Friday, January 14, 2011

Top of mind news this week

Every week, day, minute even, we can have as many news assail our senses as we want.

Most of them do not stay in mind for longer than 5 minutes. And some of them stick. For each of us, the news that stick are different. This week, i was thinking about all the things that keep going on in the mind... for me, it was: (the part after the hyphen is my brief perspective on the subject)

  • Delhi's Road Rage case - One sec, Wilson hit Agarwal, Wilson took hold of the steering wheel, and Wilson got under that car because of what he was doing. And Agarwal should be punished? For once, the aggressor paid the price of aggression. I was so mad that the newspaper did a story on the Wilson family. If anyone is a victim, it is Agarwal. When someone brushes your car, even bangs it, lets say, the right thing to do is to lodge a police complaint, then call your insurance. you do NOT go and hit the other person, then, when he is trying to get away from you instead of responding to your aggression, you go and block his steering wheel. And just because you die in the accident that is caused by your obduracy in sticking to the steering wheel even when the car starts moving, suddenly, you are the victim? This does not make sense at all. We have to start by admitting that though he is dead, he was the aggressor in this case. But you know what will happen? Tomorrow morning, all the news stories will say that Wilson was not aggressive, that Agarwal deliberately banged (as against brushed in today's reports) Wilson's car, that Agarwal came out to hit Wilson, that Wilson was trying to get away when Agarwal mowed him down. Bet on it. And suddenly, the case will turn on its head.


  • The lady who stabbed a Bihar MLA to death : He harassed her for 3 years. She complained. Obviously, it led nowhere. So she did what the State ought to have done in the first place. You go Woman! This is an important case because Authority needs to realize that it's a dog where the bark must necessarily be worse than the bite. It should not need to bite. Because, quite simply, it does not have the werewithal to bite. In pure preponderance, the minority must always rule the majority, and brute force, as Bengal and Orissa have shown us, cannot get us anywhere. When you force people to take justice for themselves, they are one step away from your collar. In this case, she reached the collar all right. The others must take this warning. Is it a surprise that in the days that followed, MLAs accused of rape have been quickly arrested?

So, what were your top of mind news this week?

India's sovereignty may not last long

Some time ago, i wrote that if we do not do farm sector reform urgently, food prices will spiral out of control. At that time, the thought was hilarious. Today, starvation will soon be a reality for quite a few poor people. Food has, quite simply, gone out of reach.

Which is why, one is forced to write this post today. India has been actively ignoring 2 vital sectors - Agriculture and Defence. These sectors are not just any 2 sectors for a country. They are the deal breakers for the very existence of a country. Armies have laid seige to ensure that the other side runs out of food, and is therefore forced to surrender, and the importance of a strong defence mechanism to preserve the sovereignty of the country cannot be overrated . Even more than a strong foreign minister, we need a strong defence minister.

Here is what is not right:
1. Salaries and Emoluments - Parliamentarians and bureucrats get raises for doing no work at all. Defence raises (and lack thereof) deserve a separate article.

2. Working conditions: Sometime, whenever you have the time, please go to a field location and see the working conditions there - of the jawans and the officers. Enough said.

3. Equipment: Our equipment is dated and not as well maintained as it needs to be. Don't trust me. File an RTI to check:
A. What was the equipment delivered and ordered in 2010?
B. What is the budget outlay for defence upgrades ?
C. What is our procurement process and criteria?

4. RnD: How much indigenous stuff have we developed? If we can develop our space program internally, why cant we do defence equipment in India?

But to me, the biggest and the strongest threat to India's defence mechanism, after the official apathy, is this:

5. Corruption in the ranks. No matter what we do, no matter how much we build, unless every single instance of corruption gets exemplary punishment, and unless integrity is paramount again, we cannot hope to have a defence force that is impenetrable. Or even, capable. Sirajuddin's defeat is only one of the many, many instances when a country was let down by pure greed and corrpution. Of course, the low salaries and poor lifestyle does not make things easier.

China has been encroaching on indian territory in Arunachal and Ladakh. Bangladesh sends more illegal immigrants to India than we can count. And there is no large scale hue and cry in this country? If we want sovereignty, we must keep watching out. Or pay the price.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Lohri

पींगा , हूटे, ते मेरी माँ
सुवेरे सुवेरे चूडिया, गौण , ते हासे
किनारी वाली चुन्नी,
आठ आने दी रेवड़ी
ते रुपये दी गजक।
माँ,
आज लोहड़ी देंदे हाथ
तेरे हथां नु बड़ा तरसदे आ ...

Swings, friends, and my mother…
Bangles clinking in the early dawn, Songs, and laughter..
A gold bordered chunni..
50 paise for the milk sweet
And a rupee for the jaggery one..
Maa
Today, as I give to my children
I miss
The touch of your hands
the most..
Happy Lohri..

Thursday, January 06, 2011

benefits of using Vodafone aka what is it like to use vodafone in india

Some months ago, Vodafone asked us to submit our documents Again. Fair enough. I have 2 Vodafone connections - one prepaid and one post paid.

We sent an sms requesting someone to collect the documents from us. Predictably, no one came. But the messages stopped coming. For a while. When the messages resumed, we placed the request for collection once more. No one came. The messages stopped coming before every outgoing call. On the prepaid, they also suspended the outgoing facility, INCLUDING the outgoing to vodafone care to find out what the hell happened. I called Vodafone to find out what the hell happened. After a 20 minute wait, (and no option on the IVR to talk to someone about document collection), i was informed that i have to go personally to a vodafone store and that the pick up option is not valid in prepaid connections. Why couldnt someone tell us that sooner?

Some days ago, there was a call from Vodafone telling us that our documents are not received yet. I asked them to send someone. They asked me to wait at home for 2 hours. i did. No one came. The message before every call kept coming though.

Today, armed with the document that the message keeps repeating before every call (your address proof and your ID proof and originals to be carried for verification) , yours truly went to the Vodafone store. Prepared for a long wait. it is usually 30 minutes before you can get anywhere. After 30 minutes, someone passing by asked me what my token no. was and why i was there. When i told them i just have to submit the documents, they said, "Oh you dont need a token for that. This counter here is only for that." Would it have been too much to expect, for someone to tell us that? or for a small notice in the store to that effect? even a small notice at the counter to that effect? Yes, apparently.

At the counter, to my shock, i am handed out 2 more forms to fill. One for the prepaid and one for the post paid. With a photograph to be attached. "But the message does not say photograph required to be carried!" i asked.
The person at the counter mentioned in a manner that a sarkari babu would be proud to emulate "You cant submit without a photograph."

After a little anger, he wrote down an email id and said "just scan your documents and email them to this id."

NOW i was livid. if this option was available, why the hell didnt vodafone let us know? Its not easy to leave your office and child and brave the delhi winters to get to a vodafone store ONLY for this.

I asked "Where can i lodge a compaint?"
He said "not here."

I persisted "What is your complaint mechanism?"
"Please fill up a feedback form."

"This is not a feedback. this is a formal complaint."
"No idea where you can file a complaint."

Someone standing there helpfully guided me to a brochure seductively titled "Power to you". They also pointed out that we could call the Nodal Officer upto 6 p.m. I glanced at my watch. 1720 hours. Plenty of time to go. I called. user Busy. Called again. And again. For 15 minutes. Apparently, a lot of people need to contact the nodal officer. The call was never picked up.

At 1735 i called up the call center. There is no option that allows you to talk to a person. You have to trick the IVR into letting you do that. That magic was achieved after 2 attempts.
I spoke to Kamlesh. The conversation is below:

Me: "I need to submit a request for pick up of documents. Also, i need you to give me a docket no. of a complaint so that i can take this case to TRAI. For months, this harassment has been going on in the name of collecting documents which should have been a simple straightforward process. "

He: "I am sorry you had to face inconvenience. can i place your call on hold?"

Me: For what?? I just need a docket no. for this complaint. Nothing else.

He: Ok, let me give you the docket number. Please wait.

Me: Ok.

2 minutes later.

kamlesh: I apologise, but there is a technical issue and we are not able to generate docket numbers at this time. I cannot give you a docket number.
Me: Can you give me a reason why your nodal officer does not answer calls?
K: When did you call?
Me: 1720 hours.
K: It should have been before 5 p.m.
M: But your brochure says upto 6 p.m.
K: Silence.

M: So what you are saying is, you do not have an answer for why my documents have not been picked up yet. You do not know why the email id was not provided to customers, you will not give me a docket id. Can i talk to your manager?"

K: I will have to put you on hold.

M: For how long? (By now, i have been on the phone for 15 minutes with no answers and no resolution in sight)

K: No idea.

M: Arrange a call back.

K: we cannot arrange a call back because there is a technical hitch.

M: There is a technical hitch in telling your manager to call me?

K: Silence.

M: Ok, so let me get this right. You will not issue a docket no., your manager cannot call back, your nodal officer will not pick up the phone, and you broadcast this message before every call with WRONG information?

K: You should call up the call center to confirm what all to carry to the vodafone store.

M: Whats your name?

K: Kamlesh.

M: Kamlesh, are you aware that your IVR does not have an option to talk to someone? Does not have an option to find out ANYTHING about document collection at all?

And this, my dears, this is the answer to why Vodafone customers will be the first to use mobile number portability and flee. Incidentally, i also have an Airtel phone and have faced absolutely no harassment from them for papers.