Sunday, 2 August 2009

The neta babu raj is alive and well

Mindless bureaucracy, popularly called the neta babu raj, is alive and kicking in India. It seems to be deeply embedded in the Indian psyche. India’s economic reforms started the dismantling of the neta babu raj, but its so powerfully entrenched that it seems to refuse to go away.

Some random experiences on this trip to India. There seem to be very few internet cafes around. To get into an internet cafĂ© you have to show a photo identity card and then enter all sorts of details in a mind numbing register. That’s the law, presumably to dissuade terrorists , who have used internet cafes before to spread evil. The mind boggles at the thought process of a bureaucrat to frame such a law. And how pointless it is.

I have to change addresses in a whole host of places and register that I am a Non Resident Indian. Two years after I moved to China, I am still at it. In each place, you have to produce an insane amount of documentation to prove the address change. It seems perfectly acceptable to the babu that the old address continues to remain on records, even though I am saying upfront that I have moved. But he won’t change the address unless you produce a ton of irrelevant documentation. And even then it doesn’t happen.

Examples like this abound for business. The Indian bureaucrat is governed by two fundamental laws – everybody is a crook unless he proves his innocence, and the best course of action is to do nothing; for by doing nothing you cannot be proved to have done wrong.

Things have improved from the 80s of course, but they are finding newer and newer forms of idiocy in bureaucracy. This is one of the worst legacies of the Brits. They gave us Sir Humphrey (if you have seen the Yes minister series). And Sir Humphrey has gone native with a vengeance. He may or maynot have vanished from the corridors of Whitehall, but he is alive , kicking and thriving in India.

11 comments:

  1. i understand ur frustration..just when u look at it from an outsider perspective and think things are changing, u r faced with a whole load of crap like this and then u know all's 'well' in babuland..
    btw was not aware that u r in India..

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  2. How about the railway reservation system .... nothing has changed ....at all in that area ...I share your frustation.

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  3. Oh yes--I agree so much!
    This is especially true when you have to get LPG connections transferred. I always have to pull clout.
    Cheers
    preeti

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  4. As far as I know its been like this since a long long time...no matter what, we have to stand by our rights and when all of us do it together they will keep mum n do their job...

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  5. Indian babus rock and no man worth his salt can match their inefficiency.

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  6. @AJCL - All's well in babuland indeed. Yes I'm in Chennai at the moment, but back in China in a couple of days.

    @blogueur - Thought that had changed for the better - these days I believe you can even book on the internet

    @Preeti - Oh yes - LPG , another nightmare

    @rads - Yes, its been going on for a long time. How do we send these babus to the loony ward ?

    @Adesh - They rock indeed as you have pointed out so many times in your blog.

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  7. If you want to take a prepaid phone connection, same story! And the LPG nightmare!! Your point about citizens considered crooks until proven is so apt for Indian bureaucracy!
    Hope babuism apart, you are having a good time in India! :-)

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  8. i agree with ramesh, the problems are more profound if you have to move homes even within India. I think the rules may have changed but the rule makers (babus) and their attitudes have not changed, we are far away from beleiving the state is there to support its citizens. Do not recall anyone having gone to a police station or any government office and beign thrilled at the experience. sabri

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  9. kiwibloke3/8/09

    Try renewing a passport, especially when the previous one was issued by an Hon. Indian Counsul in an Indian Embassy or High Commission overseas. My son (10 years old) had his last passport issued by the High Commission in Wellington NZ. When it was time to renew, we went thru a nightmare, including obtaining a no objection from the Wellington Babu since his new address is in Bangalore. Thankfully after much persuation they dispensed with the mandatory police verfication as he is probably too young to get into nefarious activities.
    Cheers

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  10. Anonymous4/8/09

    Try getting a promotion in an Indian or MNC company in the so called High tech, highly evolved and modern Indian business scenario. The Babus and netas rule that domain more than anywhere else. They will continue to as long as Indians live because they thrive on Babudom. How many times have we conciously called someone 'Sir ji' or Madam to avoid calling a person by name and offend him!Wasnt the named to be called!The amount of time his/her parents spent to name him Jack or Jill itself would atleast have been put to use by the parents if they had realised that the child would develop such complexes in the latter part of his/her life. They could have simply named the child ' 'as in space or . as in dot or '21.com' or '325@_#*' or 007 or even simply Sirji!.Babudom Rules. And will always rule.

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  11. @thoughtful train -Yeah - phone and LPG are major pains. Thanks - I'm now back into the arms of the Net Nanny.

    @Sabareesan - You are absolutely right - The babus haven't changed their attitudes at all.

    @kiwi - Thought passports atleast had imporved, but evidebtly not.

    @Anonymous - Oh yes - babudom is not restricted to government alone, but I would have thought its a lot better in more professional organisations.

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