Tuesday, September 22, 2009
2. Even though the train is reported late by almost an hour, not even an iota of stress is visible on the faces of the prospective passengers-daily wage earners, Govt.servants, happy go lucky kind of students, power showing cops and responsible looking old couples. They appear enjoying this state of affairs in their own unique ways.
3. When the arrival of train became imminent, hectic pace of activity gets generated. As it came to a screeching halt, ‘rush-ins’ and ‘push-ups’ materialise on the expected lines. Once inside the crowded compartment, my instinct for survival is clearly spelt out. Afterall, I was in a journey mode for good fourteen hours. I was fortunate in grabbing a portion of an empty upper berth. Unlike my fellow passengers in the previous train, the ‘neighbours’ over here look to be spoit brats of the big shots or shall we call them Noveau rich ?.Needless to say, each one was fiddling with the latest Nokia mobile.
Within a few minutes I could confirm their fast, flexible and furious I.T. connections.
4. While the behaviour pattern of a middle aged and a young couple could be termed fairly decent and tolerable, the third ‘live-in’ kind of couple began displaying rather shamelessly, bold, beautiful and mischievous “fit for Bedroom” type of antiques at the drop of hat. They were lost, apparently, in their own fairy world, totally oblivious to the presence of the self-proclaimed conscience keepers like me. While some noble and tradition-bound soul attempted to smile, if not frown upon such an open display of emotions, the passengers in general decided to ignore the activity. Who does not relish this type of free bout of entertainment in a slow moving train? When a kissing and tight-hugging scene(straight from New York or Love Aaj Kal) was on the anvil, the unwelcome appearance of a fat and perspiring TTE took place. The bold show soon got transformed into a cold show. Matters became really worse when scores of passengers were found either ticketless or having exceeded the prescribed limits of a particular length of journey.
5. Having shown my ticket with a confident and beaming look, I look forward to ease myself. I do not have courage to undertake any discharge on seeing the filthy state of affairs of the Loo. Absence of water at the wash-basin adds to my woes. Nevertheless, sipping cups of tea and quietly breathing fresh air from the lush green jungles, in a standing posture near the gate, I ultimately manage to reach Gomoh.
6. Thanks to the misguidance of one of the irresponsible railway employees, I am compelled to go up and come down twice at this historic station, rechristened recently ‘Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Junction.’
7. Finally, one of the Paan-eating mischievous characters shows me the correct way to the make-shift taxi cum bus stand. No sooner than I realize that I was the lone passenger to be ‘catered to’ after the departure of the last train, I am surrounded by a gang of middlemen and drivers. Even though it was fairly early in the July afternoon, I was impelled to think that I had no option but to act according to their dictates pertaining to the high fare of taxi as the only bus plying in this ‘route’ had left for the day. A running non-stop commentary regarding the prevailing Naxal threat in the area further perpetuates the crisis.
8. A timely intervention by the Manager and his helpful colleague of Bank of India, Gomoh saw me in some safe and secure hands. I was left with no alternative but to consent to pay an exorbitant sum of Rs.950/-for a ride to Hazaribagh against the alleged ‘prevailing’ rate of Rs.1100/-.Once inside the comfortable, brand new Ambassador Diesel car, I begin dozing-off. When the car begins zooming off the beautiful highway, a man in his twenties makes an attempt to occupy the front seat. Mohd. Harry, the stylish driver introduces him as his ‘cousin’. I firmly resist and see to it that the fellow does not get entitled to travel with us.
9. The smooth and fast drive through the thick teak forest turns out to be very pleasant. We hardly feel the impact of summer or the humidity of Monsoon in the vicinity of a place called Bagodar, more so, on hearing some nice old hits from the bygone era.
10. The very opening song – ‘Tu Meri Janu hai, Main Tera Dilwar Hoon……………………………..’ from the superhit ‘Hero’ of 1980 reminded me of the innocent and cute charm of Meenakshi Sheshadri and tough and robust look of Jackie Shroff. A few other soothing numbers from the same film and some other chart-busters of that period keep me occupied for the next half an hour.
11. The lunch break at Tatijharia, 35kms short of Hazaribagh was an eye-opener. Before having a sumptuous and appetising lunch at a Brahmin Dhaba, I did not mind responding to the short call of nature in the open ‘bathroom’. As per local customs, cool water was poured over my hands from a sparkling Lota, followed by the free service of a cotton gamcha to enable me to wipe my face. I was simply amazed on being offered five types of green vegetables, a katori of dal, unlimited numbers of chapatis and a handful of rice for just Rs.18/-. More than low rates, it was the warmth of the bearer and his Dhoti clad master, which won my heart. While departing, I was advised to purchase some hot gulab jamuns. I had to politely decline, as the sweetmeat may not have survived for another week or so.
12. Back on the road, a few more pleasant songs from ‘box-office hits’ prevented me from taking a nap. The villages of Daru,Meru,Amritnagar,Singhani,Lakhe and Korrah look truly transformed and modern. The first view of the outskirts of Hazaribagh is possible as soon as the historic Canery Hill appears on to my right. It was the place that had witnessed the honeymoon of P.M. and S.M. in the early sixties of the twentieth century. Time and tide wait for none.They did not wait for him. They simply flew. Flew with a supersonic speed. P.M., after tasting considerable success, faded with the passage of time. His friends and well-wishers forgot him, sooner than expected. He was destined to confront economic hardships following his decision to give up a government job to explore the ‘green pastures’ of the then booming coal mine industry. He was misled by his own ‘firm’ calculations.
13. Instead of being a leader of his charming family, he soon became a disgruntled follower of his innocent, teenaged off springs. A decision of not giving up smoking and drinks led to the gradual loss of his strength and youth. It ultimately was instrumental in his withdrawal from the main team events. Instead of seeing the budding football talents (including his youngest child) to sprout and grow, he became a sort of vegetable. Frequent trips to Ranchi to seek specialized medical treatment could not also prevent him from further onslaughts.
14. His ‘D’ day came on 29th June 2009, when doctors advised his family members to take him back to his place, wherein not only he had learnt the A B C of football, but he also went on to play at the state level championships. Purely by grace of God, he survived for another three days. The miracle of Homeopathic medicine too contributed positively. A real life drama akin to the closing sequence of the popular Hindi film-‘Anand’ was enacted. He was in a position to regain some strength, gulp liquid food and speak to near and dear ones. I was lucky too to converse with him for a while on phone in the evening of 30th June.
15. On 1st July, the morning and afternoon gave him a ray of hope. The onset of darkness, however, proved fatal. He seemed to have slipped into a kind of ‘end approaching silence’. Though his eating improved, he could hardly utter a word. He left for his heavenly abode at 2.45 P.M. in the afternoon of 2nd July. While every available relative offered him spoons of water as an end heralding gesture, he surrendered, and rightly so, in the most comfortable and secure lap of his life companion. While some new P.M’s and S.M’s were thronging the cool confines of the Canery Hill, the end came slowly but painfully for P.M. Death is a harsh but hard reality. Everyone has to, or is compelled to believe it.
16. Thinking of all this, I gather enough courage to enter the abode of now “late” Phat Mama. His last few incomprehensible words spoken in the evening of 30th June still echo distinctly into my ears. True to my nature, I do not break nor do I lose heart. I meet Guria, Sonia, Nitin and Jeetu first. Thereafter, I spot Shiela Mami in a semi-dark corner of the house. Expectedly, tears begin rolling down her cheeks. I bow and hold her affectionately. Console her profusely. What else could I do in this hour of grief? Her cheerful and once vibrant life had come to a standstill. She was perhaps destined not to move on the main line any longer. Rather, she was to drift towards the side lines of life as per our wretched Hindu customs.
17. We should see to it that such fine persons are not ignored and confined to the dustbins of history. They were not to be loose-shunted. However, thanks to the possible preference and tantrums of her immediate relatives, life as a low profile person in a slow motion should be a safer course of action for her.
18. I whisper all this into my own tired ears while hitting the pillow in the erstwhile drawing room of Chotka Mama. Before closing my eye-lids, I stare at his garlanded portrait. Thereafter, I fold my hands to seek his blessings to take note of the hard fact that two more of his brothers and a sister-in-law had bid farewell to the mystical world in quick succession to qualify to give him company in heaven.
19. The next morning, snow-white Seine greets me through his wagging tail. Behind him is Babli, the epitome of selfless service. As expected, she is gracefully holding a glass of fresh, sparkling water for me. One person has departed, others have to carry forward the journey of life. Perhaps, she reminds me of that. While looking at the rising Sun, I see a glimmer of HOPE.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Health is supposed to be the key factor when it comes to sustenance and survival of a person. Not everyone is fortunate to possess sound health. It has been noticed that general well being of those below poverty line is not a cause of concern but the affluent lot invariably suffer from one disease or the other. When we have financial security, we do not attempt to solve even minor health irritants with the help of naturopathy our age old practices. Rather, we make a compulsive beeline before a physician at the drop of hat. It inflates our expenditure apart from adding to the stress and mistrust among near and dear ones.
Once in a blue moon, however, the almighty blesses a hand to mouth person as well with an infant with unusual or wrongly placed organs. They are left with no option but to rush to centres of medical excellence, located miles away from their dwelling units. Upon ensuring a referral after running from pillar to post, long and treacherous journey comes in stride, followed by groping in dark in a vast urban conglomeration, systematically infested with touts, brokers and quacks.
By the time the correct specialist or surgeon is located and approached, either the case is complicated beyond redemption or the patient breaths his last. There are few fortunate ones, like Chander Majhi, a labourer from Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
His baby boy was born with a rare disorder called Septicemia in the last week of August 09. In addition to his heart completely jutting outside the chest, the vital thymus gland, providing immunity for the first five years, was missing. The unfortunate gift of God too had under-developed lungs and that there was no cavity for heart. This new born baby with complete thoracic Ectopia Cordis and no protective lining for the heart, was destined to live with zero immunity, but for rare surgical intervention lasting three and a half hours by Dr. A.K. Bisoi, Paediatric Cardiac Surgeon of AIIMS, assisted by seven of his colleagues.
The tiny heart of the baby literally hanging outside and pumping furiously, was exposed to germ laden air before the outstanding surgeons initiated the unprecedented rescue operation. His diaphragm was mobilized to the left by almost sixty degrees anterior followed by gentle pushing of other vital organs, such as, lungs and liver to create adequate space. Then his ‘robust’ heart was carefully placed partly in heart cavity and partly in the cavity of the stomach. While this unusual shifting was in the process, nothing else was reportedly rotated or twisted.
It is for the first time in the world that someone survived a highly complicated beating heart surgery of this kind. Without resorting to the suspension of his essential body functions like brain and heart, the unnamed baby continues to be on the smooth, yet, critical path of recovery.
At a time when his condition is being closely monitored and that every moment appears crucial, let us give a big hand to Dr. Bisoi’s exemplary team in particular and the AIIMS in general for once again proving to the humanity that the downtrodden can look up to a Government run hospital for a world class treatment at a negligible cost.
Such referral institutes of excellence, nonetheless, need to carry out a cleaning operation both in terms of regulating manpower and improving the overall look and atmosphere. A large number of patients would continue to throng mainly those, offering a ray of hope amidst a situation of grief and uncertainty. A bout of sustained positive projection can perhaps do wonders to lift the sagging image of such actual public philanthropic units as opposed to the plethora of bye-pass and other factories mushrooming shamelessly in the capital.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
(2) If we are to elaborate further, corruption to this author means deviation or distortion from an established, expected or a desirable path. Basically, he would like to sound normative while making an attempt to analyse an inseparable dragon of this sort. Meaning thereby, what ought to be, becomes infructuous vis-à-vis what it is. This is why it becomes a difficult, if not impossible proposition to detect and pinpoint such an unfair means.
(3) It is said that corruption has become a non-issue. A thinking on these lines perhaps does not mean that one is in favour of corruption. It also refers to a kind of, or apparent helplessness about this all pervading, monstrous and cancerous malaise.
(4) Corruption, per se, may not only refer to a practice of giving and accepting money for a normal, day to day work. It also has a dangerous combination of cash as well as kind. In addition, there may be, or there are individuals, who neither take cash nor allow any perceptible flow of goods into their household but they may resort to a corrupt means of invisible kind. Still there are people who are different from the lot described. Such persons, by their ‘honest’ looking deeds may guarantee inputs in cash or kind to others, thus ensuring for themselves, a position or a rank not normally possible to get through the fair means. Besides, they also succeed to build a good, enduring and usable image.
(5) Another group of individuals may not be habitually corrupt but they definitely fall in the category of occasionally corrupt. By these parameters, I suppose, it would perhaps be impossible to locate an extremely fair and honest person. While one is ready to express concern against such an unworthy practice, it would be safe to state that both in developing and developed economies, corruption exists in some form or the other and that it would be difficult, if not impossible to uproot such a perpetual malady. One can, however, always hope to minimise its impact.
(6) If one digs into our glorious history, Kautilya’s Saptanga theory or the theory of seven elements of state threw sufficient light on the conduct of the Amatyas (encompassing the Ministers and the Officials). They were required to be Dharmopashuddha (morally and ethically pure), Arthopashuddha (honest in financial matters) and Charitropashuddha (of good and pure character). Some other virtues, according to Kautilya, necessary for a person to serve as a state official were- free from all vices, a person of infallible memory, friendly nature, wisdom, patience and endurance.
(7) On the other hand, Ziauddin Barani, a notable historian and political thinker of the Tughluq dynasty opined that the Sultan (king) must rely on the learned, experienced and well-wishing Wazirs (Ministers) and Counsellors. He has prescribed 24 Nasihats (advices) for an ideal Sultan. One of the Nasihats as given in his scholarly work, Fatwa-i-Jahandari, pertains to appointing just, honest, truthful, reliable and intelligent officers. He was of the considered view that the king should appoint officers who do not accept bribes or presents or accede to recommendations and that the revenue collectors will always refrain from misappropriation of revenue.
(8) Generally it is observed that corrupt people are by and large competent and the mere fact that they outnumber the honest, they are not only in a position to survive but they also thrive beyond imagination. When we make a premise of this nature, we do not mean to say that the honest persons are incompetent. But it is also a fact that those having an unusual mix of integrity and competence, by and large, are troubled and harassed in the most inconceivable ways.
(9) Apart from the mental and semi-physical torture, these ‘marginals’ are, many a time, denied access to the normal facilities, which may appear privileges or perks in the eyes of the ‘mainliners’. This is why, it is often said, good is bad in government or public domain and that rating such as very good and outstanding are more often than not managed by unfair means.
(10) It may not be out of place to mention the timely observations of the Supreme Court in Dev Dutt vs. Union of India & Others (2008,AIR,2513). The apex court ruled that “………………………………………higher posts which are in a pyramidical structure, where often the principle of elimination is followed in selection for promotion, and even a single entry can destroy the career of an officer which has otherwise being outstanding throughout. This often results in grave injustice and heart-burning, and may shatter the morale of many good officers who are superseded due to this arbitrariness, while officers of inferior merit may be promoted”.
(11) In bureaucracy, one also comes across a situation, such as, ‘you show me the person, I will show you the rule.’ As a result, rules and regulations are twisted and partially amended or some times changed altogether to suit a vested interest. When these things do not appear helpful, one indulges into a corrupt means by following the ‘safe’ path of interpretation or drawing inference. Also, oft-repeated modus-operandi is to suggest ‘to read between the lines’. Generally, I help you, you help me, kind of ‘brotherly’ phenomenon comes in the way of delivery of fair and impartial stands, decisions and judgements. AND the actually honest, fair, quiet and non-assertive types continue to suffer at the hands of the self proclaimed honest and competent superiors.
(12) Corruption is found in some form or the other in every sphere, in every country and social system. In a developing economy, it takes a manifest shape or face, in the economies of polar opposite scenario, it may be more prevalent but perhaps with a latent face. While the former may see the use of unfair means at every step, in case of the latter, a certain degree of sophistication may act as a cover, though the stakes may be much higher, involving risks of the bigger magnitude.
(13) No wonder, a country like Bangladesh which is at the lowest rung of development, figures right on top when it comes to the menace of corruption. This is despite the stupendous success of the micro-credit phenomenon triggered and guided by the Nobel Laureate, Md. Yunus. India, does not lag behind, either. The Transparency International in its latest release has considered the world’s largest and the most vibrant democracy as the 83rd most corrupt country in the world. This is unfortunately in the backdrop of the unprecedented positive impact of the Right to Information Act and more vigilant consumerism.
(14) While the country has a sizeable chunk of black money and soaring Hawala transactions, $ 1.5 trillion worth of deposit (seven times the size of the union budget) has been reported to be in the safe custody of the banks of Switzerland and other countries since the year 1947. A disclosure to this effect was made by Professor R.Vaidyanathan of IIM, Banglore while delivering the Nani Palkhiwala Memorial Lecture on “Tax Heavens and the Illegal Wealth of India” at Chennai on 29/8/09 (The Hindu, New Delhi, dated 30th August, 2009). Further,our populous country has allegedly lost more than $ 20 billion every year in this way during 2002-06 alone.
(15) Apart from the money that living tax evaders may have kept therein, a large amount cannot be retrieved because those who managed to open such ‘safe’ accounts (presumably by taking undue advantage of our lax tax collection machinery) have died without informing their family or heirs of all relevant details. Needless to say, with the passage of time, the bank in question freezes or swallows such deposit. There is also an apprehension that these tax havens are used as a source of funding for the spying, terrorist, insurgency and other undesirable activities.
(16) The prevailing practice of subsidized food grains, seeds, fertilizers, kerosene oil and other essential items not reaching the intended beneficiaries also causes overwhelming concern, apart from adversely impacting economic growth and giving a set back to the efforts to build a just, fair and equitable society. Also the pitiable and rampant habit of late submission of the progress and utilization certificates, diversion of funds for non-targeted spheres, plea for revised estimates subsequent to time overrun etc go on to consume a large chunk of our scarce resources which can be better utilised in many other priority sectors.
(17) Enough institutional mechanism is available in the country to prevent and check corruption, right from the Vigilance Cells and Anti-Corruption Bureaux at the state level to the Chief Vigilance Officers and the CBI at the Central level. Unfortunately, not all of them perform their tasks as per mandate and not every one is reported above board. In order to plug the loop hole, the central government has recently decided to set up 71 CBI Courts. Expected to function as model courts, these are to hold day to day proceedings and avoid unnecessary adjournments.
(18) After so much of hue and cry, the institution of the Lokayukta has seen the light of the day only in a handful of states and not all of them are in a position to show their teeth. Either they are helpless, or rendered useless by non-cooperative attitude of the government of the day. The preliminary requirement of giving permission to prosecute a public servant takes months and years. The institution of the Lokpal, supposed to cover the PM also has not become a reality despite the frequent confabulations about it right from the date of lifting of the Emergency. In such a dismal scenario, the honest and dedicated officials toil and suffer while the corrupt and the inefficient continue to have a field day. Resultantly, the habit of corruption continues to pose a bigger threat to the country than external aggression or internal disturbance of the kind of the Left Wing Extremism.
(19) Corruption is something that captures the imagination of everyone but very little has been done to ‘catch the big fish’ in the opinion of our simple, learned and honest PM. Addressing the 17th Biennial Conference of the CBI, Anti-Corruption Bureaux and the Vigilance agencies recently, he called upon them to accord priority to the rapid, fair and accurate investigation of corruption in high places. They were expected to act firmly, swiftly and without fear or favour in view of the constitutional and legal protection available to them. He also called upon them to look at themselves critically and introspect deeply to fine tune the functioning of their organisations.
(20) The PM has also gone to the extent of admitting that the fear of harassment and damage to reputation makes the officials unduly timid and slow, thus rendering the whole government machinery ineffectual. Also expeditious conduct of trials was as important as was hastening the pace of the investigations. While on the one hand, one can see a glimmer of hope, on the other, clear sign of desperation is visible at a time when the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has submitted its wide ranging recommendations so that the poor are not disproportionately hurt because of corruption and carelessness.
(21) In addition, the Minister of State for Personnel, Administrative Reforms & PMO, while inaugurating a conference of secretaries of administrative reforms departments of states has also admitted that the Indian bureaucracy is inefficient and corrupt. He seems to have favoured a focused approach to implement the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission within a realistic time frame and also an amendment in the RTI Act with a view to ensure more transparency in public administration. Is it not ironical that the same “inefficient and corrupt” lot is expected to examine the recommendations for improving the efficacy of the system, reduce corruption and ensure transparency?
(22) Similar conduct is expected from the judiciary, if we are to follow the candid and meaningful write up of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer in the Hindu (Dt.31st Aug.2009) on the stalemate over the issue of declaration of assets. According to him, ‘The best judge has nothing to hide and everything to discover without fear or favour and do justice to everyone, be he high or humble, without affection or ill-will’. He goes on to add that the real cause of the pathological arrear syndrome is the absence of accountability and transparency and that creation of more courts would result into more arrears and more lazy judges. To him, ‘one capable judge with sound social philosophy is a better instrument of justice than a dozen mediocre, indolent ignoramuses who will merely add to the adipose of the system.’
(23) The mere fact that the reluctant judges at last gave in to the public pressure pertaining to declarations concerning disclosure of assets and the ruling of the Delhi High Court (The Hindustan Times, New Delhi dated 3rd September 2009) that the judicial power was accountable to the Constitution of India, proves the logic and necessity of transparency in public life. The judgment in question is unprecedented as this is the first time that a High Court has decided on a matter involving the Supreme Court Judges. Thus it has been maintained beyond doubt that the office of the Chief Justice of India did not fall outside the purview of the RTI Act.
(24) The enormous power available to the Judiciary, Revenue collectors, Police, Municipal bodies etc. has not succeeded in reducing the might of the lower level officials bent upon behaving like extortionists rather than protectors and the regulators. The people in general and the captains of the industry in particular too immensely contribute to the mess by showing their ever willingness to pay at every step, while resorting to short cuts and thus undermining the compliance of the rule of law.
(25) The Officers in general not only suck systematically and consistently the mammaries of our welfare state during their long and eventful service career, they also do not refrain from locating and finding a lucrative position in some commission or the ‘public service’ body, subsequent to their superannuation. In this way, the phenomena of dismal performance combined with non-accountability perpetuates at the cost of the paramount interest of the poor, ignorant and toiling masses.
(26) It goes without saying that barely five per cent bureaucrats are honest as on date and that together with another ten per cent of their corrupt, yet efficient brethren, they ensure functioning of the system. Is’nt the time ripe to downsize the bureaucracy and to recognise and motivate the non-descript looking honest, hard working and upright bureaucrats with a view to weed out corruption and complacency?.
(27) One cannot ensure purity in the doldrums of the public domain. But one can always make an attempt to reduce or to minimise the use of unfair means. Or shall we believe an experienced, qualified and non vocal urban housewife when she says ”Corruption will end only when the universe will come to an end. Only God is honest. Everyone else is corrupt”?.