civic sense

All posts in the civic sense category

Open Manhole!

Published March 27, 2015 by vishalvkale

LOCATION : INDORE

3 Days Ago, {24th March, 2015} Old RTO Road, in front of RTO : {I noticed it lay open for at least 2 days prior to this} 

TODAY, 27th March 2015, same place..


An open Manhole, lying open for days in a public place, in front of a Mandir… 

What makes things worse is that this stretch goes isolated at night. And right in the middle, an open manhole. Wow, what governance! Cant the Municipal people at least put a cover on it? Isnt it a potential risk? Worse still : No one cares! Why should they? It isnt their lives, isnt it? 

Update: Informed the authorities, nice and encouraging response. That is interesting, and raises questions on us the people. For the response was equally blunt : “aapne dhyaan rakkhhaa yeh kyaa kam hai“? Intend to send letter of thanks to the official once it is done… 

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Be Vigilant… For Everyone’s Sake!

Published January 12, 2015 by vishalvkale


BE VIGILANT! 

“A bag containing eight crude bombs was found on Sunday inside the Gondwana Express which runs between Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh and Hazrat Nizamuddin station in Delhi, officials said.

The bag was brought to the notice of the train ticket examiner by a passenger at around 3 pm, after the train had left Jabalpur”

The Dainik Bhaskar is more specific in this news : 


“जबलपुर-निजामुद्दीन एक्सप्रेस (22181) की एस-8 बोगी में रविवार रात बम मिलने से सनसनी फैल गई। बम बोगी की 14 नंबर बर्थ के नीचे एक काले रंग के बैग में रखा था। एक यात्री ने लावारिस बैग की सूचना जीआरपी को दी। सिहोरा रोड स्टेशन पर बैग चेक किया गया तो उसमें बम रखा मिला, जो एक मल्टी मीटर से जुड़ा था। “


THE LEARNING


A Passenger did what no one among us does : checks the luggage around him in the train. Had this person not checked, who knows what might have happened?

How many of us take this simple precaution? We consider that such things dont happen, or just dont care. I know from personal experience, since I, too, have a habit of checking luggage just to be sure. Remember : our carelessness has a heavy cost in such cases! And yet, people tend to sneer, laugh and summarily dismiss such behaviour; I know, since I have borne the brunt of such laughs. 

Wake Up, India! Learn to be vigilant! One moment’s precaution can lead to the lives of innocent people being saved. All it takes is just one minute, just be vigilant and check the luggage around you in trains, buses and, as far as possible, in public places. It doesn’t take much, just one minute! 

Please spread this around : if not this post, then this learning!

A Hard Look At We, The People

Published January 11, 2015 by vishalvkale

In the previous article, we took a look at the concept of values from a psychological perspective : Life’s Challenges : Are You Rough, Or Are You Tough?. Let us take a small peek at the definition and concept of the term Values from the perspective of Psychology, taken from the website “psychologytoday” : 



One important concept in psychology is values.  Thus, it is important to define values.  What are values?  Values are judgements about how important something is to us. There may be three basic attributes of values.  First, values are subjective judgments.   Second, we may make a judgement of how important something is relative to something else.  For example, one may judge that helping others is more important that becoming famous.   Third, values may be principles that help us make important personal decisions. 




Values are beliefs, and refer to desirable goals that motivate action. Values serve as standards or criteria and guide the selection or evaluation of actions, policies, people, and events. People decide what is good or bad, justified or illegitimate, worth doing or avoiding, based on possible consequences for their cherished values. Any attitude or behavior typically has implications for more than one value.  The tradeoff among relevant, competing values guides attitudes and behaviors (Schwartz, 1992, 1996). Values influence action when they are relevant in the context (hence likely to be activated) and important to the actor. {Reference here}




Values are of many types – for example Power, Tradition, Security, Conformity, Benevolence, Achievement, Stimulation, Hedonism etc; but that is not what concerns us directly. What is more important is the clarity that our actions are defined by an underlying set of criteria, which determine our actions and behaviour. This is critical : for this lays bare some rather uncomfortable questions for us Indians in general. 




What are the values that we, as a people, hold important? Keep in mind that Values are graded in terms of relative importance to us at a subconscious level. Thus, when we ask for or pay a bribe, what are we displaying about ourselves?  That for us, as individuals, the person or the self is more important than the society, the laws and the nation. And that is only for starters. 




The conscious decision to pay a bribe, or ask for one clearly means that morals mean nothing to us. And, viewed from the Value perspective, we can see that giving a bribe is as bad as taking a bribe. For, in both cases, you have made a clear choice : to you, as a person, the nation as well as the society is not as important as yourself. You grade yourself and your own convenience to be of a higher level of importance than the well-being of society and the nation.




Bribery is not at all a totally harmless activity; its damaging effects range from financial impact on the society to issues of national security. It is the same in several other aspects of behaviour. Consider unethical conduct in the job, that is condoned as routine in the modern workplace. The moment you make a choice to ignore the fake document, you are actively choosing to place the self above the law, the morality, society as well as the nation. To you, Power and Achievement are far more important than societal norms and national interests. Worse is the case of actively procreating false documents, or not doing due vigilance, or suggesting creative accounting and procedures in high value investments and transactions. You are yet again saying that you, as a person, value the self above everything else. 



This attitude and these set of values manifest themselves in any number of activities, and clearly spell out what you and I as Indians hold important in our lives, and lay bare the hypocrisy of the statements of our placing India first. The same case is in civic sense – by littering your surroundings, but keeping your house clean, you are clearly showing a definable value choice : that you place a much greater emphasis on the self than on the community. 

Every choice we make, every decision we take, exposes us for what we are, what we hold dear and what relative importance we attach to various choices and objectives in life. Our indulgence in unethical behaviour exposes us for what we are intrinsically; the famous chalta hai attitude, when observed from this POV, shows up not as chalta hai but as a clear choice for valuing self, and placing a comparably lesser emphasis on the society and the nation, even in situations where there is no chance of danger to our own lives, or any great material damage. 

Our attitude, made famous by many articles and commentors as Chalta Hai is actually nothing even close to a Chalta Hai type of attitude, which is typically indicative of a laidback and lackadaisical approach; it is actually a clear, conscious choice of placing higher value on personal convenience and benefit, placing the nation and the society at a secondary level. The only extenuating circumstance is the risk to personal or family lives; and this is a danger in very select cases. In the large majority of cases, this argument of Values holds true. 

Your choices are driven in your subconscious by what you value, as we have seen above. And the numerous unethical and at times downright illegal behaviour we display,  in both small and large cases, {like jumping red lights, saving time for us, but inconveniencing others}  clearly spell out that we dont value the nation and the society as much as we do. Had that been the case, incidences of people paying a bribe would have been lesser, unethical conduct would not have been such a serious issue and so on and so forth!

In simple terms, we place Achievement, Esteem and Power on a greater level in our own personal value sets over and above Security, Tradition, Conformity, Morality, Universalism and Benevolence. All three choices that we have made are undoubtedly important; but it is a manifest truth that they cannot be above the nation, the society and the law, or in other words – Security, Tradition, Morality. This is a clear indication that our Value Systems and Morality is in dire need of correction. 

For, it is a known fact that one can achieve Esteem, Power and Achievement Satisfaction even without the compromises made in the examples above. Thus, if a large number of people feel that in our society we cannot survive without placing self first, we are in effect stating that we as a nation, and as a society, have a Value System and a Moral Compass that is badly skewed towards the self over the nation and the society, and are thus stating that our society is in a state of decay! 

That would have been a dire indictment of us as a people, were it not for some heartening trends that are currently in a minority, but are growing in strength from day to day; giving our society a beacon of hope in the morass of decay that surrounds us in contemporary India – the growing intolerance for unethical behaviour and the rising tide of people speaking up, and calling it like it is, while also acting true to their words. Let us do all we can to strengthen this new tide… Jai Hind!

The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary Indian Society

Published January 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

The Axis Of Evil is a term of World War 2 vintage, used to denote the Axis Powers led by Germany. At the outset of this post, let me proffer my apologies for using this term for the present article; if any feelings are hurt, please accept my apologies. This article has no reference to the World War 2 or its ugly memories, or even Colonialism. This is a article on Modern India, and social issues within Modern India. 

The word Evil, going by the dictionary term, means wicked; more pertinently, if we look at the secondary meanings of the word, we get the terms bad, infamous, bad or blameworthy, unpleasant, causing ruin or pain, indicating future misfortune… and my article is concerned with the secondary meaning of the word Evil, not the primary meaning. 

A discerning observer can easily spot three or four behaviours of the people in contemporary India that are coming together to form what I call The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary India, as I mention in the article. Let me get straight to the point : these behaviours are :

  • Corruption
  • Incompetence
  • Attitude
  • Lack Of Community Feeling

These above four are together conjoining into one unfortunate whole, and creating the scenes of disrepair that we see today all around us. They are the Axis Of Evil – and these have permeated most aspects of our society – be it our civil institutions, business, day-to-day life etc, with only a few notable exceptions – exceptions that prove that we, as a society, have it in us to come out of this problem. 

1. Corruption

Do we ever stop and think how the 10 Rs we give to the local policeman or the 1000 Rs we hand over to the local civil authority is harming the nation? How it is hitting India, and hitting it hard? In the article Corruption Can Kill we saw in graphic detail how corruption can also kill, either directly or indirectly – and kill by the scores. Example : “Customs Inspector Talawadekar and Phanse came into the room… Singh and Talawadekar, law enforcement officers, were Phanse’s co-conspirators…” Tiger received a call from a customs inspector…” Tiger refers to Tiger Memon, and this was the prelude to the Mumbai Bomb Attack. 

We saw in the Cobrapost expose how corruption has begun to eat into the core of our business institutions as well, with no one even caring to think that the money they are handling may have illicit sources. Can anyone of us normal citizens give a guarantee that the money we pay as bribes does not land up in the hands of the terrorists or criminals? That the money we are helping move around may be a conduit for serious illicit causes? That the silence we display may actually end up harming thousands of people, as has happened in the various scams in the stock market? In every case, the silent acquiescence of tens or perhaps hundreds of normal people has led to serious loss or worse to countless people!

This reprehensible and cowardly silence, and active or passive involvement in corrupt acts has a tremendous cost to innocent people, the organisations, our society, and the nation. Only the people involved are unaffected, they take home their salaries, their promotions, their house and their cars; without a care for the impact of their actions on the nation and the innocent people… 


2. Incompetence

This brings me to the second factor in this Axis : Incompetence. These people – who are termed “worldly-wise” by some sections of our so-called educated population, are themselves not aware of the serious impact of their behaviour. This is classic incompetence; despite being educated – some of them highly educated, these people are shockingly unaware of the damage they are causing to everyone, as we shall see later on in graphic detail

The factor of incompetence goes much, much deeper than this, and connects effortlessly with the third factor – Attitude. Take a careful look at any activity, and you can spot shocking lapses of performance and of incompetence in virtually any activity you care to observe. Let us take the example of a security guard at any mall. I have routinely been seeing every entrant to malls being searched, bags being searched; but the so-called search is a mere bagatelle, a formality. 

The shocking laxity in security searches in malls, that too in a nation hit hard by terrorism, points to deep-seated incompetence at all levels – from the security guards to the top people, who just don’t care enough about security, and are just not aware of the risks – which is crass incompetence. The same can be seen at Railway Stations, I have seen people just walking around the metal detectors, and authorities just looking on, or metal detectors kept to one side!

I could understand if this permeated only Governmental institutions, but a look at the corporate scenario only reconfirms my hypothesis of gross incompetence. How many corporate managers in telecom or finance wonder about the fake documentation with regard to KYC documents, for example? Did anyone stop to think of the risks to the nation and the organisation? How many sales professionals stop to think of the damage they are doing their company, the channel, the network by offloading needless stocks just to save their jobs, and of how many people’s careers are destroyed, and of the irreversible damage to the brand? Again, this is classic incompetence of the highest order! 


3. Attitude


Incompetence blends into attitude; not everyone is incompetent. There are any number of highly competent people who just compromise like cowards, with the manifest disorder all around, in some pretext or other. Call it the chalta hai attitude, or call it selfishness – call it what you will. These people are aware of the damage their actions are causing their organisation, the brand, the society, the nation – but make no overt or covert effort to make their surroundings a better place.

Attitude manifests itself anywhere you see it : people throwing dirt on the road, paying a bribe, taking a short-cut, walking around a metal detector and considering yourself smart for doing so as you have avoided the rush, allowing people to avoid metal detectors despite being aware of the risks involved. As we shall see in the next article, this is manifest in virtually every activity! 


4. Lack  Of A Community Feeling


This brings us to the fourth and by-now obvious pillar of this sorry state of affairs : the Lack Of A Community Feeling. Every action seen above places the self and the family above the nation, the people, the society, the neighbourhood, and the surroundings. We as a people love to go gaga on nice-sounding mantras by change agents – but lack the courage or the competence {or both} to be the change. 

And that is why we have a shameful sight of The Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi himself having to call for Swatch Bhaarat! And an Aamir Khan to do advertisements for cleanliness in India. Honestly, this is shameful in the extreme that we require such august personalities to learn behaviours that we ought to learn our mother’s laps! And the most shocking and shameful aspect of this is the pride we feel in having The Prime Minister Narendra Modi call for cleanliness! 

Tell me, are we so dirty a people that we cant keep ourselves clean? And if we can keep ourselves clean why cant we keep our nation clean? We require Narendra Modi for this? Shame on us! Cant we hold onto our urine for 15 minutes while we find a loo? Cant you take a day’s leave from your company to take out a driving licence the right way? I could go on and on! As I said, shame on us! 



In Conclusion


These four factors – Corruption, Incompetence, Attitude and Lack Of A Community Feeling are what I call The Axis Of Evil. It is painfully clear that these 4 habits are indeed Evil in the secondary meaning of the term. These are what have the potential to lead India to misfortune, give India an unpleasant name, are bad, are blameworthy, and make us infamous as a nation. Truly and verily, The Axis Of Evil. 

And, in at least one case, it is also Evil in the primary sense of the term : corruption, which can and does cause serious damage to the nation as a whole and to its people. Taking a bribe from a criminal is pure evil; ignoring money laundering is also evil; turning a blind eye to harmful deeds which lead to losses to millions of people is also pure Evil. Verily, The Axis Of Evil In Contemporary Indian Society – and these are the habits we need to change; and without the help of Mr Narendra Modi, who is frankly not there to help us tend to our bad habits! He is here to run the country, let him do that… let us focus on smashing this Axis Of Evil from all walks of our lives…

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Or Clean India – Does It Meet The Problem?

Published October 2, 2014 by vishalvkale

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, just launched by our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi is the in thing nowadays; everyone – well, almost – is interested and full of praise for this effort, which is beyond even a shade of doubt a very praiseworthy initiative as  such. People are, for the first time,  talking about cleanliness, about dustbins, about Civic Sense & about presenting a clean India. Our PM makes no bones about this – it is a long term initiative, and will require consistent effort and follow-ups for it to be successful. 

He is the second celebrity personality to endorse a clean India campaign, and the first person from the echelons of power. The first was, of course, Aamir Khan with his incredible India campaign of a few years ago. Viewed as a standalone effort, this current campaign is most welcome, and highly praiseworthy. We are indeed lucky to have someone at the level of the PM drive this. He has got the attention of the nation; everyone in the middle class at least seems to be in on it.

But look a little deeper – not at the PM, or his highly noteworthy initiative, but at the system and at your own selves. I respectfully submit that there is precisely nothing to be glad about, or be excited about. I equally respectfully submit that it is a matter of national shame, not something to gloat about. It is not a flippant matter; it cuts to  the core of our being, our habits, our attitude. Cleanliness has been called next to godliness in English; you dont pray to God without bathing and wearing fresh clean clothes even in Sanaatan Dharm {Hinduism}. Further, there are 2 aspects to this – the personal aspect and the system aspect, as I observed above.



THE PERSONAL ASPECT

In light of the above, if someone like Narendra Modi – who should be focusing on the economy, the Armed Forces, and other major aspecs – is giving his valuable time to it, then it is both a complete waste of time, as well as a deeply disturbing act that should cause our heads to hang in shame, not burst in joy and partake in flippant & senseless Whatsapp pledges to keep the nation clean! 

Do you really require the Prime Minister of your country to tell you keep your nation clean? Do you really require to be told to throw things in dustbins? Do you really require to be told to keep your city clean, not throw waste outside your home? Do you really need to be told to throw the waste inside the dustbin, not in its general direction? You dont clutter your home – then, in that case, if you throw garbage on the road, what does this behaviour say about you as a person? And, if you keep your home and the elegant hotels and cinemas you visit clean, why cant you keep your nation clean? This, Ladies and Gentlemen {including people of my family, who will read this on the Whatsapp groups}, makes you nothing but hypocrites. This is textbook hypocrisy. AND, if you require a person at the level of the PM for a reminder, then my friends, you are selfish as well as hypocrites. 

If I can carry an empty bottle all the way from Mumbra to Chinchpokli – some 40 Kms, get down from the train, walk to the dustbin, and throw it – why cant you? If I can carry a paper wrapper for my samosas all the way from Kalyan to Chinchpokli – 54 Kms, get down from the train, walk to the dustbin, and throw it – why cant you? Making senseless Whatsapp pledges, praising Modiji, idolising him does not make India clean, Sir and Madames / Madamoiselles! Change your attitude towards India, be selfless, view it as your home, and internalise cleanliness. 

You know something – I have just proved my own hypocrisy. You see, even I can recall a couple of instances when I have thrown an empty mineral water bottle after crushing it. But at least, I have the courage to own up to it in written for all the public to read it. At least I have been trying – for some several years now – to not clutter up my nation. I,  at least, have  been making a willing, conscious effort to clean  up my act. I, at least, do not want, need or require a Mr Narendra Modi to come and remind me to be clean! I much rather prefer that he runs my nation, and not sweep it! Shame on you, everyone! Shame on all of us!



THE SYSTEM PROBLEM

The scene : Kalyan Station. Location – just outside the Railway Station. Very near to 2 temples, two eateries. A huge pile of trash, rotting and stinking. This was the regular scene for every single day till the day I left Kalyan in September of this  year. Why isnt this clean, despite there being a municipal authority whose task it is to clean it up? Why do I, a Citizen, a tax-payer have to bear with the filth and the rot?

Similar scenes of neglect can be spotted across the length and breadth of India. Clean India requires an efficient and functioning garbage collection and disposal system. It requires a network of public facilities like dustbins, urinals etc. It requires a functioning and diligent municipal and governmental machinery in each and every state, district, tehsil, taluka and pargana of the nation. Do we have that? Far too obviously, we dont. 

What is this Government doing to clean up the act of the various State and Central Government bodies that we interact with daily? What is it doing to ensure that public servant get sincere and do their tasks? Please keep in mind that ensuring timely office attendance alone does not ensure that the tasks get done. What is it doing to ensure that Garbage collection will happen daily from every locality? If not daily, then at least on alternate days? 

Simply cleaning up the streets once is not the answer. What happens to the waste after that? Is there a cohesive action plan to deal with this waste on a regular basis? Is there an action plan to ensure that the people who are responsible for this do their duties? That they dont collect the trash and create a stinking heap somewhere in public? That the  garbage vehicle come regularly, and dumps the trash not in the street, but in a landfill? Where is the plan? I  cant see any!



IN SUMMARY

But, of course, people will say give NaMo time. He is new, he is fresh, at least he is trying, you cant judge in 120 days etc. Does this mean that no administrative reforms will get attended to? How will he change the system? Has anyone taken the trouble to ask NaMo? If not, then why not? Does it not concern us? So tell me, does this adulation mean that I cant even question the adequacy of the actions of my own Prime Minister? Is this the way Democracy is supposed to function? Does this mean that I cant even point out where his action may not prove to be enough and sufficient? Dont I have that Democratic Right?

Frankly, we are a people who throw bottles, wrappers, other waste on the roads, we spit pan on the road, we urinate anywhere we damn well please, ignore the non-performance of the Governmental staff {but that is another story, so I shall let it pass here},  and then take pledges for cleanliness! There is no need for pledges; just stop spitting, throwing waste, urinating in the open. 

It is possible – I did it. I was just like you all once in the not-too-distant past; I still am like you – but only occasionally. For me, the task is to move from 98% to 100%. And for that, I dont want, need or require a pledge, or indeed Narendra Modi. I know I have to do it, it is my home, my country, my nation. It is my duty as a citizen of India, my lovely India!

And if we require a person of the calibre of the PM to waste his time on this, shame on us! Especially since we  have a highly efficient person like Narendra Modi1. My very dear countrymen, we are all wasting his time as well as the nation’s time by involving such an august personality in such a frivolous exercise, time which could have been more productively used elsewhere! Shame on all of us!