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Irony of a common man in a morally corrupt society

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bi summerhill

bi summerhill

You people are addicted to the slavery of VIPs and political goons. You would have reacted immediately if any of these would have called you, but the pleading voice of a humble man doesn’t appeal you at all.

Recently, I learned what it means to be a common man. Why the temptations of corruption are too strong to resist for any person living in this country. If he doesn’t fall to these temptations, then the system will force him to adopt it. It was like a story we read in books as little kids, a story which was brief but always carried the moral at the bottom of the text. Here is my story.

The scene is set at the SBI office at HPU, Summerhill. Protagonist is an unemployed guy, but an educated man of humble nature. He often wondered why people are nuts for government jobs and that why people are afraid to live as common folks, who don’t have any political back or official authority, which they could exploit to convert the influence into their convenience. On a fine morning, his landlords approach him with a task, which appeared too trivial to be asked as a favor. The task was to verify the payment against a bank receipt number on a given date. Their daughter had lost the receipt which she had received against an amount of over Rs. 25,000 deposited as academic fee of HP University. Now, it was an urgent matter for her to get this payment verified or get a duplicate of the original receipt. She was newly posted at a distant place and was helpless to handle the issue herself.

What’s the big deal? The banks keep records of every payment, and fortunately, computerization of banks has made it an even easier task to search the details of any bank account or transactions. It would not take more than half an hour to write an application with transaction details, which the accountant can verify within couple of minutes. With all this calculation, the protagonist agrees and commits to her parents to get it done that very day.

On the first day, the accountant gave an excuse that it’s Saturday and no employee is available to check the records. The office was empty at afternoon. Protagonist accepted the excuse on moral ground and to keep accord with the principle of co-operation with fellow citizens without any discrimination. On the second day, his grievance was handed over to a young employee and he was directed to look after it. The employee checks the computers and sadly informed him that no computerized record is available, therefore, they will have to check the files for original copy of the receipt.

The payment was made in 2011, and the bank did not have any computerized record. Curious protagonist asks the employee why it is so. He was given an answer that sounded very awkward for any bank in the world. He said, the old computers were replaced and the data was formatted, thus, lost. But, he assures that the record keeper will be directed to check the records as soon as he arrives, as he wasn’t present at that very moment. That obviously meant that the record keeper wasn’t absent but was out for some unknown reason. It leads the protagonist to make a decision to wait for his return. Whole day passed and at the end of second day, he is asked for one more day as the record keeper didn’t return that day. Disappointed and irritated protagonist returns with an assurance for the next day.

On the third day, the record keeper was there at the office. Everything appeared favorable enough to get this job done. When the record keeper was handed over the issue, he displayed his character, which was in agreement with that of an average government employee. What he did was that he opened the record room, which was obviously a messy space with huge piles of files and registers. The protagonist was directed to the room and asked to find the receipt himself out of that bulk. Does it make any sense in such a logic that says an outsider is supposed to known about the sequence or anything about the records in that room? Would they do the same with their vault if someone approaches to get details about his saving account? Would they open vault for him and ask him to count the cash in his account himself, without any official assistance to help him?

Irritated, disappointed, he approaches the manager and seeks her immediate consideration to his problem as it was an urgent matter. She told him that it’s too hectic to search for an old receipt. When she was asked why the branch doesn’t has any electronic record, he was told that payment counters still works manually and the record of any payment made at those counters isn’t stored in computers. The branch of the bank was computerized. Everyone in the office was sitting in front of a PCs even at the counters. Then why they didn’t bother to worry about the transactions made at fee counters, and why the other employee said the data was lost? Each one of the personal, whom he approached, gave different reasons and excuses to ignore him, but no solution.

At last, the protagonist decides to try the other way; he takes a personal favor from an employee at university, who is an insider and knew the protagonist. The result was instant. He solved it in just 10 minutes. As a common guy, who approached the bank with humble gestures and pleading voice, was misguided and three days of his life was wasted without helping even a bit. The very same task just took 10 minutes when an internal approach is used. Who wants to be the idiot by following the principles of honesty, co-operation, and moral ethics in such a system? To survive in this country, either we have to join a political camp as a flatterer to its leaders or we must be wealthy enough to cast an influence. Why to suffer as a common citizen when corruption and hypocrisy could ensure more convenience?

In India, it’s a horrific dream for anyone to have no power of wealth or influential position in the society, and majority of population is living this very nightmare each and every day at government offices and at semi-government establishments, where these slackers would even suck your blood to escape from their official and moral duties. To the manager and the staff of SBI Summerhill, you people have demonstrated the status of your decaying morals, and trust me, it’s getting worse for a common man. You people are addicted to the slavery of VIPs and political goons. You would have reacted immediately if any of these would have called you, but the pleading voice of a humble man doesn’t appeal you at all. You and your staff gave altogether different excuses regarding the missing computerized record. Perhaps, you should brief your staff to tell common lies.

However, still, as a human, the protagonist did not lose hope for a better future for his society, because, most of the citizens do give up and become the part of it. If he surrendered due to such a shitty attitude of others, then he’ll add to the hopeless and non-reactive population. In the end, it’s up to you individual perceptions how you interpret the moral of the story.

I am thankful to HW for publishing my personal experience through which I could share my disappointment.

The names and details aren’t disclosed on a request from the narrator

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Your Story

Weeklong Harassment by Shimla’s Electricity and Water Departments

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harrasement by hp govt departments
    If you have a property (house) in Shimla but you don’t stay here, you could end up paying a price for it. Price not only in monetary terms but in terms of undue stress and pain.

    I had been living in Rajasthan for a few months now, leaving home in Shimla only to return for the surprise of my life.

    In today’s technologically advanced system, I could be considered liable for a moment, but what transpired because of my negligence (if you may) is something I don’t want anyone else to go through. This is why I’m sharing my bitter experience with the electricity board and water department in Shimla.

    Living away from hometown, I should have paid water and electricity bills for my home in Shimla. I should have; but, due to negligence or over involvement in personal chores, I was unable to pay the bills online.

    All the while, I had it in the back of the mind but I thought I will pay the bills (with whatever penalties) in person the next time I am in Shimla.

    I thought it would be easy. Instead, I was for a week of mental trauma.

    When I came back to Shimla, a few days back, there was no electricity and water supply to my home.

    Worried not bewildered, I lived with it for the night and planned a visit the concerned departments the next morning, to clear the pending bills and have the water and electricity supplies restored.

    To my surprise, it wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be.

    When I went to pay the electricity bill at Lakkar Bazaar ( the area where my house is), I was asked to go to the main office of the electricity board in Sanjauli. I went to Sanjauli, where I was told that electricity connection to my house had been cut, and I needed to apply for a new connection.

    I was told a fresh file, for a new connection, had to be made.Now I was certainly bewildered.

    From then onward, I was sent from one electricity office to another for different papers. To the DC office for affidavits– all the procedures had to be done from scratch.

    It took almost a week (six dark days precisely)to complete the entire procedure afresh. All this while I didn’t find one person in the electricity board who cared for the mental trauma I was going through or how my family would be living without electricity.

    Finally, after innumerable visits to various offices of the electricity board, I took the file to the JE office in Snowdown hospital.

    Here, I was meted with a shock. The courteous JE informed that my family didn’t have to stay without electricity for so many days, neither did I have to go through all the pain. JE said ‘power supply could have been restored to my home in matter of few hours after the bill payment and the process for new application could have been followed thereafter.’

    He then sent a person from his office along with me to the concerned office in Lakkar Bazaar. Finally, we saw a bright night at my place.

    JE was the only person in the entire electricity board who talked nicely, gave me correct guidance and helped solve my problem.

    My worries were not just limited to the electricity board. I was all this while simultaneously running pillar to post to pay my water bill and have the water supply restored.

    The issue was an elaborate water bill, which was beyond anyone’s understanding. For us, we should have only been charged the meter rent because we had not used water for months.

    This is when I learned about plugging connection. When you are not at home and would not be using water for months, the water department requires you to plug the connection.

    This ensures you’ve only billed the meter rent and not for the usage (though, how do you end up using water when you’re not home stays an arguable story for me).

    During the weeklong process, I was not only without electricity at home, there was no water too.

    Considering myself a defaulter, I silently kept doing what the office bearers in the department were asking me to do.I was ready to follow the procedure but it was such a pain to see that no officer was considerate enough to help resolve the issue soon. Instead, I was made to run from one office to another with documents that were not even required.

    It took me eight long days to pay the pending bills, apply to have the water meter plugged, and to have water supply restored to my house.

    This was it, I couldn’t have taken anymore but the water department wasn’t done with its lackluster attitude.
    After a month of submitting the application to get the water meter plugged, I again received an inflated bill. I called the water billing office for clarity.

    After making an infinite number of calls, I was finally informed that the water meter of my home was still not plugged.

    Alas! What had I done wrong to deserve this?

    Immediately, I called up Mr. Laxmi Thakur (the person) responsible for plugging the water meter. He said ‘Madam, I plugged your meter the same day you asked me to’.

    The linesman was a helpful fellow.He took it upon himself and went to the billing office to check why I was still getting huge bills despite the meter being plugged.

    Post inquiry, he informed me that my file had reached the water department from Mayor’s office the same day I submitted it but people in the billing office didn’t update the same on their computer systems.
    With Mr Thakur’s efforts, my bill was recreated with the correct amount, which I then paid off instantly.

    Awareness tips

    •If electricity connection to your house is disconnected for non-payment of a bill, go directly to the JE of your area. The JE will escalate the matter and power supply will be restored. Now, follow the formalities, as guided, and get a new connection

    •If you have property in Shimla but you’re out and not using IPH water supply, get your meter plugged to avoid rentals above the meter rent

    By Rajni, Shimla

    Photo: Sk-bent ex

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Public Opinion

Sensitivity where art thou, Shimla cries for you

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Urbanization of shimla

Times are changing alright; we are progressing with age and time has come when pace of Shimla is matching the pace of most developed cities in India. Time was when modesty, selflessness and compassion flowed through the heart of residents of the Queen of Hill. With development and large scale urbanization, the mindset of the town is changing – and the change is demeaning the basic culture and charm of the city.

Development and urbanization are slow poison to say. Initially they taste refreshing – refreshing to the extent that humans are lured so magnetically to them. Culminating effect is fatal. Shimla is sipping on this slow poison and is headed for self destruction.

Who is to blame? Finger pointing comes naturally to Indians, so when I ask this, all of us will have our fingers pointed at the administration.

Constitutionally this is correct – and why not, the administration and public representatives we have voted to power are responsible for it all. If there is uncontrolled urbanization – government policies should have been framed to avoid it. If there is unmanageable garbage on roads, pollution in the air and contaminated water in the taps – administration should have strict measures in place. But, considerable citizens are we the main contributors to this?

I once read “your character is what you are when you are alone”, and it has stayed with me ever since. I bring this up to validate my point. We citizens are primarily responsible for the rumpus we confront in the town of late.

Himachalis, the residents of the abode of snow, are by virtue sensitive to change, sensitive to our culture and sensitive to the surroundings. Thus, for Shimlaites this sense of sensitivity comes by default.

Change is the only constant. Change we must and so we are steadily. We are more literate, more monetarily concerned and at near prime of a standard of living. Culturally we are still rooted – probably our previous generation has instilled this sense in us. Concern looms on our sensitivity to the surroundings.

We are literate, but our education has defaulted somewhere. We are concerned but our sensitivity is lost somewhere. We blame but our self-conscience has gone astray.

Back in school (this would be some 20 years back) moral science and civics was taught to me. Back then I never realized how my consciousness towards little civic duties and efforts towards betterment of my surrounding would make a difference. Today I realize it, but my neighbour makes me believe, I am in the wrong part of the world with an unwanted conscience.

How justified is it then to be the run off the mill? Is what your neighbour doing the correct way to do things, I often ask this to myself. I don’t get an answer – an answer is difficult to find because ‘this is India and nothing is going to change here ever.’ This cliché must have reached your ears a number of times. I am growing old listening to it.

Certainly this is not how it should be, at least that sensitivity instilled in me by being part of the hill state, tells me so. Calling out to all who follow – Change we must!

Change to ask questions, why my rights are being murdered by incapable, narrow sighted governance. Change to come to terms with my sensitivity to question that neighbour who stays and feeds on my city’s resources but fails to do his bit in return. Change to question my own acts when I’m in public or when I am walking down the road by myself.

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Your Story

Ticket Dikhao!

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SHIMLA- I really wanted to share this experience of mine I had last week. I am not able to get it off my mind. Most logical conclusion I could reach was that it was a rare kind of co-incident, like one in one million. You better read it first.

So, I took an HRTC bus from Old ISBT to Dhanda, like always. I am living in Shimla for past 17 years, so it was like any other day. The bus was going toward Ghannatti and suited me best. I took a window-side seat. It was a normal ride and I had a Rs. 10 note in my hand for the fare. The conductor approached me and I instantly offered Rs.10 note. To my surprise, conductor asked me, “aap ke pass 9 rupay khulle ni hain?” That was ridiculous because the fair was Rs. 9 and I was offering him a Rs.10 note. I gave him an agitated look with expression of confusion on my face. He returned me Rs. 2 and moved on. He didn’t give me a ticket. It’s not that I never traveled without ticket. In private buses, it’s no big deal. Conductors rarely give tickets to local passengers.

But lately, I had decided not to take any chance with HRTC and I always ensured I get a ticket. It would help me in many situations, especially in legal ones, if they ever arise. Secondly, it was an HRTC bus and the conductor charged one rupee less but didn’t give me a ticket. So, Rs. 8 went to his pocket and not to the HRTC, where it was supposed to go. I would be a part of this corrupt act if I didn’t ask for ticket. Then, I thought what if ticket-checker raid situation arise? It would be an embarrassing situation. I was so desperate to ask the conductor for ticket. I waited for him to come back, and meanwhile I kept thinking about it. It was a lazy afternoon of April, and I don’t know when I felt asleep.

After that, what I remember is hearing a loud voice saying, “ticket dikhao” , which woke me up. It was like worst nightmare of my life. The bus was on Totu stoppage and a ticket-checker was asking passengers to show tickets. I thought, may be, I was still asleep, but it didn’t seem so. I felt a wave of anxiety across my body. The conductor was near my seat and I poked him silently, telling him that he did not give me a ticket. He was as scared as me and he started to behave defensively. I just asked him to give me a ticket from any station before it’s too late. He, too, quickly gave me a ticket from Power House stoppage (Rs.3). The checker had noticed it but he wasn’t sure so both conductor and me came out clean.

I was still half-asleep and was experiencing a sort of trauma when I got off the bus at Dhanda and came straight to home. I just crashed on my bed and fell asleep. When I woke up, I realized, I was dreaming. But the emotional impact of the dream was quite heavy and I could remember it clearly, rather, still feel it. I made coffee, switched on the TV and tried to relax, but still couldn’t find out whether it was a dream or it really happened.

Then, I realized that there is a way to confirm it – the ticket. I had put it in my purse (even if it was a dream). So, I reached for the purse. I found a ticket and it said “Rs.3”. It did really happen. I felt like I was in some TV serial scene. Later, it started amusing me. What really confused me was that I felt asleep while I was still thinking about disadvantages of traveling without a ticket and unfortunately it was not my lucky day.

One thing is sure that after this incident is that I would never, ever travel without ticket.

Posted by a reader in HW Your Story

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the Himachal Watcher community as a whole.

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