The long and short of the Queue!

A queue is a line of people or things waiting to be handled, usually in sequential order starting at the beginning or top of the line or sequence. In computer technology, a queue is a sequence of work objects that are waiting to be processed. The possible factors, arrangements, and processes related to queues are known as queueing theory. What do the queues do? They make life orderly, save time!

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But one thing I have never understood is why the word queue is spelt as queue and not Q! The spelling is the quirk from the English language!  

Forming a queue is the indication of a developed and organised society. Yes, we in India are not a developed society! What does a line indicate? It indicates that people behave in an orderly fashion; if the line is too big, then there are obviously a smaller number of windows than needed. If the line is moving slowly, then the person handling the work or the work process is inefficient. Or it indicates that the quantity of things being offered is limited. (school admission forms) People sometimes reach very early to enter a match arena. I remember that when I went to Melbourne to see the Cricket world cup finals, there were no big queues! The total number of spectators was 93 thousand plus. We reached inside the stadium about 45 minutes before the start time without any hassle or jostling 

Queues are the reflection of the world. The society has always been divided based on cast and creed. To manage complications, the boarding process at the airports is handled differently. While you board a flight, there is a separate queue for first/business class and others! Those who pay a significant additional chunk of money, get priority for boarding and deplaning. Is this fair? Yes and no both. Honestly, the flight takes off only after ALL the cattle class and the privileged board. Still, the boarding distinction takes place. It is done probably to pamper the ego of a particular category. Some want to pay more, get on the plane only at the last moment. But a separate queue is a fact of life. Frankly, what happens by boarding late, I have never understood. Ego boosting? 

A lot of discussions take place on this subject. Should human rights be the same for all? Can the state or an airline sell the rights at a higher price? Priority access is given any many places like theatres, theme parks and many such public areas. In India typical jumping the queue is done at the Balaji Mandir at Tirupati. The passes are sold at a fee, that gives priority to jump the queue.   

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Many people do not have time these days and are always in a hurry! Why does it happen? It is their mindset; let me do things quickly. In India, we see many such people. On an inquiry counter, they barge to the front without standing in the queue. When someone objects, they will claim that they have only half a minute inquiry!

A priority access line allows people to choose what resource they want to use to get to the front – time or money. For many people, time is more precious than money, so being able to hand over money to save time is a boon. The other side of the argument is if the service offered is efficient, reasonably quick, then people do not mind waiting for a few minutes. The value of the service provided depends on the actual service that is being offered. If the process of sending a parcel takes a couple of hours at a post office, then it is a strict no-no! But if the renewal of passport takes a couple of hours people do not mind.  

That brings me to the passport renewal process in India. First and foremost, one can apply only online. There is no manual process hence no queues. The application is locked after the required documents are uploaded. Based on dates availability, the appointment is given online. All are expected to be present at the office 15 minutes before their appointment time. At the allocated time, people are let inside the premises. You are generally done in one hour. For senior citizens like me, one can walk in at any time suitable. I came out in thirty minutes flat. Yes! There is a set procedure for priority appointments for an additional fee! Why should this be available? Sometimes an emergency crops up in life which needs jumping the queue! This emergency could be because of real crisis or neglect!  

But there are situations where people love to be in the queue. For example, a famous cell phone is launching a new model! Some renowned brand is launching shoes! People love to stand in line. When McDonalds started its first outlet in Pune, people used to stand in queue for some time to visit them. The queues continued for the first six months!  

When people are in the queue for entry into a sports stadium, waiting to enter a theatre to listen to their favourite crooner, they love it. It is treated as recreational queuing! People chat, smoke, have ice cream and have fun. Nobody cribs standing in these queues.   

Priority queuing will depend on what service is being offered. When people go to buy grocery, they hate waiting for checking out. Such businesses are already proving facilities like selfchecking counters for those who have purchased less than ten items at a time. Now they are providing apps where the buyer can scan the barcodes on their cell phones. When the last purchase is made, buyers can pay using their cell phone apps directly. The method makes checking out hasslefree.  

Does all this mean that the class is being replaced by money? Market forces take over. I read a facility provided in an office building in olden days. People used to get fed up of waiting for the lift/elevator to take you up; during peak period queues were long. They provided mirrors inside the lifts. As soon as people got inside the lift, most would adjust their clothing, ties, scarves, dresses and suits! They used the time to make themselves presentable. The provision of mirrors reduced the cribbing to a great extent. I never knew the reason for putting the mirrors in lifts!  

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Technology and evolution have changed many things, and it has changed the interaction of people standing in the queue! Oh, I am sorry! There is no interaction, people keep on looking at their respective screens! Technology has created a new situation. When we chat with Customer Service Support of some companies, the first thing that generally happens is that we get a message. “You are in the queue. Your call is valuable to us. One of our executives will attend to you shortly.” The music starts. Shortly can become annoying five minutes too!  The “person” chatting with you could be a BOT! Of course, there is always a variant in the message! You are our Gold Customer and will be attended to on priority!

I know that with most of you, my blogs are in the queue for your attention! But I will respond to you right away if you write to me! You are all Gold for me!

 

 

  

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Right or Wrong!

A friend shared with me a document about a disputed asset usage by a well-known private organisation. As I do not like to go into political disputes and discussions, I am sharing my general thoughts on the subject. I am not talking about what happens the world over, but I will restrict the discussion under Indian scenario. I will not be specific about names and projects for obvious reasons.  

Air, Sunlight and Water are three primary natural resources. Air and Sunlight are unlimited, but potable water is not! Water may be abundant in the sea, but fresh water is not unlimited. The availability of potable water in the right places at the right time is also critical. That is going to be essential in future. Any new asset creation is controlled by availibility round the year. Like in Rajasthan, the government is putting Sunlight to good use by putting up a large number of Solar plants. In various areas in different states, wind energy is harnessed by putting up windmills for power generation. The asset I am discussing is water. Government is taking up measures to catch rainwater by inexpensive methods in the state. Creating dams, diverting river water are long term projects and take huge money and a lot of time. So instead of going for complex ideas, it will make sense to achieve this by more straightforward methods.   

The specific document shared by the friend is talking about a contract this private company and the then British government. I am sure that since the project is enormous, there must have been a legal contract between the government and the company. Assume that a similar agreement is made between today’s government with a multinational. Will the deal be challenged after 100 years? The only difference would be the original contract I am talking about was with the British Government in India of those times. The hypothetical case that I have said is about the contract with sovereign government of India. Let us not forget that India as we know today, did not exist before 1947.  

When I read the document shared by my friend, thoughts about the problems discussed in the report look unimportant to me. A society, a government and hence the nation works on ethics that is followed. The document demands that the old contract made by the company with the government should be annulled. The resources used by the company should be used for the benefits of the rural poor and farmers in the different area of the state, deficient in water.  

If we take this logic further, which agreement should remain valid? There are significant beneficiaries of assets due to awards made by Shivaji Maharaj. It was the method of those times. To keep the different sardars together, they were awarded large chunks of land. Sardars would collect the taxes from the people in the area and share taxes with the Shivaji’s government. It was the way of paying sardars for the services rendered by them to Shivaji. During the last 50 to 70 years, land prices all over are shooting up. The descendants of the sardars have enjoyed the fruits of the ancestral property they had received from Shivaji. Some have become multimillionaires by selling the land, and a few have become billionaires! Should the gift that was given to these families be valid today? Was that land not owned by somebody else? Honestly, I have no issue with the old system, but it should be consistent to all, whether an individual is involved or a company is involved.  

These days there is a lot of discussion going on about poor farmers and their issues. These need to be handled with a lot of genuine care and love. Add to this the problems that come up because of market vagaries; farmers do not get reasonable rates and many a time they have to sell their products at a loss, as the product is perishable. But lest we forget, there is an equal number of poor living in the towns and cities. They live in squalid conditions and have a daily struggle to make two ends meet! When we talk of “helping” the rural poor, we should also find ways to “help” urban poor.  

What has this company done? When they took over the assets, they built dams to produce electricity. Remaining water after production was used by (and is still being used) poor people from certain area. The power helped Bombay to grow in the last century. In those days private industries did not have the money to take up such massive operations. Does the contract have an end date for the lease? Does it have an escape clause from the deal? If this contract is valid then what is the reason to ask the company to opt out of it?  

Before 1947, many things had happened for which land and other assets were taken over by the government. Indian Railway is a prime example of this. Does it mean that old owners now should be compensated for the land at today’s rates by paying the difference? Mughals in their time had given lands as an award or a reward to many. Are these contracts to be reopened? These contracts were also not made with Indian Government after 1947. Airports, Harbours were built in olden days and continue to be used after modernisation by the Indian Government. Is it only because an asset similarly is used (in the language of people against this- exploited) by private industry, it is wrong 

A valid contract between any two parties, the government or private is a contract that should continue. The demand mentioned in the document, has  asked the government to change the agreement and use the water as deemed suitable by this group of people.  

There is one valid argument. The contract was created more a hundred years back. Requirements of those times were different as there was hardly any industrialisation and urbanisation. Availability of natural resources was also different, per capita. With increased population, the reduction in per capita availability is causing stresses, and hence there can be a demand to use natural resources for a different reason. Saying this is easy but to bring such significant changes into practice will be extremely complex, and very expensive. So instead of using existing resources for a new use, invest the same money for creating the required infrastructure.  

It is said that the future wars will be about water. Is this dispute forerunner of things to come in future? I am sure good offices will prevail, and the situation will be resolved sensibly without any coercion.

What is right or wrong, only time will tell!

 

 

False Pride 1!

My friend Ravi and I were chatting about overall situation in India. As usual the discussion came to the question, why no areas in India look like areas in any developed country? Every city has its own Harlem, China town, Dharavi and such tough areas. In most developed countries they manage to hide these areas from out of town people. Those who live in the same city would obviously know about such area. These areas are what can be described as “Fact of Life”. But in India even in Non-Dharavi parts of cities, are seriously deficient. It may be public toilets, it may be roads in posh areas, railway stations, bus stations. What is it that we are lacking? Where is India deficient?  

We are doing great in IT, ISRO, Motorcycles, and we are trying to improve ease of doing business in India. These achievements can make every Indian proud. India’s road network is improving, Metros are coming to different cities. Airports are being modernized as are many other places. We have a very large population; if used properly, it can be a great asset! Improvements are seen in the field of Agriculture. Our economy is growing at a brisk pace. Still I don’t feel great from within. Why is this happening?  

I feel that all improvements are negated by attitude of overall population. We have ministers who declare in public forum that Darwin’s theory is bogus. We had a lot of ruckus created about a movie which is based on an undocumented 700 years old history. Nobody knows anything about that history. Everything is hearsay! But some Ku Klux Klan type of organizations have offered a booty of Rs.20/ million plus to cut off the nose and ears of the lead actress! How is the actress connected with this? She is just doing her job based a role offered to her! The producer and director are producing this movie based on their interpretation of the historical fiction. This ruckus wasted a lot of time of Supreme Court, putting pressure on local security forces due to uncertain situation in many states. Does this status make you proud? 

Yesterday, we had our alumni annual get together. We first met at our college boat club. Nostalgia and the tea served in the canteen went hand in hand. Some of us had not visited the boat club since 1971! We enjoyed our cuppa in plastic cups! To our horror we found that at 3 to 4 crumbled cups were thrown on the ground. We are supposed to be elite engineers from elite 150-year-old college! Did this make us proud?  

I had shared with you a story about a doctor who is our contemporary. When he was caught stopping, on his two-wheeler, at a signal on a zebra crossing. When he was fined by an automated system he was livid! I had shared with you a story about a trained Chartered Accountant of Indian Origin, living in Sydney. His idea of fun after going to India on a holiday was to break traffic signals 30/40 times! There is story from England of a group of Indian origin people living in the same town. They were from one village in India. One of them dialed a number in India, then turn by turn they talked with their relatives. Total call duration was 8 hours. When the person received the next bill, he promptly raised a complaint. He claimed, “Yes, we do sometime talk for 15/20 minutes, but 8 hours call indicates that there is a technical error”! The phone company promptly removed their 8-hour call from the bill. Do these stories make us proud?  

Most of the stories I shared above are about the so called educated, elite people from our Bharat Desh! Unless these basic behavior changes, how can India improve? I read a statement somewhere. A country is considered developed, when rich people travel in public transport. This happens in UK where Ministers and MP’s go to parliament by tube. Though a lot of good things are happening in India, we as a society are always looking to cheat, break laws with impunity. If govt officials try to implement law, they are threatened and sometimes beaten. The most famous statement on Delhi road is, ” Do you know who my father is?”  Very rarely an influential  parent will allow the law to take its own course against their children, even if a murder is involved.   

Sometime back, I had read a story about Police Commissioner of Tel Aviv. He was found talking on cell phone while driving. The policeman on duty, asked him to stop and fined him. When he read the person’s name on the license, he realized that the person was his biggest boss. Commissioner paid the fine. Couple of hours later the policeman was called to Commissioner’s office. Policeman was worried but on reaching there, he was awarded a certificate for exemplary work! Recently, a couple of ministers were photographed, driving two-wheelers, during a political rally, without a helmet. City police are afraid to even discuss making a police case out of the incident! Does this make us proud?  

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A lover boy wanted to meet his fiancé who was in transit at an airport. He forged an old ticket and entered the transit area somehow. While coming out he was found and arrested. Why he did this? Why break laws, forge a ticket without fear?  

We can find examples galore. These examples just show that on one side we talk of great old Indian civilization but we are not afraid break laws, throw muck around, do what we want. We always want to cut corners. With all such acts, is there any benefit? No there is absolutely no benefit. Then why do we do it? Superiority complex? Superior to what? Does place in authority or having a little extra money give us moral rights to do whatever we want? Do these acts not inconvenience others in the society? Are rules and laws not same for everybody irrespective of your station in the society? Why there is a porter given to ministers to take their hand baggage into an airplane? Is it so difficult? Which law says that it is allowed?  

Friends, I will be sharing and discussing more about Indian mentality,  regularly. Please share your thoughts and give suggestions. Let us all work together and make ours a great nation. It is doable. All should simply behave like normal humans. All the high posts, minister ships are temporary. Why an army car or a police vehicle halts on a no parking road? Are those using such vehicles with buttery legs? Can’t their drivers park their vehicles in parking zone and come back to pick up, when work is done. We as society treat these misdemeanors as rights and feel proud. Let’s go away from such false pride! The day we start feeling ashamed of such behavior, India will be on the mend.

                                                                      Jaihind!