Friday, November 17, 2006

We love Italian, but hate Italian Bureaucracy!!

Three months had been a good time period for us to improve our Italian. While completing the final verification of my papers at Delhi international airport, just before we flew to Italy, an official asked me "So you're going to Italy to do an advanced level course in Italian, right? What do they call 'ice cream' in Italian?"

"Gelato... il gelato", I answered him, rejoicing about the simplicity with which this particular language is conceived by the outside world.

On reaching Italy I was really happy to see everything in good shape, if not better than what I had dreamed of it already. Serviced apartments, 24 hrs water, electricity and gas supply, cleanliness, an air of tranquility even in the midst of the city, such that in just one month we Indians had already prepared a list of contrasts between India and Italy. But, at some corner of our minds we still searched for some similarity between our homeland and this Meditteranean country. 'India' and 'Italia' both begin with 'I' and end with 'a', one of my friends had found it already!

We just had to wait three months to find the great similarity between India and Italy in matters of governance and bureaucracy. Our scholarship for the third month has become a distant dream for us! We were paid two instalments of scholarship together by the end of July 2006. By September 20, the time when we were to collect our scholarship amount for the third month, every Indian who had gone to Perugia was running out of money. Many had gone for expensive trips and had spent money thinking that the scholarship for the third month will replenish their pockets sufficiently enough and they can do shopping for their family members and friends with this money. Hopes eroded when we were informed by officials in Banca d'Italia that our scholarship amount for the last month will be sent to the home country. That was a declaration for an endless Kafkaesque waiting. Indian students who had gone to Perugia for a three months' course left the Etruscan city for India in the first week of October with lots of good Italian memories to cherish but unaware of the big cheat.

620 Euros, the amount we are yet to receive, are peanuts for anyone from Europe or America. But for students from a third world country like India, it matters a lot. With no one to take the responsibility for our scholarship amount for the third month, we started philosophizing the whole issue to convince ourselves that Italian has nothing to do with the bureaucratic glitches in Italy. We cannot even move court, for the parties involved are Ministero degli Affari Esteri (MEA)of Governo d'Italia and Ministry of Human Resource Development - Goverment of India, all beyond the reach of a simple polyglot. Nevertheless, we love Italian; thanks to our jouney to Italy, we are infinitely motivated to know more about this language and culture, we made many friends (many had good romantic experiences, so to say, with Italians and other foreigners who came to Perugia for learning the language). But this worry about our last instalment of scholarship, which is indeed a small amount of money, haunts us. This is typical of Indian psyche, no doubt. Because we Indians, unlike many in Italy and the rest of Europe, are poor!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Missionary Priest involved in Employment Fraud?

Kerala has witnessed innumerous employment frauds in the recent past when social and economic structure of this State ear marked a good percentage of its youth to be ‘Pravasis’ or Migrant Workers. We may have developed apathy towards all such stories, the reason why this new incident is not given enough attention by the ubiquitous regional media in the State. I may be wrong in judging this to be a case of fraud, for it is yet to be proved that the ‘Employment Abroad Promise’ given to hundreds of candidates in this case is broken beyond repair. Doesn’t matter, my objective is only to expose the unfortunate plight of hundreds of youth in the regions of Aloor, Thumbur, Mala, Kodakara etc. in Thrissur District, Kerala. For a common reader this may be just a new case of fraud without any visible villain, without thrillers and without any immediate climax and turning point to the story, but for these people who have paid an amount of Rs. 75 thousand to Rs. 3 lakhs for a job in the unskilled sector, it is a question of life and death, of hope and desperation, of endless waiting and human fundamental right.

What makes this story exceptional is the involvement of a missionary priest in the whole event which provided a vain assurance of transparency to the whole procedure. Fr. Thomas Kulathungal, Superior, Paduva Fransiscan Monastery, Puthanchira, was kind enough to announce some job opportunities in United Kingdom along with his spiritual preaching in the above said regions. As we know, those who are spiritually poor are also generally poor in their material existence. For them, a job offer or anything that can alleviate their poverty can be of immediate value. Many people, from the President of Kodakara Panchayat to computer professionals paid sums between Rs. 75 thousand to Rs.3 lakhs for their visa to UK as unskilled labourers in the Airports of UK.

Now, some details of dates and addresses:

December 2004:
Fr. Thomas announces that he has direct contacts with a recruiting agency in UK which provides visas for unskilled labourers in the Airports of UK; collects Rs. 1.5 lakh on average from around 500 people as initial payment.

Thekkady Manpower Services Pvt. Ltd., Plavuvachathil Building, Thekkady Road, Kumily, Idukki – Kerala is said to be the recruiting agency involved in this deal.

Fr. Thomas along with his aide P.A. Joseph, a Congress leader from Kumily, gave repeated assurance to the job seekers by showing them a copy of ‘Power of Attorney’ given by Assany Abroad Consultancy, UK. In this document, with mistaken spellings in several places, it has been declared that Assany has given all the power to Thekkady Manpower Services to function as an authorized agency in India and to recruit the required manpower for this project. “The power is to collect Passports, Certificates, Medical Repoets, Visas, Airline Tickets and any other documents and to do all activities required for the prospective worker for employment abroad”, it says. But when the job seekers, who paid large sums for their visas, tried to reach Assany’s office over phone, they got a computerized message that the phone number is not in use for several months. From the standard of English used in several documents and for several other reasons many fear that the UK based consultancy is bogus.

From the letter head:
Assany Abroad Consultancy
(Manpower Supply Agency UK)
Suite 789, 2 Old Brompton Rd., London Sw 7 300 U.K.
Ph: 0044175369, 2184

Allen Frost
Executive Director

What next?
Despite repeated assurance from Fr. Thomas and all those who are associated with this recruitment deal, the job seekers’ future remains bleak. For more than 18 months they have been waiting for their visas. Many have refused even other job offers received by them from abroad, while many were hesitant to take up full fledged jobs thinking that they may receive their visa to UK at any time. “License, Insurance, Interview, Medical Report, Visa stamping, Consulate, Bomb blast: these are the key words used by the concerned persons in this deal to buy time from the ignorant job seekers and to postpone everything infinitely. What a pity!”, quips Babu, an outsider to the entire drama.

Monday, July 31, 2006

HRD, Doctors in Government Hospitals, Delhi

This is to recall an incident in which I was offered very poor service by some physicians in government hospitals in Delhi. The series of incidents that is narrated below happened between 22nd June 2006 and 29th June, the day we flew to Rome.

In order to avail the visa to Italy all the selected candidates had to submit a medical certificate with results of various Medical tests shown separately. We had a very limited time, a time period of just one week. In the proforma given by Ministry of Human Resource Development it was written that the certificate must be signed by a civil surgeon or a district medical officer. Are you someone who strive hard to fulfill the requirements in a notification from any government office. If so, you are gravely mistaken like me, who found out during the medical certification process that one primarily has to find out the way by which the requirements can be befooled. I want to focus on three aspects of mismanagement, which is also a cause of public inconvenience, in this article. One is about misleading information given to you by public offices, the second about irresponsibility, callousness, or lack of human consideration or whatever you may like to call it and finally the third is about the delay in official matters.

I still did not understand why the final correspondence from HRD, which asked us to undergo medical check-up, was so delayed that the candidates got hardly one week to complete all formalities before applying for the visa. This delay affected us all along our journey procedures to Italy. For example, since the visa was delayed, we could not buy our ticket to Rome in proper time. One of my friends and me travelled together to Perugia and we found it extremely difficult to get a ticket in economic class in Kuwait Airways. Finally we had to settle for a ticket which cost each of us Rs. 6000/- more than the actual ticket rate. All our tensions vis-à-vis medical check up, visa application and finally air-ticket purchase would have been relieved had the communication from HRD was done sufficiently earlier.

After receiving the letter from HRD, I went to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital looking for a civil surgeon, with just one week's time to complete all formalties. The civil surgeon in RML Hospital was on leave for a weak or so. I went to Safdarjung Hospital. I was told by the CMO that there is no one with this designation in the hospital. I went to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital. I was blatantly stopped by the attendent who stood at the gate of Doctor Incharge (Casualty). Though I managed to get into the doctor's chamber after an exchange of words betwen him, I was disappointed by the doctor who asked me "Why should I do it? (why should I examine you?)" This was a question that resonated in my ears for a long time after I left the chamber. I shall discuss about this in the next paragraph. This was my third day of medical certificate hunt. Later on I went back to HRD Scholarship section and told the officials that I could not find a Civil Surgeon who is willing to issue a medical certificate to me. They told me that any MBBS doctor in a government hospital will do. I had lost three precious days looking for a civil surgeon. If any MBBS doctor in a government hospital would have done this job why didn't the Scholarship section of HRD tell me about this earlier. Such misleading information is not new to us, I know. But I got the actual taste of it only in these days. Everyone is so generous to give you misleading information, without thinking how it would affect the person negatively. I wasted much of my time and energy while following the instructions given by officials in HRD, in government hospitals in Delhi and seldom by my friends.

The candidates for the scholarship were not referred to any hospitals in Delhi to get the tests done. I consider this to be a serious lapse from the part of Ministry of Human Resource and Development because no government doctor was obliged to examine us and issue a medical certificate. "Why should I do it" was the response from many of the doctors: in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital and from other government hospitals in the city as well... I would not blame these doctors. "Why should I do it" which means am I obliged to examine a person (stranger) and give him a medical certificate if the government has not asked me to do it! I have shown all the papers from Human Resource Development office in which it is written that it is mandatory for me to produce a medical certificate to get an NOC for visa. But "why should I do it?" was the response from the government hospital doctors. Can I ask these doctors an ethical question? When the medical/public health care department runs a campaign for blood donation or eye donation if the people start asking "Why should I do it?" will it be wrong?

Often I was told by the officials in these hospitals that you will not be issued a medical certificate from this hospital because you are not referred by the concerned government office while many of my friends, who had won the same scholarship, easily walked away with their medical certificates. How? They had approached the doctors whom they knew. The doctors allowed my friends to get all tests done from the same government hospitals in which the former work, of course with a nominal fees. One of my friends just had to pay approximately Rs.250/- for all the prescribed medical tests including the AIDS test. No doctor in any government hospital in Delhi was known to me. I ran from pillar to post. People, my friends, asked me, without knowing the real state of affairs, "Didn't you go to Safdarjung?" "Didn't you go to AIIMS?" as if they know it for sure that someone is sitting there to issue a medical certificate for a 'stranger' like me. In somebody else's affairs people are so casual to offer suggestions, because suggetions are free. I went everywhere and did not get a result. I asked the doctors in JNU medical centre whether they can help me in this regard. No result.

Four complete days wasted for availing medical certificate, and still with complete uncertainity ahead. Am I in the national capital of India or in a remote viallge in the country, I doubted. On the fifth day I decided to get the tests done in a private pathology Lab. I paid Rs.850/- for the tests thinking that it would bring an end to everything. But the next day, when the certificate got signed by the director or the pathology lab, who was also the Medical Superintendent of a three star private hospital, they asked me Rs.300/- consultation charges. Rs. 1250/-that is the end of it.

Now the rest is from my subconscious mind, for I am not going to fight against the mismanagement of matters in HRD (as I perceive them) or against the inhumanity of some doctors in government hospitals in Delhi (again, as I perceive them). But all the authorities can feel assured: "You have conditioned a citizen to behave in a particular way in the future, and one can easily infer how the behaviour would be if one has really understood the experience he has gone through."

This narration is saved for the future. Our memory may lie but not the computer chips.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ever shouted at your boss?

Have you ever shouted at your boss who, you think, is ethically, intellectually and educationally below your status? In this blog you can come across some anarchists and non-careerists who think that in all organizations bosses are from the same mould and should be shouted at by their subordinates. It goes without saying that the battle is always won by the bosses; the employee finally gets a Warning and/or a Termination notice, that’s for sure.

Isn’t this a big joke? Just read through a warning letter, termination notice or a resignation letter, you will come to know about the real status of incidents. Finally, you come to a conclusion that bosses are not only to be shouted at but also are to be treated in ‘proper’ ways. Higher authorities cannot be passive spectators here. They have to be on one side or the other. But the employee doesn’t have to worry about it. Higher authorities will justify none other than your boss who is always their ‘chamcha’.

No trade unionism, no proletarian struggle; these are some of ‘boss-subordinate encounter’ sagas which the companies want to hide. Companies hide these stories because in most of the cases they are badly hit by the fury (legitimate or illegitimate) of the fired employee. Who is bothered about right or wrong! Let’s watch some good fights where the weak and the unarmed hits the strong with ‘nothing to lose’ kind of vigor.

An objective wrongly conceptualized!

Given below is the write-up I initially prepared for this blog. Later I found out that I myself have mis conceptualized the whole idea. You can see the difference between the initial and final conceptualization. Happy reading...

The thematic of this blog is not new to the publishing and web world. But when I was planning to develop this blog I was rather obstinate about one idea, that things should not be presented objectively in this blog. Hence, in this blog one can find an expression of emotion, a plethora of voices muffled by biases and authoritarianism prevalent even in the organizational affairs of civilized societies.

This site will present you mainly with the employee versions of some real incidents inside organizations where the employees are warned, insulted and sometimes fired by the authorities. Sometimes a resignation letter can tell you a whole lot of things which cannot be brought to light by any research study or analysis. Resignation letters do not belong to the 'aesthetic' but they are from life, from La vita nuda.

Readers of this blog can become judgemental, ask us for more facts and opinions, and present their own experiences within organizations in an independent way. This is not an attempt to defame any organization. But the blog will clearly show all names of people and organizations involved in the stories as far as possible.

We do not believe in Journalistic ethics. So it is not the 'greater common good' (if at all there is anything like this) that we are aiming at. One can observe that in some instances an employee is clearly at fault. But still the objective of this blog is fulfilled when s/he comes forward to speak and explain to us about her/his take of the whole issue without fear or coercion. Isn’t it good to see someone who is at a disadvantageous position speaks out her/his mind?

But have you already categorized this attempt as feminist, sub-altern or simply humanist? We don’t mind, anyway…