Saturday, July 18, 2009

Glimmer

I received a forwarded mail from a friend and I have reproduced the contents here in full, after getting the permission of the original mailer.

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When I narrated the incident below to a close friend over lunch earlier this week, he suggested that I should pen this down in an email and circulate it to as many friends in Bangalore as possible. So here goes an interesting experience of interacting with an IPS officer, who made me see a Glimmer of Hope, amidst the corruption that encompasses so many of our public services.

It was Friday 5th June, at about 3 pm, I drove my Ford Ikon car into 80 feet road at Indiranagar 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 up to the SI and displayed my Driving License, to which he told me to bring my Car Insurance certificate and also my Emission Certificate for the car. I walked back to my car and realized 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 want a receipt for the same, to which he suddenly grew stern and told me that in which 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 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 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 ids given on the Lok Ayukta's website.

By about 7.30 pm I had done the needful, and I was happy with myself that what I preach in my Leadership Workshops with respect to Values, I had practiced to a large extent – by 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 realizing that I would be having an indeed amazing and pleasant experience on this whole incident in the hours & days to come.

On Saturday 7th June (the next day) at about 2 pm, I logged into my Home Office. I checked my email and lo behold, I had 3 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 services. It also said 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 with respect to 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 apologized 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". He invited me over to Tea 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 whom for 10 minutes had changed a few paradigms in my mind about Public Services 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 . He offered me a cup of tea (Many corporate clients I visit do not see me on time and do not ask me for 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.

Regards,


Shabbir Merchant
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2 comments:

  1. Watch out for the change! Its coming!!

    What a waaanderful post, I say,( namma bengalooru style..:) )

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, I am sure Shabbir appreciates your comment.

    ReplyDelete