Friday, July 11, 2008

Garibi Hatao (Remove poverty)

Twentyfive years into independence, the initial euphoria of gaining independence was wearing off. The ruling Congress party was facing threats from other parties. The party needed a new plank to rally its workers.

Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, came up with the slogan- "Garibi Hatao"( Remove Poverty).

The instructions were cyclostyled ( cyclostyling was the grandpa of photostating or Xeroxing) and sent to all ministeries.

Finance minister looked at the instruction and thought- "I will do a Robinhood and snatch money from the rich and distribute them to the poor." So, privy purse of rulers who had agreed to merge their territories into Indian union were abolished, dishounouring the agreement that Government of India had entered with them 20 years ago. The 14 biggest private sector banks were nationalised.

Health Minister received the instruction. The cyclostyled copy was not very clear and he could make out the words as " Garib Hatao" ( Remove poor). So he gave the instructions that Garibs should be hataoed. His minions tried to do it through various means- forced sterialisations, uprooting slums,depriving them of healthcare etc., but the efforts were only partially successful.

Railway minister looked at the instruction and ordered the Chairman, Railway Board-" Look, we have to Remove Poverty. Make sure that no poverty is seen in Indian Railways trains".

The chairman thought and hit upon an idea. Suddenly it was found that there was no poverty in the trains of Indian Railways. No one was travelling in third class any longer.Everyone travelled second class and above.

Everyone was mightily impressed, except me. I was sceptical. I tried to investigate the matter. I wanted to travel by third class, but I could not because there were no third class coaches to be found on any trains.

I asked a railway employee- "Where can I find a third class coach?".
"There are no third class coaches left" was the reply.
"But why?"
"We were asked to withdraw all third class coaches from service."
"Then what happened to those who travelled by third class ?"
"They now travel by second class."
"What happened to third class coaches?"
"Withdrawn from service".
"Where are they kept".
"No comment".
"How did you get so many additional second class coaches to cater to the erstwhile third class travellers?"
"No comment".

I looked this way and that,found that the coast was clear and slipped a one rupee note into the palm of the Railway employee. Looking at the note, he suddenly turned friendly and took me to a corner.
" I am telling this to you in strict confidence. Make sure that this stays between you and me."
"Yes, sure ,sure", I assured him.
" We have withdrawn third class coaches and we have replaced them by same numer of second class coaches".
"But where are the withdrawn third class coaches?How did you get so many additional second class coaches so fast".
"You are more intelligent than your age suggests," he remarked," A Railway dibba is not like a Machis ka dibba that you can buy 12 of them for five paise. Each new coach costs several lakhs of Rupees and only 600 of them can be manufactured per year. Here we are talking of replacing thirty thousand coaches.".

"So what did you do?"
" We converted the third class coaches into second class coaches."
"You did that? Good idea. That would certainly be cheaper than scrapping third class coaches and manufacturing second class coaches. How much did it cost you to convert them?"
" Make your guess, I will allow you four guesses"
" umm Rs one thousands per coach?"
"No",
"Rs two thousands?",
"No".
Rs three thousands?",
" No,"
"Rs five thosands?",
"No".

Exasperated, I asked, "O.K, now tell me how much it cost you to convert one third class coach into a second class coach?" "OK, kid, I will tell you, it cost two rupees".
"Two rupees" I was aghast,"are you sure?"
"Yes, I am sure".
"But how?"

He took me to a second class coach.
"see, this is a second class coach".
" Yes, I see".
"Now go inside".
I went inside and exclaimed, " but this is a third class coach".
" No it is a second class coach".
"What is the difference between this and the old third class coaches?"
"Look", he showed me the marking outside the coach," Earlier there used to be III painted over the coach to indicate that it is a third class coach. Now we have erased I to make it II. So now it is a second class coach."
Is that all?"
" Yes, that is all the difference between erstwhile third class and the modified second class coaches".
" So you are taking the public for a ride, calling this a second class coach."
"Do not feel bad, lad, the ticket for these coaches is same as that for the erstwhile third class coaches. To differentiate these from the existing second class coaches, we call these new coaches unreserved second class coaches. The existing second class coaches are called reserved second class coaches. Everyone, the public, the Railway employees, the Government- is happy with the arrangement. So cheer up, boy."

So,I learnt that there could be more than one method of Hataoing Garibi. Later, I found that this kind of thinking is called "lateral thinking" or "thinking out of the box."

P.S.
In Calcutta, the top brass of Hindustan Motors were called for a meeting. Sethji said-" Look, we have been selling our Ambassador car for last 15 years at a fixed price. Now we have to increase the price."

Munimji- " But how can we increase the price?"
Sethji-" By telling people that we have improved the car."
Munimji-"But improving the car will cost money."
Sethji-" Do not be silly."
Munimji- " Then what do we do?"
Sethji- "Simple, our existing model is called Ambassador mark I. Let us add another I to it. Let us start calling it Ambassador Mark II and tell the public that we have upgraded the car involving considerable Research & Development at great cost."

That is how Hindustan Motors hit upon the idea of upgrading their car by just changing the numeral by I. They took their cue from Indian Railways. Indian Railways removed I to show progress. Hindustan Motors added I to show progress. It was that simple.

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