo concern and reassurances shown by the parasites in the office and union are genuine and do their utmost to arrange money as and when asked by these parasites. And these parasites have been living off people like her for years. They are fully aware that she and people like her have no money, but think nothing of asking her five hundred rupees every six months to get her file moving.

And the Karthika’s out there are more than happy to beg or borrow that money to oblige the nice rotund pot bellied gentleman sitting on the Godrej Chair and table sipping Coffee while they stand hands clasped after handing over the envelope. After every visit to the office, there is a spring in their step and a look of hope in her eyes. Meanwhile the five hundred and the other five hundreds given by the other Karthikas will keep Mr. Government Servant’s Bar stocked and car running till the next visit of the Karthikas. There are many people out there living off people like Karthika. Try this stunt in the union less rural areas of other States of India and you will be surprised that it will not work. The reason is not because they are squeaky clean, but because the illiterates have a conscience and feel pity for poor widows, while the literates of GOC think they are easy picking for some nice side money.

This is a true story. Recently my uncle and aunt took up her case when they got to know of her plight when she came to them for the job of a maid. With my Uncles political connection her pension was released and her son got the job after the person appointed by the Union in the job was transferred to another office. While my Uncle was walking in and out of several government offices getting the mess sorted out, he was witness to many Karthikas coming in with envelopes and leaving with hopes in their eyes.

16 comments:

Rockus said...

I really wonder whats going through the heads of government officials when they needlessly and endlessly harass people like this. I guess they lose their conscience and sell their souls after a while. A probable solution to such an issue is exploiting the RTI act. But, people like Karthika are not capable of going such a route. I guess its pertinent that a few of the prominent NGOs start focusing their attention to issues like these as well.

silverine said...

Rockus: Your suggestion makes sense as the Unions also couldn't help her.

aswathy menon said...

Karthika's episode exposes the true color of the unions!

mathew said...

Sadly in current state of affairs these unions leaders have almost legitimatized there behaviour...making demi gods out of themselves and putting themselves as the provider when Karthika and her son was legally obliged to get it..Someone who should have been a facilitator are turning vulture's here..

I think what Rockus said is a good idea..

chirpy-paaro said...

I have seen many such plights...Even if we try to help them...there are infinte road blocks... There are hundreds of such problems across with many more hundreds of people tied up in them...What Rockus says .. I agree but its not practical.. Now days i rarely find real NGOs working for cause..most of them are doing to gain media attention... Probably Karthika was weak..but his son could have actually done something. There are many of people who are ready to help you but then you have to reach them. I am not sure if you agree with my statement but then one has to fight...look around for options...We showing sympathy with such people will not help. We have to make them so strong that they have guts to approach a problem. Still I pray for all Karthikas.. God bless them ....

Vimal Gasper said...

unions or officials all are powered by money and politics. People who don't have them are kicked around...

Leo said...

Felt like reading a common experience. Nice description.

I guess, as more and more bureaucratic system gets automated/computerized there will be less chances of exploitation.

Recently aftr an accident involving our car, me and mom was in a police station for almost a whole day to get the car back after formalities. Ws a grt experience.. Though it took so much time and lots of phone calls (ws lucky enough to hve traffic SI as a relative), we got the vehicle back within a day.
Funny part was that police refused to accept any gift/money for their work (even though they sped the wrk faster).. Only person we had to bribe (and it was almost like asking for it) was the Vehicle Inspector who charged Rs.500 (multiply this number with minimum 15 a day X 25 days X 12 months)...Man, they make more than an average businessman. Still greeeedy of gandhinotes..Pathetic..

silverine said...

Aswathy: I thought the unions took up for their members!! I was shocked when I heard about Karthikas case.

Mathew: What is sadder is that the helpless are harassed the most and it is done in the guise of a helping hand.

Chirpy Paro: There are people who are aggressive, some are gutsy, some take help from others or court while some people like Karthika are just too innocent and trusting. Her kids would have thought that mother is doing her best and she would have reassured them that things will be resolved soon.

Vimal: I am actually shocked to hear that the unions are also like the politicians. I thought they defended their people.

Leo: Thanks! You are absolutely right that when the bureaucratic system gets computerized cases like this will be less prolonged in settlement. But will the govt servants of GOC allow that? :)

Vimal Gasper said...

Don't you think political parties are just an enlarged version of unions. They have been started by a group of people with certain ideologies but was taken over by power hungry individuals who puts personal gain before the benefit of the people whom they stand for.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Thank God, Karthika had someone like your uncle to help her, and this particular tale has a satisfactory ending. But like you say, all the other Karthikas out here.....

~==[[[ Abhi ]]]==~ said...

I feel this trend of unions and employees asking bribes is a vicious circle, they themselves pay bribes to get to their present positions. So they feel that they should get back the money that they've INVESTED. Some readily give any amount to get such PLUM positions, because they know they can get good earning by abusing their jobs. Unions which should've helped such people are run as family organisations where just one person goes on ruling as the chairman for years together without any democratic elections. One never knows such things unless we get to see such an act in reality. I'd seen something like this in my factory during the recruitment of workers. The union office which normally is deserted was buzzing with activity, people were standing in lines with dad's n son's waiting to see the union chairman with bags in their hands. It was sad to see educated people willing to pay such bribes. But lack of employment opportunities forces them to these levels. Maybe right to information act can help some people but we need many such revolutionary legislations for making India corruption free.

Deepti said...

Its a sad state of affairs and the extent to which Corruption has eroded our system .. Cases take 16 years to get solevd .. even high profile ones .. so the economically have no option but wait ..
Its nice to ehar that your uncle and Aunt helped her out .. atleast there is light at the end of this long n dark tunnel...

Leo said...

@ Silverine: Babus at GOC wil hve no other option but to adapt to computerization. Atleast their exploitation will be limited to 'time', as they wont be able to modify the RIGHTS of smeone in the system.

silverine said...

Vimal: Actually I have never lived in Kerala except for the hols. So I had this notion that the Unions, though a nuisance were solidly behind their people. This incident left me terribly disappointed.

Raji: Yep there are many Karthikas over there with no one to help them sadly! :(

Abhi: You are absolutely right. We need revolutionary legislations to replace the outdated rules and laws.

Deepti: I am left wondering if nothing was sacred anymore!

Leo: Hopeful to hear that Babus will not be able to resist computerization. I thought they had the power to fight it off. :)

B said...

Really sad to read about Karthika's plight. It is so sad that ppl have to run from pillar to post for what they rightly deserve :(

confucius said...

Exposes the pathetic condition of our country ( state ). Corruption has become like their birth right ... everybody seems to have accepted that fact and doesnt mind giving bribes...When will we learn?