Friday, November 27, 2009

Simple words; Thank you & Please do beget us a smile.

Civic sense, or rather the lack of it, is and has been widely discussed, argued in India. Most Indians are indifferent if not ignorant of civic sense. This attitude is prevalent across all sections of society. Indians today are focused on their personal goals, civic sense as an ethic is a non issue.

This attitude is causing harm and could be far more damaging than we can imagine. Civic sense has dropped to an all-time low in recent years, as is rather obvious from the current state of society. Let's see what people and specifically HR professional and corporate can do to curb this downswing.

What constitutes Civic Sense?

Stupid question! Right we all know what is “Civic sense”. It is consideration an unspoken norms of society consideration for fellow human being. It is a misconception that civic sense is just about keeping the roads, streets and public property clean. Civic sense constitutes; living within the laws of the land, maintaining decorum in public places. Foreign countries function in a smooth manner because of the strong civic sense amongst its people.

With the exception of initial lessons in school, not a lot of attention is given to civic behaviour. In our homes we do not teach our children about the importance of civic sense and how it could make a difference to the country as well as the quality of their lives.

Why is Civic Sense important?

Constant cacophony on the streets due to blaring horns of the motor vehicles, vandalism, racism, road rage etc. are all examples of lack of civic sense. People have become intolerant of each other, of other's cultures, backgrounds, etc. India is a collage of diverse people and the need of the hour is general civic sense. It is not uncommon to read or hear about communal friction. Even living in the city has become difficult because people have no consideration whatsoever for fellow dwellers.

Absence of civic sense in a society generates untold problems. Disregard for the law is a primary cause for lack of civic sense. A person who has high civic values does not resort to shortcuts and unethical practices to achieve his goals. Being unethical in daily activities does not benefit anyone, this behaviour lead to a copy cat action by other members of society. Ultimately, the situation has been reached today that it is unacceptable to the very person who indulges in this unethical way of life. Have we reached the point of no return or there is still a glimmer of hope. What can be done to restore it?

We are perceived as spiritual and religious society. Personal hygiene and cleanliness of our homes is mandated and rigorously observed. Then how is it that we have so much of filth and grime, spit marks, urine, vulgar graffiti, random garbage and overflowing sewers at every nook and corner of India.

NO city in this country has managed to fight this menace. Convenient to point the finger towards the authorities, the people must first question themselves and their own sense of responsibility and duty to civic living. Dirty Roads exist not because they were not cleaned, but because we made them dirty. Being inconsiderate towards fellow society members will rebound at us. We have to be socially mature and considerate when it comes to situations in public.

This unacceptable state of the cities should make us look at ourselves and question our way of life; it exists only because everybody does it. Using 'everybody does it' is an excuse and only an excuse. In India, even prominent personalities indulge in proud displays of lack of civic sense. Take for example, ministers who delay planes with complete disregard for other passengers or the person who interrupts the salesperson attending to you. How many times it have you been bumped into by a stranger on the road and he/she has nonchalantly walked on without a break in the stride or a simply “Sorry” was it so difficult to utter this word? No is the answer. It is matter of civic sense or lack of it that generates a response. Is it difficult for a country to change its mindset? I do not think so. After all did the corporate world not hire consultants to appraise and inculcate the etiquettes that were need in the people going overseas to represent their respective organizations! Inculcating the importance and value of civic sense should be given priority by corporate India and the Human Resource departments should be tasked for it.

Less stressed out employees will lead to higher efficiencies. Disciplined driving on the road will bring down travel time, fuel cost, pollution levels and noise levels. Which will ultimately, translate into lower levels of stress.

Question: Is it desirable and feasible to entrust the HRD of every large and small enterprise in this country with this responsibility?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Has anything changed after 26/11/2008

One year later! How do I feel? Betrayed, helpless, vulnerable, hopeless! Yes all these emotions are true and part of me. Nothing has changed, the Government is still moving as directionless as it has always been.

The outward calm is deceptive. We are just as angry, hurt and outraged even after one year. The most significant aspect of 26/11/2008 was that the Phantom had come alive amidst us in flesh and blood and was causing mayhem at will.

His choice of route was audacious yet predictable, since this was where he presumed was least likely to be detected and apprehended. Previously IEDs were the favored mode of attack, the political parties, twisted facts, painted them in suitable colors, shades which we were compelled to accept, since there was no counter argument that we could have made to the thesis presented.

The outrage and frustration was that our nation had been attacked in a commando style operation. Our reaction was not in keeping with the gravity of the situation. We were facing systemic shortcoming and comparing those with the large retinue of men clad in black, armed to teeth protecting an elected MP or a MLA. The Aam adami woke up to realize the false hood that he was important in the scheme of things. He did not count for much he was expendable.

The 5 star hotels are not the preserve of the middle class yet this was the class which was most vocal, enhanced sense of betrayal, inability to contribute and an extended siege added to a sense of vulnerability as also an acute awareness that terrorism had been upgraded qualitatively in terms of target selections, man power employed and the duration. If he was fortunate not be a victim this time, he had no guarantee that next time he would be equally lucky. Our previous experience of collecting body parts and ferrying the injured to hospitals for a couple of hours after every explosion, this attack did not follow the set pattern, the future became absolutely uncertain, with nothing on the horizon to occupy ourselves with, which could help us to cover our grief and helplessness.

The system is rotten to the core, disenchantment with the political parties is a fact, the change can only come about, if and when we attack the fiefdoms that have been carved out across the country, urban areas do not and cannot dent the fortunes of the political parties enough to unseat them from power, since the larger share of seats are in the rural areas.

Country with the 3rd largest Army in the world, has been made to surrender its right to retaliate and exact a price for the attack on its sovereignty. The space between war at one end and composite dialogue at the opposite end of the spectrum, offers many other options which have not been explored leave alone being implemented. The overeager and prompt acceptance of the terrorist being “Non State Actors” flies in the face of logic.

The confused state of the government in the immediate aftermath of the attack did nothing to reassure the population of this country. If it was all options open one moment, the next was war is not an option and yet in the following breath we were back to the former.

A nation of vast resource and potential, which has pretensions of marching towards a global power Status, is being perceived as a pygmy state by the neighbors and the world at large.

No purposeful, focused investigation was done, lest it bring forth awkward questions, leading to adverse electoral results in the General Elections which were due in May 2009.

Hurried closer was need of the hour, which was accomplished by projecting the capture of 1 terrorist alive in the course of the attack. This became the symbol of a strong resolute government at the centre, sufficient to ensure victory in the Elections. All lacunae were papered over, having secured the mandate from the people this was a convenient stick to beat anyone and everyone who dared to questioned the failures and the inept handling of the crisis on 26/11/2008.

Nothing has changed on the ground, accountability is still missing! The cry for justice is getting louder by the day. Due heed should be paid to this cry, the society needs it urgently. The framers of laws must also be seen to be within the ambit of the same laws.

Updated on 26th Nov 2013

My Twitter coverage of the 26/11 attacks Sachin Kalbag

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Indians responsible for the rot in democracy

09th Nov 2009. There were three significant incidents which occurred, all three were connected to the politicians of India. The new depths that this class is discovering on an almost daily basis, speak volumes of their ability to ignore propriety in public life, offer inane and insensitive arguments, subvert, tarnish and diminish what ever they touch other than their personal assets, which multiply @ of Mach 7 or more.
We had just about digested the news that Mr. R.R. Patil re-appointed as the Home Minister in Maharashtra, he had done a wonderful job during terror strike on Nov 26th 2008. After all did he not make light of this attack, as a minor incident in a major metropolis of India, we should learn to live with it. 190 lives lost, no consequence we are a nation of billion plus, few lives lost should not galvanize or impel us to rile the political class or demand upgrading of security systems and equipment. The man was removed from this very post on 1st Dec 2008, what has changed now that the person in question is back at the helm of the same ministry. Did the political bosses make a wrong decision on 1st Dec 2008 or is it now? Guess both premise are wrong, the fact of the matter is new mandate has washed away all previous sins. We the electorate, have pardoned all the acts of omission and commission by re-electing the same persons. Who should bear the burden of this act? Naturally, we the people of Maharashtra. We had the opportunity and the choice we were decisive in our action, unlike the politicians. Let us wait for our fortunes to multiply at a similar rate as do those of the political class.
Manu Sharma out on parole! so what? Convicts are entitled to parole, victims have no such rights. We are a democratic country with well defined laws and laid down procedures to be followed. The catch is, the foot note that is appended to each and every law “Except the framers” We do claim that rule of law is prevalent in India and often hear “Law shall take it own course”. Travesty of this statement is the common man suffers all his life for want of action, the rich and famous escape the long arms of law for the rest of their life for the same want of action. Law shall take it own course, please do explain which is this course, that will ensure justice to the common citizen in this country.The CM of Delhi went to great lengths to explain the how the system works, yet she did not explain how on earth the basis of parole for a murder convict could be to attend to his Business needs. Bizarre that the state! Should be more concerned about the health of the convict’s business? rather than the sentence that he must undergo, for a heinous crime such as murder. Here again the politician cannot be held accountable, the people of Delhi after all re-elected the same government for the 3rd time in succession, so all previous sins were washed away and a fresh start.
What transpired in the late afternoon in the Maharashtra State Assembly, is best described as “Mobocracy” democracy is all about debate and reaching consensus. This was all about physical violence and intimidation. Guess what we the people are again the culprits we had the opportunity, we exercised it after due diligence and gave our verdict in favor of what we witnessed in the state assembly. The politicians are not to be blamed after all one set was engaged in protecting the Marathi Pride and Culture, the other taking oath in Hindi which is permitted under the constitution of India, was demeaning the Marathi Pride and Culture. India seems to be passing thru a period of relative calm and hence the need for excitement, what could be better after the fatwas against the national song “Vande Mataram”. A bit of indulgence in linguistic chauvinism and divide the country along those lines after all the division along religious lines is not offering the high returns that one used to witness previously. The states in India were demarcated linguistically. The trend is dangerous, disintegration of the country is a possibility that cannot be ignored. After all equal and opposite reaction, a law from Physics, would come into play sooner than later. Is suspension of 4 MLA of MNS for 4 years sufficient?
The common thread that has run thru all the three events is the role of the political class. The ultimate responsibility can only be laid at the door step of the people since it is us who elect these individuals repeatedly to govern, that mandate is conveniently transformed into an agreement to Rule us with no accountability on their part. Suffering is our share of the deal.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Religion or Nation First

The suggestion or a premise that singing of Vande Mataram would amount to affirming ones patriotism, conversely lack of it, is ludicrous and absurd.

What was the purpose of the fatwa? If it was to object the coercion or compulsion to sing the national song, then what is being done, is exactly the same, coercion is employed prohibiting a section of the Indian society from singing the national song. If the former is unacceptable, is communal, how on earth can the latter be acceptable and secular.

However there are larger points which need to be visited and should not be glossed over in our usual hope this will fade away. The benevolent attitude, of the Union Government, the accompanying pontification is a cause for serious concern.

A fatwa in the presence of ¼ to ½ a million Indians of common faith, carrying the message back to a nuclear family of 4 at the very minimum we are looking at a million plus people who receive the message first hand, the Geometric Progression impact would be much larger.

Was this an aggressive assertion of religious identity, and ability to influence elections or change the course of history of this Nation!

Has India not paid a heavy price or do the clerics feel cost has not been paid in full and more is due.
Contentious issues raised by the minorities are secular, become communal when raised by the majority community.

1. Was there a tacit nod from the Union Government, the Congress party to exhume this issue after nearly 5 decades?
2. Should sub identities over ride Nationality?
3. What does secularism mean?
4. Why the need for a religious identity by a minority which is the largest group?
5. Was this done to provoke an aggressive and opposite reaction from the majority?
6. How should the common man answer to his young ones who are the future of this country what comes first Religion or Nation!
7. Does the Constitution permit this Fatwa, opinion, decree or edict what ever one may wish to call it!
8. Would it be acceptable to the Union Government if some Sadhus and Sants gave a clarion call for construction of a temple or prohibiting an act or performance to the member of their community?
9. Where is all this going to end and when?
10. When are we going to activate the process of healing?
11. Winning election and garnering votes more important than unity of this Nation.

The door has been prized open for further such fatwas towards other national symbols, should this not be nipped now, the price exacted could be far heavier. What would the Government do incase this religious group was to demand that the passports issued to them should be written in Urdu?

Did the very Congress perform its duty of protecting the minority group in 1984 when there were large scale killings on the street of Delhi between 1st to the 3rd of Nov? Is this duty enshrined in the constitution of India? What are the duties of the minorities? Where are they enumerated?

Those who are in a position to influence their co-religionists would serve them and the Nation by adopting a positive approach towards, empowering the people thru education, employment, tolerance and providing space for other religions by engaging in a constructive dialogue to overcome all out standing contentious issues.

Needless to say we are a large family of diverse religion, languages etc etc, we are also civilized, capable of discussing and resolving matters.

I welcome a debate and discussion on this…As always, please keep your tone civil, your language polite…no sweeping generalisations please and no personal abuse.  Thank you.