Friday, September 16, 2005

Not all bad

A few months ago, I was added onto the mailing list of this network in Delhi, where members, apparently, are keen on changing the system. On lowering power tariffs, and lobbying for rollbacks. On wiping out corruption. On making us all think laterally.

Now, I don't know what their politics is but I'd take bets on the fact that they're largely middle-class, if not fairly well-off. They're educated and they have net access.

I am not particularly keen on jumping into this particular fray, but I read their mails now and then, in the hope that someone may have something really interesting to say. This is what one particular gentleman recommends:

"...let us take a oath that we will stop working for system right from today.
instead of garao (sic) of politicians we should concentrate on public servants.
See the following Irony
If you are public servants not only you are taked (sic) care in your life but also after life by taking care of your family and children as well and housing and foodany (sic) thing even in most cases telephone or free electricity or railway passes as well.
but you are free man and common citizen you are not even allowed to work freely or start a school or hospital or some other scocial cause work but only hointerences (sic) in form of rules and regulation, forget the loafty Slgans Like Roti Kapara Aur MAnkan (sic) but bebare (sic) if they kew (the public servants) will come and take that away as well.
hencee (sic) start
*Scrap the constitutiom
Garao of dishonest public servants and force them to resign..."

The rest is probably an angry outburst. But 'scrap the constitution'? Where did that one come from?

Incidentally, I've found that going into a sarkaari office is not necessarily an unpleasant experience, even for the 'free man and common citizen'.

I had been postponing applying for a PAN card for some time now, and when I absolutely HAD to, I was carrying a little extra cash... I was so sure I'd have to bribe a little, or fight a little, or brandish a press card, or all three.

I got a form ready, which I stupidly filled with blue ink, though the instructions specifically mentioned 'black ink only'. The passport photograph I carried along was too large (again, stupidly ignoring instructions about getting a stamp-size). I wasn't carrying any glue, either. I didn't even know how to check the area code for my own Delhi region, and had left those sections blank.

In anticipation of stupid first-timers like me, they'd set up a desk where glue, a black pen and a razor-blade (to cut a passport photo, so it fits the relevant column) were available. A chart was pasted outside the door, to help us identify regional codes.

There were long queues; the officials accepting and stamping forms were harried and impatient, because EVERY third person would either mess up their forms, or leave them incomplete. But they kept working, and working fast, without screaming or asking for bribes.

I was sent back to fill a new form and I internally groaned, thinking the counter would shut down in fifteen minutes, since it was already 12 noon. But they officials kept working until the appointed lunch-hour, and even beyond.

To my enormous surprise, I finished the process in fifteen minutes flat. A couple of weeks later, the pan card arrived by post.... And when it did, I remember a distinct feeling of gratitude, and sheepishness, for assuming that every other sarkaari worker out there is lazy and corrupt. Mentally, I apologized.


Ashok said...

Its wonderful you saying this because personally I have always had faith in the system at large, albeit several instances of rage against specifics.

R. said...

As usual, terrific post. This reminds me of my passport application that was processed under tatkal. I got it in 24 hours, yes one day. No bribes, no recommendations. Just efficiency.

Everytime people generalise public servants and call them corrupt or lazy, I can only think of my parents, who worked hard as professors for 35 years and retired this year or my cousin who quit a lucrative corporate job and joined the police or another cousin a submariner in the navy, which was his only ambition in life as he grew up. I feel proud of them for being the idealists they are.

One just can't paint everyone with the same brush.

Anonymous said...

This post made me feel so good. I have enough courage to go and apply for my PAN Card now. From what I read from your experiences, it can't be that bad. I must go soon. Before I begin to hold our babus responsible for my procrastination. Thanks!

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