Do we walk the talk?

After receiving offers of outside support from the Congress and the BJP to form the state government in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sent letters to both parties, asking them for their stand on 18 issues. Click here to read the 18 issues.

While the Congress accepted all 18 issues, the BJP did not reply to AAP’s letter.

There are varying opinions about the motives behind AAP’s letter and behind the apparently meek acceptance by the Congress. I am more interested in asking whether the people who strongly support the AAP actually walk the talk about these issues. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1/18. The VIP culture should be stopped in Delhi. No MLA, minister or Delhi official will use a red beacon on their cars. Neither will they live in big bungalows nor take any special security.
This is probably supported by all people. However, how many of us can honestly state that we have never arranged train tickets or attended cricket matches or functions or even special ‘darshans’ at temples by using ‘VIP quotas’ or ‘Special quotas’ or by pulling strings?

3/18. People will take decision directly in ‘mohalla sabhas’, which will be held in every locality and colony.
Forget all other bodies, how many of us actually participate actively in the housing society that we belong to? In most housing societies, 5% people are active participants, 10% are passive participants, 15% are passive spectators, and 67% are neither participants nor spectators, while the remaining 3% are active fault-finders.

5/18. The party also demanded a special audit of all electricity companies in the national capital from the time these were privatized. The companies that refuse to participate, their licenses should be cancelled.
How many of us can claim that we do not willingly indulge in malpractices in our business, professional and personal lives?

6/18. Electricity meters should be checked.
If our electricity meters show unusually high readings, we complain to the electricity board. How many of us report the matter to the electricity board if we find our electricity meters showing unusually low readings?

7/18. There is 220 litres of water available for every person daily. Where is it?
We are concerned about the unreliability of water supply, but do we sincerely try to consume water sensibly and avoid waste?

10/18. It also sought their support to give regular jobs to those working on contractual basis.
Are we willing to give regular jobs with all benefits to our domestic help?

Many of us talk. How many of us walk the talk? How many of us are genuinely willing to walk the talk?

Genuine apology or ‘Chulbul Pandey’ apology?

In an election speech in Gujarat in 2007, Sonia Gandhi had referred to Narendra Modi as maut ka saudagar’ (‘merchant of death’).

During the campaign for the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan this year, various controversial statements have been made by politicians. The Election Commission has issued notices to some of these politicians, stating that these controversial statements violated the model code of conduct. Till now, the politicians and their parties have not expressed any regret for their intemperate utterances.

In sharp contrast, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) issued an unsolicited apology for the foul language used by TV anchor Rajiv Laxman while campaigning for the party in New Delhi. Rajiv Laxman has also apologised.

AAP’s apology was unqualified and appeared sincere.

However, Rajiv’s apology was qualified by the statement, “One must understand that it is the way I speak normally.”

AAP member Shazia Ilmi’s apology for the incident was qualified by, “… that is his way of talking. That’s how the youth connects with him.” As the Oneindia report states, Rajiv is known for his rude and abusive language. Shouldn’t AAP have cautioned him against using such language?

Oneindia’s headline ‘First an abuse, then an apology; is this the way how AAP works?’ reminded me of a sequence in the film ‘Dabangg’, in which Makkhi Pandey complains to the police that his stepbrother, Chulbul Pandey had beaten him up. Makkhi’s father withdraws the complaint after Chulbul apologises to Makkhi, saying, “It’s a family matter.” Within no time, Chulbul slaps Makkhi in public, apologises and says with a smirk, “It’s a family matter.”

Only time will tell if AAP’s apology was a genuine apology or a ‘Chulbul Pandey’ apology. I sincerely hope that AAP’s apology is a genuine apology. AAP has come as a breath of fresh air in the political arena. It is not enough if AAP is better than other parties because the standard of political discourse is, to put it mildly, generally quite low. The Aam Aadmi (common man) expects AAP to raise the level of political discourse and political morality. AAP must live up to these expectations.

Corruption of the people, by the people, for the people!

A few days back, a family friend was complaining about how a particular member of the housekeeping staff in her apartment complex ‘requests’ for a tip every time she sees gift-wrapping paper in the garbage!

Why did our friend give a tip whenever asked for? This housekeeping staff member’s responsibilities include collecting the garbage bags kept outside each apartment every morning. If there is no garbage bag outside any apartment, she rings the doorbell and asks the occupant to hand over the garbage bag. She is not obliged to do this. Our friend was afraid that, if the housekeeping staff member was unhappy with her, she would not ring her doorbell whenever she forgot to keep her garbage bag outside her door, which happens quite frequently.

Strangely, our friend’s cousin living in the same apartment complex also forgets to keep her garbage bag outside her door quite often, but the same housekeeping staff member has never asked her for tips.

Why this difference?

The maintenance and housekeeping of the apartment complex is done by a contractor. The housekeeping staff member is an employee of this contractor. She is not supposed to do any work other than that assigned to her by her employer. The residents are not supposed to get any personal work done by the contractor’s employees. The residents are also not supposed to make any kind of payments to the contractor’s employees.

One day, when our friend’s part-time domestic help had not turned up for work, our friend had asked the housekeeping staff member to wash her vessels. When the housekeeping staff member politely pointed out that she was not allowed to do such work, our friend suggested that she could do it during her lunch break. She offered to pay Rs. 50. The housekeeping staff member jumped at this opportunity to make some extra money! Soon, this became a regular feature. To ensure the housekeeping staff member’s ‘loyalty’, our friend started tipping her during festivals, and paying her larger amounts whenever she helped to clean and decorate the house before a birthday party or clean up after the party.

One day, the contractor realised what was happening, and warned his employee that she would lose her job if this was not stopped immediately. She stopped doing any work at our friend’s house. However, by now, she had got used to the extra money. Hence, whenever she saw gift-wrapping paper in our friend’s garbage bag, she would request our friend for a tip! Our friend claims that, when she did not tip on a couple of occasions, she experienced the ‘non-cooperation’ described earlier. Hence, she would give a tip whenever asked for.

Our friend had become a victim of the ‘corruption’ which she had herself created! No politician, bureaucrat or policeman was involved. This was corruption of the people, by the people, for the people!

I reiterate what I had stated in my post ‘Can we eradicate corruption? Yes We Can!’: many people believe that the nation will undergo a transformation the moment Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister in 2014. Many others believe that will happen the moment Rahul Gandhi becomes PM. Many, many others believe that will happen the moment Aam Aadmi Party comes to power. Frankly, all are living in fools’ paradise. The government and the PM do have an important role to play, but any transformation in our nation is possible only if we, the people of India, change for the better.

Can we eradicate corruption? Yes We Can!

In my post ‘Parenting by example’ on July 13, 2013, I had written about how parents consciously or unconsciously inculcate good or bad values in their children. I have also seen how strongly organisation culture influences the behaviour of individuals.

In many companies, employees who undertake outstation travel for work are reimbursed conveyance and travelling expenses in a manner that enables them to claim more than they actually spend. Thus, the employees get ‘tax-free income’. In fact, this ‘tax-free income’ is taken into account while negotiating salary packages, particularly in case of sales and service personnel.

This system is so widespread that most people do not even consider it unethical. In fact, about 2 years back, there were reports that a prominent anti-corruption crusader had claimed inflated travel expenses from some organisations for attending programmes conducted by them. In some cases, Business Class fare was claimed when actually flying Economy. In some other cases, full fare was claimed even though discounted fare tickets had been booked. This was not denied, but it was explained that the ‘savings’ were used not by the individual, but for the benefit of the crusader’s NGO. I personally believe the explanation given by this person, but can you blame people if they say this is just a ‘story’?

A few years back, I was part of the senior management of a start-up. We had decided that we would conduct all aspects of the business in an ethical manner. Among other things, this meant the company’s employees would not get ‘tax-free income’ from conveyance and travelling expenses. Obviously, we offered compensation packages that were higher than the rest of the industry to make up for the loss of this ‘tax-free income’.

This had a very positive effect on all employees. Since the management was totally transparent in all other matters as well, the transparency was reciprocated by the employees. How transparent, one may ask?

PS, our Service Manager had to undergo 2 weeks’ training at a manufacturer’s factory in Taiwan. We had booked a room for him in the hotel where all visitors to that factory usually stayed. On the first day of his training, PS informed me that the manufacturer’s Sales Manager, a bachelor living alone in a 2-bedroom apartment, had invited PS to stay with him since he had a spare bedroom. PS was keen to accept since this would save our company the hotel expenses for the remaining 12 days, but he wanted to know if I had any objection to such an arrangement. After ascertaining from him that this arrangement had been initiated by his host, and that the spare bedroom was properly furnished, I replied that I had no objection. I also made it very clear to him that, while I fully appreciated his desire to reduce our company’s expenses, I would be extremely upset if he compromised on his food expenses during his visit.

There was no need for PS to do what he had done. He personally did not gain one paisa. Why did he do it? Because of organisation culture!

What is the ‘culture’ of the ‘organisation’ called India? What can be the ‘culture’ of a country where people think that most of their ‘leaders’ are corrupt?

Can we change this ‘culture’? I believe we can. If many, many of us believe we can, and if we work hard and work persistently, we can surely make it happen! What was achieved in one Indian organisation can be achieved in the entire country. Yes We Can!

A word of caution: many people believe that the nation will undergo a transformation the moment Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister in 2014. Many others believe that will happen the moment Rahul Gandhi becomes PM. Many, many others believe that will happen the moment Aam Aadmi Party comes to power. Frankly, all are living in fools’ paradise. The government and the PM do have an important role to play, but any transformation in our nation is possible only if we, the people of India, change for the better.

Related post:
Corrupt Politicians in the land of Clean Citizens?