Do we encourage corruption and crime?

A boy, looking around 15 years old and dressed in baggy Bermuda shorts and a T shirt was about to leave the supermarket after having purchased a kilogram of rice when the billing clerk called out to him and asked him what he had in his pockets. When the boy answered, “Nothing,” the billing clerk walked up to the boy and demanded that he empty his pockets. The boy refused to do so, whereupon the billing clerk stated that he would call the police. Hearing this, the boy took out a chocolate bar from one of the pockets of his baggy Bermuda shorts and gave it to the billing clerk, who immediately put his hand into the boy’s pockets and brought out some more chocolate bars and a few small packets of almonds and cashewnuts! By this time, the Manager, a middle-aged man, had reached the spot. The billing clerk reported to him that the boy, who had purchased a kilogram of rice worth Rs. 60, had shoplifted items worth around Rs. 400!

The boy immediately protested that he was being wrongly accused by the billing clerk, saying he had bought these items at another shop. The billing clerk angrily landed a tight slap on the boy’s cheek and was about to do more, but the Manager firmly restrained him and ordered him to go back to the billing counter.

The Manager showed the boy the supermarket’s price labels on the shoplifted items, and gently told him that there was no doubt that these items had been shoplifted. The boy, who was weeping and trembling, kept saying, “I’m sorry.” The Manager put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said, “Your parents are our regular customers. They are very nice people. Do you think they would be happy that you’ve done something like this? Normally, we take very strict action against shoplifters. Bu, since you are a young boy, and because we think this is the first time, we will not take any action against you this time. I hope you realise that you’ve done something wrong. Please don’t do this again. Go home now.” The boy thanked him repeatedly and left.

I witnessed this entire incident two days back. My immediate reaction was to appreciate the manner in which the Manager handled the situation, though I could not help wondering whether he would have handled the situation in the same way if the boy had belonged to a poor family. Would he would have encouraged, perhaps instructed his staff to beat up the boy?

Later, I wondered: what is likely to happen now?

a. The boy’s parents are likely to be ignorant about the incident. In this case,
i. The boy may be tempted to try shoplifting at other supermarkets, taking care to ensure he doesn’t lift too much each time since he would have ‘learnt the lesson’ that it was his bulging pockets that gave him away this time.
ii. The boy may not attempt shoplifting or any other dishonest acts ever again.

b. If the boy’s parents learn about the incident from the boy, it is most likely that the boy will claim that he was wrongly accused, that it was all a misunderstanding, etc.. Most probably, his parents will believe him, tell him to be careful of ‘bad people’ in future and decide that they all should not patronise the particular supermarket.

In both cases, it’s difficult to say whether the boy has learnt that honesty is the best policy, or whether he has learnt that getting caught was his mistake. He may have learnt one wrong lesson: if he’s caught and he’s guilty, he can get away by issuing a ‘sincere apology’! Perhaps, if it’s a serious crime, he could get away by ‘offering to recuse himself for 6 months’ as an act of atonement!!

I think the Manager could have handled the situation in a much better manner, particularly since he knows the boy’s parents. He should have asked the boy’s parents to come to the supermarket, given them proof that their son had shoplifted, and requested them to take corrective action to prevent recurrence of this incident, in his supermarket or in any other shop.

What do you think? Shouldn’t we take steps to prevent corruption and crime? Does our attitude of ‘forgive and forget’ allow people to get away too easily? Are we actually encouraging corruption and crime by this excessively soft approach?

(This post was originally published on Nov 30, 2013.)

Respectful or disrespectful? Smart or foolish?

One afternoon, I was with a customer in his office, when he received a call on his mobile from somebody whom he addressed as Chachaji (Uncle). My customer immediately stubbed out the cigarette he was smoking, shouted for the peon, switched off the air conditioner, opened the windows, put on the fan, asked the peon to take the ashtray away and spray room freshener, and ran to the washroom while the peon did as instructed. A few minutes later, the peon put off the fan, closed the windows, and switched on the air conditioner. By then, my customer had returned from the washroom after having washed his face and gargled with mouthwash. The smoke and smell of tobacco had almost totally vanished! It was an efficient military operation!

A minute later, an elderly gentleman entered the room. My customer stood up and, saying, “Namaste, Chachaji!” touched his feet, and introduced me to his uncle. Chachaji was collecting funds for the construction of a new wing in the school run by the Trust of which he was Secretary. My customer dutifully handed over his cheque and touched Chachaji’s feet again. His work done, Chachaji left.

“Thank God!” my customer exclaimed as he sat down in his chair. “I have a lot of respect for Chachaji. To me, he is like God! He considers smoking a sin. If he had seen me smoking, he would have been terribly upset,” my 40 years old customer said.

I knew this customer quite well, so I responded, “If you really respect your uncle so much, and if he considers smoking a sin, you should stop smoking.”

“Boss, I’m under too much stress. Right now, I can’t even think of giving up smoking!” he declared.

“I think that, by continuing to smoke and concealing from your uncle the fact that you smoke, you are not respecting your uncle. On the contrary, this is utter disrespect,” I replied.

My customer is not an exception. He is the rule. Many men smoke, drink, etc. without the knowledge of their families. I know of some men, paragons of virtue at home, who ‘freak out’ on alcohol and tobacco when they go out of town, only to become ‘goody-goody boys’ when they return home!

I also know of women from conservative families leaving home dressed in traditional clothes, ostensibly to attend a ‘ladies get-together’ (or a ‘family get-together’ if they’re accompanied by their husbands), but actually headed for a discotheque. Under the traditional clothes are worn ‘daring’, ‘modern’ outfits. The traditional clothes are shed before they reach their destination. After enjoying themselves at the discotheque, they again don the traditional clothes before reaching home!

If a person believes that there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with whatever he/she is doing, why can’t that person do it openly? (While I’ve confined my comments to smoking, drinking and dressing, this applies to many other matters. Please read this Firstpost report about an engineer committing suicide because his wife posted photographs of their ‘secret’ wedding on Facebook.) If he/she faces disapproval from his/her elders, he/she should discuss the matter with the elders and come to a mutually acceptable conclusion. If he/she feels very strongly about the matter and if the elders are just not willing to accept his/her opinion, then he/she should do whatever he/she thinks is right and be prepared to face the consequences. Doing anything on the sly is not the solution.

At the same time, elders should understand that they cannot expect their children and children-in-law to stick to the same lifestyle as theirs. Change is inevitable.

Most importantly, youngsters must resolve that, when they become elders, they will not forget that they were once youngsters themselves

What do you think?

(This post was originally published on Oct 31, 2013.)

Email to Ms. Jaya Bachchan, MP about Samajwadi Party and rape

I sent the following email today from proactiveindian@rediffmail.com to jbachchan@sansad.nic.in (Ms. Jaya Bachchan’s email id provided at http://www.archive.india.gov.in/govt/rajyasabhampbiodata.php?mpcode=1964). As stated in the email, I will publish the response from Ms. Jaya Bachchan if and when I receive it.

Subject: Your passionate speech in the Rajya Sabha about the 2012 Delhi gang rape

Dear Ms. Jaya Bachchan,

I was extremely impressed by your passionate words in the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ on March 04, 2015:
“Inhone jo kiya, yeh bhi vahi kar rahe hain …. Yeh crocodile tears nahi chaahiye auraton ko … us aadmi ko jail se chhoddiye, we will deal with him … crocodile tears! …”
(“The NDA Government is doing exactly what the UPA Government did …. Women don’t want these crocodile tears … release that man from jail, we will deal with him … crocodile tears! …”)

Madam, like all right-thinking persons, I agree wholeheartedly with you that women, in fact all citizens, do not want crocodile tears.

You pointed fingers at the present NDA Government and at the previous UPA Government. However, Madam, what is the track record of your own party, the Samajwadi Party, in matters pertaining to rape?

In April 2014, NDTV.COM reported that your party Chairman, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, ‘sparked outrage with his comments questioning the death sentence to three men who were convicted of two gang-rapes in Mumbai last week. “Should rape cases be punished with hanging? They are boys, they make mistakes,” he said today while campaigning for the national election.’ What is your comment on this outrageous statement?

On January 16, 2015, another NDTV.COM report on a 13-year-old girl who was gangraped in Lucknow in May 2005 stated that ‘Gaurav Shukla, the main accused, also happens to be the nephew of former Samajwadi Party Member of Legislative Council Arun Shukla. Mr Shukla had contested, and lost, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket from Unnao ….. Soon after the incident, Gaurav claimed to be a juvenile, in a separate case filed by his co-accused against him. On the basis of this, the juvenile board declared him a juvenile in the gangrape case in October 2005.
Jalaj Gupta, the lawyer for the survivor, claimed that the accused used forged documents to hide his real age.
“We got a copy of the municipal birth certificate which shows his age was 18 years and two months at the time of the incident,” says Mr Gupta. But the accused produced a transfer certificate from a local school, claiming he was born in 1989, and was 16 at the time of the rape.’
Madam, you expressed outrage about the fact that Nirbhaya and her family have not yet got justice for over 2 years. What do you have to say about the fact that the rape survivor in the May 2005 case in Lucknow has not yet got justice for almost 10 years?

I look forward to your reply. I will be publishing the text of this email on my blog later today, and will also publish your response whenever I receive it.

Yours sincerely,

Proactive Indian
http://proactiveindian.com

P.S.: I have chosen to remain an anonymous blogger since I do not want my name, age, gender, religion, caste, economic status, educational background, profession, place of residence, etc. to colour people’s reaction to my views. If you wish, I will certainly let you know my name, age, gender, and place of residence.

Promoting Brand India

Early in my career, I worked with a marketing company founded and headed by a Managing Director who believed in Quality as a philosophy in all spheres of life.

On the eve of my departure on my first overseas business visit, the Managing Director summoned me to his room. After ascertaining that I had made all necessary preparations, both work and personal, he advised me to be on my “better-than-best” behaviour when I was abroad because, “People will judge your country by your behaviour.”

While I have always scrupulously followed this piece of advice, I have noticed that many of us Indians take great pains to lower India’s image when we travel abroad. This starts at the airport on the way out of India, and goes on till Indian soil is set foot on again.

Though this is not one of the bigger matters, many of us just do not know how to stand in a queue without shoving and poking into the person in front, or how to walk without bumping into others around us.

While men (including 6-footers) from most other countries generally manage to confine their bodies to the limits of their own seats in the aircraft’s Economy Class, many Indian men, sometimes even short ones, sit with their legs wide apart and with both elbows intruding into the adjacent seats, making their co-passengers uncomfortable.

With many Indians travelling abroad in groups these days, one common sight is groups of people talking loudly in Indian languages at various places abroad, particularly at airports while in transit. Nothing wrong in speaking in one’s mothertongue, but speaking loudly is considered impolite. Often, they use commonly understood obscene gestures and English swear words.

The most disgusting sight is the behaviour of many Indian men when alcoholic drinks are served on flights. Many act as if the world is about to face extinction of alcohol! I have always wondered why they behave in such an uncouth manner. Is it just a craze for alcohol, or is it the thrill of getting something free? On one flight, I saw some well-to-do Indian businessmen making thorough asses of themselves, almost begging for more and more drinks. The other Indians on the flight were very upset that our country’s reputation was being tarnished, but we did nothing because we knew that intervention would only worsen the situation since these men were totally drunk.

Most of the persons whom I have seen misbehaving abroad were educationally qualified and doing well in their profession or business.

Giving others a good impression of India is not just a matter of patriotism. On a very practical and materialistic level, people having a good impression of India will want to have business relations with India and/or visit India as tourists, while people having a bad impression of India will not want to have any connection with India. It’s in the interest of all Indians if Brand India has a good image. So, let us all promote Brand India!

(This post was originally published on August 13, 2013.)

Arm-twisting people for their own good!

A few days back, a friend commented that India must be the only country where two-wheeler riders wear helmets not to protect themselves but to avoid being fined by the police!

That day, and on a couple of other days, I made it a point to check how many two-wheeler riders wore helmets. I was shocked to find that less than 2 out of 5 two-wheeler drivers wore helmets, while no pillion rider wore a helmet!

Unfortunately, two-wheeler drivers and pillion riders do not understand that it is in their own interest to wear helmets since they protect them from head injuries. Hence, there must be some way of ensuring that they wear helmets.

It is clear that the police in most parts of India do not strictly enforce the rule that makes it mandatory for all two-wheeler riders to wear helmets. Is there some way in which we, as private individuals, do what the police should be doing without actually ‘taking the law into our hands’?

As I had mentioned in my post Does the red light mean STOP or not?, I rode a 2-wheeler for the first few years of my sales career. Despite the fact that it was not compulsory at that time, I always wore a helmet. Later, as a manager, I always insisted that every member of my team wore a helmet while riding a 2-wheeler. I ensured compliance by announcing that I would not authorise monthly fuel reimbursement vouchers of those persons who did not use a helmet every working day. Most people complied willingly. Some persons resisted, but eventually complied.

I believe that each one of us can act similarly without much, if any difficulty.

First of all, each one of us must wear a helmet when (s)he drives a two-wheeler or rides pillion. Secondly, we must use friendly arm-twisting to make our employees, juniors and children wear helmets when they ride two-wheelers. Thirdly, we must try to make other two-wheeler riders known to us aware of the need to wear helmets.

We may think that doing this may make us unpopular with the people around us, but I know from experience that most people eventually realise that they were arm-twisted for their own good!

Related posts:
Which is worse: a badly damaged helmet or a badly damaged skull?
Law-enforcers and law-makers, or law-breakers?