Friday, September 21, 2012

BANDHS and PROTESTS

Bharat bandh against price hike and FDI and numerous other problems? Ugh! How does a bandh solve all these problems. You'll tell me it's not meant to solve problems but it is a mark of protest against central government decisions.

Fine, you protest but at least let me do my bit. Your protest means burning tires, breaking window panes of cars and other big vehicles, hitting people on bikes or puncturing them. You think these are rich people and they should suffer for being rich! But what about the poor rickshaw puller and autowallahs? Why do you target them?

Ah! you have no answer. The poor person may have earned a dime or two on this particular day but your bandh leaves them poorer!

Yesterday a bandh was called by the NDA and other opposition parties. As luck would have it, I was out travelling. At places scenes of burning tyres greeted us, crowds looming with 'lathis' in their hands forcing people to go back. Whats interesting is the equation in the crowd: young men and kids apparent that they came from very poor background (the lack of clothes said it all) but wrestling hard on the streets. I live in a state ruled by the NDA and its alliance parties. The government is supporting the bandh -  no police any where on the streets! I wish the same government had ordered the closure of all government institutions which would have made the government employees easily support the bandh by staying at home and would also have been a mark of protest against the action of the central government.

But the government does no such thing. All employees are expected to report for duty, or lose a CL. How does an employee in such conditions get to the work place. Private vehicle good but what about those who do not have private vehicles and do not want to waste their CL unnecessarily?

It's time to 'rethink' Gandhi's non-cooperation. People talk of violent non-cooperation and of Gandhi in the same breath. Time to change, time to think and rethink and work out new strategies........

Who am I?

WHO AM I? This is one of the most important and weirdest question that comes up daily. I have a passport and  a voters' id and numerous documents which list the names of my parents, husband, my address, occupation and other necessary details. But is that what I am?

I have been thinking on these lines since my visit to the Passport Seva Kendra, Patna yesterday. When I was sent to meet an official, I found the entire place excited and no one was at his/her desk. Upon asking I was informed that they had 'caught' a TERRORIST.

Wow, a terrorist! I was pretty excited. Further questioning brought forth the following information: The TERRORIST was a BANGLADESHI. This information was interpreted by the guards and other staff as: ALL BANGLADESHIS are TERRORISTS!

Who will now reason with people who have such a line of thought? When I told that guard that he shouldn't club all BANGLADESHIS as terrorists, he said," Madam, he didn't have any id." My point is why would a  terrorist come to get a passport and that too at the passport sewa kendra. He would already have got one made by underhand means. Secondly, there are so many people on the streets who have no id proof telling us that they are Indian citizens. Should we class them as 'TERRORISTS'?

We love this word so much that we use it unnecessarily and create further chasms in society at large. I hope we seriously understand who's who before LABELLING people! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Good morning Patna!

I am democracy and I appear at various times like the General elections, the state elections and election to local bodies. People remember me in various ways and one is through the patriotic songs. This time I have again appeared in this extremely hot weather. I am trying to observe how campaigns are organised for electing representatives to local bodies. Outlined here are my observations:

 With the temperatures soaring this summer, political fever is also on the rise. The reason is the Municipal elections in in Patna and in the state as a whole. The profile of the candidates is pretty interesting and so is their fervor in asking for votes. From one auto comes the tune; ऐ मेरे वतन के लोगों ज़रा आँख में भर लो पानी .....I can understand the eyes getting watery due to the heat and sweat but why should I fill my eyes with water for this candidate? What act of martyrdom has she/he committed for the locals? Yeah one may say the candidate has taken a huge risk at being corrupt. S/he has had to show to the public that a lane has been constructed or a hand pump fixed and has also tried to make money while getting these things done. That's one big act of martyrdom.

On another auto one finds the following:न जात पर , न पात पर , वोते दीजिये कप प्लेट छाप पर ....Nice slogan which rises above caste lines but when it comes to getting work done, the eligibility criteria is nothing but 'CASTE'. Poor cup and plate. They too must be thinking how innovative the candidate is. I am surprised at the symbols each candidate has been allotted: pressure cooker, ceiling fan etc. May be I will get to witness a pressure cooker scam, if I am lucky!

Interestingly there are wards reserved for women. Someone asks for vote in the name of her husband. People are exhorted to remember the good deeds of the candidate's husband and cast vote for her as payment for those good deeds. If someone is fighting for re-election, s/he asks the people for vote as a payment for the work they have done during their tenure in office.

The handbills are very interestingly designed. The candidate stares from the front cover with folded hands and demure look in the eyes - the look will certainly change once the candidate gets in office! Then comes the long list of the issues on which the candidate voiced his opinion or raised them for discussion and action when in office. After that comes the long list of work undertaken successfully...a hand pump at Location X, a lane made 'pucca' next to the house of so and so etc.

While these are the obvious things which happen in campaigning, there are other aspects like daily parties for the supporters which include nothing but non-veg. and drinks. This expenditure adds to the qualification of the candidate. Without good food one doesn't get followers and one needs followers to do a door-to-door campaigning. And to think there are so many unfed mouths on the streets!

Thankfully the elections are on May 17th 2012. Whether things change or do not change, at least noise pollution will be reduced considerably and I can sleep till 15th august 2012 for the patriotic songs to re-appear on the scene! It seems I will live long in this country!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Calling Toll free?

We are surrounded with Toll Free numbers. all service providers have one be it the banks, cell phone companies, online shopping forums etc. We, as customers feel happy that we'll get quick assistance in case of difficulties or confusions and our grievances will be easily redressed.
Well calling on these numbers may be free of charge but we forget that our time is charged. And I had to face this problem last week. I called the toll free number of a public sector bank. After choosing numerous options and giving all kinds of details, I get to choose the option to speak to a customer care agent. I chose that option and then comes the message: All our customer care agents are busy. Your call will be attended in 38 minutes 40 seconds. I was shocked and couldn't believe my ears. My husband too thought I had made a mistake and asked me to put the phone in speaker mode. When the same message was repeated, we realized my ears were working properly. I was aghast. I didn't want to disconnect and go through the whole process again.
The phone was left in the speaker mode and we decided to do our work. After 5 minutes came the same message but now the waiting time was 28 minutes. I was happy thinking that finally things seemed to be moving. Suddenly my daughter was hungry. The waiting time was still 28 minutes. I happily fed her. Even her nappy was changed. all this took 15 minutes but the waiting time was still 28 minutes.
Then comes the maid. I explain the things that she has to do. The waiting time now changes to 21 minutes. and on goes the process till it's 1 minute 6 seconds. And this waiting time continues for the next 10-12 minutes. Luckily the call didn't get disconnected at any point. Finally I get a human voice to speak to. and thankfully it was a sane person who solved my problem easily.
After completing the call, I took a look at the call duration: It showed more than an hour!
Ah..toll free numbers...there is no money involved but the time costs are something we forget to mention!