Posts Tagged ‘mumbai blasts’

India, the world’s second largest country with a population of about 1.1 billion, has just 126 police officers per 100,000 citizens. The United Nations’ recommended standard is 222.

Well, be it 126 or 222, why is it sufficient to have just that small 3 digit number of police officers taking care of 100,000 citizens.

This ratio comes out of a simple logic.

That fundamentally most people are “good” and there is only so much “evil” in society. The ratio being the way it is, a handful of police personnel are sufficient to quell those challenges, and the large proportion of the good people in society take care of themselves.

But the danger that the world faces today, I believe, is in the increasing percentages of the ‘evil’ component of society. Due to various factors – the politics of the US, the breaking down of the communist world, the rich nations getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and on top of that, this global economic crisis, and perhaps many other factors – the world is not getting any safer. Simply because the evil section of society is getting larger.

The same happens when there are large scale epidemics. The medical practitioners to citizens ratio is also equally tightly balanced most times. Any unusually large demand of that expertise is just not available on call. For the ratios to change, takes years. There is no quick alternative.

The ratio of good vs evil in society, and based on which the ratio of police vs citizens is based, is equally tightly balanced. If the UN guidelines and India’s numbers are anything to go by, we are in worse shape there. In this scenario, if the balance tilts any further, it can lead us to chaos of the kind that we cannot imagine.

It clearly shows that besides policing and security efforts, there is a need to cleanse society. To convert the evil back to good. Its not an answer enough, just to combat evil. If simultaneous efforts to cleanse the evil are not done, we will always be just so-close to disaster!

While we have all been angry and upset, and have poured out our anger against the politicians and the powerful, we have also been hearing from various experts, the challenges of combatting terrorism.

The long coastline, the large number of porous boundaries that the city has, the big gap between the arms that our police carry and those which the terrorists have access to, the fact that sympathisers for some terrorists’ causes exist within our own country, that we have vote bank politics and due to which reason we have allowed safe passage to people coming in from Bangladesh and elsewhere, etc are pointers to reasons why the challenge of terrorism is a very tough one to face.

Do we conclude that its not possible to quell it? That come what may, we may remain vulnerable to a terrorist attack? A return to the “good old days” might as well be accepted to be as much of a possibility, as it is to have paradise on earth now!

So how do we cope with this reality of life?

Well, we have to start counting the number of sudden-death situations in life, and add terrorist attack to that list.

So we now have cancer, heart attack, stroke, road accident,.. and “Terrorist deaths”. One could be hale and hearty and yet be vulnerable to any of these.

Yes, it’s sad to come to such a conclusion. But really, do YOU feel safe? Do you feel that you cannot be a victim of terrorism? It’s clear now that terrorism can hit anywhere and at any time.

It will require a new world order to emerge to put this threat away, and I do not see that as being realistic. So until then, we have no choice but to accept this reality – cancer, heart attack, stroke, road accident, air accident….. , terror strikes!!

As the drama has unfolded in front of millions glued to their TV sets, like a terrible reality show, the media houses have covered all conceivable aspect of the story. From live relay of the actual encounters, to human interest aspect, to the Pakistan angle, the politics of it, the loss of lives of security forces and especially some of the well known officers, etc. etc.

In spite of this extensive coverage and probing, I think some matters have escaped attention, or at least adequate attention, as I have not seen these discussed at length, on the channels that I have been following:

1. One of the fishermen folks, rather a 15 year old boy from amongst the fishermen there, has pointed out on camera that he saw 10 persons with big bags, get down from the boat, and split into 3 groups, that went to different directions. And then someone tool that small boat away.

So did someone go after this boat? What happened to it? I am not referring to the MV Alfa which was tracked and followed. I am referring to the smaller rubber boat or a trawler perhaps, that transported these ten terrorists into the city.

2. Along with the terror that happened in South Mumbai, there were also blasts reported in Vile Parle, near Santacruz and at the Marriot in Juhu.

Is anyone tracking those at all? Or compared to these bigger events in South Mumbai, those were smaller and trivial and are ignored for now?? Hey, besides everything else, we must remember that the terrorists who caused those blasts in the northern parts of the city, would be some other chaps. And they are moving about freely somewhere in the city. And if they have half the amount of ammo that those guys at the Taj or the Oberoi or at Nariman Bhavan had, then we continue to be at very high risk or some other large event now! Why does nobody track this story now?

3. It is clear that the operation was well planned and executed. That the terrorists knew exactly where they wanted to go, and what they wanted to do. Be it the Taj, Oberoi or the Nariman Bhavan. They did not reach these places accidentally.

So the question then is, where was the Skoda headed out to? Those two guys had been to VT, had done some indiscriminate firing on the streets, and then reached outside the Oberoi. Instead of walking in, like the other terrorists did, they exchanged the vehicle and decided to drive somewhere else. So was there another destination that they had planned to reach? Which one was it? Would those other terrorists (or Vile Parle, etc.) who are still roaming the streets in Mumbai, reach to that fourth planned destination now? Whenever they see an opportunity?! Again, this factor has not been brought up by any channel, at least when I have been seeing these.

Questions that remain unanswered… !

Why do these politicians not worry about the people, after they get elected? Why do they think about their constituents only during election times? And in between, they behave irresponsibly, and do what they jolly well please.

The reason for this is that once elected, these MPs or MLAs are quite untouchable. They could commit crimes, they could be insensitive to public needs, they could be fraudsters. They still retain their seats. And while they may be called in old British style terms, as public “servants”, they are anything but that!! In fact, they make all service providers dance to their tunes, be it the airlines, the police, the bureaucracy.. everyone.

So what is the potential method to make them more responsible? If any?

Yeah, sure, there is the threat to re-election, if they are seen to be grossly messed up. But most times, things are not that clear. Also its a five year term, and by the time the elections come, some of their misdemeanours might have been forgotten by the people too.

The only weapon that the people could potentially have, in such cases, is the right to “recall” an elected representative. To let it be known, that the constituency as a whole has lost total confidence in the concerned MP / MLA, and would like him / her to be recalled.

This article has some background on the subject. It clearly shows that its not easy or perhaps not possible at all, in India. But as a germ of an idea, and even if there is a slim chance of it being implementable, its something that is worth considering. Especially at such difficult times… !

Even if there is ONE case of recall in India, that may be a strong message to all other elected reps, like no other message could ever give, I suspect!

This time around, the anger is huge. All and sundry have expressed their frustrations against the politicians.

Politicians who have sat on the need for a federal agency against terror, politicians who took their own bloody time to act even as the dastardly act was happening at multiple locations in Mumbai, politicians who repeat the same stupid words after each event (“we are investigating”, “we condemn”, “we will get those responsible”, etc. etc.), politicians who use up high profile security for their own selves leaving the citizens unprotected… the list is endless.

Citizens have made comments on live television saying that let the politicians not come here, as they will be killed by the peple here!!

This angry voice has finally reached the powers to be, and we can now expect actions to be taken. While many may call these actions as too little and too late, the way I see these are, being better late than never!

The first head to roll has been that of Shivraj Patil, the Union Home Minister.

Great! Finally! Phew! He has been one of the most impotent and uninspiring Home Ministers that India has had the misfortune to have. So I am glad that he is gone.

I also hope that other heads roll – soon. Prime candidates being Vilasrao Deshmukh and R. R. Patil, the CM and Dy CM of Maharashtra. Besides their inaction and inability to protect the state and the city, their totally insensitive attitudes convey how completely disconnected they are from the citizens and their feelings. The CM took his film star son and his director friend, Ram Gopal Verma, on a terror tour through the Taj. R. R. Patil put his foot in his mouth when he conveyed on camera that such “small incidents” happen in big cities like Mumbai. BOTH HAVE TO GO. Sooner rather than later.

In fact, there is no real ability factor that could justify a Shivraj Patil as Home Minister or a Vilasrao Deshmukh as the CM. Its clear that they had their positions due to reasons other than capability. Vilasrao is supposed to be one of the biggest “fund raisers” for the High Command, and even Shivraj Patil holds some similar aces in his hand, with respect to his relevance in the Congress. These are the only reasons why these people get to their chairs and hold them for long too.

There will be few other bureaucrats who will also have to go. One of the prime candidates for such a removal is the National Security Advisor, who has been exposed as being a total misfit, time and again.

But the other point is that in spite of such resignations, do these politicians really suffer at all? If past is anything to go by, maligned ministers lie low for a while, and since public memory is short, they make a quiet comeback after a while. Or in some cases, they are given a plush Governor’s position (if one is lucky, they could even aspire to be President), and can enjoy the good life!

Why so? If Shivraj Patil has resigned for being responsible for his inability to prevent such terror happening on Indian soil, its clearly a performance issue. Why should he be rehabilitated? If a CMO of a company has been proven to be not performing well, would you still make him a Branch Manager, or would you just give him the walking orders?? In fact, in other cases, politicians have been accused of being corrupt or being linked to violence, or of embezzlements, and they have STILL been rehabilitated!! Why do politicians never have such problems? Because of their “fund raising” ability?? When will THIS change in our country??

I have always wondered about what it takes to be a soldier. To go to war to protect your country knowing very clearly that you could die. I am sure it takes a certain character to be that way. Ultimately I accepted for myself that a certain small percentage of citizens who opt to be in the armed forces, have that special character.

On the other hand, I certainly would not associate that character with the men and women that serve us when we go to stay or dine at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. Yes, we associate great service, or perhaps outstanding service since its the Taj. We would associate excellent cooking by the chefs, helpful stewards, great housekeeping staff, smiling reception teams, polite bellhops.. but that’s about it!

Who would have expected that same staff to have phenomenol presence of mind in the midst of terror, to have the spirit of the soldier on the battleground where they put the safety of their guests ahead of their own, and performed heroic acts?? It would have seemed perfectly human if the staff had escaped out, saving their lives first. They are not soldiers and their duty ended when the meal ended at the dinner table. After that, they were like the many others trapped inside – hostages fearful of their lives, hostages having loved ones worrying for them at home!

But as numerous survivors from the Taj have recounted, the staff at the Taj showed incredible and exemplary character, as they put their own lives to risk and tried to save those of the guests. They showed the ways out through the service entries, they calmed the nerves, they guided the guests to keep lights out, they told the guests to stay huddled down, they created the makeshift washrooms for men and women, they had the presence of mind to grab water bottles and food to the extent that they could, before escorting the guests to relatively safer areas in the hotel.

How did they do this? Where did they get this strength? It was no reality show or a banquet room event where they had received their scripts. It was spontaneous, it was impulsive, it was something that apparently came natural to them.

I am totally amazed. To me, its a fanstastic character of the organization that the Taj has built. It must be a rigorous message that is imbibed into the staff through training, through rub-off from others, through various means, that “the customer always comes first”. Ordinarily, it only extends to the point of delivering great service at the hotel. But when this rarest of rare events happens, that same attitude is exemplified in the manner that it just did.

So does it extend across the Tata group? Much as I would like to believe so, I know that it doesn’t. In fact, in recent times, there have been examples of quite pathetic service attitudes at some Tata brands like Croma, Tata Sky and Tata Indicom. So no, the example of the Taj is certainly not visible across the entire group.

Does the attitude extend to all Taj properties? Again, I have my doubts. While all Taj hotels are excellent hotels, the Taj Mahal at Mumbai occupies a very special place in history. There is enormous pride associated with the Taj Mahal, Mumbai. A pride that patrons feel (and many have expressed it in the last 4 days), a pride that all stakeholders feel. It is that pride in the entity that gives everyone associated with it, a certain sense of commitment. To push the envelope in terms of excellence. And in this case, being a service industry, that excellence is in terms of fantastic customer service.

Even as young men and women join at the Taj in Mumbai, and who may not be aware of the tradition of the Taj, they have the benefit of the elders who are around, to give them that sense of history and organisational pride, and which rubs off, on the new entrants to the team too.

I remember when I used to be a vendor to the Taj, for some equipments, and I had to interact with their Engineering department, along with the many young Engineers who used to work there, there was this 75+ years old Parsi gentleman. Who must have been with the Taj for more than 50 years. A man full of energy, humor but utmost commitment. A man that youngsters would sometime laugh about, but nobody would disrespect. Now working with an icon of that type, the young engineers were bound to feel affected, and the Taj culture would get to them as well.

Again working for a five star property like the Taj, which hosts numerous critical events, and where demanding global celebrities stay and who expect nothing but the best, the staff is, I am aware, used to work under stressful conditions. On the outside, it all appears to move like clockwork, be it at banquet events, or in terms of satisfying the whims and fancies of the celebrity guests. But to make that outside clockwork to happen, there are tons of last minute quick corrections that they need to keep doing at the back end. And which must certainly be generating a certain innovation and an ability to think on the feet, amongst the staff.

All of that came to the fore during the last 4 days.

My admiration for the Taj goes up several notches. I also salute the Taj stalwarts, from JRD to Ratan Tata, and Krishna Kumar, to have built this fantastic organization. From a pure management perspective, there is so much to learn here!

I know that the Taj will be up and running before long. In all its majestic stature too. I will be one of the earliest visitors once that happens, as a mark of my respect, my solidarity with the organization, and of course, to enjoy a great Taj experience as always!!

Yes, we live in a Web 2.0 world. A world where you blog, where you put your Facebook updates, where you let the world at large know what you feel. But till date, we had only trivial things to share.

The Mumbai terrorism attacks have generated so much anger amongst Mumbaikars, amongst Indians all over the country, and amongst Indians in any part of the world (not to speak of non-Indians, who have equally been staggered by this new form of terrorism), that its been a barrage of outbursts.

Everybody wants to do something. Or wants someone to do something. Everyone has an opinion to offer.

Blogs, Youtube videos, SMSes, MMSes, are coming out a plenty.

Those who never updated status on Facebook have started doing so, giving their piece of mind. Those who were updating are firing updates by the hour. Mumbai was trending on Twitter and has continued to do so. At a time, 8-10 tweets a second were happening, on #mumbai.

I also make a few points of my own at this time. Following this are a few posts related to these times of terror.