Sunday, March 29, 2009

Corruption everywhere

True, the title of this post is very much true to best of my experience with various govt departments.

In most of the offices of state government,the normal work flow is not executed most of the time. there are alternative work flows that always work and at the end they pretend to be normal work flows/processes.

Impossible is nothing, it holds good for corruption. If you can pay, you can get most of the things in the world done:-).

I have many experiences in this regard, everyone looked at my face when I have applied for NOC at jayanagar RTA office in bangalore few years before. It is almost the case with every RTA office that people pay around 700 to 1000/- to get petty things done. So when I went on my own, they were surprised. But then with less than 100/- I got my NOC done (couple of trips to deputy commissioner office and had no problem there :-)). Interestingly couple of agents who were following me through out the process, were bargaining with me, they initially demanded 1000/- but when I applied on my own, the rate came down to 300/- :-).

My marriage certificate, this was another terrible incident. it was at Nagarkurnool sub registrar office. The sub registrar who was a muslim (he was not good at Telugu, nothing to do with his religion such as) and was like a dummy guy in the office. The clerks who do the work there are too demanding. They cite silly reasons like they do not have the stamp (its really silly isn't it, because govt office are supposed to have enough of them :-) ). We were forced to pay him 300 or so. That clerk was not even aware of the rules, he demanded a notary letter, and then lawyers demanded around 500/- just for one 20/- stamp paper and typing a template in there which is hardly 5 min. job. Just wonder about how bad things are!. A clerk demanding a paper which is not at all required and a lawyer charging 500/- for 5 to 10 min work in a remote town called Nagarkurnool. Think of the poor villagers who visit them for any legal support, Lawyers mostly do not have a kind heart in towns at least. :-(. After knowing all the stuff, I paid bribe at the office and hefty amount to lawyer, just because I had fully family (including my father, in-laws) and you do not want to take adventures by straining your family isn't it?

Lawyers are terrible, they never let you know the facts and extract money from you for nothing in most of the cases. This is true for any petty case that happens at gully level. they really do not do any work other than submitting some paper in court. it is no way similar to movies(where lawyers do lot of stuff to prove something in court).

Then APCPDCL, My self and my neighbour had a peculiar problem. after installing meters we didn't get bills for around 7 months. And then it was a single bill for all these months(which means higher tariff band and more than double the actual amount you need to pay )Ideally it should take max of 2 months for first bill.

The way I solved it and my neighbour solved it are different. I fought with Rajendra nagar A.E and raised an RTI request at their head office for similar incidents. It was done. They reduced my bill amount.

My neighbour paid the JLM (Junior Line man), and you know what, they destroyed the meters and he got new ones. what my neighbour paid is just a part of what he ideally has to pay. JLM got the bribe and then my neighbour got reprieve from paying big amount. At the end APCPDCL lost few thousand rupees. But who cares?

You want water connection? electricity connection or want property tax assessment for your new house or you want to change your name in your property tax note etc, common man lands up paying hefty amounts to what ideally is a simple work and couple of visits to the near by offices will do.

Every one of us are part of this corruption. The moment govt employees see lot of extra income, they stop doing normal work. You go to any office and I bet you they never process your request/file on time. If you do not want to pay bribe you have to strain yourself. But then think of proper alternative. If every one of us start visiting offices and avoid middlemen/bribe, will they escape from work? they will work for sure. But as long as most of the people pay bribe and few people who want to avoid bribes etc will have problems for ever.

The recent one being Rajiv Vidya Mission. I have been trying to construct an additional class room for a primary school near mehdipatnam. You can see another post on my blog which talks of that.

The project officer at RVM office, gave oral instructions, they withhold papers with them like estimates/plan and we get oral instructions to start work. He even called a constractor and told him, One Mr. Harinath Reddy will call you and do his work :-).

Later,Contractor was telling me how the RVM works, he was telling me that normal flow never works at RVM office. around 10 to 15 % of the total amount goes as bribe to employees in the RVM office. Also he says there are charity organizations(or to put it straight the people who handle stuff with RVM office) who make property out of the deals with RVM. My work is on hold as of now.

Surprising, charity for profit :-).

Well, there are other incidents as well but let me wrap up here.

System works wonderfully if you make corruption legal, go into consultant mode, employee only few regulars and all other consultants. pay your employees decent amounts. A gazetted officer,a teacher and doctor must get similar salaries. We need a balance of all professions. Let people get trained on every profession and let quality come into govt offices. Increase the salaries, implement reservations with a proper quality check. Salary hikes must be associated with the performance. Govt need to build proper systems to monitor quality of the work done by each office and employee and provide salary hikes based on performance. Make things straight forward let everyone know what the systems/processes we have and let people involve into govt activities and serve them better, remove middlemen by removing obstacles/hurdles in the normal work process, have enough escalation mechanisms where in a suffering citizen can raise complaint and his case be heard.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Money Effect in politics

The more you observe politics in andhra pradesh, more you will understand the money effect. If you want to contest from a major political party, you need to shed out around 2 to 5 crore of rupees. Incredible. If we take average as 3 crore, around 300 seats and 3 major parties, 3*300*3 = 2700 crore. (to make simple math took 300 as no. of seats instead of 294 the actual number).

There is around 2500 to 3000 crore political market around there. I am wondering what can we do with this amount.

Then add around 10 for campaigning, its really big amount right. who said india is going through recession? If I am given a chance, I would keep elections every quarter until the all those political leaders go bankrupt.

For me political leaders are looking like STREET DOGS. It is natural for them to bark and bike people, it is their nature. Some times they form groups and fight among themselves or kill some of them within them selves.

But we must exibit our nature of good human beings. Take the money from each candidate, but do not vote for him/her.

You know what!...street dogs are harmful, but if you train them how to behave, they can be faithful isn't it?

What should we do? will the elections really do magic? if money is the only factor that plays role on who is going to win, then elections do not really matter for the real benefit of the state and people.

Let us try to understand the system and the rules. If we start playing them properly, everyone has to bend and do their duty and make the society free from corruption.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mehdipatnam school (Ambedkar Nagar GPS)

At last we crossed initial bottlenecks to construct additional class rooms for Govt Primary school at Ambedkar nagar (a small slum area behind ICICI bank, Mehdipatnam).

This is a major activity from TMAD . At present this school has 1 class room and a small hall attached to it for running 5 classes with more than 100 students.
TMAD has been involved with this school for the last few years. We distributed them notebooks, slippers etc. Mr. Naresh, Teacher in this school is enthusiastic and got lot of energy in running this school.

We got the approvals from Rajiv Vidya Mission to start the work with 20:80 basis. TMAD will own the work and bear the 20% cost while remaining amount will be granted by Rajiv Vidya Mission.

We are talking to contractor for starting the work in another few days. It is a good news for me and for TMAD. I was into this task for the last few months doing the ground work. While Prashanti worked out the donations. Special thanks must be given to Maheedhar Maddi, who generously contributed 20k. He is the first donor and this gave us confidence to gather momentum and come to this stage

Friday, March 06, 2009

Politricks and possible solution

If you are native of Andhra pradesh state in India, you are for a sure confusion about the politricks played by various political parties. It all started with the present chief minister who promised too many things in the last elections. Now opposition parties are left to repeat the same thing.

My thought process on the present political system and the problems around it, is that, just because I like a particular leader, I must not endorse every silly mistake that leader or his party is doing. It will lead nowhere.

I see everyone expressing helplessness. Corruption is a very much known issue and almost all the political parties are part of it.

What should we do? should we cancel all present parties and their leaders? it is not going to work out.

The best alternative I can think of is to change the rules of the game, not players. The same players will be there but when rules change, we get the result we want (state and people getting the result).

Few steps towards it:

1. Automate all processes in the bureaucracy and legislation. Reduce the human intervention and make everything transparent. If outgoing is barred because of some reason, I call my mobile operator, if he says it takes 2 days, I have to wait, no other way. Similarly every service offered by government and its bodies must have very much clearly defined SLAs.

2. Make simple processes. Let us not invent too many schemes. Even if there are too many govt schemes, let the model behind those schemes be simple that can be understood by common man (should I say common woman :-), tomorrow being womens day).

3. Flat hierarchy, let the hierarchy of the govt be as simple as possible.

4. Integrated service centers:

We must have a learning from the present customer care centers of Mobile/Phone operators and similar services. it is clear to every phone user, where to go and complain or get a particular service from his phone/mobile operator like changing a handset or change scheme, change address etc.

Government must have Integrated service centers on population size basis. Something like for every 2000 people there can be one service centers. Every activity related with the execution/administration of the governement should happen from there. This might include Displaying Government Orders, Electoral updations, Bill payments, complaints, new requests(electricity, water,phone etc), clearance certificates etc.

When I first discussed this idea with some collegues of me, we have done some basic calculation, we can really do wonderful job, if we can spend around 300 crore rupees every year. This includes employment to around 20,000 people. Mind you this employmnent is based on normal education like +2 or graduation. Basic computer operating skills are required but not mandatory.People can be trained.
around 50 crore rupees for building/integrating software solutions to achieve the functionality. around 50 crores for building rentals/stationary/misc expenses while 100 to 150 crores will be for salaries and some buffer amount.

It will take around 6 months to 1 year to productize the concept from inception (provided we have approvals and budget allocated).

But this will bring down all the perils of present system. Now every person knows where to get his grievances addressed. Every silly problem need not get attention of chief minister or opposition leaders

5. Empowered committee on Political promises and validations:
A committee should be formed with all powers to validation manifesto documents of each political party, no party can publish their manifesto without approval from this committee.

Every rupee income and expense must be published along with beneficiary information to general public, so every political party will have access to this information so that they can plan their manfesto/list of promises. No promise by any party should be like a magic. Everything should be based on the factual information.

Members of this committee should be eminent personalities in the political system and should represent all sections of the society. I think I need some home work on how these members need to be picked and making sure these people do not favour a party or set of sections in the society. Because otherwise it becomes like any other ordinary committee and the ruling party makes it a meaningless one.

We know mostly we cann't expect surprises in our system. I cannot expect a great leader coming out all of sudden from no where.
But with all our limitations what we can do is to spend some effort and do is change the rules so as it really benifits the people and political parties will be like trusties. you know what, if we implement these ideas, it is like 'Shubham' card in the last scene of a great movie isn't it?