Tuesday, May 31, 2011

So What Should I Do?

Reminds you of the question that Doc Daneeka asks of his patients in Catch 22 - so you think you have problems, what about me? But the above question is one that almost all figures of authorities put back to you when you go to them with a request / a complaint - anything the requires them to exercise their authority.

The private sector merely responds to requests / complaints with inaction or bad service, or a plain deflection of the request with some of the following well-known responses:
  • Sorry sir, company policy (actually.our company policy is to say 'sorry sir, company policy!)
  • Sorry sir, we are not authorised to do that, (or anything to help for that matter).
  • Not our department, contact xyz. (who will forward you to abc and so on)
  • Please contact customer support, manufacturer etc (and if you can get through to them tell us where they are located.)
  • Go to service center (which has been specifically set up for you in the boondocks)
  • Do whatever you please sir, (go to hell sir).

But it is in the public service area that we find a different set of responses that leave you speechless. After an issue a couple of days ago when some young artists decided to spray paint cars in the colony, I met two representatives of the public who came back with the same question. One was the SI of our police station and the other was our colony general secretary. Both of them asked:

  • So what do you want us to do?

I must confess I had no answer. It is a brilliant counter question that tells the complainant to come with the solutions himself - so these guys can take credit for it later. I guess almost everyone in our public space have mastered the art of posing this counter question - so what do you want us to do? Other responses that one hears from public servants or people in public service  include some of the following:
  • What is this? (has it been authenticated by all departments and stamped yet?)
  • Who are you? (do you have your ration card, driving license, passport, utility bills, photos and duly attested copies of the same by anyone in the government who you do not know but you have bribed?)
  • Who sent you in? (what makes you think you can walk into a public place - get out!)
  • Why are you here? (.....speechless)
  • Come back later. (I am not in the mood for your type of cases, I am waiting for the right types that interest me, until then please go)
  • Call this number later. (no one will pick it up anyway, it rings continuously  or it will be engaged continuously)
  • Get your own paper and pen. (all our stationery is for private use only)
  • Go outside and write. (I cannot stand the sight of you here)
  • Show us the documents. (Get out)
  • Where is the application? (You fool)
  • Do whatever you want.(There is nothing you can do)
The whole idea is to get rid of the person at least for the moment. One would think that they would at least nod sympathetically and ask - so what is the problem, we will do something about it etc - so we would all feel that something is being done and go home happily. But now the whole approach is - so what do you want me to do? Whether it is a hospital, a bank, a police station, a passport office - the scenario is the same specially for those who wish to go about it the normal way i.e. directly. The responses change only with a change in approach. So when you do see a person who is genuinely doing a job he or she is getting paid to do, it is a pleasure beyond compare!


Hmmm said...

heheh...probably one of the reasons i ran away from a Government Job, almost 8 years ago! While the section that I worked in, called 'Grievances Cell', grounded me completely from the Ayn Rands of the world and stuff; it was the way things were handled (err...not handled - filed, referred, passed on at the mercy of Post men, rats, and few corrupt people) that made me run away from any Govt. Office. I knew completely well that I could do NOTHING, even with all the world's positive attitude around them! Since then on I've been trying to avoid going to any Govt. office. I know its not the right way to deal with it, but something was drained off from me, in those eight months I worked there.

Anonymous said...

Q: "What do you want us to do".
A: "Your JOB".


Harimohan said...

Yes Hmmm, I can understand what would have happened to all those who were optimistic about their grievances. But it is amazing to see some of the attitudes, to hear the responses. They just leave you speechless. But not every office is like that and I have also been lucky enough to have seen some upright and efficient government officials. But the responses are worth documenting - I think my friend Vinod's upcoming novel does some justice to that!

Harimohan said...

Figure out the next response after that. 'So you are telling me how to do my job eh?' End of story!