Black and White

“Is it not clear? By asking for explanations, you are wasting the precious time of senior government officials that can be put to use for issuing more confusing and unnecessary rules.”

A senior government functionary made his displeasure evident when cornered by a section of the media on the burning issue of demonitisation of currency notes of the two largest denominations, 500 and 1000, that contribute 86% to the currency in circulation in India, for dealing a body blow to “black money” in national interest, that subsequently changed to “move towards digital transactions” in national interest, that have anyway been growing rapidly on their own, and the latest decision of the government in this regard, of asking people, who seek to deposit the old notes even within the originally declared deadline, to provide a satisfactory explanation of why they did not deposit earlier.

“Let me explain for one last time. On 8th November, and several times thereafter, we have said that people should not be in a hurry and can deposit their stock of old, demonetised currency notes in their bank account till 30th December. Hence, anyone who tries to deposit these notes on the 20th of December or anytime after, till 30th December, is obviously flouting that rule and now needs to explain why he has delayed depositing this money. These people have brought it upon themselves.

The rule-book says stop at a red light, people don’t follow.

The rule-book says form a queue at the ticket counter, people don’t follow.

The rule-book says don’t throw trash in the open, people don’t follow.

Are you telling me that our countrymen have suddenly chosen to become rule-book followers? This is obviously an attempt of the Opposition parties to get people to follow the rule-book and embarrass the government. These people will be punished for their faith in the government’s assurances. Their actions are against national interest. If all the old notes come back to banks, how will the government make any money on this initiative and spend it on unnecessary projects?

Our hand has been forced. This is why it has been decided that people who seek to deposit the old notes need to provide a satisfactory explanation of why they did not deposit them earlier despite the government’s assurance that the deposits could be made till the 30th of December. What’s more, this explanation needs to be recorded in the presence of two bank officials, because bank employees have no guidance or authority on which explanation to accept as suitable and which to not.

As elected representatives of the people, if we don’t call upon commercial entities like banks to sacrifice their business interests, who will?

As you might know, apart from accepting deposits, issuing advances, managing operations and risk, opening and closing accounts, selling financial instruments like mutual funds and insurance, transferring money, handling trade transactions, dispensing and accepting cash, our bankers have really very little to do. We successfully employed them in fruitless activities like repeated exchanges of discontinued currency notes from 8th November. As the exchange scheme was withdrawn randomly one fine day, we have now involved bankers to witness recording of statements from mostly honest account holders as to why they did not deposit money earlier, despite the deadline still being ten days away. Think of the millions of youngsters graduating from college every year, many of them aspiring to work for banks, especially the engineering graduates. We have to protect their future as well. If the situation starts improving anytime soon, we may increase the number of bank officials required to witness depositor explanations to three, or even four.

And this decision has not been taken in isolation. We have gradually built up to this by issuing false promises and assurances from time to time, like this is a short-term pain, like it will take only three weeks for the situation to improve, like there is enough stock of new currency, like the government is closely monitoring the situation, and many more. Even today, the common man seems to be expecting that he will soon be able to withdraw and deposit his own money from and into his bank account.

Meanwhile, as you may have heard, the Finance Minister has clarified that RBI has enough stock of new currency to fulfil the need of all banks and account holders. They are just not releasing them to banks. Just like that.

This is necessary for patriotism. If we had not brought the banking system, and all business, to a grinding halt, would you feel that you are undergoing this pain in the national interest? Tell me honestly, would you ever?

Some of you might even want to know the logic behind the introduction of the Rs. 2000- note. Do you?

Well, just like that.

Yes, just like that.

Because there is no logic.

Tell me, what better way to thwart potential black-money hoarders, the objective initially put out, than by creating utter confusion?

Since we ourselves have no idea why we have introduced a Rs. 2000 note, how do you expect anyone to, be it the common man, the politician or the black-money hoarder?

And since they have no idea, how do you expect them to indulge in their corrupt practices?

The common man, on the other hand, has tasted blood. He wants to contribute to the national interest. He wants more. More de-monetisation. More pain. More suffering. He is willing to live in perpetual penury so that black money can be eliminated for his good. May his tribe increase.

Where do we go from here?

First, we prevented people from using their own money that they had in cash. Then, we successfully prevented people from using their own money lying in bank accounts by creating unending queues for withdrawal. Now, we have prevented people from depositing the cash they held. I think the virtuous circle is complete.

But, for an elected representative of the people, the work is never complete. Since people have elected us and reposed their faith in us, it is left to us to decide what constitutes national interest and patriotism. The battle is far from over. People are clever. They have deposited all the money we had called “black”, back in bank accounts. In such a situation what can a well-meaning government do? Launch a witch-hunt of course against citizens.

Further, in order to promote the patriotic spirit and national interest further, we plan to soon bring out rules that prevent people from living in their own houses, wearing their own jewellery and driving their own cars and bikes.

We are geared for the challenge. By the time you go to press with this interview tomorrow, we would have already rolled back, though only partially, the rule introduced with great fanfare yesterday, requiring people depositing old notes to explain reasons for the delay. We will also ensure that only a small section of the impacted banks are advised of the change. We will then partially roll back the roll back announced.

I don’t want to reveal the hand, but you should soon start seeing a removal of the curbs on withdrawal of cash from accounts. However, since banks will not be given any cash, they will not be able to pay any to customers. It will be the problem created by the inefficiency of banks, despite the best intentions of the government.

As you may have overheard the common man say confidently, ‘only the execution is faulty’ :-).”

Unprofessional

“I am not saying that at all. It is a responsible role. Sometimes he raises interest rates to control inflation and sometimes he lowers it to control inflation. Sometimes he raises interest rates to promote employment and sometimes he lowers it to promote employment. Sometimes he raises interest rates to improve the Foreign Exchange reserves and sometimes he lowers it to improve Foreign Exchange reserves.

At any given point of time, half the people are in favour of raising interest rates and the other half, as you might already have calculated, are in favour of reducing them. For achieving the same goals.

Once the action has been taken, either reducing or increasing rates, half the people, irrespective of what they were advocating before the decision was taken, are of the opinion that the situation has improved and the other half, as you might again have calculated, irrespective of what they were advocating before the decision was taken, hold the opinion that the situation has deteriorated.”

The recently appointed ruling-party member of the Rajya Sabha, who, for the sake of brevity we will call SS, was at pains to explain the importance of the role of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). He had been cornered by a section of the media wanting to know the reasons behind the letter he had written to the Prime Minister asking for the removal of the RBI Governor, who, for the sake of brevity again, we will call RR. But, having studies and taught Economics at a leading American University, he was on home ground in this discussion.

SS had begun the discussion on a bellicose note, stating in no uncertain terms, “Unprofessional conduct will not be tolerated. Senior jobs are only for professionals. We owe it to the common man who has voted for professionalism in public affairs. We need a thorough professional for the position of RBI Governor.”

The gathered mediapersons cast accusing glances around the room at the other mediapersons, as if asking “Did you vote for professionalism in public affairs? Coz it wasn’t me.”

Schooled by their profession to be unfazed by political belligerence, they had shot back at SS with, “Can you explain what you mean by professional? Does RR not come with the highest professional qualifications, having studied at the most renowned educational institutions in India, thereafter continuing studies at a leading American University where he has also been teaching”?

“Unfortunately professional has become a loosely used term. I don’t think you people understand the meaning of the word professional,” SS had shot back with equal energy, which quickly transformed into a masterclass of what professional really means, for the gathered mediapersons. “Do you know who is a professional? A professional is one who toes the party-line; of the party in power. A professional is one who is unable to make eye contact with a passing politician, of whatever rank the politician be. A professional is one who speaks in the voice of his employer and can explain away frequent missteps of his employers, politicians in this case, with arcane theories. A professional is who has little independent standing in the world and is forever beholden to the political establishment for his job.

Look at the legendary RBI governors we have had in the past. Thorough professionals. Very few people would have even suspected the existence of the post of RBI Governor, let alone heard their name. And almost nobody knew how their job impacted anyone’s life. Oh, how we wish for such men in today’s times.”

The gathered mediapersons looked at each other. It was as if a weight had been lifted off their chest. They finally knew who a professional was. But they were mediapersons. It was not in their JD to let go. They persisted: “But surely that cannot be reason enough for asking for his removal.”

SS, seeing that the mediapersons were getting it, mellowed down: “You are right. Everyone knows we are fair people. We are fair to everyone who agrees with us. There is another charge against RR. Do you know that he is mentally not fully Indian and has wilfully wrecked the economy.”

Media: “But how did you measure his mental Indianness?”

SS: “I will tell you how. How many times have you heard him say that mythology, wherever it is Hindu, is equal to history?”

Mediapersons looked at each other. They had heard and seen leading politicians and religious leaders do it, but never RR. They shook their heads and said “never”.

SS smiled wryly and continued. “Have you heard him say ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ without any reason, especially when someone senior in the political hierarchy is watching?”

Mediapersons looked at each other. They had seen and heard leading Bollywood actors and politicians do it, but never RR. The light of realisation was dawning. They shook their heads and said “never”.

SS: “Now do you see why he is not fully Indian?”

Mediapersons were quiet. Sensing his opportunity, SS moved in for the kill: “Moreover, he is also mentally not fully Indian because he has studied and taught Economics at a leading American University. How can you entrust the affairs of the RBI to such a person. We have more mentally fully Indian applicants for the position who have not studied or taught at any leading American University. Some of them have not even studied or taught at any leading, or even lagging, Indian University.

He is not a politician, after all. Only Indian politicians have the ability to study and teach at a leading American University and still be mentally fully Indian. Other than that, the only position open to Non-Resident Indians is a nomination to the Rajya Sabha, especially if they are rich and are likely to invest in unviable businesses by borrowing money from public sector banks.

Besides, he was appointed by the previous government.”

Mediapersons reeled. Logic was difficult to argue against at the best of times. Coming from a maverick leader with a penchant for shooting his mouth off at the slightest provocation, it became an insurmountable task. They struggled to regain some dignity and made a weak query: “But what about the position itself? Do you not think it is an important position for which we should seek out the best person?”

SS’ response is captured in the opening paragraphs of this story. He concluded that analysis with: “As there no clear evidence to say what really happens when interest rates are either reduced or increased, he must be operating against the interest of the country. QED.”

Refreshment trolleys being rolled in saved further embarrassment for the mediapersons. They could avoid looking into the searing eyes of SS with the excuse of picking up a cup of tea.

SS, sensing the need of the moment, climbed down from the dais and mingled with the group. Placing his arm around the shoulders of one, he said, “These are dark days indeed. If RBI governors start opening their mouths and voicing opinions, what will politicians do? Do we want thousands of politicians to lose their jobs just because we have a transparent RBI governor? It will lead to anarchy. Whose utterances will people make fun of? How will we waste the billions we collect as taxes? Senior people need to be careful.”

Picking up a cup of tea and moving onto another scribe, he continued, “Look at toxic debts of public sector banks. Which RBI governor in the past has pushed public sector banks to sever relationships with leading industrial houses by asking for borrowings to be paid back? How will the country finance the next elections if we make recovery claims against industrialists? On whose money will industrialists make merry?”

Moving onto a third scribe, he said, “Have you heard of an RBI governor saying ‘in the land of the blind, one-eyed is king’? Which country’s Central Bank does he think he manage that he has to speak the truth? Norway? Canada? The common man in India is mature. He can handle lies. Again and again. The same ones.”

Meanwhile, at another event, the RBI governor has expressed views. Once again. On the Licence raj and Permit raj. On regulations for small and medium enterprises. On smooth availability of finance. On access to input and output market. On healthy competition. And many other areas that planners and governments need to focus on.

Some people never learn, it seems.

Big Billion Day

The country finally celebrated the success of its maiden mission to Mars, more than two weeks after the event. And how. One of the world’s largest e-commerce sites, that recently started operating in India, showed the way by launching its “Mission to Mars Celebration Dhamaka” (Dhamaka, for the Hindi unfamiliar readers, is equivalent to “blast”, in the celebration sense).

I received an email announcing the celebration, with a “Start here” button prominently displayed to convince the unconvinced. Call me a space nut if you will, but I wasted no time in joining the celebration. I clicked on the “Start here” button without wasting any time.

It was a revelation. Truly “out of the world”.

I could buy books to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy watches. I could buy Kindles to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy iPads. I could buy luggage to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy mobiles. I could buy T-shirts to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy toys. There was nothing that could not be bought. Brought tears to my eyes. I would never have imagined that the country’s maiden mission to Mars would enable me to buy so many things that I did not need for routine discounts. I am only now beginning to grasp the enormity of the achievement of the Mars mission. I had taken it as a routine scientific mission to Mars to discover new things, validate theories and generally look for ways to further man’s knowledge and frontiers. But it was, clearly, much bigger. Thank you aaaaaa.in.

I placed my order for the shoes and T-shirts that I did not need. I was not going to hold back from celebrating this important milestone in the country’s space endeavours. But before clicking the “Buy” button, I carefully scanned the site for any hints of support for the Mars mission or for future endeavours of the Indian Space Reasearch Organisation (ISRO). There were none. I heaved a sigh of relief. I could buy without fear of paying extra. Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong supporter of the Mars mission. But paying extra for stuff I don’t need? No way.

Expectedly, many others have started walking down the path so selflessly blazed by aaaaaa.in, and launched their own celebrations to mark the historic achievement.

Builders have started asking people to buy property to celebrate the Mars mission. Car-dealers have started asking people to buy cars to celebrate the Mars mission. Restaurants have started asking people to eat more at their establishment to celebrate the Mars mission. TV manufacturers have started asking people to buy TVs to celebrate the Mars mission. There is no stopping the patriotic fervour now.

In fact, in tune with their global aspirations, businesses are understood to be looking for global events to celebrate.

Expect builders to ask people to buy property to celebrate Marin Cilic’s first US Open (tennis) win. Expect car-dealers to ask people to buy cars to celebrate Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal in the English Premier League football. Expect restaurants to ask people to eat more at their establishment to celebrate Stefan W. Hell, Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Expect TV manufacturers to ask people to buy more TVS to celebrate the reduction in the US fiscal deficit.

Ffffffff.com, India’s homegrown e-tailing behemoth, and the main competition to aaaaaa.in, went a step further. It launched its own celebration, “The Big Billion Day”.

Billion Day? Rings a bell?

Could they be celebrating the country’s population crossing a billion? Perhaps, but that happened several years back.

Could they be celebrating the presence of more than a billion stars in the firmament? Perhaps, but that has always been the case, even though no e-tailer may have celebrated it.

The distance between Earth and Mars? Possible, given the current flavour, but factually incorrect as the distance is less than a billion.

What else could it be?

It was reported that the company has recently raised a billion dollars for their expansion. Could it be that? Nah, too obvious.

Satisfied that there was no logical explanation for calling it the “Big Billion Day”, I eagerly logged in. It was bound to be fun. With lots of stuff to buy and lots of discounts, what else could it be?

Unfortunately, soon after the “Big Billion Day” dawned, the site crashed. The collective anguish of a billion shoppers could be heard on Mars. The promoters have sent out an email apologising for depriving folks of the joy of shopping for stuff they don’t need and for failing to add to their own wealth.

It was not enough. It could never be. The government has been forced to step in to investigate. They have promised to include the right to shop for stuff that I don’t need, at discounted rates, in the Fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution, and protect it through suitable legislation.

The right to shop for stuff that I do not need, at discounted rates.

One of the greatest discoveries of the modern world. Worth protecting.

Groundhog Day

With the raucous general elections finally over and a new government, armed with an overall majority, installed at the Centre, the largest democracy in the world can now go back to the business of living and look forward expectantly to a watershed period of untrammelled all-round development and progress.

While leaders and economists understand terms like “Inflation”, “Recession”, “GDP”, “economy is looking up”, “in real terms”, etc., which they use with great effect to convince the common man that they are doing a good job, what can the common man really look forward to in this eagerly awaited period? We hazard a guess…

The common man can look forward to a period during which stock prices will go up on some days. Not only will they go up on some days they will also come down on some other days. He can expect the value of the Rupee to go up on certain days during this period. He can also look forward to the value of the Rupee going down on certain other days. And, believe it or not, he can also look forward to prices of daily-use commodities going up on some days and down on others. In an even more unprecedented development arising out of the change of government, he can expect the price of gold to go up on some days and down on others. And, in case you thought it could get no better, he can even expect oil prices to go up on some days and down on others. It never rains, does it? It always pours.

In this period, he can look forward to unknown socialites occupying centrefold (oops centrestage) in newspapers and magazines of national importance, including social media, needlessly occupied by politics and existentialist debates for the last few months, with their frequent marriages, break-ups, getting back together for the sake of children, wardrobe malfunctions, bare-all pictures to support a charitable cause, and other patriotic acts that the rest of the country has been deprived of. He can also look forward to people in show-business beginning a new cycle of breaking-up, patching-up, breaking-up, patching-up, breaking-up…with this cyclical occurrence speeding-up just before major releases. From the pairing of forty plus heroes with twenty plus heroines, he can look forward to Bollywood progressing to the pairing of fifty plus heroes with teenage heroines, as most heroes with the surname of Khan get into the fifties, and most heroines in their twenties, with any surname, prepare for a life in supporting roles as they get into their thirties.

As always, he can expect big business, ably supported by the government, to systematically develop the nation by uprooting trees, drying-up or polluting water sources and exponentially increasing demand for energy by building bigger SUVs and structures of glass and concrete, while competing for “Green” awards. He can look forward to big business to expect him to be beholden to them for being developed in a manner that he can be the proud owner of all the problems of the western world at such a rapid pace, without any of the benefits. More and more people can look forward to reaping the benefits of development by foregoing education and hard-work to build a livelihood and taking-up jobs as Customer Service agents in Contact Centres and Shelf-stackers in Supermarkets.

Sports fans can expect to celebrate the bright prospects of national teams and leading players prior to all major event. Sports fans can also look forward to lamenting the poor performance of national teams and leading players immediately after the major events, blaming it on poor preparation, lack of dedication, official apathy, inadequate infrastructure and lack of a sporting culture. We know that in order to change culture at the grassroots level for all sports, the government, alongwith the Board of Control for one still-popular sport, had gotten business houses to invite top international stars, at astronomical salaries, to play for teams with grassroot-culture changing names like Devils, Riders and Kings. As this key initiative has had the desired effect, of making no difference to performance in any sport, sports fans can look forward to an expansion of the franchise. Sports administrators can be expected to make firm, realistic commitments to change the sad state of affairs overnight and lead the nation to victory at future events, like winning Wimbledon in 2093, World Cup Football in 2116 and Olympics in 2240. In the shorter term, they will make a pledge to climb to 137 in global football rankings. What more can sports fans ask for?

He can expect the new government to blame all man-made problems, like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis, on the last government. The remnants of the last government can be expected to contend that all man-made problems like earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones are due to the divisive and pro-rich policies of the new government. To usher in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity promised before the elections, the common man can look forward to the new government unfurling a slew of measures that will enable people to undergo extreme economic depravation and hardship in order to usher in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity just before the next elections. He can expect an expansion of the nation’s sphere of influence in the region with the already announced “Look East” policy unravelled by the new government. At a suitable time, he can expect an expansion of the policy itself to “Sometimes Look East, Sometimes West, Sometimes North and Sometimes South”.

He can expect leaders in India and China to vow to settle the boundary and water-sharing disputes through dialogue and mutual respect for each other’s views. After dialogue breaks down when one party is not able to accept and respect the other’s view, he can expect them to accuse each other of vitiating the process and move armoured columns closer to the claimed boundary. He can also expect India and Pakistan, in a bid to deflect attention from the internecine disputes plaguing the two nations, to vow to increase cross-border trade. Since trains and buses have already been started and stopped by previous governments, he can expect a camel-cart route between the two nations to be opened up that can be stopped soon after. After a terror strike in India, he can expect the cross-border trade to come to a standstill as Pakistan will blame India for the almost daily terror attacks taking place in most of its major cities. He can also expect India and Pakistan to attempt to settle the Kashmir issue through dialogue and acceptance of each other’s non-negotiable points of view.

He can look forward to the opposition trashing all new proposals of the government. He can also expect the government to ignore all trashings of the Opposition with perfect nonchalance.

He can expect authorities to discover reliable information of a major strike on the eve of Independence Day and Republic Day by extremist elements, leading to an unprecedented security clampdown in major cities.

He can expect economists to warn of a looming recession. He can also expect other economists to warn of looming inflation. What’s more, he can expect yet other economists to warn of a stagflation. And it doesn’t end here. He can expect yet other economists to invent another term that he will not be able to understand and figure out whether he is in a better position or worse.

He can expect a concerted efforts to be made towards abuse of women, a national pastime that has unfortunately lagged during the elections, as most elements normally actively involved in this activity have been involved in either standing for elections or supporting those standing for elections. Surprised by the increasing reports of abuse of women, he can expect the government to renew its efforts for emancipation of women. After launching pink autos, he can expect the government to launch pink taxis. After a women’s bank staffed by men and women and with customers as men and women, he can expect a women’s call centre to be launched staffed by men and women and serving men and women.

A revolution is about to be unleashed. With bated breath we wait.

He can expect some people, who, with their hard-work, skill and commitment, had been able to achieve success in their own defined ways, during the dark days gone by, with their hard-work, skill and commitment, to achieve success in their own defined ways, thanks to the climate ushered in by the new government. Strangely, he can also expect some people, who, with their lack of hard-work, skill and commitment, and reliance on short-cuts, had not been able to achieve any measure of success as defined by others for them, with their lack of hard-work, skill and commitment, and reliance on short-cuts, to not achieve any measure of success as defined by others for them, despite the climate ushered in by the new government.

Death of unemployment

It started out as a normal head of state visit to another country, with billions of taxpayer money being spent for promising co-operation in a wide range of spheres.

However, it soon turned into the most unlikely, and most productive state head visit in history.

It is no secret that a somnolent economy and rising unemployment were the two issues that had been dogging the government of the most powerful nation in the world. With the elections over, the President lost no time in getting down to serious business, like scheduling state visits.

He had seen some signs during the last visit but, since, like any respectable state head, he was grappling with many other serious problems at the time, like people who wanted solutions and an opposition that wanted answers, he had not paid much attention. But now, with elections just over, and there being no need any more to provide solutions or answers to anyone, these issues started taking centrestage, because of which he lost no time in in scheduling a state visit to the large democracy.

On his instructions, and in an effort to look like “everyman”, the trip planners had included activities that a common man would do, and planned to make him unobtrusive. As unobtrusive as a posse of six armoured limousines in a land of cycle rickshaws and scooters could be.

The first of these was a trip to the local mall where he would hang-out at a coffee shop and talk to people without ordering anything from that shop and having other customers wait for the coffee they wanted to order.

His entourage of six bullet-proof cars drove into the underground parking lot of the mall, like any common man. The President’s eyes popped out when he saw that when his car stopped at the entrance to the parking lot, no ticket came out of the ticket machine next to the driver’s window. The driver stuck his hand out but nothing happened. The driver then looked at a person sitting in a small cubicle just ahead of where the car was standing and nodded his head briefly. The person in the cubicle nodded back, and punched a key on a keyboard with flourish. As if by magic, the ticket came out. The driver took the ticket and moved forward, only to stop immediately else he would have crashed into the boom-barrier. There was another person standing next to the barrier who looked at the driver. The driver looked back. There was a moment of awkwardness. Then the driver relaxed and nodded his head. The standing person smiled and pressed a button and the barrier opened. The driver moved forward.

The President relaxed and smiled. His memory had not failed him. He took out his notepad and quickly made some notes. This was important. He could not trust any other person with the details.

His joy was short-lived, though. When his entourage drove into the parking lot of the next mall, there was no attendant to pluck out the ticket from the machine and hand it to the driver. Was it an isolated case in the previous mall, the president wondered? Instead, there was a booth where one paid the fixed parking charge. There was no other person in sight. The President drooped in his plush seat in the car. He had built up hope from the last parking lot. He was in a despondent mood right through that mall. When his entourage was driving towards the exit of the mall, however, he saw a lonely figure standing in the distance, right at the exit of the parking lot. He sat straight again. He could sense hope once more. The person at the exit was checking the ticket receipts to ensure that the entry fee, without paying which the car could not have entered the lot, had been paid. And, in another bold step that showed the importance and necessity of the the job being performed, not to forget the highest level of decision-making skills, if the car-driver could not locate the receipt, he just waved the car on. He again took out his notepad and made notes.

He was amazed at the efficient use of resources inside the big supermarket he strolled into while at the next mall. He could see young men and women, apparently employed to work in the supermarket, efficiently avoiding work and chatting inside the aisles. The less work they did, the more people had to be hired. The more the people hired, the more their idle talking and even lesser work done. So it became a virtuous cycle of employment. He had not seen this kind of commitment to the cause of nation-building anywhere he had travelled.

What really freaked him out were the security guards manning the exit points of each shopping outlet. Even a shop twenty square feet in area had a security guard at the exit to prevent any cheating. These guards would stop a customer from going out of the shop till they had checked that he was taking out only what he had been billed for. And, this being done by people who could not even read or write; it boggled his mind. How had they managed to implement this, he wondered?

He watched them for a while, took out his notepad and made notes again.

In some of the shops, grocery stores and supermarkets for example, the average number of items on the bill of a customer checking out was over fifty, with most checking out with bags stuffed with bags laden on trolleys. Each security guard was able to do the checking in an average of three seconds. He was able to “take in” the fifty items on the list at a glance and then, even more magically, check the goods without opening their bags. The entire process was completed in under five seconds, for total customer convenience.

He took more notes, even though he did not need to. He was beaming by now. His mind was clear. His efforts had not been in vain. He would go back and implement the best-practices he had seen on this trip. He could visualise his country being rid of the scourge of unemployment. He could see grown-up men and women, in their new jobs, enthusiastically doing nothing. The rest of the trip he was floating on air. He did not need to make any more notes. He could see elevators with attendants to push buttons at the bidding of people travelling in them. He sensed the presence of attendants right next to automated vending machines, to take money from customers, push it into the machine, press the right button and handover the chosen item to the customer. He saw waiters carrying trays at self-service restaurants. There were a dozen parking attendants in every parking lot. He could go on and on.

He made a mental note of sending his entire team on a study-trip to this place.

Though he was sure his country’s unemployment problems would be solved, he was still troubled by one aspect; what was the genesis of this wonderful state of being of the large democracy? How had they discovered this miracle cure that they, the most powerful nation, had no clue of. He racked and racked his brain but could not come up with a convincing explanation.

He had a scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister the following day. He resolved to ask him this question.

(To be continued after the meeting of the President with the Prime Minister…)

Affirmative action

The Downtrodden People’s Party came to power in the state, winning an overwhelming majority of the seats. This was made possible by their earnest and sincere commitment to improve the lot of the common man, forgotten in the political bickering in the state.

They promised plentiful fresh water supply.

They promised abundant, uninterrupted grid-supplied power for the people.

They promised reduction in the number of people below the poverty line.

They promised shelter for everyone.

They promised jobs and meaningful work for every able person.

They promised state care for the elderly and disabled.

The Party has gone about fulfilling their pre-poll promises in an earnest, systematic manner.

They have constructed huge parks, filled with statues of leaders of a single community to which their supreme leader belongs, made with marble and granite transported from over a thousand miles.

They have changed the name of all the major cities in the state to names of people associated with their party, their parents and their children.

They have redefined the poverty line and moved it downwards.

They have changed the names of major airports and railway stations in the state to names of people associated with their party, their parents and their children.

They have created new districts within the state by dividing the existing districts. These districts have been named after people associated with their party, their parents and their children.

Despite the notable contributions to the cause of upliftment of the common man, they lost the next elections five years later. The People’s Action Party came to power based on their earnest and sincere commitment to improve the lot of the common man, forgotten in the political bickering in the state.

They promised plentiful fresh water supply.

They promised abundant, uninterrupted grid-supplied power for the people.

They promised reduction in the number of people below the poverty line.

They promised shelter for everyone.

They promised jobs and meaningful work for every able person.

They promised state care for the elderly and disabled.

The Party has gone about fulfilling their pre-poll promises in an earnest, systematic manner.

They slammed the previous government for wasting public money on frivolous projects like building huge gardens, and have demolished the parks constructed by the previous government. They have, instead, constructed huge parks, filled with statues of leaders of a single community to which their supreme leader belongs, made with marble and granite transported from over a thousand miles.

They have cancelled the change of name of major cities whose names were changed by the previous government. Instead, in a people-friendly move, they have changed the name of all the major cities in the state back to their original names.

They have redefined the poverty line and moved it upwards and blamed the increased number of poor people to the policies of the previous government.

In a far-sighted move, they have given every person below the poverty line a mobile phone. It was a tough choice. They had to choose one out of housing, education, medical aid and a mobile-phone.

They have cancelled the change of name of the airports and railway stations in the state whose names were changed by the previous government. Instead, in a bold move, they have changed the names of major airports and railway stations in the state to names of people associated with their party, their parents and their children.

They have rejoined the districts divided by the previous government. In addition, with an eye of the future, they have created new districts within the state by dividing the other districts left untouched by the previous government. These districts have been named after people associated with their party, their parents and their children.

The Downtrodden People’s Party has called these changes a blow to the cause of social uplift. The People’s Action Party has said that all these decisions were taken after representations from the people’s representatives.

The next elections are around the corner. The common man, his lot having been uplifted so significantly by two successive governments, is waiting eagerly to cast his vote once again.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

{continued from the previous post titled Power corrupts…(https://darkofficehumour.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/power-corrupts/) on 6th August, 2012}

The following day, a press conference was called to announce what everyone already knew from the previous day.

The Prime Minister, pilloried by the press for sticking to his Job Description and being an ineffective Prime Minister, lashed out at critics of his policies and said that the criticism was levelled by ignorant fools. His cabinet of ministers have been working with each other to ensure well-rounded growth. The power failure, he offered as an example, was the result of close co-operation between the Power and Finance Ministers. The power-grid failure will give rise to a demand for diesel, generators and other useless equipment that will provide an economic stimulus to the somnolent economy.

Every household, every business, needs to buy and install power generation equipment. Thereafter, they must buy diesel to run these power generating units inefficiently, as there is no other technology available. Thus, a simple enhancement of non-supply of power leads to a powerful multiplier effect for all-round growth.

Other emerging economies around the world have already asked for details of this initiative so that they can emulate the example we have set. I am sure the developed nations will soon follow suit.

We are also considering legislation to outlaw all improvements in efficiency achieved in the last thirty years and go back to a more inefficient production method. This should give a further boost to consumption in a faltering economy.

From a mere two hours a day ten years back, the shortfall in grid provided power supply is now over seven hours a day in urban areas. And growing as we speak. Do you think this has been achieved by chance? No sir. This is the result of many years of hard work by this government.

Deviating slightly from the topic, he added that people are needlessly fretting over the medals that we haven’t won in the just-concluded Olympics. All games are rigged, he said. They are played under lights and often in an air-conditioned environment, fed by uninterrupted power. Our athletes are not used to such artificial conditions. Then, after a pause, and to wild applause, he announced that the nation has won the right to host the Olympics in the year 2134. He added that the host nation will decide the events to be played at these Games. One decision that has already been taken is that all events will be held in the dark. A list of events to be held will soon be announced.

The crowd cheered wildly. The Prime Minister thanked them for their support towards the rapid development of the nation and took leave.

The common man, in the states impacted by the grid failure, expressed surprise at the event. When asked by media-persons covering the event on how they handled the crisis, the common man said that he was not aware there was a crisis till the media-persons told him there was one and that he was impacted. He felt proud to be part of such a well-planned nation-wide event, even though he had not been aware of it.

The knowledgeable media-persons found it difficult to explain the difference between a normal day, when he had no power supplied by the grid, versus the crisis day, when he had no power supplied by the grid, to the common man. The media-persons put down his inability to grasp the magnitude of the crisis to his ignorance and lack of exposure to the modern world.

Elders were envious of the development the country has made and rued the “dark ages” that they had to live through. The maximum that they ever got was about two hours of power cuts in a day. They wished they were young in today’s times with so much more opportunity for development.

To silence the doubting Thomases, who claimed that the event was a freak occurrence and had nothing to do with planning, the event happened again the next day. Now we know it was no accident.