Indian Independence – Gandhi way!

India, my mother will be celebrating her 64th Independence Day tomorrow. As an adherent fan of Gandhi, I thought of writing this post which might help fellow Indians to understand the thinking process of Mahatma. Also, I am seeing lot of half-backed information floating around Gandhi and his non-violent movement in the media. After watching movies like ‘Rang De Basanti’ and ‘Black Wednesday’ our yuppie Indians feel taking a gun and shooting down the enemy is the best way to solve India’s current problems. They also feel Gandhi has failed to plant such thinking process among Indians during our long fought freedom struggle against the British. There is a strong argument that India would have been a different (read it as better) country if we would have taken the approach suggested by Subhash Chandra Bose or Bhagat Singh. As a proud Indian I cannot even think of sacrifices made by these great leaders. However, had our forefathers followed that approach, not sure if India would exist in its present form. Let me put forward my perspectives in support of Gandhi and his way of achieving Independence.

India – Is it a country?

It is very easy to forget what we have studied in History text-books. Before British occupied, demographically there was no concept of a country called India.  Previously to the British (during 18th century) it was Mughal Empire primarily ruling Northern part of India.  Under no king or dynasty the whole real-estate came under a single ruler. Added to that, long debated topic of ‘Aryan (North Indians) Vs Dravidian (South Indians)’ was making the India equation even more complex. How can we think of getting independence to such a diversified country with has so many different languages, customs, history, food habits and ideologies? In its 3000 years of history it was never ruled under a single king, even though the idea of ‘Greater India’ (or Akand Bharat) is a concept even today.

The crux of Gandhi’s thinking process lies here. He clearly understood the diversity of India along with its challenges. He got real taste of this diversity when he spent good 22 years (1893-1914) of his life in South Africa, fighting for immigrant Indians against the British rule over there. Slowly and steadily he launched protest against the British by bringing Indians under one common umbrella called non-violence. It was not only the political war against the British, but also an internal war fought within him, where he transformed himself from a lawyer to an inspirational leader.  With so much of difference among Indians, if he would have chosen to equip them with arms, it might have resulted in the British leaving India sooner than 1947. At the same time, India would not have remained a single country by now.

On contrary, the 1857 first war of Independence never had such thinking process behind it. It was triggered by Hindu and Muslim soldiers whose emotions were tampered when their rifle were greased with pork and beef fat. It was never an organized war of political independence and the concept of united India was not even a concept during that time frame.

Resurgence of Indian national congress

The Indian National Congress was founded by Octavian Hume in 1885. The original idea for creating it was to obtaining a greater share in government for educated Indians, which was primarily restricted to elite class (read it as upper caste) of people, who were nothing short of British, but  in the form of Indians. This scene changed when Gandhi took over as the president of INC after coming back from South Africa. He used Congress as a strong political organization by including everybody. It doesn’t matter if an individual is Rich or poor, North or South Indian, Men or Women, upper or lower caste, Hindu or Muslim, every individual can be part of INC, thereby fuelling Indian nationalism as the topmost priority. Every normal individual felt they are part of a movement, lead by a common man with extremely high amount of determination and compassion. It was the first time ever the whole nation got united under one single ideology, where Gandhi played a significant role.

What is independence?

Even today, most of us feel war of Independence was launched against British to gain political freedom, which was not the only agenda for Gandhi. With its long history, India has embraced certain practices (like sati & untouchability) where a majority of the sector of population consisting ladies and lower case Hindus were denied basic human rights. Added to that, un-imaginable division between Hindus and Muslims was growing over centuries together. Gandhi’s idea was to use the political fight as a vehicle to bring ladies, lower-caste and Muslims to the mainstream. It was not only for the external battle with the British but also for the internal battle we have been facing in the name of caste, creed, gender and race. Put in software professional’s lingo – Gandhi attempted to lead one of the most complex system integration projects ever done in human history. Today all the issues he had thought of solving not solved in its true sense, but definitely huge progress has happened over the past 64 years. Also in my opinion this was the weakness and strength of Gandhi. While his inclusive and compassionate approach needs to be appreciated to a larger extent, he tried to solve too many problems in too short time.

Constitutional democracy

In its 3000 plus years of long history, India was always ruled by multiple forms of rulers which consists of  Mughal, British, Dutch, French, Portuguese  and a bunch of local rulers. The land was ruled by their heirs for generations together. The concept having a constitution and democratic governance was one of the top contributions which came is as a logical next step of inclusive approach that Gandhi had taken. Of course many other great leaders contributed to creating and implementing the constitution.  Even today we are still evolving where changes are applied whenever there is a strong case.

Closing words

When India got its independence in 1947, most of the political commentators around the world commented as an ‘artificial country’, which would break in no time. It’s been 64 years; we are existing together as a country itself is a miracle. There might have been issues and problems because of which we might not have become a developed nation in the similar lines of Singapore, Malaysia and many other Western countries. But think about it – those countries never had such a complex, unique, diversified set of people with a 3000 plus years of history occupying 2.3% of the land in the planet. Today, the success (if you want to call it) of India is not in its economic reforms, fast growing consumers, educated knowledge workers or its vibrant stock market. In my opinion it is the fact that we are existing as a country together in one form. The root of this result came from this simple, half-naked yet powerful man called Gandhi. It is time for us to think, reflect and understand the ‘Gandhi way’ of Independence and take pride in what we have done in the past 64 years.

Jai Hind!

Education: State Vs Central board

Its time to talk about education!

I grew up in a small town, educated in state board , in regional medium (Tamil) of instruction. Apart from my studies, all I knew was about something called ‘English medium’, where subjects were taught in English and those students boasted as if they knew many things. Acronums like JEE, AIEEE, CBSE, ICSE were totally unheard until I went to do my Engineering. These days I am discussing schooling related topics with my friends and family, so that I can make a better choice for my little one. However I am not sure if there is anything called ‘better’ choice? Will it make any difference at all?

Based on my discussion folks fed me with following data – In (Karnataka) state board is relatively easy to score marks (in terms of percentage), thereby having a better chance of making into good state colleges. However it is completely rote based, will not provide room to grow analytical/application thinking. In case of central (ICSE/CBSE) boards, it is totally opposite – getting marks is difficult, but it is comparitively make analytical thinking better. Also by taking up central sylabbus one has a better chance of cracking national level competitive examinations like JEE. But there is also a risk, where getting lower marks in central board, means ending up in mid/lower tier colleges in the state.

Leaving the boards & marks apart, I am having more fundamental questions about our education system. I know these questions are not easy to answer, but let me line them up as follows:

  1. Why there are so many boards, with different standards and evaluation procedures? Shouldn’t we have a common sylabbus across the country, where things are done in a uniformed manner? Even today there are not many ICSE/CBSE schools in smaller towns, thereby not providing them to have a fair chance in national level entrance examinations.
  2. Recently Tamilnadu government attempted to do this unification by removing state and matriculation sylabbus by coming up with a uniform school system. However thanks to the recent government change (from DMK to ADMK), it has taken a nasty route, where even today they are not sure which sylabbus to follow. Its been two weeks since schools  re-opened in the state, still my nephew (in 9th standard) didn’t get his text books, reason being schools don’t know which one to follow. Why should we allow education becoming a toy in hands of politicians? Shouldn’t it be governed by an independent body like election commission?
  3. Where and how are we taking care of the passion part? Thanks to the current situation, we seem to be pushing anyone and everyone into Engineering, so that they can get a high paying software job. This resulting in people who are not so passionate about the technolgy entering the industry, which will create a long term problem both for individual and industry as a whole. Why are we are not giving enough importance to arts, science and commerce? Why there is a common thinking of measuring success only in terms of salary he/she gets?
  4. While we are very happy to see movies like ‘Taare Zameen par’ and ‘Three idiots’, how many parents today are even making an attempt to understanding their kids and helping them choose their career/education, depending on his/her interest?

I am more than happy to hear your views/thoughts on this topic.

Innovation – Type 3 – Internal process [Case: Narayana Hrudayalaya]

The third part of our ‘ten part’ innovation series, we look at Narayana Hrudayalaya, founded by Dr. Devi Shetty. In a country where heart disease is prevalent and affordability is a challenge, Dr.Shetty’s organization is able to break the barrier of cost by innovating in the internal process. The cost advantage achieved is not by compromising the quality. After all everybody understand the value of human heart.

The word ‘process’ in most of the cases perceived as boring, procedure oriented and mundane set of procedures, thereby planting monotonous perception among professionals. On the contrary, having a robust process defined and executing around them can bring in life changing differences to organizations. Bangalore based Narayana Hrudayalaya has innovated on the very same area thereby making the cardiac healthcare affordable globally. Founded by renowned cardiologist Dr. Devi Shetty in the year 2001, this Bangalore based hospital has re-inventing the way cardiac healthcare is perceived around the globe.

In Narayana Hrudayalaya patients are charged flat $1500 (about 75000 rupees) for heart surgeries compared to $4500 (about 2,25,000 rupees) that other heart hospitals charge on average. These numbers get all the more interesting when it is compared with the US where an average heart surgery costs $45000 (about 22,50,000 rupees). Added to that Narayana Hrudayalaya has an innovative medical insurance scheme under which people who can’t afford to pay can be covered. The astonishing point to note here is low price doesn’t mean that the quality is compromised. It has amazing 95% success rate in heart surgeries and one of the well renowned hospitals for pediatric cardiac care. Ranging from Harvard business school to management guru C.K.Prahalad, has done case studies around this internal process innovation.

Narayana Hrudayalaya
Narayana Hrudayalaya

The first element of process innovation comes from what is known as ‘vertical’ approach towards specialization. Doctors here are highly specialized in cardiology, which means they can perform a specific aspect in a much better and faster than others with generic skills. This specialty helps Narayana Hrudayalaya to attract patients, motivated health-care professionals and donors. This is way different from what is popularly known as ‘multi specialty hospitals’ treating variety of diseases. If super specialization was the first element the second one is about deskilling few elements in the cardiac healthcare in such a way that is brings in drastic different in terms of time. Narayana Hrudayalaya has recruited women with high school education and trains them in taking echocardiograms of patients, which is performed by trained doctors generally. As they perform only this task day in and day out by acquiring a very specialized skill, unblocks doctors perform higher complex activities. With these innovations around internal processes, Narayana Hrudayalaya performs 23 cardiac surgeries per day compared with four to five performed by other major hospitals. This ‘high volume’ in turn helps them to grow the business by charging ‘low cost’ for their patients.

In order to have wider reach with patients, Narayana Hrudayalaya has partnered with ISRO to launch Telemedicine services. With the inception of the program, it has been implemented in the remote areas of north eastern states of Tripura, Nagaland and in south Indian state of Karnataka by connecting them using INSAT satellite. While ISRO provides the software, hardware and communication equipment as well as satellite bandwidth, the specialty hospitals provide the infrastructure, manpower and maintain the system. Thanks to this advanced technology the telemedicine network has grown into 165 hospitals.

The core idea of ‘affordable’ healthcare is made available to remote villages thanks to Narayana Hrudayala’s innovation around internal process. This innovation has resulted in overall profit margin of 19.5%, which offers viable and significant business proposition as well. This is one great example for ‘Business with a heart’.

Related links:

[Introduction to ten types of Innovation]
[Innovation – Type 1 – RangDe]
[Innovation – Type 2 – RedBus]

Third sex, Third class, Third world

Let us talk about ‘Hijras’, known as ‘chakka’, ‘ali’, ‘napunsak’ depending on the state/language you belong to.

Hijra
Hijra

There is very little understanding among educated, elite Indians about life of Hijra. We normally see them begging in trains by showing strange gestures, which is often not accepted according to our societal norms. Our media (be it print, broadcast or movies) project them as strange characters, mainly associated with unusual sexual activities. In northern part of India I understand they are called during marriages for giving dance performance. One of my school friends, a qualified physician was the first one to provide some insights into Hijras, thanks to his education and experience in working with a bunch of NGOs. Upon our further discussion, we felt how non-inclusive our society is. We may boast ourselves having a rich culture and heritage (popularly known as bharathiya sanskruti), but have a long way to go!

Hijras are born male, who converted themselves into female by getting rid of male genitals. While my doctor friend says the root cause is not to clear (one of the reason being their hormonal imbalance by birth), which eventually gives them a ‘feel’ that they are not male. In such cases, according to medical science, a three step gender conversion is a solution. First he should consult a psychiatrist who can either help him to come out of the ‘feeling’ of becoming a female or mentally prepare them for a gender conversion operation. If the gender conversion becomes inevitable, he need go through a complex operation which will physically remove male genitals followed by some more psychological counseling, thereby ensuring that he get used to the new gender. The third and most important aspect is to have a well defined legal system, which can help the converted individual to be treated as a female in the society. She (erstwhile he) is legally entitled to apply for jobs (as females), get married (leaving the fact that she cannot reproduce) and enjoy all the societal benefits.

In India,  none of the above mentioned process/system exist. When an individual get a ‘feeling’ of becoming a female there is absolutely nobody to provide any sort of support. Over a period of time, these folks starts hating their male physique. With obvious lack of support from family (Imagine what would happen to an individual when he goes to his parents and says ‘I don’t feel like a boy; I want to become a girl’) and society they are forced to desert their families and join Hijra community. Upon joining, they are assigned a mentor (known as ‘didi’) who will provide some initial orientation. In order to go thro’ emasculation process (known as ‘nirvana’) the newly joined Hijra has to accumulate necessary money, which they can only do by begging. Even if the Hijra is educated, he is forced into begging because nobody is ready to offer any sort of employment.

After accumulating necessary money (and with the help of didi), the new joined Hijra meets a ‘self appointed’ doctor who will do the emasculation. This process is legally not allowed in India, hence performed behind the doors without proper precaution. Such a risky process can even result in the Hijra’s death. After going thro’ the unbearable pain for months together, finally the Hijra gets rid of his male identity. Now they are formally inducted as a Hijra with few ceremonies done as a part of their community. While the Hijra can take a small sigh of relief for attaining ‘nirvana’, life becomes exceptionally difficult from here on.

Hijras are not accepted in our country as human beings; Nobody is ready to rent house or allow them to eat in  restaurant even if they are ready to pay; Nobody is ready to offer any sort of employment; No hospital will treat them for their illness; No official documents (like passport, drivers license, ration card etc..) will be provided to them; They are not entitled to vote; There is no legal system in place by which they can officially declare themselves as female; In summary Hijras are not given a ‘human being’ status. Thanks to the support from Hijra community, they somehow manage to get a place to live. However they have only two choices when it comes to profession – Begging or prostitution. That’s the very reason why we see them begging in trains.

The very fact that there is no system exists for Hijras shows the maturity of our society. We are absolutely fine to listen about Hijras in Mahabharatha (when Arjun takes the role of Hijra, during their exile period) or worship our lord in form of ‘Ardhanarishwar’ (where lord shiva takes 50% male and female form) and claim it is something superior. But in reality, the situation is pole apart where Hijras are given third class treatment. There are few positive changes (one of the Hijras contested and won election in UP, TN government has offered ration cards for Hijras etc..) but that is way too slow considering there are about one million Hijras in India. There might be small pockets of development happened in the country, thanks to globalization, but we are far from creating an inclusive society.

No wonder we are still called as ‘Third world’ country!

Consistently inconsistent – Auto rickshaw meters in Bangalore

Inside Bangalore city, autos were supposed to be the best mode of transport in a cost-effective way. Compared to other metros like Chennai, Bangalore had a well regulated meter system in place, which was hassle free. Especially for IT employees, autos used to be used to be viable alternative to commute to workplace, back and forth. There were numerous folks who use autos to commute on a daily basis without any worries. In fact many of them preferred auto journeys, given the city traffic conditions. Added to that auto drivers were friendly and co-operative, thereby making the journey comfortable. Unfortunately over the past three to five years auto rickshaw journey has gone from pleasure to pain, and getting worse day by day. After traveling in an auto, individuals end up having head-ache, tension apart from emptying their pockets.

Based on our recent study, many of the city residents experienced set of different problems with auto-rickshaws. First problem is about getting an auto to reach the destination. Majority of the auto drivers are not ready to take in any passenger even though they run empty autos. Upon asking the place to reach, many of these drivers behave very rudely by not even responding back in a proper manner. Nowadays in order to get into an auto, one needs to spend at least 20 minutes, after asking for at least 4-5 autos that are not ready to picking them up. The reason these drivers will give for not taking in a passenger is very simple: “We will not get proper savari from the point we leave you”. Given Bangalore’s volume of working population and city’s recent growth, its hard to believe that, these drivers will have any problems with getting passengers. However, this is the uniform response one gets by talking to any of the drivers on the way. Also one need to be happy if the driver responds properly even though he is not interested in picking up the passenger. Turning face on the other direction, murmuring in Kannada or giving a vague look are some of the behaviors exhibited by these auto-drivers, which makes an individual feel “Who is the customer? Who is going to pay whom?”

The problem gets even worse after boarding the auto. Majority of these autos don’t have proper meters and they jump like crazy. According to the latest official chart, seven rupees is charged per kilometer with minimum charge being fourteen rupees for first two kilometers. But one has to be lucky if the meter functions properly. Based on our observations for 11 kms, fare ranged anywhere between 80 to 120 rupees, whereas it is supposed to be 77 rupees. Even though meters are installed on autos they are not properly maintained. Some of them still have very old meter ,which just show up the fare information. Some show up kilometers traveled and fare and some are electronic. The latest electronic meters were supposed to be more reliable, but eventually end up showing incorrect numbers. To put in simple terms these meters behave consistently inconsistent. When auto drivers were asked more questions for the malfunctioning of the meter the response could be anything. Some accept it with a vague smile, some respond rudely, some even don’t respond. Eventually the customer’s heart beats faster every time they see the meter jumping in a disproportionate manner.

Here is another point that makes it even worse — extra charges. Asking for extra charges over and above the tampered meters has become the norm these days. Some years back drivers used to ask for 50% extra, only after 10:00 PM in the night, which is no longer true. During peak hours, like 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, asking extra has become a day-today affair. On rainy days it becomes hits the peak, where these drivers straightaway asking for an atrocious flat charge without even thinking twice. Also if the passenger is not aware of the route or new to the city, these drivers take the longer route instead of proper one. For busy working professionals finding auto, paying extra charge and reaching their workplace adds stress to their mind. Many solutions, like booking autos thro’ SMS or phone were proposed, but nothing seems to work practically over a long period of time.

Which are the factors has made auto journey a pain? Is it increasing IT employees in the city? Is it increasing demand makes these drivers feel that they can demand any amount? Is the difference between haves and have-nots is increasing, which is making auto-drivers to find some way to make money from wealthy IT employees? What is the government is doing about it? There is definitely an optimization problem, waiting to be solved. At one end there is a huge need for autos and vast amount of people ready to pay proper fare. But where is the solution?

BOOK REVIEW : Go Kiss the World

Author : Subroto Bagchi

Price: 399 INR

Related posts:

Book review: High performance Entrepreneur

Book release: Go Kiss the world

The first book of Subroto ‘The high performance entrepreneur’ primarily depicted various aspects of Entrepreneurship. If the first book is all about ‘work’ the second one ‘Go kiss the world’ is all about ‘life’, thus completing the ‘work-life’ hemispheres. In the year 2006,Subroto delivered his famous speech to the students of IIM-Bangalore on the same title, where he shared some of his life lessons with management graduates. This book is an extension of that speech covering many aspects of his personal and professional life. This book has couldn’t come at a better time where India is going through a huge transformation. Thanks to economic policies and availability of talent pool, the number of jobs for young professionals is growing at an exponential phase. Well paid global jobs are getting poured into the country in every industry including — IT, ITES, Finance, Law, Services and Manufacturing. Its really amazing to see professionals walking with six figure monthly salaries, buying houses in their early twenties and getting global exposure. At the same time these young professionals (which includes me) need to learn and understand the importance of values and critical real life lessons. In this context, Bagchi shared some of his life lessons in the book, which turns out to be very for a young professionals who are ready to take on the world.

Initial chapters of the book talks about Subroto’s family members and his early life. As his father’s job had many transfers, he ends up spending time in many of the semi-urban/rural places of Orissa. He vividly shares about tiny but beautiful anecdotes of his early life and some of the lessons he learned from his parents and elder brother. As a town brought up, I was able to connect much better with them. After completing his graduation in political science, he started his career as a lower division clerk in the state government. He fondly recollects his first boss Khuntia babu, from whom he learned how to open a file. Upon not knowing where to go and what to do (typical issue faced by any person from town), he starts looking for a better job. After multiple rounds of interview he gets a job as a management trainee in DCM, which was a premium job during those days. After facing some adversities and internal politics, he quits the job and takes up an entry-level sales job with HCL by taking 40% pay cut. It was totally a different industry and job where the sales job teaches him hard realities of life. However HCL played a significant role in Subroto’s life by providing an entry into ‘less-known’ IT industry.

After working for a few IT companies in sales and marketing function, he takes early plunge into entrepreneurship along with few few friends by starting up a company called Project.21 in early 1985. The objective of the company was to provide computer training to working professionals from many companies. Even though the company was able to generate cash in the initial days, it gets into problems from multiple angles. In fact this is what happens to many entrepreneurs when they don’t have holistic understanding about building a business. After three years there, the company comes to a grinding halt after which he decides to get onto some job where he can expect some stability and a decent growth. The main turning point comes in the form of his job with Wipro, where he served for 10 years. As his initial job provided him shop-floor level experience, Subroto was able to clean up the sales function of Wipro and quickly raise in the corporate ladder. He explains some of the exceptional persons he met in Wipro and learnings from each one of them. The subsequent assignments in Wipro takes him to the US, where he builds an ‘on-demand’ R & D lab from the scratch.In pinacle of his career with Wipro, driven by internal “call” Subroto starts Mindtree along with his like-minded individuals. The subsequent chapters talks about how he and his team went on building Mindtree, providing leadership during adverse situations (during 2000/2001 downturn) and taking up the role of ‘Gardener’, inspired by servant-leadership.

The beauty of the book is not about knowing Subroto’s life and his career growth. As mentioned in the prologue of the book, he used his life as a canvas to share his significant learnings with external world. As a young professionals many of us think that a job from a company X or salary of Y or position of Z will take where we want to go. In reality the success or happiness is not all about a job, position or money but the amount of learning and value system an individual carries along with him. That way the biggest reward in life is the journey itself. Without understanding this, many of us crib, worry and complain about many things in their jobs. How many of us in the IT industry even think that the salary we draw is at least 10 times more than what our parents earned even during as their last month salary before retirement? How many of us thank the veterans who built the IT industry in early 90s where the western world didn’t even know where India existed in the world map? How many of us are able to see the difference between job and career? What is the amount of learning happens at the workplace, on a daily basis? How many days did we spend not complaining about our bosses, company or a colleague? It takes a big heart and humility to enjoy, learn and make a difference to the world we live in. As young professionals we need to learn a lot from veterans like Subroto and live a complete life.

In a way this book plays a significant role in planting thought process mentioned above.Instead preaching (which the young professionals hate anyway), Subroto used his life as an example and shared many things. In many places I felt a chord hitting my head heavily, thereby opening up many avenues to think. I would like to take a moment and thank Subroto for sharing his life lessons openly with the bigger world. I am sure it will make a difference to many people. I can proudly say I am one among them!

Hey Ram

On Independence Day, one of the TV channels aired Kamal Haasan’s ‘Hey Ram’. I have a long, transformational and emotional journey with that movie. Way back in 2000 I watched it during my college days along with one of my friends, upon his compulsion. I felt it was a total junk, where I commented that Kamal put together multiple documentaries to form of a movie. I hardly understood the movie and cursed my friend for wasting my time and money. After all, spending 14 rupees for a movie ticket along with 6 rupees for the transportation (share-auto) was a big deal in 2000.
Cut to Bangalore. It was the year 2005 (Oct 2nd, Gandhi Jayanthi to be precise) and the same movie was shown in Sony channel. I was alone at my home as my room-mate had gone to office to fix a customer facing issue. As no other movie was aired during the same time, I started watching the movie with more concentration. By 2005 I was mature enough to understand the world better and read few chapters from Gandhi’s ‘My experiments with truth’. I was able to connect to the movie much better this time and watched each and every scene with full attention. By the end it, the message of the movie hit me very hardly. I am not a very sentimental person, but tears started rolling out of my eyes without even me realizing it. Vow! What a wonderful movie about a great person.

For people who are not aware about Hey Ram here is a brief about the movie. It is basically a fictional story made by Kamal Hassan which revolves around India-Pakistan partition, violence that shook the country during partition, plot behind Gandhi’s assassination and raise of Hindutva ideology promoted by Veer Savarkar. Kamal plays the role of an Archeologist (Saket Ram Iyengar) who’s Bengali wife Aparna (Rani Mukerjee) was raped and killed by their Muslim servant. Upon disappointment and anger, Saket starts killing every other Muslim in the neighborhood. In the bloody, violence hit Calcutta streets; he meets a Hindutva activitist Shriram Abhayankar (Atul Kulkarni) who plants Hindu fanatical thoughts in Saket’s mind. Abhyankar also tells that Gandhi is the whole reason for Muslims getting undue advantage in a country, where Hindus form 85% of the population. Then the movie takes multiple turns where Abyankar and Saket were chosen to kill Gandhi. Due to an unexpected accident, Abyankar becomes bed ridden and Saket moves to Delhi to do the job. The main turning point happens in Delhi, where Saket meets his old Muslim friend Amjad Ali Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) in a communally tensed area. The series of incidents and Khan’s death transforms Saket and confronts that blood-for-blood is an incorrect ideology. There on Saket becomes a Gandhi follower and lives reminder of his life by following Gandhi’s principles. The last 45 minutes of the movie (transformation of Saket) is really a wonderful piece to watch.

Even after 62 years, many Indians feel that Gandhi’s ideology and non-violent way of getting independence to India is incorrect. Many still believe that he played significant role in making Indians as cowards, by not making them fight against the British face to face. They also believe martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekar Azad did the correct thing by killing some British folks. Especially after ‘Rang De Basanti’ these martyrs have become superstars among young Indians. While I am not discounting the sacrifice made by these great martyrs, I feel Gandhian way is the most appropriate way to get independence for India. Here are the some of the reasons.

First, India is the most diverse country in the world. There are multiple languages, customs, religions and rituals are followed in various parts of the country. It’s impossible to unite them in the name of language or religion (which was in case in other revolutions happened in the world) other than Nationality and non-violence. If not for that method, Gandhi would have failed to unite the whole country. Taking the rebellious path and shooting somebody would have resulted in short term benefits but it would not have resulted in a democratic India. Every other country which got independence with the help of the gun couldn’t sustain them beyond certain point.

Second, India was ruled by a lot of kings in the past. The country was divided into many pieces during different rulers. The colonial approach of the British once again kept the country under their rule for more than 200 years. From there India matured into a powerful, vibrant, constitution based democracy today. According to me, this change is really huge which required a properly planned transition. If not for non-violent approach, it would not have been possible. During the same time, Pakistan took the dictatorship approach and everyone knows the pathetic political situation even today. Even a country based on Muslim religion couldn’t sustain itself with dictatorship, let alone diversified country India. It would have been torn into pieces, which would have resulted in a civil war. Gandhi’s non-violence sowed seeds for a mature approach.

Third, Gandhi’s approach was inclusive. It included women, who were not accepted in the society for centuries together. By making them participate into nation’s independent movement Gandhi, made them realize their self worth and esteem. Apart from women, he also brought the downtrodden Harijans, who were treated like animals by denying basic rights for thousands of years. If not for this inclusive approach, we would have still not given basic voting rights to women and continue ill-treating Harijans even today. I am not saying all the problems against women and Harijans are addressed, but Gandhi’s thought process set stage for reforms and changes to be brought to address every other sectors of the society.

For me understanding Gandhi is a continuous journey. From debunking Hey Ram in 2000 to adoring the same in 2008, I have come a long way. Looking him and his ideologies at periphery might not make sense but deep thoughts do clear many things about him. It is his leadership and non-violent movement made India what it is today. Movies like Hey Ram play a significant role to pass on the message of Gandhi to future generations.

On private security agencies

Following serial bomb blasts in Bangalore, security has become top concern for all IT companies. While its true that the blasts are not targeted on them, companies are not taking any chances. However all IT companies have private security agencies (on contract) to take care of the facility for 24 hours. I have my own questions about these agencies.

Who are they?

When many of the IT companies (especially MNCs) started their operations in India, they wanted to ensure their global security policy to be followed here as well. Sniffing this as an opportunity to make a business out of it, many people started jumping into security contract without having proper background information. Most of these agencies hire ex-army men (read it as retired army men) as their chief security personal and started providing services to companies. In order to meet a contract requirement of a company, they need to provide X number of people, which they were falling well short of. So these folks in turn go to rural or semi-urban areas (For example: places like Hosur, Dharmapuri etc.) of India and started bringing people who don’t have any idea about what security profession is all about. These ‘new hires’ are provided a crash course (about their job), two uniforms, one pair of shoes and paid 3000 rupees are salary. They get food from the IT company they work for (left overs in the canteen) and get a chance to ‘enjoy’ amenities like mineral water, telephone, 24×7 supply of coffee/tea, air condition which they would have never imagined before. As this is primarily a labour market, attrition rates are very high. For example, in my apartment complex we have hired 3 contract security people I get to see a new face every month. Every time I need to use different language (Kannada/Tamil/Telugu/Hindi) for communication as they are from different states. In a way the security agency setup is similar to the way Indian IT services companies operate. Hire one high-caliber technical guy (ex-army men mentioned above),surround them with 10 freshers from any private engineering college and bill for 11 headcount to the client. Get money in dollars and pay peanuts to employees. Vow! As the nature of law goes, you get what you give to your customers.

Billing rates

Let me come to the billing now!

As mentioned in one of my posts, I am a member of apartment association,primarily handling the planning and budgeting. As of today we pay 24 rupees per hour as a contract amount to the security agency. Here is the simple math:

Billing amount per day/person = 576 (24 x 24)
Total billing amount/month = 17280 (576 x 30)
For 3 security people = 51840 (17280 x 3)

I am sure you will be surprised the amount of money spent on these agencies. They also have a separate billing rates for corporates which depends on the level, where ex-armymen will be billed at higher amount. The 17280 rupees per month is very high by any standards. Probably it is more than what an entry/fresher level software engineer takes home in many of the software service companies.

Is it really worth it?

The real problem is not with billing the amount, but the value they bring in. In fact, its true for any services business (be it with servant maids, car washing or writing quality software program). In my opinion — its just not worth paying such a huge amount for these security people. Let me give some examples.

  • The office building (where I work from) it quite old and there was a fire breakout about 6 months back. It was caused due to the malfunctioning of transformer, which created smoke throughout the building. Power went off and electric circuits started burning in a few minutes. The fire alarm didn’t blow and we all started running out of the building to save ourselves. Fortunately nothing happened to any employees. But the interesting site was to observe these security person’s actions during the fire breakout. None of these junior security people know exactly knew how to operate the fire extinguisher (it took about 15 minutes) and they forgot to switch off the main power connection. Fire spread quite fast, damaging few equipments inside the building.
  • Sometimes I go to office very early (say 6:30 AM) after dropping my family members in railway station. Every time I see the security people sleeping peacefully in the sofa kept in the entrance of the building. The one who is sitting in the reception also almost in sleep with barely keeping his eyes opened. Without showing the ID card, I have entered the building without any issue.
  • In spite of keeping 3 security people and paying them 51840 rupees to the agency, my helmet was stolen. I forgot to lock as it was broken and left it on the bike seat itself. When I complained about this incident to their agency owner he promised of a reimbursement (in a casual manner), which has not reached me till today. Will he reimburse a life if it is lost due to their carelessness?

If they are not able to protect a helmet or put off a fire on time, how can we expect them to save lives? We cannot blame these guys because they are just making a living out of the job without knowing the real importance of their job. The real culprits are the agencies, who make tons of money by contracting them to IT companies, apartment complexes and shopping malls.

Verdict

I remember a quote my mother used to tell me when I was growing up — “When you have anything in abundance you don’t realize importance of it”. Its so true with India. It has a billion population and we don’t realize the importance of people’s lives. Counteless number of people die every day, and nobody gives a damn about it. With recent bomb blasts in the country, every city needs even more strict vigillance and security intelligence. Unfortunately we can’t expect it to be provided by these security agencies in the current situation. It is high time for corporates to wake up and cleanup the entire mess.

My dear idly Vada

My better half is out of station and I am back to bachelor life for few days. Its been quite a while since I had breakfast in roadside Darshinis. This morning I stopped by one such Darshini to have idly-vada combo. Got a shock when the shopkeeper returned 3 rupee change in return for my 20 rupee. Man! A plate of idly vada costs 17 rupees, that too in a roadside Darshini?
I am still better off as the 2-3 rupee raise doesn’t pinch my pocket much. But what about a daily wager who is earning 50-100 rupee a day? 12% inflation means he may end up eventually skipping a meal? Added to global oil price raise, the local inflation is hitting Indians big time. What happened to UPA’s ‘Aam Admi’ promise?