April 10, 2011

Charged to someone else

* Good friends of ours, god-fearing religious-institution-visiting couple, had us over for dinner one evening some years ago. Told us with satisfaction that they can make unlimited calls from their MTNL phone within India and outside, because of a deal they have just made with their MTNL lineman, paying him Rs 100 a month.

"So who actually pays for the calls?" we asked.

"Oh we don't know," they said. "He told us the calls just get charged to someone else. If you want the same facility we can tell him to come meet you."

This used to be common. With the coming of mobiles and cheap long-distance calls, it probably doesn't happen much any more. But it used to be common.

* A bachelor uncle lived for many years in a smallish building in one of Bombay's more desirable suburbs. At one point, he began noticing that he was getting inordinately high electricity bills, over double what he was used to paying. He couldn't understand it: there were no new electrical appliances in the house, it wasn't as if he suddenly had his geyser on 24/7.

Months of puzzlingly high bills with no explanation, driving my uncle round the bend. Eventually, a technician from the power company found the problem. One of his neighbours had disconnected the wires from his own electrical meter and connected them to my uncle's meter.

* Driving home this afternoon, came up to a red light. A few cars stopped; the rest barreled straight through the red light. When it turned to green, those of us who had stopped, started moving. But the cross traffic now showed no sign of stopping. Nerve-wracking few seconds getting through the junction.

* Website I visited that had some discussion about Anna Hazare's fast also had a poll: "Who would you like to see as India's next Prime Minister?" Perhaps ten names were listed.

77 per cent of nearly 1000 respondents (when I visited) had chosen the first name on the list, Narendra Modi.

* For a brief and largely sticker-shocked period, my wife and I went house-hunting in Bombay. We visited one poky little flat that was half-way decent, so we asked about the price. After getting the usual sticker shock, we asked our usual question anyway: "will you take a cheque?"

The owner looked strangely at us. "Why?" he asked. "You're from some church group or something?"

* Builder we know of once told the story of how he provides water to the buildings he builds. "The Municipality supplies water for a fixed period every day, and they require pipes x inches in diameter." (I don't remember what x was, sorry). "So when I put up a building, I pay off the Municipality and use pipes 1.5x inches in diameter. So my customers get more water." That last, said with pride for his dedication to his customers.

"What about the other buildings in the area, wont' they get less water then?" someone asked.

"Not my problem," said the man.

(I can't vouch for the veracity of whether 1.5x diameter pipes for one building actually mean more water for that building).

These anecdotes make up just a few of the reasons I'm pessimistic that even a new law will be able to fight corruption and the slide in values so many bemoan.


Anonymous said...

Well they are only robbing the "sarkar" which as you know is the British Raj. You think the Raj is gone? Ask any policeman for help or mercy. If you doubt me, use your video on a rooftop. They will remind you as it did my good friend. How can we change the picture?

gaddeswarup said...

This may be of interest:
On the 'movement' against corruption

Jai_C said...

We god-fearing types do operate under some unusual assumptions. I noticed that ppl cut in even in temple queues - either physically or by slipping some money to the minders at queue control points* The principle here seems to be either of these:

- God's vision is limited to the range actually possible from the standpoint of the idol in the garbhagrih so H/She cant see you jumping the queue and what God cant see, God cant pass judgment on.

- God is pretty okay with this barging-in.

* I'm not talking about receipted paid priority queues they're often not available at places where this "personal-paid-priority" scheme works.

K said...

Well put Dilip.

Madhav said...

Almost all the above can be easily controlled and dealt with proper and efficient governance mechanisms. Lokpal bill is just a start and should not be construed as the remedy of all problems. A lot need to change as the governance infra today is designed with loop holes so that it can be easily exploited. Unless that is fixed nothing much will be visible.

Anonymous said...

"Good friends of ours..."

Holy cow!! Good friend of yours? How could you put up with these kind of people? I thought you would have shunned them? Or better yet, put their name out on blogsphere? What is happening to you Dilip? getting weak or tolerant?

Nikhil said...

Good friends and God Fearing. With your agnoticism etc, you should avoid them. So maybe your aethist buddies have a great sense of integrity. Yes M Karunanidhi, Raja and other assorted DMK aethists are the people with the greatest amount of integrity.

Anonymous said...

The battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors--between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and the good is to live it.

Reshmy said...

That 77% of our people want a man who specializes mass genocide says a lot about who we are and what we really care about.

Nikhil said...

Take a chill pill. The blog owner writes glowingly about a mass murderer Che Guevara and wants us to make nconditional peace with a country that shelters mass murderers who have wreaked havoc in India. So why bother about people voting for a mass murderer. After all he has provided a good governance model