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A small list

Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!
Life in India is very trying. It taxes one's
enthusiasm, stresses the mind and body in many ways,
and at the end of it, one is very likely to end up
with a sense of frustration, apathy and revulsion at
ourselves as impotent human beings ("God, only you can
save us from this mess! All one billion of us taken
together are utterly incapable of doing anything but
mess up things"). The average citizen is in a state of
mind very far from the state required to do a logical
analysis of our state of affairs. When even the basics
of life cannot be catered to, when the grime and dust
and irritation of daily living hammers down the
optimism of each citizen, then what can we expect out
of this immense population?

Perhaps it will be a good idea for us on India Policy
to list some of the common irritants. So here is a
beginning. Having freshly returned from a much more
'smooth' system, these points are perhaps more acutely
felt and observed by me, but I am sure that all of us
have many such things to report. The problem is that
just as the human nose gets used to obnoxious stinks
very soon, so does a human being get used to these
irritants very soon after which these become 'part of
life,' and anyone mentioning them is considered 'out
of touch with reality' and 'having unreasonable
standards.' The list I am preparing below is grossly
inadequate, making a tentative beginning. Thousands of
other irritants are left out, as a casual perusal of
the list will show. The list needs to be consolidated
by all of us and it can be placed in one part of the
IPI web page. Later, we can classify these, and even
bring to debate the appropriate policy which might
help get rid of some of the irritants. This list is of
course in no particular order. So here goes:

*       Garbage is thrown and piled up by people on the
roadside since there is no bin provided  or the bins
are broken themselves (just come to my house to see a
huge garbage heap outside my backyard!).

*       People urinate all over the place leading to
obnoxious smells since we do not know how to run
public urinals (Sulabh Sauchalayas, where are you?).

*       The notes supplied by banks are put into packs of
100 each by use of 4 huge rusted staples pierced
through the bunch, which not only take superhuman
strength to open, but require big screwdrivers and
other tools to take apart, thus tearing up the notes
in the process. Bankers cause damage to the notes they
are supposed to preserve!

*       Banks supply you Rs.500 notes which are then not
accepted in the market, and indeed are not accepted by
banks themselves (so leading to one more personal trip
to senior officials of the bank! The last one was when
the teller would not start transacting till well
beyond 10:30 am. India is one long line, where
everyone waits for everything on earth, including
making payment! For getting your money, you have to
wait, of course. We dislike smoothness in life and
will not provide ATMs. We would much rather go on
strike against computerization)

*       The telephones either don't work at all, or possess
massive static and noise, or dial up wrong numbers, or
receive wrong numbers (I get about 4 wrong numbers to
each correct one), or you can't hear the party who is
calling you, or you hear your own echo! Miraculous is
the ability of our telephone department to mess up a
simple gadget called a telephone which can be
mass-produced in Timbuctoo or Afghanistan if needed.

*       To get the internet, due to the government monopoly
over the system, there is scarcity of supply of dialup
ports, leading to a long waiting list for provision of
the connection, which you overcome by pressurizing the
GM Telephones, and thereafter you fill out a long
form, wait for a demand note to be sent to you, submit
money in a different office located in a distant
building (before 12:30 am else their counter closes!),
and then wait endlessly for the internet exchange to
inform you about your account being activated. After
that (and this is based on the experience of my
friends) you dial up a series of different numbers,
upto 80 times and whenever you are connected, you get
disconnected in a short while. And as a bonus for
being a loyal Indian, you pay at rates much higher
than people 50 times richer, pay in USA. And you see
huge massive buildings and hundreds of staff belonging
to the great DOT, feeding less than a few thousand
subscribers. Communication in India is a luxury. Long
live industrialization!

*       Schools - charging Rs. 500 per month, and providing
no facilities worth the name, prescribe books produced
by NCERT or whatever, which are not available in the
market, or if available, are illegible, with pages
missing and the reverse side's print impinging
through. You hunt - unsuccessfully - in three cities
and in corners of many remote streets in order to add
to the collection of books your child is supposed to
read. In the end you photocopy entire books.

*       It is still not customary to use computers in the
government, leading to unending problems of
organization and communication. One short draft letter
takes two days with many corrections and re-typings,
costing well over Rs. 1500/- in labor costs of the
stenos and officers. And e-mail is not used, of
course, adding hundreds of rupees and many days to the
delivery cost of that letter.

*       The city water supply - a scarce commodity since it
requires a water purification plant - is made scarcer
by poor workmanship leading to leaking pipes, badly
placed pipes which are broken into by the public at
large, no supervision, etc. Roughly 30% of the water
is wasted by the supply organization and its
distribution system itself. Another 10% is wasted by
houseowners who are unable to purchase tanks which do
not leak.

*       Primitive hand tools are used instead of accurate
and sophisticated power tools, leading to all kinds of
misalignments in anything requiring drilling a screw.
Our technicians would not be qualified to dig a 2 inch
hole in sand, anywhere else in the world.

*       Everybody who is 'official' has given up on the
possibility of devising methods of improving the
traffic congestion that we have "achieved" at the
lowest levels of urbanization in the world. Each
'manager' of public services blames someone else for
the problems at hand and bides his or her time having
passed the buck.

*       There are virtually no pedestrian crossings and
those that exist are unusable. Crossing roads is a
hazard which takes a heavy toll on human life and

*       Government hospitals do not have any equipment that
works. There are not even funds for tubelights.
Instead, you are asked by the government physicians to
come to their private clinics in the evening where the
better, or at least, functional machines are kept.

*       Virtually no ATMs exist - at least not in the
North-east. Therefore, if you somehow miss drawing
cash from banks before a series of holidays, you are
stranded without cash and have to borrow from others
to survive the holidays.

*       There is inadequate supply of coinage, a basic
function of the government, leading to situations
where shopkeepers turn down purchases made by you if
you do not furnish exact change. I have not been able
to buy biscuits worth Rs.12 because I did not have
change. And the less said about our leprous Rs.2 and
Rs.5 notes, the better.

*       Shoelaces are not available in "Bata" shops or
regular shoe shops since 'there is no longer any
supply,' and you make do with laces which are far too
short for your shoes, by leaving huge gaps in the

*       Everything is scarce. You hunt and you hunt. You
make special lists of shops which might keep a
telephone or electrical socket of reasonable quality,
power cord, tennis ball, good stationary, and so on.
No one-stop shopping here. You peck from shop to shop,
collecting one item after the other. And of course you
cannot order over phone, nor expect mail delivery of
goods. More often, you get a poor substitute or simply
give up.

*       You come back with massive globs of mud and other
rubbish on your shoes after shopping for vegetables.
How many times do you have to wash shoes?

*       Your car's door lock is of such poor quality that it
does not open. You hammer it and then it yields. No
one seems to know how to produce anything of quality -
whether the private or the public sector.

*       Your car's ignition key slips out and falls down on
the floor mat as you wait on a slope; and of course
the car stalls and stops. Being a stick shift as there
are no automatics in India, it requires unbelievable
dexterity to somehow restart it and move ahead again
without causing a serious accident.  Your car's parts
such as screws and wires come out at all odd time on
journeys of merely 100 km, brakes fail regularly
(brake oil leaks out mysteriously), and it is a sheer
miracle that you still have a life-expectancy above
*       Footpaths are designed to snag and break the legs of
the pedestrians - particularly inexperienced children.

*       You have no hope of sitting on a clean seat in the
cinema hall, so you do not go to cinema anymore.

*       You go to a 'decent' restaurant, and a cockroach
comes and sits next to your plate. You have decided to
eat 'Maggie' noodles instead of going out.

*       You bargain for milk not mixed with water with your
milkman by offering him a much higher than 'market'

*       Your transporter charges the highest rate for
loading your household goods and then you find that
your best teak furniture has been virtually destroyed
in the journey across the country, and you are left
high and dry with major losses in your hand, and no
compensating mechanism.

*       Electric power is of such a bad quality that you pay
more than your entire annual electricity bill in
purchasing stabilizers and UPSs for your equipment.
And so many emergency lights, electric torches, and
even inverters and generators.

*       Getting kerosene and gas to run your kitchen are
tasks of such immense magnitude that the travails in
securing these are best left unrecorded. The amount of
paperwork and ridiculous procedures that we follow are
so mindboggling that it is a miracle that so many
people still use these modern 'facilities' instead of
using coal and wood to cook food. And of course our
kerosene stoves do not work properly, causing the food
cooked on the stove to reek of kerosene. And rubber
pipes of the gas stoves leak gas. You have to be on
the alert lest your house gets burnt down by these

*       Trucks and buses made by TATA, BATA or ZATA - our
'glorious private companies' - they are all the same -
completely sheltered from competition and good
technology - exude such dark fumes that you choke and
get nauseated while passing hundreds of such polluters
in the 3-hour climb up the hills.

*       Tens of uncouth wild dogs run amok on streets
forcing you to buy a walking stick for your morning

*       Large modern hotels exist without parking lots, and
reportedly without fire protection measures.

*       A road trip across the country is carefully planned
to dodge thugs (mostly Police and tax officials at the
hundreds of checkgates we have in our 'free' country).
You make elaborate plans to stuff your truck with
official documents else the trip will cost thousands
of rupees more as greedy hands stretch out at each
gate. Those paid to protect us are our worst
tormenters. I would never like to be a transporter in
this 'free' country.

*       Virtually every fourth car or jeep (now Armada,
Gypsy) you see has a red light for no rhyme or reason.
And every 2nd car has a dark tinted glass. All laws on
this subject are fully violated.
*       Only socialistic political parties are accepted in
India (Section 29A(5) of the ROP Act, 1951). So we
have no scope of seeing any political group advocating
economic freedom in India, by default. USSR is dead.
Long live Socialist India. We are christened as
socialists the moment we are born.

Well, despite my hands and arms still paining
considerably (though much lesser than before) and numb
each morning from incurable CTS and RSI, I have typed
these thoughts, and will try to send this to IPI
somehow from somewhere till I get my own internet
connection, someday ...

Please do try to add to this list so that we may
compile these irritants, classify them, and finally,
try to do something about them. The torture and
frustration that we go through on a daily basis in
India is not really necessary, I believe. But first
let us begin by recording the daily torture involved
in being an Indian. And I have not even come close to
the level of frustration which is faced by the poor of
India on a daily basis. Their frustration and apathy
must be 100% complete.

In all these cases, the underlying cause is bad
policy. The trick is to collect these events and to
explore these with an analytical mind, with the goal
of framing good policy.

Note: One thing I thought I'd mention to avoid any
sense of misunderstanding here. This is not a litany
of grievances against anyone. I still find most
Indians retaining a basic sense of humour and able to
enjoy the small things of life. A movie song or a
poem, a bit of beauty in the environment: these still
evoke a sense of satisfaction. Many years ago I wrote:
"The best that a man can do is to look at a pebble and
to admire its various colours in the reflection of the
sun." There is still much to enjoy here. Look at India
with half closed eyes and it is still beautiful. It is
also useful to have myopic eye-sight.


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