Saturday, March 12, 2011

Builder has increased the size of the flat

I have booked a flat at Greenwood Premium, Kaikhali, Kolkata from Loharuka Group. I have got the possession letter from the builder, where they have claimed that the size of my flat has increased by 40 square foot during final measurement. I have asked them to send me in writing, the measurement records, formula, etc... They have stated that sending anything in writing is against their company policy, and have asked me to do my own measurements. They have given me a formula (verbally) where they have stated that Built up area is arrived at by discounting super built by 23% and carpet area is arrived by discounting built up area by 10%. They have refused to give me anything in writing

I believe that I have entered into an agreement with the builder against and approved building plan, and it is the responsibility of the builder to satisfy me with measurement records that the size has really increased. Please let me know what are the options available to me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ownership... or the lack of it

One thing, which is the characteristic of the people for Kolkata, or for that matter, of India is a total lack of ownership of the things we do. We tend to trivialize the failures that we make, and blame the situation, or other people, which may be a way to hide our in-efficiencies, or our unscrupulousness.
To make the case in point, I would try to an example of my favourite topic, the Kolkata infrastructure.

Every year, after the monsoons, the streets of Kolkata deteriorate into a horrible mess, and lakhs of rupees are spent from the tax-payers pocket, to patch it up. It stays put for probably a few months, and then it is the same old story. I do not buy the excuse that this is bound to happen, I have seen other places where the civic construction lasts many years.

So who needs take the ownership of this fiasco? Shouldn't the unscrupulous contractors who are building the roads to be brought to task? Should it not be the ownership of the government officials, who select the vendors, and oversee the work? Shouldn't the performance of the official who is responsible for the task be measured by the performance, and be penalized for his poor ownership, by losing his job?

At this point in time, I may face the criticism that it is easy to point out faults; it is not easy to implement. To this, I would first point out that if the civic authorities in other countries can do so, why our folks, who are supposed to be specialized people to get this job cannot do?
Next I would recommend some guidelines, which may not be completely correct, (may sound a bit naive) but taking it as a baseline and involving proper change control procedures, can be used as a better mechanism

1. Give complete ownership to the official who is managing the project, and link the performance to his reward and punishment, something on this line:
a. Determine a multi-year success criteria, with intermediate milestones. Reward the official for every successful milestone.
b. Similarly, for every missed milestone, there should be a penalty, and if an official has three failed projects, he should be removed from his job

2. Determine a vendor selection process, where the vendor has to demonstrate the following, before getting awarded the contract
a. Proven track record
b. Vendor's detailed plan, and detailed explanation on how the vendor is going to meet the success criteria
c. Vendor selection process should be open, transparent and to be made in front of other vendors, and public scrutiny. This would increase competition on the vendors to deliver a better product, and also reduce the risk of a corrupt decision

3. Award a multi-year contract, with payment schedules skewed towards the end of the maintenance. Outstanding invoices would not be paid to the vendor, if the quality of the workmanship is not up to the mark, or the project fails to achieve the desired success criteria, in this case, a road which meets world class standards and free from defects over a span of (let's say ) ten years

4. The minister in charge of the department should also be have complete ownership, and will be removed from office and barred to contest any election in India for next 25 years, if there are more than ten failed projects

Sounds good, but Utopian, right! I know this would never be implemented, as the understated assumption is a lack (or at least a reduction) in corruption, and we know that India is at the bottom (almost) of the world in terms of corruption!!! What do you think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Animal Farm

Recently I was reading a book by Rajsekhar Basu (Parasuram), where a herd of cows were being ruled by a lion, and who was devouring them regularly. Fed up with the rule, the cows led an upheaval, killed the lion, and elected eminent cows as their leader. Very soon, the leaders started growing canine teeth, nails, and started eating other cows. This went on, till the cows were exinct.

This reminded me of the "Animal Farm", by George Orwell. There also, the animals ousted the farmers, and took up leadership, but after a short while, Napoleon the pig, and his side-kicks, who were ruling the animals, became could not be distinguished from the human beings, who were oppressing the farmers.

But why am I saying this? The incident I try to bring in context, is the gathering of the grassroots political party, on Wednesday, which is supposed to bring the city to a standstill. These kind of behavior was always attributed to the ruling party of West Bengal, the Marxists. So, you see, all of us wanted a change from the communist rule, but the rule we will be getting is equally bad. The musclemen and criminals, who used to have a symbiotic relationship with the communist party, has now changed colors, and continues to do the same thing, supported by the new nexus with the grassroots party.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Moral Policing

After a series of posts, where I have cribbed about Kolkata, here is one where I'll be full of praise. "It does not happen in Kolkata", we would say, and yes, I am talking about the Mangalore Pub Incident.

Some of my reflections on the above incident:

  • As free Indians, we are free to choose the lifestyle we want to lead
    I am not arguing either for or against a lifestyle of booze and party ... just believe that the decision of my lifestyle should be on my own.

  • The victims of this incident created envy on the predators
    There is a class of Indian middle class society have achieved some sort of economic freedom, because of their hard-work (or their parents). They can afford to these sort of a lifestyle. We Indians, as a rule like to flaunt our wealth, and other less hard working, gets green with envy, and being true "Dog in a Manger" becomes a predator. Instead, if they would have invested in themselves, by educating themselves during their schools and colleges, they could have been free to choose their own lifestyles too.

  • It again boils down to education
    May be a bit too strong a point that goes here... but Indian Political leaders have been popular by sycophancy, and we all know educated people cannot be fanatics, thus it is in their own interest politics does not promote education of the masses.

  • People argue that these kind of lifestyle is bad for society
    You are free to choose the lifestyle you lead, and educating your children is your responsibility...not others. Make them educated, teach them to think logically and they would choose what they believe what is good for them.

  • A little more on education
    The people who have been victimized in the Mangalore incident, I believe they are from educated, hard-working class. Since they have a decent education, they can afford what they can do. We all should get educated to be acceptable globally.

  • I am proud to say ... this does not happen in Kolkata
    People from Kolkata are more cosmopolitan, though there may be small stray incidents, overall we are more tolerant, and disciplined.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Are We Bengalis work averse - A small dialogue

Recently in my post related to Saraswati Pujo, I observed that we bengalis as a race are work-averse. In response Diptorup said ...

A point I take issue with is your broad categorization of Bengalis as “people who love to avoid work at all cost”. Not true.

This is the kind of generalist broadside we often here in bourgeoisie Bengali Society. Giving an Example – My father oft echoes similar sentiments (more colourfully usually) His perception is people become Hawkers because that is the easiest way of escape from hard work. “Kichu korte hobe na- jhuri neye boshe poro rasta te”. His prescription is to bulldoze them away so that we all have cleaner streets and can regale in our false sense of fulfillment of higher levels of comfort and civility. This is escapism at its best; I have a clean street in front of my home – so the whole city or the state or the country must also be clean. I can enjoy the fruits of consumerism so the whole country must also be sharing the same fruits. Exactly the same reasons so many of the high and mighty intelligentsia got peeved by those scheming Western Film makers who dare not show the bright side of India and can only show our “Slumdog Millionaires”.

Coming back to your point – Let’s go to Surat, the diamond-cutting capital of the world. Under semi-bonded labour conditions we would find the hardest working people, 90% of them are Bengali.

Let’s next wake up at pre-dawn and go and meet the farmer who is to till the land so that it produces three crops a year.

Next let’s take the first local back with women carrying farm produce from the suburb to our neighbourhood bazaar, which our “ma-mashi” can not do without but would fight to reduce the price by 50 paisa.

After that let’s go and meet the much-maligned street hawker. Who would work 14-15 hours shifts and bear the brunt of the street intersection pollution, pay half his income as bribes and protection money.

I can go on but I guess I would rest my case now.

Shubhrajit replied ...

Diptorup, I appreciate the time you spent in my blog, and your comments.
I agree with you regarding the fact that the class distinctions are diffused in Kolkata. Yes, that is the Kolkata spirit which may be missing in some other parts of India (Of course I have never stayed in any other cities in India to make a judgment, most of my understanding is from analysis of the hearsay from my friends, colleagues and wife.

I still stick to my point that we bengalis in general are work averse. I am not talking of the successful bengali people, who have migrated to rest of India, and the world. I personally have worked successfully for 3 years in Wall Street, and have come back, as I wanted to stay in my favorite city. And in my 9 year career I have seen many hard-working bengalis, but unfortunately that still does not represent the mass.

I am talking about the common bengali man. Just look at the shambles the civic facilities of Kolkata are in, the state of our public utilities. I have heard people saying that they prefer govt. jobs as you have to "work" in private sector. Look at the way laws and regulations are enforced (or un-enforced), the trade-unionism which stopped all progress in West Bengal not many years ago, the perception of bengalis in the eyes of the world, and of course behind every perception, there is a degree of truth!
Have you ever wondered why there are so many Bandhs in Kolkata, and why they are successful? If you observe, most bandhs are called on a Monday or Friday, to make it a long weekend?

Regarding your point of the hawkers: there has been a lot of attempt to rehabilitate these people in specially designed complexes, but the effort has been futile as they try to grab easy money by crouching on the streets, giving any hoot to the rules, and the inconvenience they are causing to others. They are strongly syndicated and revert to vandalism when there is a competitor. That is because they don't believe in competing fairly.
I don't want to comment about farming, but more than hard work, there are a lot of other factors involved, like allegiance to political parties, muscle power, et. al. ITC had a noble intention when they had their e-choupal project. They faced still resistances from the politically motivated people here, and did not venture out.
Women who carry farm fresh produce to sell in the markets where we haggle for 50 paisa ... that sounds very romantic. I don't think that represents realty. Vegetables are traded in the city by middlemen, who buy from the farmers and sell in the markets.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate very much your concerns for the city and the people for the city. I am concerned in my own way, and I believe, if we take my observations, and criticisms constructively, and start working harder, all of us would benefit in the long run.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Saraswati Puja

Saraswati is the hindu goddess of knowledge and arts. We celebrate Saraswati puja every year, when on the fifth day after new moon in Spring. In West Bengal, Saraswati Puja is celebrated in many schools and homes, and its a nice sight seeing young men and women, dressed in pale yellow (which is traditionally the color of the season) hopping around in the Streets. This day has also been termed as the "Valentines's Day" of the bengalis, as relationships are often made on this day, in West Bengal.
Saraswati being a goddess of knowledge and arts, it is natural that it is celebrated in educational institutions and homes. What is alarming, is the rise of the 'barwari culture' in celebrating this puja, or for that matter, any Puja in the city.
To the un-initiated: 'barwari' literally means twelve friends, and traditionally people who did not have enough wealth to celebrate a festival on their own, used to pool their money and celebrate together. The concept is great, the problem is we have screwed it all up.

So what are my complaints:

  • The main goal of a barwari has been transgressed from its original intent to a mechanism of pomp-and-show

  • While there may be nothing wrong in showing off, the main complaint is that the money is extorted out of people in the neighbourhood, who have little (or no) part to play

  • A lot of money collected out of peace loving people in the neighbourhood, goes to the cost of buying booze, food for the people involved in the committee. I may be generalizing too much on this point, not all barwaris do this, but many do

  • In many cases, the money collected as subscription inflates the bank-balances of the members of the organizing committee

  • The number of barwari's have mushroomed to an unimaginable number. People are often forced to pay subscriptions to many

  • Most of the organizers have little (if at all any) to do with knowledge and art. They are often school drop-outs and their only artistic skill is to play music on a CD player

  • We bengali's love to avoid work at all costs. Consequently, the festivities drag on-and-on, much beyond the dates specified in the scriptures. This causes traffic disturbances, noise pollution, and makes life difficult for people who have to work.

To draw a conclusion: barwari puja's had started with a noble intent. We however have transgressed to satisfy our own goals. The political leaders add fuel to the fire, to hoodwink the people about the real problems of the city. And, to top it all, deliberate lack of empathy for other people, causes a lot of problems in getting their work done.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tram track pierces car...

A front page lead in Times of India, Kolkata reads, "A taxi driver and his passenger narrowly escaped being speared by a loose 12-foot section of tram track on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road at noon on Saturday". The article also includes the reaction of CTC managing director who was blissfully unaware of the incident, commented that the incident was "unfortunate", and declined to comment about the sorry state of maintenance of the tram tracks.
This incident brings forward quite a few observations:

  • No wonder the civic facilities of our city is so bad: we have incompetent people managing our utilities.

  • There is no ownership involved: As the managing director of the utility, Mr. Pradip Chatterjee should own up to the incident, the utility being his responsibility

  • There is no governance: The person(s) responsible for this incident, upto and including the director should have been penalized. They should have been fired, or atleast suspended

  • There is no culture of work in the civic utilities of Kolkata: otherwise the tram tracks would have been maintained in the first place

  • There are no values: otherwise the director would have been ashamed for the incident

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Murdering our heroes

It was Swami Vivekananda's birthday yesterday. Swami Vivekananda preached the importance of doing work, helping others and being productive in generals. However, we, the people of Kolkata forgot his teachings on his birthday. We chose to bring out a procession, causing chaos, traffic jams, inconvenience to other people, and a general disruption of work, intentional and un-intentional. Swami Vivekananda must be rolling in his ashes...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A short take on pollution - In the wake of the ban of two stroke auto-rickshaws

Recently Kolkata high court imposed a ban on two stroke auto rickshaws in Kolkata after 31st Dec 2008. However the imposing the ban caused mayhem in the streets, with the Auto Rickshaw drivers unleashing violence on the streets.
A lot has been debated on the ethics of this ban, so without going into it here, lets look it from a different angle.
Kolkata streets is filled up with polluting vehicles. There is a law where every vehicle needs to undergo pollution certification every six months, but I wonder whether this is followed by anyone except private vehicle owners. You need to stand in any Kolkata streets for a only few minutes, and you would see a vehicle pass by, coughing out black smoke from its tailpipe. To make matters worse, you would see government vehicles not following its own pollution norms. One of my friends have seen a vehicle belonging to "Pollution Control Board", polluting its way merrily in its joy ride.
It is saddening to see the apathy of our people ... the ones who are to enforce the law does not care to do their job. I have seen polluting vehicles idling its engines in front of traffic sergeants and the latter is busy looking into the other side. And of course, "money talks", the owners of the polluting vehicles resort to bribes to continue to pollute the environment.
The problem is multi-dimensional. I would leave it to the readers to guess where the problem lies.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kolkata Traffic Madness

Shubhrajit's day out: Busy, busy BT Road

Kolkata drivers are unduly aggressive while driving. I have seen that everyone wants to go first: eventually slowing each other down, hence traffic moving at a slow pace. Our traffic enforcement authorities are too callous in implementing a discipline, so that people can travel safely, and within a predictable time.

I think we should involve a stricter enforcment of the following violations. Also the amount fined is ridiculous. It should be atleast be increased to Rs. 5000/- per violation, to make people obey the rules. If a fine does not pinch the pocket, people will never follow rules in fear of being fined. However as I mentioned earlier, local authorities have no wish to improve, and of course common sense is buried in a lot of bureaucracy and responsibility shirking.

Listed here are some of the violations which people do, making them very very insensitive to other folks.

Driving in the wrong direction in one way traffic (and wrong side of the median)

It is both stupid and ridiculous that people violate this rule rampantly, often to reduce their travel to the next "U" turn by 100 meters. This slows down all the incoming traffic.

Not yielding to faster vehicles

Kolkata traffic follows British pattern, i.e. the automobiles keep to the left of the road. Now, I have often seen trucks driving at 40 km per hour, hogging the right side of the road. This creates a backlog of cars, and are people pass through the left, amid pedestrians and bicycles.

Buses stopping at the middle of the middle of the road to pick up passengers.

This is very very irritating. Buses stop wherever they are, paying no heed to the congestion they are creating at the back. And then, when a car tries to squeeze through the right, it sidesteps it, and pushes it towards the median.

Not obeying traffic lights

Traffic lights in Kolkata are applicable to cars, buses and trucks. Motor cycles, bicycles and auto rickshaws think that it is not applicable to them. It becomes very dangerous and even if it is green, a driver must look to see the road is really clear before merging in.

When you have read upto this ... you might have formed an idea that I drive a car, and blaming other vehicles for my plight. Not true... although I can drive a car, I never ever drive it (except 2 km everyday to stay in practice) in Kolkata. I prefer to ride beside my chauffer, who is more adept to this sort of driving.

Now some rule violations by car drivers


In Kolkata you will see people travelling bumper to bumper even at speeds of 60-70 km per hour. I have seen accidents where a car has braked, the car from behind has rammed into it ... and then the car from behind will give a logic that since the car in front has braked suddenly, it could not control.

Driving at unsafe speeds

You could have guessed it from the previous bullet. People drive in speeds of even 100 km per hour in congested city traffic. What compounds the problem is that some cars are driving the same roads at 40 km per hour.

Weaving between cars

Everyone wants to go first (Not only fast but also first). Hence all the cars weave in the traffic in a very unsafe manner. It will look almost like turbulant motion in fluids!!!

I would go on and on ... but I would keep the rest for the next episode.

The end result - Everyone drives aggressively, effectively slowing down everyone else, so the average speed of the traffic. There is no predictability ... at one moment you are driving at 100 km per hour and the next moment you have slowed down to 5. It is very very unsafe, though I believe since the average skill level of the drivers are amazing there is a very low rate of severe accidents. Though most vehicles look battered and bruised, the looks deteriorating as the car goes older, as nicks and dents are a very regular affair.