Let us stop scoring self-goals

Some years back, I worked with a company that was sales and service agent of a European manufacturer of machines used to produce high-precision parts. One day, I accompanied the manufacturer’s Service Manager to a customer’s factory where we had installed a machine a few months earlier. This was only a ‘courtesy visit’. After completion of the installation, the customer had requested us that, if any senior service personnel from the manufacturer happened to visit India for any other work, we should organise that person’s visit to their factory so that he could check that they were operating and maintaining their machine in the required manner. Since the Service Manager had come to India to attend a meeting along with us to finalise a huge contract to recondition old machines at another customer’s factory, we had added an extra day to his itinerary to enable him to visit this new user.

The customer’s General Manager asked us if we would like to see their entire factory before seeing our machine, and we agreed. After going around the Production Department, we saw a door with a board stating:

QUALITY CONTROL DEPARTMENT
ENTRY FOR AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY

As we neared this door, the GM looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you cannot enter this room. Please wait here for a few minutes.” Looking at the Service Manager, he said, “Please come in, Mr. M.” As the GM turned around to open the door, the Service Manager gave me a puzzled look.  I simply shrugged. He entered the Quality Control Department with the GM. Both of them came out after a few minutes, after which we proceeded back to the Production Department where our machine had been installed.

The GM’s driver, who had picked us up at the airport in the morning, dropped us back at the airport after our visit. As soon as we got down from the car at the airport, the Service Manager asked me, “That was strange! I’ve been itching to ask you this, but I waited till we’re alone. Why did the GM say that you cannot enter the QC Department? I saw the board saying ‘Authorised Personnel Only’, but then, why was I allowed in?” I replied, “Because you are a European, while I’m an Indian!” He was silent for a few seconds, obviously trying to digest my words, and then said, “I cannot understand this. If there’s a rule, it should apply to everybody. Why should I be exempted?”

This incident shows how we Indians take such great pains to show the world that white-skinned people (Europeans, Americans, Australians, etc.) are so much more important to us than our own people. We bend or even break our own rules to favour them. Why, then, are we surprised when these people treat us as inferior to themselves?

NDTV reported on December 17, 2013 that, in retaliation for the arrest of India’s diplomat, Devyani Khobragade in New York, “US diplomats in consulates across India have been asked to surrender identity cards issued to them and their families, which entitle them to special privileges including diplomatic immunity. India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy.” Firstpost reports that “These were unilateral benefits we gave without any need to do so. The US does not give us any such concessions on its territory.”

Why did our government give US diplomats all these unnecessary privileges in the first place?

To quote Mohandas Gandhi, “They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”

The sad truth is we have voluntarily given away our self-respect to the rest of the world. We have been scoring self-goals.

It is up to us to regain our self-respect. We will find that regaining our self-respect is much more difficult than losing it, but we must make a beginning. Let us stop scoring self-goals.

Governments for the people, or only for the ruling elite?

The Hindu reports that, “even as the Samajwadi Party government is still facing flak for the plight of the displaced Muzaffarnagar communal riot victims,” a “22-member team comprising Ministers and MLAs under the aegis of Uttar Pradesh’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has gone on a 20-day ‘study tour’ to Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and UAE,” also stating that “apart from the U.K. none other country mentioned in the itinerary is a Commonwealth nation,” and that there is one BJP MLA and one RLD MLA in this team.

Some other Uttar Pradesh Ministers, ruling party MLAs and officials attended the ‘Saifai Mahotsav,” a fortnight-long cultural jamboree at Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s village, Saifai in Etawah district, on which, according to this IBNLive report, the Uttar Pradesh government ‘has spent roughly Rs 20 crore’.

The Indian government has moved heaven and earth to save diplomat Devyani Khobragade from the clutches of the US law.

But, as this Firstpost piece states, the same Indian government “might take months to get an innocent sailor out of a non decrepit Togo,” and “may never reach out to the thousands of other citizens (about 6000 and, perhaps many more with no information available to the government) languishing in far away jails – some living hells.”

Wouldn’t we all love to see our governments work less for themselves and more for the common man who pays the taxes that fund all expenses?

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda (Prompt: the post must contain the word ‘love’ and must have only 5 sentence.

Asaram, Tejpal, Devyani and our attitude to the law

One evening, during my first visit to Taiwan over 15 years back, after my colleague and I had purchased a few Video Games CDs, we asked the salesman where we could get copies of the CDs made. Suddenly, there was total silence in the shop, and everybody turned around and stared at us. The salesman, who looked extremely upset, quietly said, “Sorry, it is illegal. Nobody will copy these CDs. If anybody copies these CDs, he will be put in prison. If you need 2 sets of CDs, please buy 2 sets.”

We bought 2 sets of CDs and left. As we walked back to our hotel, we wondered why the people in the shop were so shocked. Even if it was illegal to copy CDs, it wasn’t such a big matter. The salesman had acted as though we had wanted to commit a murder! Back home in India, it could have been done just the way I would have had documents photocopied: just hand over the CDs to our ‘Office Boy’ with instructions to get 1 copy each!

Later, I realized that copying these CDs was illegal in India as well. But many people seemed to copy CDs and about anything that could be copied. They were vaguely aware about something called copyright, and knew that what they were doing was not legal, but they did it because “Everybody does it!”

During subsequent visits to Taiwan, I observed that the people there were generally much more law-abiding than people (with similar socio-economic-educational backgrounds) in India. I have never come across anybody jumping a red light, or parking wrongly, or not wearing a seat-belt, or speaking on mobile phone while driving, or driving after drinking more than one alcoholic drink. Further, unlike in India where most people complain about how laws/rules are a pain, nobody in Taiwan (at least the people I met) complained about the laws/rules. For example, a few years back, the Government suddenly became very strict about drunken driving. I have not heard a single complaint about this. In fact, everybody I know in Taiwan supported the Government’s new strictness and justified it.

This is almost diametrically opposite to how we generally conduct ourselves in India. We jump red lights quite often, we park wherever we like, we wear seat-belts or helmets only to avoid paying fines, etc., etc.

What is the average Indian’s attitude to the law in India?
1. Laws are made for others, not for me.
2. If it’s possible to break a law without being caught, break it.
3. If, by chance, I’m caught, I can (and should) get away by throwing my weight at the law enforcer, or by bribing him/her.
4. If the law enforcer is foolish enough to ignore my ‘weight’ or my bribe, resulting in a legal issue, engage a good lawyer to represent me.
5. If possible, proclaim that there’s a conspiracy and that I’m being discriminated against because of my gender, religion, caste, language, economic status, educational background, profession, place of residence, whatever. If this is supported by sufficient people, there are good chances that action against me will be dropped.
6. Try to get protection on medical grounds, or by claiming some kind of ‘immunity’ or by getting somebody else to take the rap.

Whether it’s Asaram Bapu, Tarun Tejpal, Devyani Khobragade or anybody else, the sequence of events follows almost the same pattern. Despite all the hue and cry, the US State Department has stated that the charges against Devyani Khobragade will not be dropped. (Details are available in this Firstpost article.) Does this not mean that there is sufficient reason to believe that she has violated US laws? Is this acceptable because “Everybody does it”?

When will we learn to accept that laws are made to be followed, and that law-breakers will be punished according to the law of the land?