Friday, June 12, 2009

TWO TAMILNADU CIVIL SERVICE OFFICERS - NOBLE & HUMBLE



AT THE OUTSET I SALUTE THIS NOBLE AND HUMBLE CIVIL SERVICE OFFICERS

The episode behind the elimination of Ration Card as an identity instrument for getting Gas Cylinders


All the harassed citizens of Tamilnadu would have heaved a sigh of relief when on one day the News Media reported of a Government announcement of the elimination of Ration Card as the only identity instrument. Behind the notification is this story of hurt, humiliation and insults heaped on to an old man who tried to renew his Ration Card for future Gas Cylinder supplies. It also exposed two gems in Tamilnadu Civil Service. Read the episode in full and you will salute these personalities and perhaps would also wonder whether such men really existed in our Civil Services. And I was the old man who was abused by a man made of meaner stuff.

We live in a Democracy of what a democracy should not be; where character is mostly absent but corruption is omnipresent. Men of character and principles are the most affected lot and I am one in the brigade with the most undesirable quality of fighting back against injustice and exploitation. This is the background of the episode.

On August 2, 2008, I rang up the Indane dealer to book for a Gas cylinder. Curt was the reply! ‘No Gas Cylinder for those without Ration Cards’. I asked myself! Do roadside eateries in every nook and corner of the city have ration cards to justify their holding Gas Cylinders? Irrelevant thinking of course! Let us go on with our story.

In the morning on 5th August, 2008, I set out with determination to renew my old ration card to sort out this problem once for all. Following this was my dreaded experience of shame, humiliation and the most inhuman treatment one would ever want to face, particularly at his old age. It made me sad but I just did not leave it at that and resolved to redeem my pride. I presented my feelings of shame with the Departmental heads and the Minister in charge. The result was the emergence of two noble and humble souls in I A S cadres in Tamilnadu Civil Service who not only assuaged my feelings with their rare humane qualities that good parental upbringing inculcated in them but took also rectifications steps to streamline the department and discipline its staff. Read on the correspondence and you will not only get surprised but get refreshed by its contents. Details of the most interesting part of my experience in the Civil Supplies office and the enforced atonement of the guilty are separately placed at the end. Please do not miss it.

What prompted me to make a complaint to the Minister was the irresponsible and insulting behavior of some Civil Supplies Officers, including the Assistant Commissioner in charge of T’NagarZone who signed me out on my attempt to present my grievance to him. He saw in me a frail old man who did not matter. And this power-blind and arrogant personality and all his brothers in similar offices strewn out all over also later knew that I mattered much to the humble Civil Service Officers. All of them were given directions for toning up their services to citizens irrespective of their status in society.

1. My first E-mail sent on: 05 August 2008 18:07 PM

To: Honorable Minister Thiru. A V Velu
Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection

DO RATION CARDS DIE?
An Old man’s woeful question on indignities showered on him

I write this in pain but with great respects attached to your position and sincere admiration you have created in my mind after seeing your picture in the news media inspecting ration cards in the field. I read the refreshing news item after a harrowing and haggard experience I suffered yesterday at your Saidapet and T, Nagar Zonal Offices. I wanted a ‘no objection certificate’ for gas release by the Agency with whom I was registered. Since K K Nagar was thought to be under Saidapet Zone, I, a 76-year-old man with no help went to the Ration Card issuing Office with all the documents on personal and residential identities with a letter requesting the concerned authority to issue a no objection certificate. There was none to guide and I approached a ‘soon-to-be- retired person’ with my request. He said the practice of issuing no objection certificate does not exist and asked me to submit an application for a fresh card. When I asked for the Form I was told to buy it on the road down below. I do not remember the correct price, but I think it was Rs.5/-. No application in English was sold on the road. Some persons were filling the applications and I paid Rs.10/- for filling a few columns in Tamil which was a one minute job for which I paid Rs.10/-. The office wanted some more records which I could not give immediately and I had to return home. This happened on Friday. Yesterday was the next working day and with all the documents I stood in the queue only to be told at the presentation time that my residence in K K Nagar does not fall in their range. This could have been told on the very first day when my papers were rejected for want of sufficient records. I wanted to meet the Assistant Commissioner, but he did not allow me in and wanted me to meet the Superintendent and settle with him. There are certain decayed areas where none would like to tread in. But one person was patient enough to give me correct address of the T’nagar Office. So from Saidapet I went to T’Nagar. After standing in queue for half an hour one woman who was carrying coffee told me to get an endorsement from a person. I then went to him to get his signature and understanding my layman citizenship status he shouted at me at a pitch that could fill in the entire office saying “THIS RATION CARD IS DEAD FOR YEARS. WHERE WERE YOU ALL THESE YEARS?. WHY YOU DID NOT RENEW THE CARD ALL THESE YEARS?”. I was aghast at these unsolicited wild comments and I asked him to consider it saying that although the ration card was dead I am still alive and I stand in front of him. The man intoxicated with the arrogance of power returned the card and asked me to go home. I told him that I want the card not for any food items but to get the gas supply from the dealer. Then I told him that I would write to the Chief Minister about his arrogance, which too did not make any impact on him. Then I too raised my voice and said that I must have the gas supply and it is my right. Fortunately I had carried the letter for getting a no objection certificate which was returned by the Saidapet office and I handed it over to him. He took it and put some initials and asked me to surrender this to Counter No. 2. Accordingly I stood in queue again at counter No. 2 for nearly half an hour and when my turn came the counter clerk was obviously busy with some other things for about 15 minutes to take vengeance on me for arguing with his boss and after collecting the papers returned it to me to present it to counter No.1 and once again I was in the queue for 15 minutes. When my turn came the counter clerk collected it and handed it over to another counter. Fortunately after about 10 minutes he called my name and a bit of paper was handed over to me to present it to the Gas Agency. If you depute a Senior Officer if you think it is worthy enough to tone up efficiency and decency in public administration I shall accompany him and point out the black sheep I had come across, so that your departments image is kept clean. I was a Senior Executive in a giant multinational and I can understand pressure of work as a reason for being discourteous. This is nothing but the arrogance of power with no one to question and answerable to none. With great respects and admiration to you as a Minister may I ask you how will you answer my following questions?

Do ration cards issued in Tamilnadu die? “Chathupochu” was the exact word that person used. Is this the word that an Assistant Administrative Officer should use to a consumer? Is it consumer protection or consumer destruction department? I am at least 25 years elder to him and do you think such a discourteous and arrogant person can fit right in his job. Should not employees who interact with visitors deal with them in dignity, decency and utmost courtesy? In both Saidapet and T’nagar offices, I had seen persons in queue cursing the Government for its incompetence and inefficiency mostly due to wrong implementation by its employees.

You will understand my pain and shame only when you put yourself in my position or imagine such a situation for a fatherly figure close to you. I do not blame you, but the ethical responsibility in enforcing discipline is on you. In my younger days – in 1967 - I had an occasion to meet the late Thiru. C N Annadurai who introduced me to Thiru: M Karunanidhi impressed by my suggestions on election publicity. I still remember his simple dress and smiling face. He was an embodiment of humility and innocence. I wish and pray that you also be one like him.

Incidentally as a Minister your initials were shown in the web as “A V” and in your profile it is shown as “E V”. Please correct it along with the attitude of some of your employees who take citizens as serving canines. With respects and a lot of admiration,

Respectfully yours, K. M. Thomas

Response to my above representation was immediate. I got an E-mail first from the Commissioner of Civil Supplies to be followed by another one from the Secretary heading the department, a copy of which was also marked for the Commissioner of Civil Supplies, acknowledging my grievance.

When you read it, you will in your mind portray these men as great human souls who understood my hurt feelings and to assuage it without ego - often attached to their designation - offered me an apology deep from their hearts and without reservations admitted the department’s Achilles’ heel. As I copy their E-mails, in my mind I salute these great men.

1. Response from the Commissioner Civil Supplies & Consumer Protection Department through E-mail:

Kalyanaraman Rajaraman (rajaramank9@gmail.com)
Sent: 06 August 2008 18:32PM
To: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Cc: tnccs123@gmail.com (tnccs123@gmail.com)

Dear Mr. Mathew,

I am very sorry to hear your experience in our offices. Please do let me have your phone number so that I can speak to you and take further action against the officials concerned. If you do remember the names of the persons concerned, please do let me know by e-mail immediately.

Regards,
Rajaraman K Commissioner Civil Supplies & Consumer Protection Department.

2. Response from K. Shanmugam, I.A.S.,
Secretary to Government,
through E-mail:

From: coopsec@tn.gov.in
To: thedigest@hotmail.com
CC: ccs@tn.gov.in
Subject: Ration Card grievance
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2008 15:48:46 +0530

Dear Thiru Thomas,

I apologize for the incident and it is shocking and very painful. I would kindly request you to mail the details of your address so that I could take appropriate steps to redress your grievance, if it is not sorted out.

In the meantime, we keep on getting such grievances often from public and we are trying our best to do whatever possible. I fully endorse your observation that the staff needs to be sensitized and trained to handle the public in a very decent and dignified manner. Recently, the Commissioner of Civil Supplies has also initiated some training programme for the staff and I hope the situation may improve over time. Unfortunately this aspect is neglected for a long time. Further, the locations of all these offices are cramped and we have been seriously looking for alternate spacious office premises to provide more public friendly atmosphere so that the public need not wait in long queue to get their grievances sorted out. I assure you that some improvement will certainly happen in the near future. I am thankful to you for bringing this incident to our notice which helped us to do some soul searching exercise.

I once again apologize for this incident.

K. Shanmugam, I.A.S.,
Secretary to Government,
Cooperation, Food and Consumer Protection Department
Secretariat, Chennai-9.
Ph: 25672224.


3. My reply to the Secretary & Commissioner

From: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Sent: 10 August 2008 05:50AM
To: coopsec (coopsec@tn.gov.in)
Cc: ccs@tn.gov.in

Sir:

I bow before you as I feel awe struck by your humility and your expression of concern on the shame I suffered at your two offices. In the past I had occasions to interact with great and humble civil servants like you of the State and one face fresh in my memory related to you is Mr. A. M. Swaminathan, the Ex. Revenue Secretary. For nearly an hour he opened his mind before me and the travails he undergo every day running the administration.

Kindly give me a few days time to respond to you as I am in a disturbed state of mind. My Telephone No. is 23664303 and Mob. No. is 94446826591. If you call me now I will break down and that will prove an embarrassment to you.

The person who abused me with his words is the Assistant Administrative Officer of T’nagar Zone. I do not remember his name. The lady who was a little graceful in the office was the one who manned counter No.1.

I am not a biased person. Months before I was witness to an event at Punjab National Bank, when an 80-year-old person who belonged to Nethaji’s Indian National Army approached an officer there to get a draft cleared. The Officer took the responsibility to himself, honoured him, and interacting with different departments the draft was cleared. This rare and unbelievable happening impressed me and I posted a question in Yahoo Answers inviting their rating on this Officer. From all over the world came replies praising the Bank Officer and I submitted the same to the Bank. The Chief Manager convened a meeting of the staff to create awareness on the importance of customer service and the yahoo replies were spread among different branches of the Bank. Sir, kindly compare this with my fate at your office.

“Chathupochu” was the word he used to describe the status of my ration card. How will you reply if I ask you whether the Tamilnadu Ration cards are living entities, like we, human beings to die later. I own a flat in Chennai for the last 40 years with telephone, electricity and water connections. I have a driving license, a pan card and many other instruments of identities. I do not need any benefits that a Ration Card gives. Then why I am insisted to have one as a must-valid identity. How gas supply is related to your department when there are particular giant oil corporations with separate infrastructure for gas distribution. You may have your own reasons, but you should remember that a heavy load is burdening you. Kindly pardon me if I am wrong. Perhaps you may have your own reasons.

Sir; kindly make available application forms at a reasonable rate in Tamil and English in all your offices. You can avail of the services of some NGOs to fill in applications of those who are illiterate. Please ask the Assistant Commissioners to reach out to those in queues occasionally and utter some soothing words that can reduce their tension. Please keep a book at a prominent place inviting suggestions for improvement in services. Devise a slogan for your department that can enhance your image. Paste a few posters seeking customer cooperation with staff that undergoes pressure of work. Enforce strict discipline among staff through model punishments. As I do not want to test your patience further I am stopping right here. May God Bless You for your right mind-set on my grief.

I am sending separately to you three issues of The Sales Digest I had edited and published. I had given 5000 copies of Aids Special free to the state and on instruction from the then Chief Minister it was distributed all over the State. I can also boast that to the best of my knowledge I stand first in the whole world in coining maximum slogans on Aids and Organ Donation.

With respects, personal regards, admiration and best wishes,
Yours respectfully, K. M. Thomas,
12-E, Kalinga Colony, K K Nagar, Chennai, 600078

4. Issue on Ration card issue.‏

From: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Sent: 10 August 2008 06:55AM
To: rajaramank9@gmail.com

Mr. Kalyanaraman Rajaraman, I A S
Commissioner Civil Supplies
Government of Tamilnadu,
Chennai, 5

Sir:

Till the end of my life I would not forget three persons – the good, bad and the ugly ones. You have been noble enough to console me on my agony and thus proved good; the bad is the one I found in the cabin at Saidapet who signaled me out refusing to hear my grievance and the ugly is the one who shouted at me at his maximum pitch at T’nagar zone. You have initiated appropriate action at the right time in genuine consumer interest for which I thank you. The concerned Administrative Officer with two of his colleagues came over to my house yesterday evening, and expressed his real regret for what had happened and said that the event opened his eyes and he would be more respectful and courteous in future to those who seek his help. He also handed over to me a slip for presentation to the Gas Agency. In writing to you it was not my intention to penalize him, but through his superiors to make him aware that each citizen should be cared for what was due to him with utmost responsibility, respect and courtesy for which he is paid for. If I am not exceeding my limits may I suggest with all humility that you write to your Assistant Commissioners to be role models to those who report to him and customer discourtesy and neglect would not be tolerated in future?

5. Fast corrective steps taken by the Government sensitizing all the Officers: -


Re: Issue on Ration card issue.‏
From: Kalyanaraman Rajaraman (rajaramank9@gmail.com)
Sent: 11 August 2008 14:18PM
To: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Cc: accs.all@tn.gov.in (accs.all@tn.gov.in); dccpo.chennai_north@tn.gov.in (dccpo.chennai_north@tn.gov.in); dccpo.chennai_south@tn.gov.in (dccpo.chennai_south@tn.gov.in); jc.ccs@tn.gov.in (jc.ccs@tn.gov.in); coopsec@tn.gov.in (coopsec@tn.gov.in)

Dear Mr Mathew,

Mr Shnamugham, Secretary-Food and I are taking your feedback, as also from other consumers, most seriously and will take measures to bring some improvement in the system, some of which are detailed below (in various stages of implementation)

1. Feedback forms/stickers/information boards in offices
2. Training for staff in courteous behavior (unlearning negative traits is very difficult, but we are at it!) and constant motivation to improve feedback. This includes stress management and uniformity in responding to requests.
3. Online information systems (please visit our website at www.consumer.tn.gov.in and offer your feedback online). This website contains all forms, procedures and helplines etc. Pl offer your feedback on this as well. (Of course, online content will not be of any help to the poor)
4. Posting a Consumer Help Desk officer in the entrance of each AC office to help and assist consumers
5. Modernising the inner layout of AC offices and shifting to modern buildings
6. ACs have been directed to post as many people to counters based on the consumers waiting on a day to day basis to ensure lower waiting times.
7. Fill up vacancies in AC offices

I also request you to send in more suggestions and we shall certainly use them.
We shall try our best and let me hope to show improvements by the end of this year. (We all live on hope, dont we!). I once again convey my regrets for the incident and we shall send a copy of your feedback to all ACs and their staff to let them mull over it.

Best regards, Rajaraman K

6. Issue on Ration Card issue‏

From: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Sent: 12 August 2008 15:02 PM
To: coopsec@tn.gov.in; To: Mr. K. Shanmugam, I.A.S.,

Secretary to Government,
Cooperation, Food and Consumer Protection Department

To: Mr. Kalyanaraman Rajaraman
Commissioner Civil Supplies

Sirs:

To both of you it seems better to express my response with an Ovid’s quote that explains itself.

“It is not wealth, nor ancestry, but honorable conduct and a noble disposition that make men great”.

Since you are earnestly endeavoring at reducing citizen’s woes with your department, I too can extend my yeoman service to you by making some suggestions and a few designs in English and its CD will be sent to you before the end of this month.

I am sending through Courier Service some stickers I have designed years ago shaping my thoughts. These were widely used at the Golden Jubilee functions of Indian Independence by leading Banks and some Corporates..

When you get time kindly go the site of my blogspot

http://thesalesdigest.blogspot.com/

where you will find some useful tips on customer service. You may also like my posting “An unusual SALES CALL on the late honourable Chief Minister Mr. C.N.Annadurai” in the blog that details the qualities and humility of the late Chief Minister as well as my meeting with the present Chief Minister.

God’s blessings on you will also carry the tag of a humble self showering his blessings too on two noble souls. With best wishes, prayers for your welfare and warm personal regards, Mathew Thomas



7. Another E.mail to Mr. “K. Shanmugam, I.A.S.,
Secretary to Government,
Cooperation, Food and Consumer Protection Department
Secretariat, Chennai-9.

Sir:

Thank you so much for your consoling and comforting mail.

From my experiences in the past as an Indian citizen Tamilnadu is a State rich with noble, efficient and competent administrators at the helm with their hands tied by politicians who live and thrive by boast and lower level staff blinded with arrogance of power and poor understanding on citizen care. I do not wish to bare the qualities of many key departmental staff at the lower level; but dare to say that some of the posts at that level should be auctioned to save salary paid to them and through that, the money for the exchequer with a maxim service charges fixed like the M R P you see on market wares. Would you say that Bihar is inferior to Tamilnadu if one confesses to you that he paid Rs.300/- to get a Death Certificate of his wife. The greatest sin a person commit in Tamilnadu is to cause a birth and expose the offspring to living travails in the State. After years of pleading and bending which did not yield results, I through the instrument of R T I, got a claim of over Rs.25000/- by the fraudulent Tamilnadu Housing Board accounting, reduced to Rs.4500/-, a saving of Rs.20500/- that I would have lost to the corrupt elements. Even at enjoying cent percent support from customers I had to close a business unit built with sweat because I had more visitors from Sales tax, Corporation, Electricity, Shops and Establishment, ESIS, Provident Fund and umpteen others. Although I had all the qualifications to my credit I was lacking in the primary one – the art of bribing. The black spots blur the white ones and one can only sympathise with those who are professionally committed and serve the state and its subjects with dignity and integrity. You can understand the man with the bowl in the street stretching his hand for alms, but if one in the Government does so what would you feel of the experience and how would you rate him related to the Government. This was a recent experience of mine. Kindly do not fault me for indulging in irrelevant writing, but heading one of the vital functions of the Government I thought you should know of the stinking areas. I do this in all sincerity because we are in two planes – at Secretary level you do not have always the opportunity to look too down and study while layman citizens like me always become victims of state oppressions. You stand for consumer protection, but when the same function percolates down it becomes consumer oppression as it happened in my case.

Kindly forgive me if I had crossed the Laxman Rekha. The Civil Supplies Commissioner – this State is rich with professionally committed officers like him - was so noble that he immediately sent me a consolation E-mail and took the concerned staff to task. Yesterday evening the person who literally abused me at high decibel level in front of a crowd and asked me to go home with my ration card came to my house with two other persons and expressed his regret in the most appropriate voice. He said he had learnt a lesson and he would be more courteous in future to those who seek his help. Had I kept quite, his arrogance would have subjected many poor in future. I am making a humble request to the Commissioner of Civil Supplies to site my experience in letters to his Assistant Commissioners that rudeness to consumers will not be tolerated and severe action would be taken against offenders.

Once again I thank you and close this mail with respects, best wishes and prayers that God showers his blessings on you with a peaceful life free from wants and protection from political harassments.

Yours respectfully, K. M. Thomas
12-E, Kalinga Colony,
K K Nagar, Chennai, 600 078



8. My mail to the Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department on my receiving the Ration Card.

From: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Sent: 03 December 2008 04:20AM
To: consumer@tn.nic.in

I confirm that I got the Ration Card. Related to this complaint I wish this country had noble souls in power like your Commissioner and the Secretary who were humble and responsible enough to apologise for the insult and inconvenience caused to me - a layman citizen - for the moral lapse exhibited at the lower level in the department. Arrogance of power is the bane of this mis-called democratic country. K M Thomas

9. A citizen's greetings with a grateful heart‏

From: Mathew Thomas (thedigest@hotmail.com)
Sent: 01 January 2009 08:09AM
To: coopsec@tn.gov.in

To:

1. Mr. K. Shanmugam, I.A.S., Secretary to Government,
Cooperation, Food and Consumer Protection Department
2. Mr. Kalyanaraman Rajaraman,
Commissioner, Civil Supplies & Consumer Protection Department

A citizen sends to you his New Year greetings with a grateful heart in acknowledgement of your humility and nobility in assuaging his hurt sentiments when he came to you insulted and harassed by your department to which you reacted right. I will never in my life forget the way you have responded to a layman citizen’s complaint. May God shower on you His abundant blessings for a peaceful, happy life with lots of personal and professional achievements and living satisfaction in the New Year. Let ‘CNC’ – Corrupt Not Character – be your theme in life and you will enjoy human and humane satisfaction in life. May God save you from all harassments common in your profession? Mathew Thomas


THE RUDE ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER


Wisdom exhorts us that we should be humble and noble in our dealings with our brethren. Many layers make a society and humility will dawn on us when we look at the layers above us. This Administrative Officer, was a man of big frame with a thick moustache and heavy voice. As an old humble looking man of 76 with a disheveled beard he took me as a man of no consequence. As I presented my old Ration Card he was furious and I was stunned. He wanted to show off and his shouting at me vibrated at all the four walls. All the people in Queue were looking at me. When I calmly told him “You say my ration card is dead but don’t you see me in life before you” he grew further wild. But he did not forget to laugh out in olden tamil drama style when I told him I would make a complaint against him to the Chief Minister. He turned on to all and said “This man says he would make a complaint against me to the Chief Minister” and most of them looked at me in surprise. Before leaving his office I again went to him and told him my resolve to proceed against him. He took it lightly and gave me the green signal to go ahead with my intention. Injury, injustice, humiliation, insults and shouts and traveling from one office to another in the sun made me dead tired. Still my spirit persisted. I missed my food both morning and noon and invoked God to be with me and sat before the computer and poured my heart out. The title ‘DO RATIONS CARDS DIE’ and the closing part of the letter ‘PLEASE CORRECT THE ATTITUDE OF SOME OF YOUR EMPLOYEES WHO TAKE CITIZENS AS SERVING CANINES’ were His inspirations on my mind.

The top officers understood my feelings of hurt and this person in all probability would have been subjected to disciplinary action. A few days later one evening there was a knock at my door and on opening the door I saw to my surprise this person along with two of his brother officers. He was a changed person and I asked all of them to take their seats. He had a sorrowful appearance. He apologized to me in a lower tone of what had happened earlier in his office. He said he would never repeat this behaviour and would be more courteous in his dealings with people in future. I advised him to respect each citizen’s rights irrespective of their status in society. He invited me to his office and offered to give me a seat near him for a day so that I could observe his changed behavior. I just smiled. His colleague told me that he is in pain anticipating a possible disciplinary action against him. Honestly my intention was not to punish him although he deserved it. Accordingly I conveyed my views to the Commissioner, Civil Supplies. Days after a person from the Civil Supplies Office came to deliver the final Ration Card to me and I enquired about this Officer. He was not coming to the office at all, Perhaps he was sick, I was told. To harm him was not my intention, to correct him, yes, it was.
K. M. Thomas









1 comment:

Alice said...

Right now we are also facing the same problem of not having renewed the ration card at the right time. It is dead i could say. At the time of transfer from one gas agency to another a bit of paper was given. it could have been anything,only it was misplaced. It was only brought to our attention when we called up today for a refill order. We were informed that we have to produce a xerox copy of ration card and bring the gas book along to the gas distributors. What we have now is a ration card that was issued to us long ago and which was in use till 2001 and never got round to renew it as we did not go in for fuel, etc. Till now everything was okay without a new ration card. But now I think we have to do the necessary. How easy or difficult it is going to be can only be found after we begin the issue of renewing the old ration card.