Privatization, Responsibility and Corruption

Privatisation seems to have gone from dynamic ideological choice, to route of least resistance for the state to abdicate its responsibility in a variety of policy areas. Anything difficult and measurable – problem schools; elderly care; waste disposal; big infrastructure projects – is left to private capital. In exactly the same way that outsourcing has evolved for private enterprise, it has become an expensive way of getting rid of problems to which those in charge have no solutions.

It is much easier to close a free school than to explain why a state school has gone disastrously wrong.

via theguardian

The same is happening in India. Now they are planning to privatize airports and Indian Airlines on the reasons of efficiency. For education, the government supports private school with aids. When the same money could have been used to better the government schools. In each sector the reliance on private sector to do the jobs is increasing. Even in case of vehicles in government offices, the trend is that you employ a private vehicle and a driver, instead of having a driver on the payroll. So is the case with computer maintenance. In each government office there are private firms which are paid large sums to make sure that the computers are kept running. Why can’t there be an internal department to look after that? The privatization both complete and contractual, lead to massive corruption opportunities for both politicians and the bureaucrats as can be seen in the recent series of scams that have surfaced in India. The main problem that is facing the people is privatization of our natural resources and that of responsibilities of the Government, the resulting corruption is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a symptom of the disease. Even then the major media houses never question, why these mega scams became possible in the first place? They are more eager to make scapegoats out of certain people, but the system which allowed the scams to happen is never challenged.

That said, it seems the ideological stance privatization, resulting in denial of responsibility of state and loss of money from the public purse cannot be halted unless there is a strong pressure from within to halt such measures.

Déjà vu of déjà vu

I was introduced to the term déjà vu from The Matrix. This is how the scene unfolds:

matrix-deja-vu-black-cat

[Neo sees a black cat walk by them, and then a similar black cat walk by them just like the first one]
Neo: Whoa. Déjà vu.
[Everyone freezes right in their tracks]
Trinity: What did you just say?
Neo: Nothing. Just had a little déjà vu.
Trinity: What did you see?
Cypher: What happened?
Neo: A black cat went past us, and then another that looked just like it.
Trinity: How much like it? Was it the same cat?
Neo: It might have been. I’m not sure.
Morpheus: Switch! Apoc!
Neo: What is it?
Trinity: A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.

matrix-deja-vu-neo

Now let us leave The Matrix for now and enter the real world. I mean our world, and I am not Morpheus. We had a lot of issues with the quandrangular cat recently at my working place. Now don’t ask what a quandrangular cat is? If you don’t know already, you don’t need to know. Remember, in the first approximation the cow is a spherical object.

Leela-1

Circa, a few months back we had a sorry looking undomesticated cat, who was domesticated, nursed back to health, and attained zen (if you don’t believe me see the picture above (Picture Credits: Rafikh)). This was only possible by the warmth of many people’s affections and efforts. But unfortunately the cat overstayed, unwelcomed by some, on GoI property (without paying any taxes!) which wrecked havoc and created a red alert. To further complicate the matters, we could not for sure determine if the cat was a he or a she! The presence of cat in the campus was as good as an extinction event, extinction of one’s peace of mind and good vibes. that is. This called for extreme measures to show cat (and the ailurophiles ) their respective places. The entire drama was just short of executing the cat (and the ailurophiles ) in public. The cat was sent into exile, and if the reports coming in believed to be true, even there it is creating extinction events!

Now. Yesterday, déjà vu ! I see a similar cat in the same place approaching me similarly, well not almost as same as Neo’s black cat but quite similar. And I almost said as Neo does, (but I am neither Neo) “déjà vu!” First thing I thought was the déjà vu  in The Matrix. But then this is a déjà vu of déjà vu, and cats are involved in both of them. What is it with cats and déjà vu? Déjà vu  recursive, nothing more groovier than that! Four cats in all. The newer cat, which caused the current déjà vu , was smaller and in sorrier state and also approached me on the same table as earlier one. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the newer cat for comparison. Will this create another leela (pun intended), which would be another déjà vu for both ailurophiles and ailurophobes? Actually if semantics of earlier sentence are seen, then we come to conclusion that leela  and déjà vu are same 😛

Trouble with a kitten

Now it remains to be seen what has changed in The Matrix.

PS: This new cat seems to have set the ball rolling, it is already making people uncomfortable, causing extinction events!

Absurdity of TV Censorship

Recently I was watching a movie on the TV, a movie that I had seen earlier. But then as I watched on there seemed to be scenes, dialogs and words missing from the movie. According to the new laws of censorship in cinema one cannot show cigarette being smoked on the screen and forget about liquor not to mention anything about strong language or nudity. Similar things have been adopted for the TV channels. Don’t show this, don’t talk about that.

I ask the question why?

 Why is that we need to censor things which according to some individuals is vile, corrupting? As a democracy Indians do have a right to elect whom they see fit to govern them, so aren’t enlightened citizens good enough to select what they want to see? Because, if they are not, then even giving them voting rights would be dangerous, they might elect vile and corrupt politicians to power! And if at all the things such as cigarette and liquor, harsh language  with all the Effour letter words,love acts, nudity will corrupt the population, why not banish them from the society. One one hand the government is keen on taxing the industries which manufacture these products in the first place, on the other hand this thing happens! Also one of the arguments that is given is that closing of such industries will take away employment from a whole lot of people. So by censoring cigarettes and liquor is not the government doing exactly that? There is a contradiction which I think I will never be able to understand.

I remember there was a question raised in parliament about this some years back by somebody. It must be sometime in August the logo for a music channel had the Indian tricolor on it. At the same time late in the night [11ish] there used to be a program for dancers. PYTs used to dance on music wearing as you might have guessed a bit skimpy clothes. So some morally upright MP raised this question, that how could be such a thing allowed? In response somebody else pointed out what was the MP doing watching such a thing in the first place at such an unholy hour in the night. The story here reflects the typical attitude, they want all for themselves but when it comes to public, the public needs to be told what they should watch on media. This the Government is doing, controlling the media and trying to control your thoughts.

But fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the government, this is the age of Internet. The example of Wikileaks has shown us that even the mighty US Government cannot stop the flow of information on the Internet. But who can forget Indian Governments attempt to kill Savita Bhabhi? India’s first own porn star was put to death by an Government by issuing the ISPs to not allow to access the said web site which hosted her. But that did not kill her, did it? Instead she became immortal.

Perhaps the Government should look at the implications and be practical when they are trying to implement the laws of morality over general public. Do not we see people smoking and drinking in public, isn’t molesting of women and their brutal rapes a part of our daily lives, aren’t children getting the worst of the things that we as a civilization have to offer to them? Then why make a facade of moral values to try to take control of the media? This is my take on it. The Government doesn’t bother whether you or your children grow up as shitbags, but what it bothers about is the control, the thought control precisely.

Government wants the control.

Controlling media would also control what people think and see. And its not just about any Government, the politicians that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. The Government is a system which wants above everything else, the control. There was a time when the control was easy, but we still haven’t got over the License Raj, have we? Now they want to introduce the UID, a solution for all the ills in this country. UID, at best, is a solution looking for a problem. The UID project is in place just because the industry has something to sell, and tax payers money has no guardians. They say they will monitor all the progress of an individual. And you know how safe are we when we give all the control to a central authority.

From what we have happening in India in the recent years it wont be long before we have our own version of Orwellian dystopia.

Big Brother Babu is watching you.

The UID will enter into all aspects of your life, birth, education, property, communications, death, travel. UID does not make your country safe, but makes it easier to target “the most dangerous man” as told by Spyder Jerusalem in the Vertigo comics series Transmetropolitan.

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to
 think things out for himself, without regard to prevailing
 superstitions or taboos. Almost inevitable he comes to the
 conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and
 intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. Even
 if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among
 those who are.

 – H L Mencken

Till then beware of what decisions that you support, as they will be paid for by your own children…

Passport Blues…

The Passport Adventure
Finally the day arrived that I applied for the passport.
This was pending from a long time literally, [6 years to be precise!]. The preparation for this grand event began about two weeks before.
The first thing that we did was to look at the list of the required documents. Sorry boss, no ration cards, electricity or telephone bills or election IDs at the present address. What do I do?
Oh yes, there was one ray of hope for people like us, who are abandoned by the government in terms of our identity. The list read thus:

Proof of address (attach one of the following): 

Applicant’s ration card, certificate from Employer of reputed companies on letter head, water /telephone /electricity bill/statement of running bank account/Income Tax Assessment Order /Election Commission ID card, Gas connection Bill, Spouse’s passport copy, parent’s passport copy in case of minors.

This is from the Passport Department’s website here [italics mine]. Well I has these two, so I was happy. 
The other major thing was proof of date of birth. The website reads thus:

Proof of Date of Birth (attach one of the following): 

Birth certificate issued by a Municipal Authority or district office of the Registrar of Births & Deaths;

Date of birth certificate from the school last attended by the applicant or any other recognized educational institution; or an Affidavit sworn before a Magistrate/Notary stating date/place of birth as per the specimen in ANNEXURE ‘A’ by illiterate or semi-illiterate applicants. 

Well this I had the SSC mark sheet has date of birth.
Also I had to get these two Annexure B and I. Well I got the Annerxure B thanks to our office administration. And Annexure I thanks to a security guy in the office whose brother did the job. Took the photosof passport size [3.5 cm x 3.5 cm] also they have come okay [I guess]. As compared to other photos of mine. 🙂
Also for the ECNR stamp, I was required to show that I was at least 10th pass. So I decided to give the highest one that I have got viz. M.Sc. mark sheet; one of the two achievements of my entire life, the other one being my selection at HBC.

Well then compiled the other documents. The list of documents to be submitted read thus:

1 Proof of Address
Residence proof from the office
Statement of Bank Account
2 Date of Birth Proof
SSC Mark Sheet
3 Annexure B [Office ID Proof]
4 Anexure I [Standard Affidavit]
5 M.Sc. Marksheet for ECNR
Thus we were ready!
Then we filled out the form on the website, which gave us an ‘appointment’ for the application. The date was fixed on 9th April 2008 [Tai’s Birthday] and the time was 11:30 am. This is what the website reads:

Please visit Passport office on the appointed date and time. You should arrive at RPO about 15 minutes before the appointed time and proceed to the respective counter. On line applicants do not need to obtain a  token number for submitting their applications. You will not have to wait long in the queue. 
Well the last line brought a BIG smile to me. Such a care taken at a government office; I was impressed.
Another good news was waiting for me, we could also submit the form at Chembur so that we don’t have to go all the way to Prabha Devi to just submit the forms. The address of the above office was taken from the Mumbai Police Helpline number 1090, where the attendant was surprisingly very helpful. No irony intended here. I mean it. The guy on the other side of the phone was really helpful. I wish everybody in the Government office [at least the PROs] were like him.
I was the happiest being in the universe. 
So the fateful day arrived, we had done everything else except one minor detail of actually filling up the form, of whatever columns was left. We thought of doing this the night before, but Mishraji went to sleep when I was going to the office. So it was decided that we fill up the forms in the morning at 8:30 am, and go to the office in Chembur at about 10, as opposed to 11 suggested by Mishraji.
Had our breakfast and went on the Wind Wolf. Well the address that Mishraji and I had was in exactly opposite directions; so total confusion about where to go. 
First we went to the office behind the fine arts society building. But this was a mistake the Passport accepting office was at the other end in Chembur colony. So went there. There were very few people in line there, but why should we worry we had an appointment at 11:30 and we were early for it, for it was just 10:25 !
When we went inquiring we were directed to a lady who was checking the forms. Yess! We were finally there, my six year old dream of getting a passport or at least the first step towards it seemed to be coming true. 
I told the lady that we had an appointment even though she ws checking some forms. 
But, then, किंतू, परंतू, लेकिन …..
Well this was the end of the dream run that we have had so far…
The lady on the desk in told me in a way characteristic of a a government office person:
अाम्ही ईथे रोज फक्त ३० फॉर्म घेतो. ३० टोकन दिलेले अाहे, तर तुम्ही ऊद्या या, अाज तुमचा फॉर्म घेता येणार नाही. 
Meaning that: ”Everyday we take here only 30 forms only. For today 30 tokens have already been given, so we cannot accept your form.”

But how can this be? I tried to argue that we had an appointment, and were not supposed to stand in any line or take any tokens! But she would not budge and told us that the website appointment did not have any relevance. WTF! 
I mean, I could not believe it. How can a government website be so misleading. Even then I did not loose my cool, I kept on insisting on the word ‘appointment’, so be it she must have thought. Then she told us that if you  want to avail the appointment you will have to go to Prabha Devi head office. When I asked her about how to go there, she was staring towards me in disbelief. Huh, this guy wants to go there?
Anyway without receiving much help from her I went out and met some constables who directed me towards the Prabha Devi Passport head office, which was after Siddhi Vinayak. Well if this is how it is supposed to be, then let it be. Today I had to submit this form.
We still had about 50 minutes to reach there, I estimated that we could reach there in about 35-40 minutes, which was correct. When in the old office at 11:15 so we had a sigh of relief. But this was also short lived. We were told that passport submission happened in Bengal Chemical Bhavan, which was nearby. How much nearby he did not specify. Anyway we found it was really nearby. 
Hmm, spirits were high again, we can finally make up for the appointment at 11:30. Well here I felt more than happy when I saw a long line of people with passport forms in their hand. We laughed at them. Idiots. In this age of internet how could be there fools who were applying directly, waiting for tokens, uggghhh, I was seeing dumb people. With smart asses like us, who were net and tech savvy, we can really be ahead of the rest of the tech haves-not! Ha ha ha ha….
At the end of the line we were greeted by a security guard. Who asked us
क्या काम है?
We with our chest held high told that we have an appointment and we had to submit our forms. So far so good. Then he spoke some pearls of wisdom for us:
अॉनलईन अपॉईंटमेंट का कोई मतलब नहीं. ये लाईन में लगे हुऐ सभी लोगों का अपॉईंटमेंट है. लाईन में लग जाईए, अापका अपॉईंटमेंट भी हो जाएगा.
Ha ha ha, I did not know what to do, neither Mishraji had any idea. This was one of those moments if I had a bulldozer, I would have razed the entire building. Talking to the guard was like talking to a wall. It was not his fault, he was just doing what he was told to. Then whose fault is it? Did the people at NIC made a typo [or several] while making the website? Anyways these questions for me would be like enduring questions for time to come…
Now we ran towards the end of the line, here again a few people were added since we went past it. So we were left at end of a very long line. There we came to know that we were not alone in being fooled by the online submission’s claim of 

You will not have to wait long in the queue.
The sun was laughing down on us. All of us fools who were standing in the queue for the appointment. People around me were relating how they fell for this just like us. Also taking the government machinery for its lethargy and stubbornness. Anyway we were pacing forward at one tenth of snail’s pace. The only aim was to get inside the hall and we thought that all our troubles would get solved in a jiffy. Anyway till 12:45 we got in the hall and…
There was a total chaos in there. We were supposed to go to the 8 number counter. The queues for different counters did start differently but as they grew long, in the end all merged into a mass of people, who barely knew which line was where. One by one the people were leaving and we were progressing in the queue. 
Some of us did panic, as there were boards around saying that acceptance of forms and fees will be only till 12:30. But then someone told us that it is till 5:00 pm. Now all this standing in queue in the sun was showing up. I had not had water in the morning and was feeling really thirsty. The only cooler in the room was not working. But there was another escape root. There was a CCD counter. We ate some sandwiches and shakes which made us feel better. Meanwhile Mishraji had ventured outside and got us a water bottle which was not available at the CCD counter. [Note: Always carry a water bottle whenever you are outside in Mumbai, the thirst might just kill you!].
Till the lunch time we got really close to the chairs. Chairs the all important chairs. Never in my entire life I have craved for one, the way I was craving for it then. We were just one number away from the chairs when the Lunch Time was commenced. Not good will have to stand at least half hour more, without seating. Taking a clue from another person who was sitting merrily on the floor I decided to do the same. What a relief it was!
At last the lunch time got over and our man was back at the place where we all wanted him to be. Well he had become really charged when he had returned. He quickly send out a lot many of them and we finally did have a space to sit!
Some people from the pre-lunch session returned, whom our guy had send running for various things. One of the guys in blue shirt was really made to run and sweat. He was with his wife and mother I guess. But in the end much later he had his work done. 
Well but all this ate upon our waiting time in the queue. So when we were just a few people away the entire thing came to a standstill at least for us.
 
I was loosing all the energy to fight or otherwise. The bottle of water was a precious resort, which we both were banking upon. Just then Mishraji realized that he had not attached ‘two self attested copies of all the documents’ he had only one! In a hurry he went outside, and got the copies. Phew! That was a close one.
Well I noticed another thing, I had not brought the original bank passbook only the copies. Bad. So my short list of documentary evidences was further shortened. I hope that this does not create a problem, so I decide not to attach it.
Finally we were there, at the counter; where they take the forms to give the passport
When I presented him with the documents, he asks me
काय अॅडरेस प्रुफ लावले अाहे?
[What address proof have you attached?]
I explained to him that the office had given me a letter as a proof of residence which fitted in the categories given on the website. He said in plain words:
हे चालणार नाही.
[This is not good enough, it is not acceptable.]
When we insisted we were sent to see a साहेब at the 19 number counter. Mishraji followed the same as we both had evidences. We went to the officer concerned, who was in argument with someone over a passport which was lost.
Finally he had some time for us. He had a look at us and our evidences and asked 
तुम्ही स्टुडंट अाहे, अाणि गव्हरमेंट सरव्हंट पण?
[You are both students and government servants?]
Then I explained to him that I was doing my Ph.D., he assumed the same for Mishraji. Then he finally gave a nod for us and said our evidences are okay. So after thanking him we ran back to8 number counter, where our man was sitting doing others jobs. We told him that the officer has given the nod. Then he asks 
मग त्यांना, please accept, असे लिहायला सांगा.
[Ask him to give in written that this is acceptable.]
We went back to the officer and he duly wrote 
GS + Student and Annx B on our forms with a green ink.
So finally we were back at the 8 number counter. The queue which was  behind us was getting shorter and shorter with more and more people being disposed off. When we went back, he was not happy even after that with the documentary evidences. So he went all the way down to some other guy at counter 10, ad asked him advice about our ‘complicated case’. Well he asked what other documentary evidence did we have. I told him that I have Institute ID, PAN card and Bank pass book copy but I forgot to bring the original passbook. He looked not very happy. He asked me other non-relevant questions like 
तुम्ही काय काम करता? PhD चा विषय काय? Stipend भेटतो का? किती भेटतो? ितथे काय entrance असते का? पारपत्र कशाला हवं?
[What work do you do? What is the subject of your PhD? Do you get a stipend? How much? Is there an entrance to get into the institute? What do you need passport for?]
Then after much deliberation he finally nodded. And asked us to get the copies of the ID, PAN card and we were done. I hurried to Hall number 2, where there was a Xerox facility on a Canon copier. 
Anyway after the copying, I came back and Mishraji was no where to be found. He apparently went all the way out to get copies not knowing that there was a copier in hall number 2. Poor guy.
When I went back to the counter, the guy at the counter told me to come after everybody else’s thing got over. As ours was a ‘complicated case’. It was about 4:30 So we had to wait for 10 more minutes, when finally Mishraji appeared all sweating. And we finally got to submit the documents. We had to make two sets of all the documents ready, which we did. 
Then he asks for a proof of place of birth. Well this was not mentioned anywhere. Any way he also gave a solution for that, that we write a note which claimed that we were indeed born in the places we said we were born. And that was it. Good!
Finally after last scrutiny he affixed stamp on it and I had to sign it. And I proceeded to give the fees 1000 INR. But Mishraji had a problem, he had not attached two copies of the Annexure I or the affidavit. Well I also had not….
Then came back to the person and told him, that I also do not have two copies of the affidavit. He was surely pissed off on me and angry too, but it was all my fault. Okay he had to remove staples and give me the affidavit back. We almost ran back to hall number 2 and got the affidavits copied and ran back to hall number 1. 
Well finally we submitted the form and stood in the line to give the fees. Well at the fee counter if you were paying by 500 or 1000 denomination notes you had to write their numbers. Well we did that and the lady at the counter asked me what was my subject of MSc, when I replied physics she commented physics is hard. Well I never knew doing MSc in physics would come useful in this way. So when I paid the cash I finally thought it was over, but destiny had other plans….
And O remembered this line from Bombay [sorry Mumbai] Boys…
अभी खत्म नहीं हुअा च्युत्ये…
The lady at the cash counter told me that I had not filled the form completely!! Both me and the gentleman at the counter were taken aback. What I had not filled was that the witnesses for my testimony at the home address, in one of the copies of the form.
The guy almost invited me to fill the form in a satirical way. When I did fill it, it was finally over this time.
The guy at the counter told me only due to stamp of TIFR that he had entertained me… 
Well so far so good. 
I hope that there won’t be any further adventures left for me.
And now I am waiting for my passport to come…
P.S. My passport has finally arrived on Friday 15th May 2008 in HBCSE. Unfortunately me being in Pune will have to collect the passport on Monday. Now for the facts the passport did arrive in a record 36 days, 9 days before the scheduled date of 45 days. Thanks to all the officials who were involved. The Indian bureaucracy has large inertia, so that it takes a large time to get it going, but when it does it does get going.
Ciao
🙂