Sunday, January 13, 2008

Below the surface!!

It was the University day in our college today. Having to come to college for a half day seminar on “India’s Tryst with Urbanization” in the middle of our Trimester examinations had left most of us irate. But what we got was worth the time. The last speaker on the forum was Dr. Jairaj Phatak - Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai. It was a rare opportunity when we got to listen to the Government Perspective of things. He spoke extensively on the problems and some facts, which are perceived wrongly by the common public but which are much deeper than what looks on the surface and are in fact good for public. We should have made extensive notes on his speech but alas, by not taking the seminar seriously, we were carrying iPods, books, Newspapers to pass time. Some of the things which made impact and I can remember are as follows:

1. The topic was on the financial powers of the Municipal Corporation and if techniques like Public bonds (Ahmedabad Corporation is using this technique) can be used to gather more money to be used for city development. Dr. Phatak remarked that Mumbai MC was a quite rich and had surplus equivalent to a year’s budget. But the problem was that we are a democracy and though he can sanction crores of rupees but he has to consult with the advisory bodies consisting of MLA’s, MP’s etc. And it is there that the problem lies. But in a sense that is good too. It is the 2 sides of the democracy. On one hand it binds your hands and on the other hand, if such checks were not there it would lead to autocracy and free will of some people.

2. An interesting incident he told was where he prevented constructing individual rooms in a Government Hospital. Normally it would look ridiculous that the development of a hospital is being stopped and Government/MC is not acting for the benefit of ‘common man’. But there was a reason. Had the big dormitories (which house 6 – 8 patient beds in a room) been converted into rooms, it would have led to richer people to get admitted in the hospital. Consider this. Would you, a well to do person, prefer going to a private hospital or get admitted in a hospital where you are lying in alongside 6 others who may be a rickshaw puller or a laborer. Of course, we would want a better hospital. Had the dormitories been converted into rooms, people like us wouldn’t have minded going to the ‘cheaper’ Govt Hospitals, which again would have led to people with rooms getting preference of the doctors, nurses (we pay more.. we should get better service!!). Result: neglecting some unfortunate ones who also demand attention.

3. Another fascinating reason was behind the queues we see at the Ration Shops for rice, wheat, kerosene etc. It is actually designed such that there SHOULD be queues at such a place. It is a way of providing subsidies to only those who need it. Say, the subsidy provided on rice is Rs 20. And due to the queue it takes around 1 hour to get the rice at a ration shop. Now only that person will go there whose value of that 1 hour is less than Rs 20. If I can utilize my 1 hour doing something which will earn me more than Rs 20 (this is a hypothetical number) in that hour, ideally I do not need that benefit. If this doesn’t happen then there can be a case where a daily wage earner after saving Rs 200 for the whole month goes to the ration shop to get subsidized rice and finds that all of it has gone. Taken away by people who actually don’t need it. Hence, the Queues !!!

There were many other issues, cases he touched upon like Pavement dwellers, cross subsidies and lots and lots of figures and facts. The vastness of the knowledge and ability to link seemingly different things were displayed by Dr. Phatak with panache. Though MBA may have left the charm of IAS far behind, but I guess IAS officers are far much knowledgeable, well read and effective than many of the Business Managers. I was impressed. And so were my batch mates which was evident from the applause which continued for quite some time after his presentation.

10 comments:

Tejinder said...

Arrey kya blog likha hai yaar….tune hamari ankhen khol di……

Chetan said...

Bhai SID, the subject of your blog this time was really good. We usually dont think of these reasons why a long queue? Why there are no separate rooms in Govt hospital? etc. We usually think only in only one dimension when it comes to our Nation and its problems. Your blog made me to think about other views of problems also. Good one.

Santosh kumar sharma said...

SID sahab it was a good one.
But do you realize whats the exact problem.
Our democracy is based on combined decisions and failures, therein lies the magic formula and magic failure.
In turn we would almost never see Cultural revolution (Huge failure, estimates 20 million dead) or the massive growth (11 % , 13% ridiculusouly large) of china in india.

The problem is here are huge kin of hypocrite people or should i say all of us are hypocrites. Te same people well to d for whom one hour is important will make some of their relatives stand there and ensure tat they in no way miss out on government goodies.

The problem is we have become a huge country of hypocrites, lets hope that changes for well.

50scent said...

Mr Pathak reminds me of Orwellian Antagonists- "This control deprivation, and pain that we are inflicting on you is for your own good. You dont understand it, we know better(because we have the power)."

Amey said...

The points seem to be either well thought-out or clever justifications, based on your PoV. Is it the whole truth or just part, I am not sure.

SiD said...

@Teji : :)

@Chetan: ya.. that is the whole point.. they give u an entirely different view point..

@santosh: yes... if people want to have a way out... there will be not one.. but many ways... but the point is to have a basic methodology there...

@50scent and Amey: There can be a cynical view of looking at things and on the other hand we can try to find a method behind things.. These are merely thoughts which motivate us not to take things at face value..but scratch the surface...to know if there is some reason behind the madness... u know something like freakonomics where the apparent thing is different from the real thing...
wrong or right is a matter of PoV, ... May be being there and listening to the riveting speech made me believe that it is the correct thing to do!! ;)

50scent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
50scent said...

Yes I understand that. I must appreciate the person who is able to mesmerize you,even though you have recently been through that "Post Office" episode.
Power of oratory :D

King said...

Dude you were actually listening eh?
Anyway, I left before the last bit, so I guess I missed the only good part to the event...:-/

SiD said...

@King: Ya.. was awake during that address only.. :)