At your service

photo courtesy:  Betsy Russell (The Spokesman Review)
photo courtesy: Betsy Russell (The Spokesman Review)

Government servants in India are usually associated with their pomp and a sense of entitlement, which goes against the very essence of being in service of the Government and of the people. Occasionally one does come across some officers of merit, who hang on to their conscience and stay true to the real purpose of their position as a people’s servant.  It is a sad reality that such officers are an exception to the rule.  One such rare encounters with a duty-minded government official has prompted me to write this blog article today.  I would not mention who the officer was and what it was that made him normal and humane.  Yes, I meant normal.  He was a good officer and I feel that it ought to be a norm.  I do not want to see anything special in what should be the norm.  Being an honest, conscientious and sympathetic citizen must be the norm and not an exception.

Indian societies often try to identify and honour people who are honest, duty-minded and those dedicated to a just cause.  The saying goes that we value goodness when it shines amidst a sea of crookedness.  Why it is that we as a society promote good people by praising their honesty, courage and duty-mindedness? We ought to leave them alone.  We have tried promoting goodness forever and I don’t see any result.  It is either there or it isn’t.  If charity seeks charitable comments, then it is no good.  It is as good as some large international companies promoting their so-called “good-side” by highlighting their charitable associations.  You get a sense for people’s real motivation when you can see what it is that they have to gain by doing what they do.

Does the process of recognizing goodness, benevolence, talent, or achievements has any role at all in our society?  I would be foolish not to recognize its importance.  Such a process of recognition has immense value when it happens at a personal level.  I recognized and appreciated the humane government official I came across.  I wrote a few sentences in the feedback book to express my satisfaction with the way I was treated in his office.   I tried to understand the officer’s motifs that made him give a sympathetic hearing to everyone that came to him.  Why would he do it when nobody in his position has the patience to do it?  Did he have an intention to be honest and sympathetic because it looked good and people praised him in return?  Alternatively, did he do it because he did not know any other way of dealing with people?  I hope to believe in the latter.   It makes me feel good about myself.  I must try to be honest here and it is hard!


One thought on “At your service”

  1. This reminds me of 2 of the experiences I had with the state government staff– one—the worst & the other the best:

    First the worst: I am talking of the bygone era of 80s when the only identity for address proof was the ration card. This was needed for gas connection, for bank account opening etc etc.

    I was in Bombay till 1985 & had a valid ration card. We used it just for proof of address and never to buy anything form the PDS shops. We were transferred to Calcutta ( now called Kolkata). I took the card, went to the ration office & asked for the form to fill in & apply for the new card with the change of address. I was told that the form was not available. After 5 visits, the chief clerk decided that it was enough and told me bluntly on my face that I am not getting the message & that the application form will not be given. I asked why. He started yelling at me,” You rich folks, you come by car, yet you want a ration card & buy the rice, sugar & oil meant for poor people and you want to buy them at cheap rates etc etc”.
    I told him that I have never taken any of the food items through the ration shop, I need it only for proof of address and if needed he can look at my Bombay ration card & verify the same. That was a big mistake I made. He said he will certainly look at it, took my ration card from me & just tore the card to pieces: By then all the staff joined the chief clerk in abusing me. I knew if I stayed a little longer, it will get physical & so I left the place in disgust. Throughout my stay in Kolkata till 2000, I managed without the card.

    Now the best one: As luck would have it, I was again transferred to Bombay. Bank account was just a transfer– it posed no issue: But I needed my passport to be renewed and needed an address proof. I went to the ration office and explained the whole situation to them.There was a middle aged lady as the in charge–Mrs.Desai. She asked me to write the whole story in a piece of paper, attach it with the application form & give it to her. She said that as a citizen, ration card was my birth right. She took me to the officer, explained the whole situation. They sent an inspector to my flat for address verification and after 15 days, she rang me up to say that my card was ready & I could come & collect the same. Thanks to her, I could get my passport renewed with no difficulty. Nobody in the ration office asked for a tip or bakshish

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