Responsibility

I used to worry about the ability of the younger generation to take responsibility. Even chiding my children occasionally, to the utter lack of amusement on my wife’s part, leading to more nights on the living-room couch.

But recent events have proved me wrong. Once again.

It seems that while I was busy worrying and chiding my children, and sleeping on the living-room couch, organisations that stand up and take responsibility have been growing and prospering, as I discovered from a friend’s recent post.

They even have a name.

They are called political parties. And governments. And they mostly do it (take responsibility) on other people’s money. And one of the key responsibilities of governments, as I have learned, is to take responsibility for what they have either done or not done, or what others have done or not done.

Were it not for the full page adverts in major national dailies, purchased with my money of course, I would not have known how responsible this government is.

For instance, I would not have known that the present government, that came to power three years back, is responsible for the unprecedented success of the space programme that has delivered unprecedented successes many times since its inception over sixty years back. Foolishly, I had assumed that it was the vision of the founding fathers that had created the space programme.

I would not have known that the present government is responsible for the surgical strikes that not only served as a strong warning to terrorists and resulted in spectacular lack of success on the Kashmir issue, but also introduced a new term to the vocabulary of most Indians. How many previous governments can rightfully claim to have expanded the common man’s vocabulary?

I would not have known that the present government is responsible for providing universal access to banking services. Not drinking water, not grid-supplied power, but banking services.

Even state governments have come to the party.

Kerala has claimed full responsibility for introducing the Fat Tax. Just imagine!

Chhattisgarh has claimed full responsibility for electrification of 98% villages. Without any responsibility for supplying power.

Bengal has claimed full responsibility for marching forward in its endeavour to make the vision of a golden Bengal come true. Not green. Not white. Not silver. Golden.

Each claiming its share of responsibility with its own paid advert in national dailies.

Even though we found out why Kattappa killed Bahubali, before the government could claim any responsibility for it, could it be possible that we have found an answer to some of the most enduring mysteries of the world?

In the seventies, a number of ships and planes are said to have vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. Could this government be responsible?

Would my childhood friend, who was disconsolate after losing his pet pooch when we were both children, get closure after all these years? Can we safely conclude that this government was responsible?

Quite a handful already, isn’t it?

But, as usual, the common man is never satisfied. He wants more. He has started expecting the government to take responsibility for even real day-to-day problems.

He now expects the government to take responsibility for the poor state of roads in Gurgaon.

He expects the government to take responsibility for the precipitous drop in water levels in rivers, ponds and lakes across the country?

He expects the government to take responsibility for the security of women.

Is that fair? After all, how much can a government do? Ourtax money can only buy so much advertising space.

But the government is game. To take on more responsibility.

Even though it expresses inability to take responsibility for real day-to-day issues, it has offered to take responsibility for having brought down the Ganga and other perennial rivers from their glacial abode in the Himalayans.

It has offered to take responsibility for designing and commissioning the annual system of monsoon rains.

It has offered to take responsibility for inventing the game of cricket and Bollywood.

It has even offered to take responsibility for the first man to be sent into space sent by Russia and for Chelsea Football Club winning the latest edition of the English Premier League football.

Can you ask for more?

With the government poised to take on so much more responsibility, the responsible common man can continue to provide proof of his nationalism on WhatsApp?

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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.

What do you think?

“What do you think of the verdict?”, the old gentleman in the changing room asked me.

We were in the changing-room of a gym I occasionally visit in my losing battle against creeping unfitness. He had been watching the news on the TV in the changing-room, shaking his head all the while. This was in the early part of last week.

The news was about a verdict announced just a short while earlier, pronouncing a doctor couple guilty of killing their only daughter and a domestic help. This was a case that had received a lot of attention a few years back when the event happened. The accused were not someone living on the margins of society. They were, as doctors mostly are, a well-respected doctor couple, and likely to have been part of the affluent set of society.

Caught off-guard by a stranger, I paused before replying, “I do not consider myself competent to say whether the verdict is right or wrong. But what I do feel is happy that there are processes in the country that permit cases to be taken to their logical conclusion; even when there is no individual who has an interest in pursuing the case to its logical conclusion. In the case of a teenage girl, it would be her parents who would have the most interest in bringing the guilty to book. Here, the parents were the accused.”

He was silent for a while. Then he spoke again, “This verdict is incorrect. I know these people. They have come to my charitable school. They are a very pious couple…” and his voice trailed off.

“Pious? What has that gotta do with it?” I thought, but said, “I don’t know on what grounds that can happen? I assume due process of law has been followed and the accused provided reasonable opportunity to present their case.”

Just then the attendant came to talk to him and he got distracted. In the meantime, I went on into the shower.

In the shower, my mind was full of the event and the brief conversation I had just had.

“What has pious got to do with it?” I wondered.

Another case that has been in the public eye came to my mind. Of a sage (or self-styled godman as he is called in the media), who apparently had a following in the hundreds of thousands, accused of raping a girl in his ‘ashram’.

“Would he not have been considered a pious man?”, I again wondered.

So what happened to him?

Once the matter came to light, he was apprehended. Apparently a prima facie case has been found against him and he has been incarcerated. To stand trial as per the law of the land. He will, equally, have the right to defend himself. With the help of the wealth he has seemingly accumulated on account of his pious activities, he can certainly afford to hire the best and the brightest. And I am sure he will not be denied that right. I am also sure he will not be tried by a kangaroo court. He will have the right to appeal at various levels should initial verdicts be inimical.

So what is the point?

The point I am making is that in case of the doctor couple also, while their supporters would no doubt be aggrieved at the verdict pronouncing them guilty, I have confidence that the law of the land has been applied.

In my view, a verdict which does not either have an admission of guilt or video evidence will always have scope for doubt. Should such cases be abandoned? Supporters of a person at the receiving end will never find such a verdict fair.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they are guilty. All I am saying is that I have reasonable confidence that over the last few years this case has been going on, due processes have been followed. And there are multiple agencies involved. Not a single gun-toting marshal in a lawless western frontier town of yore who “is the law”.

I can only say that I grieve for them and sympathise with their supporters. I wonder what nature of provocation can lead one human being to kill another. I also hope that no-one has to go through an experience like this.

The point I am making is that while we find reason to complain about the smallest things, and I have no doubt there are many irritants, we do not bother to appreciate the privileges we possess.

We could be living under a despotic regime claiming to be benevolent while amassing wealth and power.

We could be living in a nation where decisions pertaining to someone’s life and death are taken based on the whims of whoever is in power.

We could be living in a state where clerics have arrogated to themselves the right to decide how others should behave and what scripture should be applied to what situation.

We could be living in a place where the path to justice passes through the barrel of a gun.

We could be living in an environment where any sort of dissent is treated as treason.

We could be living in a society where public servants blindly toe the party-line and have neither the courage or vision to make sensible decisions based on law and their own conscience.

We do not appreciate enough living in a free country. We do not appreciate enough living in a place where generally there is rule of law. We do not appreciate living in a place where the common man can raise his voice when the need arises and the powerful are brought down when the situation demands.

This is what I wish to do through this post.

Human battles will continue. We now have the case of the managing editor of a leading publication who has been accused by a young journalist of rape. Again, he apparently has the resources to buy whatever kind of help he wants. At the same time, I am confident that we have the institutions to handle the case on its merit.

We also have the case of a charismatic Chief Minister, feted by leading business schools of the world for the apparent turnaround implemented in his State, who is now in jail for a scam. Again, I am confident justice will be done.

What do you think?

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.

Power corrupts…

It finally happened last week.

The event for which our politicians and administrators had been so carefully and assiduously planning for so long, over the course of almost half a century, was unleashed in grand style. It is a testament to the mettle of the people involved that they have pursued this task regardless of the hardships they faced and the money they may have made in the bargain. It is also a testament to the unity in diversity across political parties who got together in pursuit of a common goal in national interest. Despite frequent changes of government, pursuit of this dream continued unceasingly.

The Northern Power Grid collapsed on a Monday, bringing life to a standstill in most of the northern part of the country. As a result, among other impacts:

  • Over 300 trains were disrupted in the affected states
  • Several hundred coal miners were stranded underground
  • Metro train services in the national capital were shut down which, in turn, caused a gridlock on the roads
  • Income Tax returns could not be submitted on time leading to an extension of the cut-off date and delay in revenue for the government
  • Over 600 million people were affected
  • Holiday declared from 3 PM onwards
  • Water treatment plants were shut down

On account of this stellar performance, the Power Minister has been promoted to the coveted Home Ministry.

His next in line have been demoted to inconsequential roles on account of, among other reasons:

  • Only 300 trains being disrupted in the affected states
  • Only several hundred coal miners stranded underground
  • Only Metro train services in the national capital shut down; why was the rest of the public transportation system not electrified so that it could also have been shut down is a question they could not answer convincingly
  • Only Income Tax returns could not be submitted on time leading to an extension of the cut-off date; why were Sales Tax returns not affected?
  • Only 600 million people affected; in a 1.2 billion country this is an inconsequential number
  • Holiday declared only from 3 PM onwards; in a shocking admission, they admitted to letting people work till 3 PM
  • Water treatment plants shut down; unanswered qustion – why no impact on cooking gas?

Justifying the demotion of the people responsible for this state of affairs, a Power Ministry spokesman said “These people been in their jobs for years and had enough opportunity to ensure that this effort did not turn out to be the half-hearted effort it finally turned out to be, like many other similar attempts of the past, sullying the image of the nation once again. Like successful private companies, we want to hold our people responsible to the highest standards of performance, and take strict action against junior employees as and where those standards are not met.”

In a function held to felicitate him on this landmark achievement, the Power Minister lauded the achievements of his ministry. He said that several thousand villages have been electrified, i.e. provided electric connections and joined to the grid. He said it was one thing to electrify villages when you have power to supply, quite another to do so when you don’t have power to supply. His ministry’s achievements were even greater because they have electrified villages without having any power to supply to them.

The crowd broke out into applause.

He said that some misguided people were trying to experiment with solar power generation and stand in the way of development. “We will not let motivated and unscrupulous elements stand in the way of development”, he stated emphatically. In a firm tone he sent out a clear warning to the miscreants and stated, “We are dealing with the situation as it should be dealt with. We are planning to make solar power generation illegal. We have a bright future ahead of us.”

Admitting that he has had to make sacrifices and endure personal hardship over many years in quest of this noble goal, he broke down. His family had ben most affected, he said. He said that his family, as they have always lived in the VIP areas of the city, have had uninterrupted power supply. They have been deprived of the development unleashed on the rest of the country through frequent power cuts. He feared they will be ill equipped to participate in the economic renaissance sweeping across the nation.

In an emotional speech, he said it has been an uphill task to repeatedly avoid facing the facts, ignore correct data, make incorrect projections and parrot out empty promises. It had taken a huge toll on his health and he was happy that he was being moved to a different role which had greater opportunity for the development and welfare of the nation.

With this, he stepped off the stage to a thundering ovation.

(to be continued…)

National Service

Amid the din of rising disenchantment about the government’s inability to tackle the economic woes besetting the country, the cabinet met in secret today to approve the new policy for tackling the economic situation.

In a master-stroke, and through a simple declaration, the government has elevated shopping to the level of “national sport”, ahead of cricket, and hockey, which of course nobody knows about. The doors to the riches that only a few successful sportspersons, particularly of the cricketing variety, could hitherto aspire to, have now been unlocked for the common man. A democratic policy, if ever there was one.

This stroke of genius has taken the opposition by surprise. Everyone may not be able to play cricket, but everyone can shop. The opposition has not been able to call the policy discriminatory and one that panders only to the interests of particular group of society, and not society at large. The only criticism they have been able to come up with, so far, is that the government is blindly aping the West without heed to our culture, where, in many countries, shopping is already the national sport.

The logic is simple. The more shopping you do, the more the economic situation will improve. At least for the seller, if not the buyer. This way, even if half the country benefits, the government would have reduced the economic situation critics to half, from 100% of the population to only 50%. Merely through the act of a declaration.

And, even for the buyer, there is hope. The more he buys, the more he will need to borrow. The more he borrows the more he will contribute as interest income to the banks and financial institutions that are essential services in a modern economy and must be made and kept prosperous at all costs. If not, the government may have to resort to using taxpayer money to prop up these noble institutions. The stronger these institutions are, the more people will be able to borrow from them. Hence, buyers should consider this to be equivalent to a patriotic duty.

Spending more is also expected to have a salubrious impact on the work ethic in the country. The more you spend the more you will borrow. The more you borrow the more rich you will feel. The more rich you feel the more you will borrow to maintain a rich lifestyle. The more you keep borrowing the more interest costs you will need to service. The more interest you service, the harder you will need to keep working, well beyond your normal retirement years. The harder you work the more the work-ethic of the nation improves.

In order to give a further fillip to shopping, the government has also introduced a national reward scheme which is based on incentive points for the amount of shopping done. Weightages have been assigned to various product categories normally shopped for, based on how essential the products bought are to the normal person. All essential items like food will have a NIL weightage. Items like jewellery, fourth car, second house, racehorses, yachts, etc. will be in the highest weightage category. Other items like refrigerators, washing machines, clothes, school textbooks are somewhere in between.

In a rare moment of enlightenment, displaying their complete grasp of the situation and the reality of the modern day shopper, the privileges accorded to shoppers in the national reward scheme will be available even for shopping done online.

The reward scheme will be funded through a new tax that will be levied on shopping done henceforth (the committee disagreed on taxing past shopping), and almost seven percent of the money collected through this tax will be paid back in the form of rewards, after paying for the expenses of the bureaucrats and ministers engaged in administering this scheme, and after purchasing new SUVs for them and their teams, to enable them to smoothly handle this added responsibility.

The opposition has finally been able to find fault with the scheme. They have criticised the government for ignoring the interest of the armed forces, engaged in securing the boundaries of the nation. They have said that the armed forces will not have an equal opportunity of participating in this patriotic programme and contributing to the development of the nation, as they are placed in remote areas. This amounts to discrimination. They have asked that this scheme be placed on par with military service in terms of a patriotism index which they have suggested the government set-up. They have also suggested that all members of the armed forces be given a choice whether they wish to serve the country through risking life and limb in armed combat or doing shopping.