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Thursday, 25 September 2008

Who cares for corruption ranking of Transparency International?


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In the recent report released by Transparency International, India has been ranked as the 85th most corrupt country in the world, a fall of 13 places from the previous year ranking of 72.. Bihar has been identified as the most corrupt state and the Police Department the most corrupt government organisation. It is wrong to assume that the entire Government is corrupt. I work for a Government organisation, be it contracts or appointments, only the most deserving get it and that is why ISRO is a globally reputed organisation. There are scores of such government organisations where honesty is upheld. The unfortunate part is that most of the organisations which have public contact are corrupt to the core. Competition has marginalized corruption in say getting a phone connection or a bank loan.

These rankings are one that neither the Government nor the citizenry can be proud off. We have in our country two types of corruption one viz (a) one which we are the abettors i.e. we pay the bribe (b) one which we are the victims i.e. misuse of public funds and property.

First let me deal with one which we are the abettors, I think most of it can be fought by us provided we are courageous in the short term. The truth is that you require the resolve to get a job done without paying a bribe. However, this resolve is often diluted when you land up at a police station to lodge a complaint. Irrespective of how educated and informed you are, most citizens are at the behest of a cop when their help is required for sorting a problem of crime/theft. Let me give the example of when my mobile phone was lost, I landed up at the police station to lodge a complaint with original bill of the phone which was lost. My intention of lodging a complaint was to ensure that in case of misuse of the number by a miscreant, I don’t land up in trouble. The cop asked me one question after reading the complaint “What is the guarantee that you have lost this mobile phone only?” I was stuck for an answer. It was almost 10pm and which superior police officer would be available to lodge a complaint. The next day was a Sunday. My brother stretched out an Rs.50 note and immediately the acknowledgment came. You can criticize me for this act but please let me know specifically what I or any citizen could have done in this situation? If the cops can be honest, most of the corruption in this country can be taken care off.

The most dangerous form of corruption that is eating our country is misuse of public funds and property. RTI, CVC, Lok Ayukta none of these are able to rein in this demon. The responsibility for weeding out this demon rests entirely with the educated population of this country. Unfortunately we remain silent spectators as in the illustrations given below:
We know that educational institutions are not required to collect any fee without a receipt but to ensure that our kids get the best pre-nursery education we don’t mind paying a few thousands over the counter without a receipt.
A road which is to last for 3 years does not last even three showers. Our vehicles get damaged; we just crib and move ahead.
Strom water drains are breeding places for mosquitoes in most cities. We just increase the number of mosquito replants inside our homes.
We know that water meant for public consumption is diverted for commercial purpose. We just buy water from the private tankers.
Footpaths are mostly encroached by builders and business establishments. We just walk on the roads risking our lives and limbs.
We know that the local shopkeeper is using counterfeit measures but we continue to buy with him because it is available at our doorstep.
We know that most of cable TV is manned by mafia but we continue to avail their services because compared to DTH, they are cheaper.

My arguments are middle class and urban centric. Further, there are many an issues which I have not covered. What I am trying to emphasize, is until we keep quiet, these perpetrators will continue with their fleecing. We have to come together and fight these issues. Unfortunately in our society it only a few who seek to fight against these problems or even highlight them in a public forum. The majority is obsessed with itself and ridicules those who fight for such causes as “misery seekers”. Corruption in this country cannot be uprooted by one Satyendra Dubey or Manjunath. We don’t require such martyrs. Each one of us has to raise their voices against the misuse of public resources and property. Why should only a few people write to the newspaper/ authorities about bad civic amenities? The voice of one is easy to be suppressed or let go unheard. Would any public authority dare to remain morbid if 10,000 people gave applications to it under the RTI ACT about a bad road or an encroached footpath? No but in India most of us are obsessed with ourselves and our families. Solving the problems of society is the business of somebody else. Corruption does not matter to us. Don’t be surprised if we reach triple digits next year in the corruption rankings.

I will end with one small incident. I am associated with an NGO called “Lead Cap”. Regularly, we organise citizen marches to promote awareness on various issues. I went to a cyber cafĂ© owner asking him to display a notice related to the march. He was an elderly person and asked me what the main objective was? I replied “We want to change the way Bangaloreans think about their city”. He laughed out and said “you think a few hundred people by walking on a Sunday evening do it”. That for me signifies why corruption in India thrives despite so many mechanisms to fight against it.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

How well the email ids of BBMP work?


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Bangalore is the silicon city of India atleast in terms of the revenue it generates from software exports. In such a city, the authority responsible for maintaining the city infrastructure has to have functional email ids and its officers should regularly access to find out if there are any complaints from the citizens. This is important because in today’s busy world, very few can give a complaint physically.

Bruhath Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), is the agency responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and civic amenities of Bangalore and recently I tried to lodge a complaint with various authorities of BBMP on the state of drainage in my locality. Read below to find out what happened

"postmaster@bmponline.org"
hide details Sep 23 (12 hours ago)
tobalu036@gmail.com
date
Sep 23, 2008 12:26 PM
subject
Undeliverable: Please clear this Chikungunya/Dengue Mosquito breeding centre
in Indiranagar

Joint Commissioner (East) BBMP email id
jce@bmponline.org
The recipient's mailbox is full and can't accept messages now. Microsoft
Exchange will not try to redeliver this message for you. Please try
resending this message later, or contact the recipient directly.
------------------------------
Sent by Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

*Delivery has failed to these recipients or distribution lists:*


PRO (BBMP)

pro@bmponline.org
The recipient's mailbox is full and can't accept messages now. Microsoft
Exchange will not try to redeliver this message for you. Please try
resending this message later, or contact the recipient directly.
------------------------------
Sent by Microsoft Exchange Server 2007


Public Grievance Cell (BBMP)
pgcell@bmponline.org
The recipient's mailbox is full and can't accept messages now. Microsoft
Exchange will not try to redeliver this message for you. Please try
resending this message later, or contact the recipient directly.



One of the two things is quite possible:-
1. These officials have not accessed their mail boxes for ages.
2. BBMP is functioning so pathetically that complaints come to is mailbox like swarm of bees.

Either way it only reflects the sorry state of affairs of a premier Indian City which claims itself to be the Silicon Valley of India. Talk about e-governance.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The invisible cultural divide that existed in Bangalore


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This great cultural divide of Bangalore existed once. Thankfully growth of IT sector has meant that no longer this divide is sustainable. Bangalore till late 90s was divided into two cultural zones viz Bangalore South and Bangalore Cantonment. People who have been living in Bangalore for long will remember and relish this artificial barrier which existed in Bangalore for several decades

Bangalore South consisted mostly of the local population and the Cantonment area had a sprinkling of people from various regions, religions and languages. Bangalore South was famous for its conventional way of life whereas the Cantonment was more westernized due to the presence of a substantial number of Anglo-Indians present there.

One particular area in Bangalore South West was famous for streets full of people belonging to the same sub-sect. People would be ready to let their houses for a lower rent to a person belonging to their same sub-sect. The influence of Britishers on Bangalore Cantonment is pronounced. When you come to Bangalore Cantonment, you can find a large number of Churches and Christian institutions. Hardly there would be anybody in Bangalore Cantonment who has not been associated with a Christian institution either as a student or patient. Even the most conventional Hindu families have a picture of Mother Mary/ Infant Jesus in their pooja rooms. A unique future of Bangalore Cantonment is that in an undivided family, you could find members practicing three different religions and yet living cordially. Hindus coming from Bangalore Cantonment were looked down upon by their South counterparts as “The soiled Hindus”. You could never maintain homogeneity of culture, diet and language if you stayed in Bangalore Cantonment for a length of time.

I still remember for a person to go to work in Bangalore South from Cantonment and vice-versa was a major issue. Shifting houses from one region of Bangalore to other was considered to near blasphemy. Bangalore South is famous for its splendorous temples, ashrams, Hindu colleges, superb vegetarian restaurants, good bus connectivity, etc.

With passage of time and increased commercialization, this barrier has slowly fallen. You have a lot of people coming from other states/countries. Moreover, apartment culture has taken the place of Independent houses and the homogeneity of many a conventional area has been lost. As they always say “Change is always for the good”.

Monday, 22 September 2008

I cannot be God's Warrior/Salesman


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The number of warriors for various Gods has increased multi-fold. Be it the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Kashmiri Mujhadeen, Bajrang Dal and the ever promulgating Evangelists , all claim to believe strongly in their religion and champion its cause in their own nerve wrecking methods. To ensure that their God wins, they don’t mind killing people of other faiths; defaming other’s Gods and destroying other’s God’s religious places. God obviously does not employ/pay anyone to fight wars on his behalf. Thus, it would deduce that these self-appointed warriors for God are obviously those who lead their lives 100% as per their God’s preaching’s and hence are fighting for his cause voluntarily. However in my case, I am not leading life the way my or any God did so during his lifetime.

I can never be the uttam purush that Sri Ram was. He bequeathed his right to be a king because his father asked him to. I would not give up my power even if the whole world asks me to go. He was the symbol of marital fidelity but this quality of mine gets shaken every time a beautiful female passes by me. If I was him, I would have chopped off the washerman’s head who dared to talk ill about Sitaji.

Jesus could forgive even Judas but I bear grudge against my friends who don’t favor, pamper and boast about me, leave alone betrayal. Jesus asked to show the other cheek if somebody slapped you but I retort every allegation against me with double the ferocity. Jesus went to find the lost lamb but I don’t have the patience even to wait for a friend who has lost his way a bit.

Islamic laws talk about charity in the form of Zakah (donating 2.5% of wealth one has) and Khoms for money is done by taking the fifth of the increment or the increase in the income stored after one lunar year, and this is done after paying debts or bills (if any). I don’t donate even 1% of earnings but look to usurp others. The holy laws also prohibits greed, drinking and prescribes stoning to death for a thief, etc. I won’t follow all those either on the grounds that it is a modern world or that it is anti-human.

Thus, it is quite clear that I am not qualified to fight for God because I have not emulated anything which he has prescribed. Does it mean that all those who are fighting on behalf of God have fully followed his teachings? I leave it to your discretion to decide on this issue. There is no point in fighting for God without truly believing and following what he prescribed. No God has asked his devotees to plant bombs for him, destroy places of worships and lure people into believing him. If we truly emulate the principles of any of the Gods, we won’t be able to hate our fellow human beings. Let us stop fighting over whose God is the ultimate God. God is best kept within the confines our heart, mind and actions. Don’t make God a commodity or a concept to be sold. This world has more serious issues of poverty, hunger, floods and above all global warming to fight. Let us fight to save our future not to decimate it.

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Banglaore, Karnataka, India