A bank official I frequently meet during morning walk often complains about deteriorating work standards. The telephone doesn’t work properly, the municipal corporation is full of touts, there is utter chaos in hospitals, greed for speed-money is at every level – his litany of complaints virtually has no end.
Not that whatever he says is wrong, a lot of that is surely true. What however escapes attention is that individually we all are responsible for such impasse. This readily comes to my attention when one day I happen to visit the bank my friend works in.
The bank being a big branch usually remains crowded with customers who prefer to come in early hours. My friend, who deals in updating pass-books is not in his seat when I amble in an hour after the bank opens. Eight people wait patiently across his counter even as I spot him at a distance, sharing some tale with others amid laughter.
I have other works and when I leave about 10 minutes later, he is still away while the people, now numbering 12, continue to await his return to seat.
I narrate this to him couple of days later when I meet him in the morning. “Oh you were there, were you!”, he is so nonchalant (much to my surprise), “you should have called me, I would have done yours out of turn.”
My friend misses my jibe completely, or perhaps he simply decides to ignore it. A little later, letting my comments sink without trace, he returns to his usual self, this time speaking foul about cooking gas supply.
I’m left to think over the matter. Moving in and out of my smallish amazement at my friend’s apathy about people’s concerns, I could almost feel that if anything is responsible for this, it’s lack of accountability at workplaces.
People’s behavior is guided by rational outcome. In government and quasi-government establishments, it is seldom that action is taken for acts of negligence or dereliction of duty unless an issue is big enough to warrant it. Which is why in public domain work tends to suffer putting you and me in trouble.
An effective counterbalance now seems set to bring about some welcome change. The Right to Information Act (RTI for short) is a step in that direction.
Utsav Dutta, who now studies MBA in Delhi, has recently won the nod of state’s information commission when it directed Calcutta University to show him his answer scripts he wrote in his B.Com Part II Accountancy (Honors) examination of 2006.
Utsav received fairly bad marks in some subjects, which he felt might be due to faulty checking of his answer papers. CU agreed to reexamine the papers as per prevailing rules but declined to show him the scripts.
Utsav, sensing that just reexamining won’t be of help, petitioned the state information commission using the RTI clause. And now, after much waiting, CU has agreed to go by state information commission ruling. See the TT story.
Needless to say, many more students will now follow the footsteps of Utsav.
Coming back to my bank friend’s nonchalance, perhaps the day is not far when one can hope for reprieve against wrongs done to him/her on the back of statutes and acts like RTI. As the fear of being held accountable for lapse in performance percolates down their mind, the countless babus dotting the public workplace will perforce change, no doubt there.