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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Sidenote 4

Catch me on Radiocity 91.1, a local FM radio station between 8am and 9am today morning, on a show called "By Two Coffee with RJ Vasanthi". I've been invited to shoot off at the mouth and provide some "inspiration" on a segment in this show called "Bangalore Inspires". Live. May I have the wisdom not to put my foot in my mouth.

Update: Turned out to be two hours in the end, 8 to 10, and still the calls/mails poured in. Hopefully I managed to get people to think, and perhaps in the future act. I was overwhelmed by the response from people. Its amazing... there are so many grievances that people have, so many injustices faced everyday. People asked about me about overcharging, about illegal parking, land encroachment, pay not received from company, broadband problems, noise pollution, traffic problems, auto-ricks overcharging/not plying, even one about dust in Marthahalli! Wow!

Some brief (?) gyan that I perhaps didn't manage to share on the show:

1. Ordinary people can make a difference. Knowledge is power, as hackneyed as it may sound. The only way you can protect your rights is by being knowledgeable. There is no excuse. We live in the Information Age. There is such an immense amount of information available on the Internet in India. Just search and you will find government sites (yes government sites), private sites/blogs, NGO sites, et al.
2. The government/civic authorities are not as "bad/horrible/uncaring/corrupt/slow" as they are perceived to be. I have talked to people from the police, traffic police, BMP, BESCOM, BWSSB, you name it. Every single time I have had courteous conversations, people from these departments have called me back, apologized for whatever trouble I've faced, done whatever they could to put right the problem. And I don't speak Kannada. I am absolutely amazed at the response from all the civic authorities. Not many states/cities in India can boast of this.
3. There are a great many number of laws, rules enacted by the government. Please look these up. Read about previous court rulings, find out about experiences of other people, see how you can escalate matters. The most powerful law is the RTI Act, 2006. If you find that *any* government agency is not responding, or asking for a bribe, or delaying, anything at all, please please use the RTI. Its a weapon in the hands of ordinary citizens. EVERY government agency, the smallest to the largest can be taken to task using the RTI. Many times, the threat of using the RTI is an even bigger deterrent to malpractices.
4. Network, network, network. There is a vast network of bloggers/agencies/NGOs/sites/SHGs/lawyers/journos in India who can be contacted for any help. These people ask for no money, they will extend any possible help for making a small difference to the society we live in. Use these networks to the full extent possible.


Ashish Gupta said...

Wonderful! May you have wisdom to encourage more people to not take shit. Am following your blog. :) -Ashish

Anonymous said...

heard u!!! and am with u... u have hearing tomw..will wait 4 an update...

ಶ್ರೀನಿಧಿ.ಡಿ.ಎಸ್ said...

heard u man! nice .. u have provided lot of gyan for us!

keep it going, i will start doing the same!



ArpitSen said...

Heard you on the show and was really nice. The best part was your parting note.
Will go thru the blog and will start my own fight too.
ThanX again for all the info provided on the blog.
Arpit Sen

Anonymous said...

Heard you on Radio city and logged on to your blog. Must commend you for taking up an issue most of us tend to grin and bear it.

Most retailers and service providers blatantly con us of our hard earned money knowing fully well that most dont complain/ take up the issue

I have been ripped off several times by milkmen/ soft drink vendors with their cooling charges, autos with their arbitrary charges, small retailers with their card surcharges and food coupon surcharges

So far I have taken the easy path of ignoring these sneeky cheats, but having read your blog, Iam inspired to take these guys to task

Keep up the good work

Me said...

Hey can u pass me contact address for a consumer right org or a consumer court lawyer. Tata Indicom broadband aint returning my security money despite 100s of complain and I guess It is high time they are taken to task.
will appreciate ur help much.

Unknown said...

@All: Thanks for the support. Please do follow up and take action. We all need to stand up for our rights.

@Sushruta: I posted about this earlier. See You should find the information you need on the links on this post.

Karthik S said...

Hi Amit,

Heard you in Radiocity today morning, thanks to a monster traffic jam in Vivek Nagar! Went through your blog in detail too, about the past fights of yours.

While I'm definitely with you on fighting against obvious things like harassment or abusive language, since we do not deserve either, I've a different take on the overcharging and certain other parts.

First, the question of whether its worth the effort. Assuming a packet of milk is 7 bucks and you are charged say, 10? 14? Whatever. Personally, if I consider my time important, I'd buy it elsewhere, or buy a Nestle tetra pack mile, which is better in quality and has a MRP thats not usually tampered with. Abusive behavior/ harassment...yes, it needs to be handled the way you did.

Sometimes, the pansies act so not out of fear but out of sheer lack of time or basically convenience. Is there a place you can get the same thing cheaper/ right price and can get away from the shop without pointlessly instigating the dumb shopkeeper (remember, he might be illiterate anyway!)? If so, I'd choose option 2, instead of a head-on fight.

That brings is to the next point. Are we supposed to take a confrontational stand for most of the things we don't agree with?

Frankly, I get terribly annoyed at something that Bangaloreans take for granted - traffic/ road rules being broken, people crossing the center white line to overtake, crossing yellow lines, overtaking idiotically on the left etc. I used to get this on my nerves and try and overtake the guy to make a point, show him the finger etc. After a point, I found out that I save on my blood pressure and health by not reacting. I started doing a gandhigiri on such people and guess what it works, BIG TIME.

Now, I let people overtake on the left, consciously and smile back at them with a wave of my hand as if I'm letting them go on my own. In fact, I've started doing this to even that motley group of pedestrians on the road side who have waited for some time to cross and are ready to fall in front of my car to do what do I do. Stop my car and break the chain, wave them to go ahead with a smile. You should see the incredulous look on their faces and they cross.

I'm sure you're doing the right thing to this milk man considering he came to apologize...its a different issue that he needs to be taken to the right legal end in this case for what he said to your wife.

But something like getting late fees reversed after forgetting to pay them - albeit in just two occasions. That somehow doesn't sound entirely right based on what else you've written. I do understand that you have built a credit worthiness chart with on-time payments and the banks should possibly take that into account to assume that an other-wise prompt payer like Amit has faltered this once, so lets not fine him. Going by your nature, shouldn't you refuse the fine waiver and show that you'd rather pay them the fine which is absolutely within their rights? If you take the other approach...'the-banks-cheat-me- anyway-so-let-me-get-this', I'm not with you.

I know of people who talk back to the caller regarding annual charges for credit cards and bargain to get a final annual charge of some piddly 100 bucks as against what is advertised.

Third, for someone like me who doesn't wait for the auto rickshaw driver to pay back any change below 5 bucks, this is slightly disturbing. You are in the IT segment and are probably in the higher strata of the society that can technically afford a lot more than many other people. That per se should not be a criteria for you to take overcharging lying down (more so if its on MRP) or you ma also be doing your own donations to causes that you think are worth it. Basically, you chose who you want to be compassionate with. I'm fine with that. But, we are the same people who bargain with vegetable vendors on the road while we pay up whats tagged for the same vegetable at Foodworld or Namdharis however exorbitant that may be. They have overhead expenses, isn't it? So ,we continue to pay them while continuing to bargain with people who we think do not deserve our extra 2 bucks? Kinda arbitrary.

Fighting for your rights is damn fine. But just imagine the kind of rights that are trampled for street vendors or even that idiot milkman, assuming he's not any MLA's relative/ friend. They are born and bred in poverty, and have perhaps come to own the milk booth after a lot of hardships. This is the strata of our society that literally runs it. Yes, that should NOT stop you from taking abuse lying down (I reiterate that again)...but think deeper on the implications for you after overcharging vis-a-vis his license revoked. He hasn't gone to IIM-ABCD to understand customer satisfaction etc., but as better educated folks, and being a lot more sensible, its in our interest to make him understand that overcharging his illegal first and leave that bugger to contemplate that, instead of ordering him to give that pack of milk to you at MRP. As I said earlier, we have options. Why not use those options to avoid a avoidable one at that. You could have also opted for Dispute Resolution at IIMB :-)

Next, abusive people will be abusive until someone can abuse louder than them. In this case, you are getting the court/ cops to shout back at him louder and subdue him. And at a serious expense of your personal time. What you are doing in this case, is perfect, but the next time try alternate routes...which may not always be to avoid a confrontation. A friendly chat in Kannada may help immensely. That brings me to the next point...

....on the Kannada issue. I'm a Tamilian in Bangalore, who has been trying hard to learn Kannada, but every damn vendor/ person I speak to is also Tamilian and speaks back in fluent Tamil. But, I'm ashamed that I do not know the language of this state - which has given me my apartment and 2 cars...yeah yeah it was my company that paid me, but I do not forget that I came to this state looking for a job, in the first place, leaving my other, earlier state, Delhi. Imagine trying to communicate in a place like Chennai in your Hindi or in a madarasi language in Delhi....thats perhaps what the locals are going through too. Not knowing their mother tongue and expecting them to understand - fully/ partially, my fangled English or fluent Hindi isn't entirely right IMO. Even a simple 'eshtu' makes a vendor happy when he has heard me speak in Tamil just a minute before to my wife. Thats the respect I want from these people. Not the forced respect money and a foreign tongue can get you...may not last long and may also turn against you.


Unknown said...

@Karthik: Thanks for taking the time to drop such a lavish comment.

1. I've said this before, I'll say it again. Overcharging affects everyone. Just because people like us can afford to go buy it elsewhere, does not mean every one can or wants to. Why will I spend Rs 12 on a packet of Goodlife when I can buy the same at an authorized KMF retailer for Rs 7? Do you know that KMF pays the rent, the cooling charges, the electricity everything for the authorized KMF centers. What reason does he have to overcharge customers, pray tell me. What absurd arguments you make. Take a look at the latest inflation numbers, the prices of essential commodities aew increasing. The prices being charged for everything are going up and it is people like you who are encouraging this by taking the easy way out. By not asking for your change back from auto drivers, you have made these auto drivers act the same with everybody without discrimination. You might have too much money and can afford to throw it around, not the 8 lakh people who travel abound everyday in autos and are not given change back. 90% of the people are NOT, repeat NOT happy with that.

2. I posted the card late charges issue after a lot of thought. I don't want to show you that I'm a saint and I fight for "good" causes. I fight for causes I believe in, you go fight for those you believe in. Guess you didn't read the "Update" I wrote on the post. If you don't agree with the issues I fight for, thats your prerogative. Go fight for something else that pricks you. Perhaps you are pricked about bigger issues that confront India today: primary education, corruption in Parliament, changes that the government wants to make to the RTI, land-grab in the name of SEZs. I'm afraid I only fight for small personal issues.

3. We don't (see the word: don't) pay extravagantly for stuff that we buy in FW, etc. I will tell you some other time about how many times I have fought with stores like FW, M2S, etc for advertising "lowest prices in town" and then putting a higher price than other stores. FW and other stores do NOT take back vegetables. I have returned vegetables to them and got my money back. Will you do that? You wont. You stay happy with your two cars or whatever, roam around with a holier than thou attitude with your head in the clouds and think you are better off than all the "common" people you meet everyday. You think its below your dignity to fight over something so "trivial" as high prices. I'll tell you something, the problem with the nuvo-rich in India is that they think that they are being magnanimous by throwing some money around. You think you are the present day kings, oiling palms, giving your menials a little something for the road, a little gratuity. And in return get a salaam saab, as the doorman opens the door, stands to attention, licks your boots. Bah. What arrogance.

4. Do you understand nothing, nothing about economics? A 2 rupees is not a 2 rupees in isolation, a 1000 rupees is not a 1000 rupees in isolation. Its a percentage, a margin, dammit. Any supply chain from producer to consumer is made of a base price and margins. Something that took Rs 4 a liter to produce is being sold at Rs 14. You want to pay Rs 20 for that (your example). Do you know how much in percentage you have overcharged? Thats like saying that you will pay 35 lakhs for a property that should be going for 25 lakhs. Its the same *percentage*. Why don't you show your misplaced magnanimity there?

5. Please don't get into business for yourself. You think the Ambanis, the Tatas, the Birlas got rich by showing off their money and shoving their droppings into everybody's face? Work for someone else and earn your money. You be happier that way.

6. The "Kannada issue" is not an issue until it has been made into one. What foreign tongue? So now Hindi is a foreign tongue. Last I heard it was the national language. What is it with these regional biases? I could be wrong, but perhaps you should read the Indian Constitution again. I believe you have a right to free settlement in any part of India without discrimination, freedom of speech and tongue. Get over all these silly issues of language, race, ethnicity and what not. I think these are non issues, they are politically instigated, the common man is too busy making a living than worrying about whether you speak Kannada, gibberish or whatever.

Karthik S said...

1. Yes, it is wrong to overcharge. I've said it too. My point was the sheer point of fighting for it vis-a-vis the importance of my time. I find my time valuable. If you have time to spare, go ahead and subdue the guy to go by your (and lawful) way. Buying it elsewhere is not the easy way out. Its the sensible way out, if you value your time. Time is money, at least for me. One piddly life of about 70 odd years, you see.

2. Apologize for not checking the card thingy update. My mistake. On bigger issues, yes, I'm more bothered about them, than smaller personal issues. Prerogative, as you had noted.

3. I've returned spoilt cheese, past expiry date butter often at FW and got stuff in exchange. Its smelly, soggy, so I'd indeed return it. On fighting for high prices and the below my dignity part, the issue is that you pay 120 bucks for a PVR show, while you fight for that extra 4 bucks with the auto driver. Feed the rich and fight the not-so-rich huh? You perceive your own version of value between the two and fight arbitrarily? Also, on the 'what arrogance, bah' part, I think its only fair that I know something about you before I comment something so personal. Unlike you. A motherhood comment from me would be as bad as yours and quite pointless.

4. Bangaloreans are indeed paying 45 lakhs for a 25 lakhs property. Which explains all those crore+ flats selling within a day. Would that fall into your small, personal issue category or my larger issue bracket?

5. I do work for myself. Services industry. I charge a extraodinary margin based on what I think my creativity is worth and people who think alike, pay me on my terms. No MRP here.

6. The Kannada thing was a suggestion for better dispute management. We are in a country with many languages and no constitution is going to change how alien you feel when the city is speaking in another language. Ground reality. Knowing their language helps. Fine, you need to spend your time in consumer court and police stations, I understand.

Unknown said...

@Karthik: Sure man, whatever. You are still harping on the same points. Rather than doing something about the little injustices, you "avoid confrontation" and go buy stuff at a high priced store. You pay the auto driver more and feel happy that you have done your little bit for the day. You are just increasing the corruption in this city. By avoiding confrontation and paying more because you have easy money, you escape, but that creates such a lot of problem for all the other people out there who cannot/will not pay more. Then they get bullied by traders/auto drivers for refusing to pay. Like I said earlier, come down from your cloud and think about what you are are doing to the city. The very educated class of people who should be fighting simply escapes into its ivory tower. People like you are screwing the city for the common man by not fighting, by simply paying more for commodities, land, house rent, autos, whatever.

And this is horrible, I just realized I've been preaching and blabbering. Please go to Mumbai and see what integrity is. See how the auto driver will talk to you nicely, take you cheerfully where you want to go, how he will take a single woman safely around at 3am, how he will make it a point to carry change and return even 50 paise to you.

I find it incredulous that you will pay more. You "value your time more than money". The twain shall never meet. Have a nice day.

BloggerOfTheDay said...

I had an opportunity to hear you today morning on Radio City. It was really comforting to know that we can do something about these unjust practices. I will follow up your blog and shall contact you if in case I need some advice in future.
All the best for your pursuit of justice and thank you for your contribution in making a difference in the society.

Karthik S said...

>> I just realized I've been preaching and blabbering.

Ivory tower, huh? Hmmm, interesting. I'd perhaps get back to you when you pay through your nose and other bodily holes to buy a property in Bangalore.

Unknown said...

@Bloggeroftheday: Thanks! Please drop me a line, and I will help you any way I can.

Karthik S said...

Just remembered your parting shot at Radiocity today morning...something along the lines of,

"The cause isn't important, the fight is".

Now it makes sense what you consider more important. Keep going!

Unknown said...

@Karthik: [Deer in headlights look] Thanks :)

Unknown said...

Hey, Awesome Dude...
Wish u good luck for tmrw.
m following the updates closely.
Plz. Don't drop the case against the milkman.
Its not that people have never pursued a complain in a police station against any ill-doer. I'm frm Delhi. I have done this in bangalore against an autowallah. But the mistake i made was to compromise with him on a request frm the policeman and I fell for it, thinking that he was suggesting me something good. But I realized later that all he was doin was to save his own time and also to help the poor autowallah. It was not to help me or to suggest me. Had I dropped the compromise-solution. The autowallah would have learned a good lesson.
Please pursue the case against the milkman.And become a trend-setter. Things like this would always be discussed in the milkman(Retailer) communities. And teaching the milkman a lesson would be like teaching the whole retailer community a good lesson.

Unknown said...

gr8 work, and in anyway dont drop the case coz these petty retailers need to be taught a lessons for overcharging. I too have been overcharged a couple of times by them .. but i sought the easy (wrong)way out :-(