Monday, July 13, 2009

Change begins with me, I can make a difference

Below is experience of one guy (Shabbir) with Bangalore traffic police about how you can make a difference.

Really worth reading and inspiring.

Note: This is not a spam, have emailed shabbir and he replied back also.

It was Friday 5th June, at about 3 pm I drove my Ford Ikon car into 80 feet road at Indira Nagar in Bangalore, wanting to reach on time for my 3.30 pm meeting with a client.

As I entered the wide road I saw a posse of traffic constables who stopped my car on the side and asked me to produce my car documents to the Traffic Sub Inspector (SI) who was standing on the footpath. I walked upto the SI and displayed my Driving Licence. He told me to bring my Car Insurance certificate and also my Emission Certificate for the car.

I walked back to my car and realised that I had not carried either of the documents in my car and was cursing myself for such a slip. I came back to the SI and told him that I did not have my document and what was to be done. The SI had a half smile & told me that the fine for not carrying both these documents was Rs 600/- however I could pay him Rs 300/-.

I removed my wallet and told the SI that I would pay the amount and wanted a receipt. He suddenly got stern and told me that in that case the fine was Rs 1,100. I paid the fine of Rs 1,100 and took the receipt, wondering why the fine had suddenly escalated just because I wanted a receipt instead of paying the Rs 300 bribe which the SI had asked.

After my client meeting as I was driving back, I was annoyed at myself for not carrying the documents and I was angry that at an officer at an SI level was blatantly seeking a bribe. I decided that I should do something about it and as soon as I reached my Home Office, I logged on to the net and found out that the Traffic Police of Bangalore has a website, which gives details of the fines chargeable, it also provides for logging complaints and gave the email ids of the Asst Commissioner of Police (ACP) for the traffic division.

At about 7 pm that evening I wrote an email to the email id of the ACP, narrating the incident of the afternoon and lodging a formal complaint in the email. I also found out the website of Lok Ayukta of Karnataka and marked a cc of the same email to the email id's given on the Lok Ayukta's website.

By about 7.30pm I had done the needful, and I was happy with myself that what I preach in my Leadership Workshops wrt Values, I had practised to a large extent (Paying the fine instead of paying the bribe and reporting the bribe demand to the best of my ability). I thought the chapter ended there, little realising that I would be having an indeed amazing and pleasant experience in the hours and days to come.

On Saturday 7th June (the next day) at about 2 pm, I logged into my Home Office and checked my email and lo behold, I had three emails sent to me by the ACP to who I had written the complaint email the previous day. The first one, informed me that I had done the right thing by paying the fine and not the bribe, the second email asked to give my complaint in writing and fax it to the ACP, so that action can be taken on the SI and the 3rd email asked me to give the ACP a call on his office no or his cell no, so that he could accelerate the action to be taken on the erring SI.

I promptly put my complaint in a letter and sent a scanned copy through the email to the ACP.

On Sunday, 8th June in the morning I checked my email and I had an email from the ACP stating that the erring SI had been suspended from service and that I must give the ACP a call to work out the next formalities. I called the ACP (till now I did not know the name of this ACP) who answered my call on the Sunday.

During my phone conversation he introduced himself as ACP Pravin Sood, and thanked me for doing what I did wrt not paying the bribe and also escalating the matter in writing, he explained that many Bangalore citizens escalate such cases to him but then back down when asked to give the complaint in writing. He apologised to me (yes - he said "I am sorry for what you faced with this SI who harassed you, because he did not have any business stopping your to check your documents if you had not done any traffic violation") and he invited me over to rea to his office at a time convenient to me.

After I kept the phone down, I could not believe that here was a case where within 48 hours of an incident of seeking bribe, the erring office was suspended.

I decided that I must meet in person ACP Pravin Sood, speaking with who for 10 minutes had changed a few paradigms in my mind about Public Service Officers. Since I was travelling the next few days, I sought time with him on 15th June at 4.30 pm at his office. I reached ACP Sood's office a little early (at 4.10 pm) and was pleasantly surprised when I was ushered into his office at 4..15 pm, he asked me to sit as he was completing a meeting with another delegation.

At sharp 4.30 pm he ended his previous meeting and turned to me and spent the next 20 minutes discussing with me several aspects of Traffic Policing in Bangalore and offered me a cup of tea (many corporate clients I visit, do not see me on time and do not offer me a cup of tea, so what ACP Sood was doing was indeed better than many corporate folks I have met!).

Right through the conversation, he was courteous, frank and completely articulate on his thoughts and ideas. He reiterated that there would be no repercussions on me for giving the complaint in writing, and that I may have to make one appearance in person when the internal enquiry is done, he also offered that instead of me having to come to the Police headquarters to give the statement, he could send one of his officers to my residence to take my statement if I so wish.

When I was leaving ACP Sood's office, I told him "Over the years many of my friends and cousins have urged me to migrate and settle in one of the western countries, but I have consciously chosen to stay back in India by my choice -- when I have interactions like the one I had with you ACP Sood, I am happy that I made the choice to stay back in India". It was an impromptu comment, straight from my heart to which ACP Sood just smiled and shook my hand.

When I was walking out of ACP Sood's office, I felt reassured that if we have officers like ACP Pravin Sood in our country, there is a Glimmer of Hope against corruption, provided we as citizens have the courage to say NO to bribes and have the inclination to report cases of bribe (I am no major RTI or social activist, yet I found all the info I needed on the web, sitting in my Home Office).

Change begins with me, I can make a difference!

I have had similar experiences but I have never gone that far to meet ACP and all, but I guess we should start doing that, at least start questioning and try to find answers.

Similar stories:
Did you see Rang De Basanti?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Look at the Horizon

"Look at the Horizon",
that is what one of the characters in one of the Paulo Coelho's book keeps telling (I dont remember which book, neither do I remember the name of the character).

He says that most of us limit our vision just to the things within two feet of our vicinity, we keep getting tensed about them, worrying about them, getting caught in them, and overlooking everything else which is beyond that boundary line. But then we so easily forget to look beyond, there are so many things in life other than the current problem at hand, so many possibilities, so many people who love us, so many opportunities which still exists.

Lot of times when I am getting late for meeting I just get caught and lost thinking about those only. I stop looking at trees, people walking on foot path, the sky, the rain, children and everything, and all the energies are spent in figuring out if I will reach five minutes late or ten, and if I have enough reasons for either of the case. But then when you think about it two days later, how stupidly inconsequential it all seems.

So I keep telling myself, "Look at the Horizon", because there are endless possibilities, opportunities and people who are waiting for you to become friends.

PS: Have been away from blogs and also on commenting on blogs, but would be back soon.