Monday, April 2, 2012

Are We Failing As Citizens Of This Country?




After I wrote about the “Ugly side of Gurgaon” a lot of my friends wanted to know, what I was planning to do next. An incident such as this cannot be dismissed as a one-off occurrence. It happens every day, people face worse and we will continue to be victimized if we accept is as our karma.

Pawan puts forth some valid observations. It’s an ugly picture he has painted but it’s not far from the truth.



Today, I read your experience with the police. I am sorry you had to go through it.

And then I examined my own feelings about it. I am angry. And I am very angry, because when I read your account, I didn't feel angry. I only nodded along, thinking, "business as usual in our country."

The shocking bit, the painful bit, the irritating bit, the positively galling bit is the apathy towards the system that exists within me and I assume, by extension, the rest of the country (and a majority of those comments on your blog does nothing but reinforce that view).

I wonder why? I can perhaps excuse the uneducated, illiterate people who have to survive despite the system (on 28 rupees a day), and perhaps must make compromises. But what excuse do the educated, well-off among us have? Why do we stop at twitter-trends, and armchair outrage?



Is it that surviving in a country of 1.2bn, where each one of us has to fend for himself, has made us so selfish that we refuse to look beyond issues that don’t immediately affect us? Is it because (at the risk of sounding like Greg Chappell) we have forgotten to stand up for our rights since the British rule? Is it because we are too adaptable? Or is it because we like to feel victimized, and blame something that is not in our control. That feeling of martyrdom that’s so addictive!

Maybe it is all of the above. Or maybe it is none of this. I do not know.

What I do know is, whatever it is, we deserve what we’re getting. Why? Because we haven't done anything about it. We deserve the leaders we have. We deserve the netas that rule us. Because we let them. We deserve this “system” because we are not changing it.

And I am tired. Tired of blaming others. Crying about the problems. I'd like solutions. I want to make a difference. I have already written about how conveniently we forget that we ARE the bloody system, and for the system to change, we must change. I however, struggle to see how to make that happen? How to keep up the crusade even if it is only a single-person crusade against the apathy that infects us so. To make a tangible difference to what the problem might be.Have you ever thought of what we can do to combat this, beyond making it trend on twitter? Have you done anything? Do you have ideas? Is there something that you need people or help with? Can we take the next step after pointing out what is wrong, and actually fix it?

As a "known blogger", is that a question you can ask, and find answers to?

I realize this comes across as accusatory. Believe me, it isn't. I am not glossing over or belittling the anguish you went through. We've all been through stuff like this. I have. But it would be nice if we could do something about it, so this is the first and last time we go through this thing. It would be nice if this post didn’t end up being an ironic reminder of EXACTLY what we’re failing to do.


Pawan apportions his time between real and fictional worlds. In the real world, he pretends to be an IT consultant and wastes the remainder of his time in worlds of science fiction. He likes to reflect on the futility of existence and pontificate on things he doesn’t know much about. He occasionally blogs at @ http://pawanrajs.wordpress.com.



47 comments:

  1. I totally agree with what Pawan says. In my own small way, I have been fighting bribing here. I am very proud that I got the BBMP khata for my home and my passport without paying any bribe. I did not use connections but RTI to achieve these. My husband used RTI too to get his passport verification done quickly. In my small way, I am trying to fight the system.

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    1. It is commendable what you're doing Rachna. Perhaps, you might want to write a blog to make people aware of how they can do this too, in spite of it not being the easy way out. At least it's the right way. Every little effort will help.

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    2. Thank you Pawan! I've documented both my experiences on my blog. They are the most searched posts on the subject, and I get email queries too. Frankly, I did not do anything spectacular. We many times are not even aware of our rights or are lazy to spend time. You might be glad to know that Citizen's Charter will be implemented in most parts of Karnataka now. Let's see if that helps cut down the harassment.

      This is the link to the posts I have done if you'd like to read them:
      http://www.rachnaparmar.com/2010/04/my-bbmp-khata.html
      http://www.rachnaparmar.com/2010/10/rti-right-to-information-extraordinary.html

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    3. I do not agree with you Mr Pawan. Easier said than done, nobody has the time to run around. That does not mean or I do not imply that I am not patriotic or rather, anyone around us is not patriotic. As an honest citizen, I am paying taxes on time, do not break rules, do not jump red lights, do not drink and drive and misbehave. This is what a service man is expected to do. I do not spit on road and I do not litter around.

      Government needs to change. The mentality needs to change. The way they fight in news channels on a petty issue showcases the state of mind of our leaders.

      Stop blaming the common man, Mr Pawan.

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    4. I think we agree on a lot of things, Tushar. Let me start by saying that I am also a common man that you think I am blaming. I agree with your sentiment that it is not easy to run around and deal with inconveniences. I am not saying that we do not follow simple rules. In fact, we are ALSO agreeing that the government and the mentality needs to change.

      But let's picture a scenario:

      I'm sure you have a house to live in - you keep it clean, and maintain it very well. Say, a bunch of hooligans try and break into your house and litter about, break a bunch of things - will you let them? Will you not fight tooth and nail to keep them out?

      What if they somehow get in? Will you not clean up afterwards? Do you, at that time, say that you're only expected to live cleanly and you're not responsible for the litter someone ELSE created in your house?

      And what if your house has a watchman that YOU selected and hired? Will you not take him to task for doing his duty? Or will you shrug and wash your hands off it all because HE screwed up?

      This country is OUR house... the government is elected by us. The "leaders" are selected by US. If we can suffer a few inconveniences for our house, beyond just keeping it clean, why can't we do it for the country?

      I refuse to believe that one person's actions don't make a difference. The large mass of people that we refer to are made of 1.2billion *individuals*, after all.

      So, to come back to your point - yes! The mentality needs to change. OUR mentality needs to change as much as the Government's. WE need to start to clean up our house.

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  2. Some time back at the peak of Anna's movement, I wrote an article "Charity begins at home". Majority of those who stood with candles, tweeted, sported the cap would be the same who would not mind bribing the traffic cops and more of other what we term as "petty bribes" for our own selfish needs. If a society has to change, we have to change first. When i wanted to apply for my wife's driving licence, many around me said you better contact an agent, he would get us the licence and he might charge around 1000-2000 bucks. When I actually went to the RTO, I found all it takes is 30 bucks for learner's licence and 250 bucks for drivers licence with receipt, if only we go and stand in queue and also found the officers quiet amicable over there. Most of us try to take the short cut ourselves while blaming others. Even in traffic we would jump signal all the while blaming other vehicle for negligent driving.

    If only we start chaning ourselves and empower ourselves with what we actually are due and refrain from shortcuts the mailaise cant be removed from our society. Rachana's comment above is a commendable act for what one can do. We have means to achieve our right provided we have the patience and guts to do. If more people come forward, it would bring the change in society, ofcourse it would take time but we have to start rather than just tweeting and amrchair lecturing... (and yes, it applies to me too)

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    1. :). It is about HOW to go about being empowered that we struggle with. That is where we need ideas. While it was difficult to get groups together before... with social media, it should be easier to get together, and be a bigger mass of people that can make a difference. Any ideas would be welcome.

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  3. We fail to see the larger picture as to reason for all this happening! It is widespread economic disparity, illiteracy, lack of understanding, big population and people wanting to take short cuts! We can get a pat by talking about our own way how we fought the system but till these ills go away hopefully in 50 to 100 years time!

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    1. They won't go away in 50-100 years time on their own. We'll have to make efforts. Otherwise, things will continue as they are. And even if they do, why not try and make them go away sooner?

      If we know this is due to illiteracy, lack of understanding etc, is there nothing we can do to combat it, than waiting and hoping for it to go away?

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  4. You are right, we have to be the change we want to see....and end the blame game. Voicing opinions on social media is not working...Need full time social activists. But look at what is happening to RTI activists. The powerful are muzzling their voices.

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    1. The powerful will do that. They wouldn't want to let go of the advantages that they have.

      As a great person once said, "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group, they create, with time, a legal system that authorizes it & a moral code that glorifies it."

      It is up to us to not let plunder become a way of life. If you've done something, or have ideas that as a group can be implemented, do share...

      In this age of social media, when coming together of a group of people is easier than ever before, I am sure we can find strength in numbers, to counter the "muzzling forces"

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    2. Alka, I believe that one does not need to be a full-time activist. You can use RTI as a tool when you face a problem with bureaucrats or government officers.

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  5. Great post, there are lots of questions, unanswered. How do we cleanse the system? Just by being honest ourselves, to start with. I have never given bribe, have took up helping a few in my area, something that could be done within my means. And i am indeed happy with what i have done to the society, my bit.

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    1. Thanks. :). And I wish I had answers... If I did, I would be writing a blog about something else :).

      I doff my hat to you for staying true and honest. We need more like you.

      It would be illuminating to know the difficulties you faced, and how you overcame them. Maybe there's a lesson in there for other readers.

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  6. The answer is YES .. the famous dialogue of a film who wants to dirty their hands in the mud .. is the simple answer, especially if something wrong is happening ot others , ALL is fine. when it happens to us thats when we want everyone to do something.

    End of the day its Us who have voted for the politcians, its US who give the bribe to these employees , Its us who laugh at someone being mistreated by a police official.

    I dare not talk inappropriately to a member of public here , as everyone will get together immediately .. BUT THEn we indians and that is in india and outside too , we dont stand for each other ...
    here also If by chance I happen to shout at a indian NO OTHER INDIAN will step in .. but if i say something to another community person even if I am RIGHT, they do get together and WILL question WHY i am doing this ..

    thats all it takes ask WHY...

    As from personal experience I was in Punjab a few years back, and a police man came and stopped the taxi i was going in started shouting at the driver, the driver has his hands folded and every other person in the place didnot give a damn, no one cared its only when the police man slapped this driver that I got out and asked , there was no offense nothing , the police man jsut wanted to show his power of uniform, I talked to him calmly and he shouted at me too.. in the end I had not other option but to tell him who i was ..
    and THEN he did not know where to look as I asked him to consult his control and ask for the officer in charge I wanted to have a word with him..
    NO ONE GAVE A DAMN.. I spent 2-3 days of my 10 days break on this, that police constable was suspended and an apology submitted to the driver.
    BUT whosoever came to know said to me WHY AM I BOTHERING... so such is the attitude or maybe I am STUPID..
    WE dont do anything and those who do are asked not to .. and even then the number of people doing anything is so less that its like a drop in the ocean...

    Bikram's

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    1. Hats off to you sir, for valuing the dignity of a human being.

      I think that is one thing that we need to learn... to stop measuring the worth of a person by what he does, and the amount of power he has, and at some level, respect him as a human being.

      Perhaps, that alone, will solve a good number of our problems.

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  7. @Purba - How did u manage to get your story across to the TOI?

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    1. Through Twitter. The many retweets my story got, helped.

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  8. If we take up just one cause each, if we get together with others who are interested in the same cause to bounce ideas off each other (and because unity is strength), if we donate one or two hours a week regularly (and without fail) to our cause, we're bound to come up with a good action plan.

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    1. Let's start here then. Let's bounce the ideas. Let's come up with something, and figure out how to make the best use of the two hours a week we donate.

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  9. That there are so many of us (1.2bn) is what breeds this insensitivity/apathy/corruption. The resource crunch in every possible sphere of life that one has to face - the Delhi Metro, the crowded roads, the school/college admissions, the long queues at KFC, etc - results in him/her cutting corners (or wanting to cut corners). Just so, one can secure (for himself/herself and their clan) something that'll be essential for his/her/clan's survival in the future. This survival instinct is, infact, ingrained in our very DNA. Ever wondered why it is the lesser populated countries of the world that are less corrupt? What was that famous Metallica song? "Sad but true" :)

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    1. While I don't deny that this is a factor. I do not think that is the only factor. I've been to countries where life is equally tough, but there is respect for human beings regardless of "who they are".

      THAT, somehow seems missing in our culture. We tend to measure the worth of a person SOLELY by the power he/she is perceived to have. For a country as "spiritual" as ours... this seems oddly materialistic.

      The real question is how to change that?

      Here's a relevant article you might like reading: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/art-culture/kill-the-indian-first

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  10. Purba,

    A wake up call. Hope this thinking spreads.

    Take care

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    1. Concerted efforts and conviction in the belief that things can change.

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  11. Changing ourselves would clear personal consciences not the system. To change the system we need to unite, and stand up against the corrupt, not once, twice but every time without any incidence that invokes the feeling of duty. And this needs to continue even in the most painful, dreadful and adverse situations which'd come in the lives of people who'd dare stand against the system. The moment we start making a difference they'll come, how many people are there like that because it'd require a new freedom struggle, and that's easier said than done. Much, Much easier.

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    1. The system is made up of us. If EVERY person changes themselves, the system will take care of itself.

      It is easier said than done - yes it is. But ONE ANNA showed us it can be done... For the record, I do not agree with Anna's Lokpal bill. But I admire that man's courage to fight the system.

      Yes, we need to unite - because this is now a fight with a powerful organism that has been allowed to grow unfettered. But, in this day and age when the world is connected, that should be easier than before.

      And let's at least try? Let's start fighting. If not take the monster head on, at least stub it's toe.. cause it some pain.

      I do not have all the answers... and I wrote this post to ask a larger audience if they have some. I don't deny it's not easy. But most good things aren't :).

      Delete
  12. A great post. It is easy to indict someone else, forgetting what we are ourselves. We are all in a hurry and so don't think twice about jumping the queue, greasing palms and offering bribes to get things done faster than those who are in line before us. It is important to do things the right way even if one has to stand in line for hours. We do.

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  13. I accept all the points made here, but what the 'educated, well-to-do class' lacks in our country is a strong identity. Here the government will make policies for you if you are Poor, an OBC, a Muslim, a Jaat,a Tamilian,a Marathi,a Dalit or any other damn thing. People who don't fall into the jurisdictions of any of the above definitions are not counted being into existence. Sadly, this is what I feel about the situation. Though, all of us (educated, law-abiding, tax-paying) would fall into atleast one of more of above, we certainly don't want to be identified. Can you think of any policy brought forward by the goverment in recent times which the educated middle class can be happy about? I bet, none.

    I don't have a solution as in what is going to make educated middle-class identity a strong one or atleast strong enough that administration doesn't discount them for being harmless obidient fellows.

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    1. If we are not happy, what have we done about it? Heck, that's our identity - we're the bunch which is unhappy with status quo. Let's unite!

      Delete
  14. Dear Mr Pawan, your wrath appears boundless indeed. Please do not ask whether or not I am also equally livid. Do not ask also whether or not I am part of the system. I obviously am.

    Since you have referred to your previous outrage, I felt compelled to visit your site and where I came upon a post titled "I am angry" and believed it to be related to the one here.

    However, I have a problem with the high moral stand taken by the Twitter-enabled high class who are ready to "excuse the uneducated, illiterate people who have to survive despite the system (on 28 rupees a day)" I am sure we are talking of a class here which has an absolutely overwhelming majority (I do not have the statistics) in this nation. It is as if these people did not have a dignity of their own and hence remained ineligible to remedies, even if it were by reaching out to the elite through tweets or getting noticed by the TOI. I am sorry to say I feel inclined to differ from you here: I have no part in any such Matrix of condescension that you propound.

    I will wait, however, for you to enlighten us further on the subject

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    1. Thank you, for taking time out to read this post, as well as the one on my blog, and indeed commenting here with your views about it.

      At the outset, quick googling reveals that the % of people who subsist on $1.25/day in India is ~30%. That is not a majority, although, it indeed is a very large number.

      That factoid aside, I do believe you've misunderstood me. And perhaps, in that, the fault is mine. I should've been clearer.

      I am not discounting these 30%. Nor am I saying they do not have dignity or are ineligible for remedies.

      In fact if I may trouble you to read a few other comments I made right on this very post, you'll find that one of the things I believe we must do is educate people to value human dignity for all human beings, without it being contingent on how "powerful" or "rich" they are. I wouldn't want to be condescending towards those that aren't as privileged as me. This, basic human dignity, in fact was the thing that struck me the most when I traveled outside the country.


      My point here was that we are in some way responsible for the "broken" or "inefficient" or "non-functioning" system. And while the 30%, who must do all they can only to stay alive, MAY be excused for breaking the system... it is INEXCUSABLE for the remaining 70%.

      I do believe that the remaining 70% should do MORE than they currently do to try and fix the system, and ensure it doesn't get corrupted as far as possible. The onus of "fixing" the system is on the shoulders of this 70% which doesn't spend a majority of it's time wondering where it's next meal is going to come from.

      Fixing the system will help everyone - this 30% included. And no one is indeed excluded from anything.

      I hope I've explained myself clearly. I would like to know if you have any suggestions on how we can go about fixing what is broken. I'd like to help if I indeed can.

      Delete
  15. Again, the questions. If everyone is only going to accuse and ask questions, then, who will give the answers?

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    1. I wrote this so that this reaches more people, and someone can help answer questions like:

      1. How do I continue to fight the apathy when it makes no difference.

      2. How can we do more?

      My answers are limited. I do not think they are enough. Hence the plea (in the post).

      Delete
  16. thoughtful post...well written

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  17. each one has to change himself and preaching is easy, but acting in positive direction is the need of the hour.
    to quote ghalib,
    umra bhar ghalib, yehi bhool karta raha, dhool chehre pe thi, aaina saaf karta raha” ( whole life ghalib kept on making the same mistake, Dust was on the face, and he kept on cleaning the mirror.)

    stop cleaning the mirror, clean ourselves sincerely.

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    1. I agree :). But we need to do a little more than just cleaning ourselves. There's a bit more filth lying around that needs our attention.

      Cleaning ourselves is a start though.

      Delete
  18. you have sparked quite a debate here Purba! I will have to read the previous post to get the full context.

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  19. Yes Purba and Pawan. We are the system and we need to change it. But the sad fact even today remains that it takes guts to take action against all that is wrong. What happened to several good do-ers, RTI activists and even the good cops, is a sad reminder of what can happen. I have wanted a simple thing such as wanting out a few antisocial elements from a local ground, but residents do not want to get involved fearing a backlash (read my latest blog). Fend for ourselves is something we have to do since noone fends for us. To actually take action or go the path of Anna Hazare is nothing sort of revolutionary in our country and will take someone great courage (which I think ordinary citizens usually lack) to put everything at risk.Who then will take the first step?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. :(. What kind of help do you need? Perhaps someone here can help. I wasn't able to find the post on your blog? Can you link us to it?

      Delete
  20. It's a vicious cycle. I think deep down, we want to change the system but we can't. Just surviving day-to-day life in India is hard enough. Fighting a hostile, kill-or-be-killed system on top of that is almost impossibly exhausting.

    True, we have to change it. But the only way to do it is with a united, steadfast front and unyielding camraderie. Like the saying goes, there's strength in numbers!

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    1. Yes, there is strength in numbers. I do believe we can change the system. Let's start by changing ourselves, anyway.

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  21. i believe it's you who has to change...by you i mean each one of us...if we change the entire world will automatically become a better place...

    do not criticize, make a right way for others to follow...action speaks louder than words !

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  22. Sounds similar to the problems we are having in my country too. I enjoyed reading your article and reading the comments too.

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  23. This is nothing new in India. We all are the victims of the system. The attitude of police towards victims is cruel. This is something we read daily in newspapers. It is always happening in some parts of the country. The problem is we tend to get on with this. People forget. They let go and try to settle again into their comfortable lives. Everyone does that. After all, it is someone else this has happened to. As long as we have that attitude, nothing will ever change. It didn’t for the last 65 years.

    Divya Bhaskar
    MyGrahak.com

    ReplyDelete

Psst... let me know what you are thinking.

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