MALICE IN BLUNDER-LAND!
By Sanjay Pinto

A sure shot way of contracting amoebiasis is to have railway food. That has been my personal experience. Exaggeration? Not if you go by a recent Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) revelation that food served on trains is unfit for human consumption. If  this is not bad enough, read on. Bedsheets that we are given on trains are reportedly not washed for months, in some cases, even years together. These reports no longer shock us in a manner as they should because we have come to accept apathy and indifference, corruption and nepotism as a way of life. So if the roads are the pits and cave in like war trenches, if drinking water gets mixed with sewage, if we cannot get basic services like driving licences or building plan approvals without shelling out ‘speed money’, all that we do is curse the system, mutter under our breath and go with the flow to just get the job done.

At a time when farmers are up in arms, with some committing suicide and more than fifty thousand techies across seven software companies in a ‘Welfare State’ that is India are sacked, even as  some CEOs cling on to their seats and their fat 100 crore pay checks, what are our honourable elected representatives upto? Busy giving themselves a hundred per cent pay hike. No one should grudge a raise if there are reasonable returns on tax payer’s investment. Let’s even pay them more, as long as duty is given priority. For ordinary citizens, keeping their jobs is a luxury today. Increments, if at all, are strictly based on performance appraisals and 360 degree feedback from the lowest rungs to the top echelons. Across the country, our representatives do their own self assessment. I’m not going to delve into idealistic things like ‘conscience’ or ‘minor aberrations’ like sleeping or watching pornography on duty, as some were caught red handed in another State.

When was the last time, a ‘neta’ conducted surprise inspections of public services? What we see on the news are leaders throwing their weight around – getting preferential treatment, slapping airline staff, holding up flights, fighting over toll gate tickets and striking deals.

With honourable exceptions here and there, when was the last time, a ‘neta’ conducted surprise inspections of public services? What we see on the news are leaders throwing their weight around – getting preferential treatment out of a sense of brazen entitlement, slapping airline staff, holding up flights, fighting over toll gate tickets and striking deals. How many would dare question them and stand their ground? Activists or journalists would speak truth to power, but may face defamation cases or privelege motions. Honest and bold officials would speak out, but may get shunted out to the boondocks. We deserve service, not malice.

Everytime I drive on a bad road with potholes and protruding manhole covers, I cannot help wondering if things would improve if the Local Administration Minister or Mayor or Corporation Commissioner or Traffic Police Chief  actually drive around these stretches themselves incognito in unmarked vehicles. The driver knows where the suspension takes a beating! Everytime I get dirty water in my tap or see stagnant sewage on even arterial roads being  splashed by passing vehicles onto school children or neatly dressed candidates for job interviews, I cannot help wondering if things would improve if the Metro Water Board top brass take walks around the city at peak hours. Everytime I get bitten by mosquitoes inspite of doing my bit to keep my surroundings clean and paying my taxes, I cannot help wondering if things would improve if the Health Minister and his officials (again with honourable exceptions, so if the cap fits you, its yours) have their meetings not in their air conditioned conference halls or cabins but in open public spaces like parks, after 7 pm. Everytime I stand in a queue to get basic public services like a driving licence renewal or a passport or an aadhaar card, I cannot help wondering if things would improve if the Transport Commissioner or the Regional Passport Officer or  a senior UIDAI official also stand in the same line like ordinary citizens. Everytime I struggle to find a parking slot outside a Consulate office, I cannot help wondering if things would improve if the diplomats ensconced inside drive private vehicles without the CC number plates and hunt for a safe place to leave their cars in the vicinity of the embassy.

And everytime I get a flurry of unsolicited telemarketing messages offering me unlimited calls and data for as little as Rs.399, I cannot help wondering why each of our elected representatives get something in the region of Rs.15,000 a month as telephone  allowance. Because you see, common folks like us were asked to give up LPG subsidy of a few hundred rupees per cylinder. So we can keep wondering. Till the next election. And the next. Now don’t keep raising questions. Don’t be an anti-national presstitute.

(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Bestselling Author,   TV Political Commentator, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)