Saturday, December 14, 2013

Burden of the Indian expectation for AAP

I confess that I am not a follower of politics at all. I don’t know the names of the parties, their ministers and much political history. However, there are moments of public interest when my easily distracted mind gets interested in the proceedings. Sadness at the fall of Vajpayee’s government and inspiration on hearing Obama’s oratory are previous instances that come to mind. Delhi elections this year will be another. Arvind Kejriwal has brought unimaginable interest in these elections. There is an interesting event unfolding daily. The underdog beating the giant. The hung assembly. Reluctance of the big-wig parties to form the government.

I personally think that Kejriwal has already done a fair bit. He has inspired countless people and tried to redeem their faith in politics. Hundreds if not thousands will join politics with purer motives in the years to come. They have an avenue. They have a precedent. They might not know the policies, administrative structures and many other things complicated things. But some of them will learn and try to make things better. Maybe some will form a separate party. In any case, all of them will be working for betterment in their own ways. Institutional ways. Not with hunger fasts like an attention seeking child or illogical, nonsense statements like our very own douchebag, Baba Ramdev. We need these motivated people in our political scene. And India might have a lot to thank Kejriwal for in the years to come.

I think Indians have a long history of suffering from the ‘too-many-expectations’ syndrome. We are so devoid of people to look up to that we want the single person, who we look up to, to do everything. It doesn’t matter if we don’t give them adequate support or training.
Sachin should win all our matches single-handedly. We will criticize him even though we can’t provide him 4 other half-decent batsmen who can provide him adequate support or 4 quality bowlers so that the poor guy doesn’t come out every time with a mountain to chase. IAS and other 1st tier officers should be able to solve all administrative problems of this country with a team of moronic and largely untrained 2nd and 3rd tier 'support' staff.

It is very hard to be a good son to this country. It is like the parents who have given up on the other children and accept their misdemeanors with a shrug saying ‘that’s how who they are’. But the good son must do everything. He must sacrifice, slog his ass off and not enjoy like the other children because that’s his moral duty. And he must remain committed to it in spite of the criticism that is deserved, of course, on not doing a good job. 

How is this relevant? Coming to our current scenario, AAP has been invited to form the government by the Delhi Lt. Governor. BJP, the party with the largest number of seats, has declined very nicely. AAP has asked for some time to make its decision. It has also asked clarification from the Congress and BJP party leaders on their stance on various issues.

Hindustan Times today (15th December), printed the results of its online poll -
Is Aam Aadmi Party running away from responsibility by not coming forward to form a government in Delhi?
Almost 50% of the people have said 'yes'. More than the people who have said 'no'.

I have been reading a few comments on various articles and posts. There are numerous comments condemning AAP for not taking the initiative to form the government. Comments such as these -

“Don't waste your time on AAP. I feel they have missed the bus. This is no way to negotiate. It is running away from responsibilities....”
“Arre bhai to form govt. to do all this naa... why all this drama... if they won't agree on some issue then expose them by being in govt. .. truth is AK is a big Phattu!!”

This post is not about the competency of AAP or Kejriwal. It's not about who should form the government. It's also not about Sachin's performance. It is about what people, who I will call langurs, think and expect.
The Indian Langur - no patience, no support, only result
 The langurs who are not involved except during their coffee chat discussions in which they pass judgments like veterans of the craft. And frankly, langurs do not really affect the proceedings. However, I still have a hard time grasping the langur's opinion. 

I don’t understand this. First of all, why are they, the langurs, not saying the same things for BJP? After all, BJP does have the highest number of seats. Why is BJP not taking the initiative to form the government? Hasn’t it made promises to people? Is it not supposed to work for the people and care for their well-being? Or have langurs already given up on it thinking – ‘Arey, wo to waise hi harami hain. Unse kya baat karni?’ AAP has not won majority. People have not given it that kind of support. But we seem to say to AAP - 

You have the second most seats as a sign of our support but you should take the initiative to form the government. We also want you to deliver on all your promises immediately. Never mind that the other parties have not done anything for 60 years. I know that your people are novices and these issues are deeply entrenched and not easy to solve. Yet you must do it. Without majority. ASAP. With the other parties providing obstacles in your path. And we don’t want you to be sure of the support that you get from the other parties because that’s their job of opposing you.

So not only does Sachin have an incompetent team, but the other batsmen are actively trying to get him run out. But he must lead India to victory because we langurs can have expectations only from Sachin. There is no hope from the rest so let them indulge. Many greats have failed and given up because of our attitude. It's alright. We will resign ourselves to our fate and go back to our original state.

Training the 'blue-collared' worker

Vocational education has been a poor orphan in our educational system. Only the ones who are deemed as incapable of doing well in our 'regular' education system turn towards vocational education. In the past one year working with Funfirst Global Skilllers, post-Teach For India, I have learnt quite a lot about the current vocational system. A small event happened in my early days at work that gave me hope and the belief that this work is worth it.

A few years ago, Government of India created Modular EmployableSkills (MES) framework with the aim to provide, improve and certify employable skills to school leavers, existing workers, ITI graduates etc. MES courses are demand driven, short term training courses identified in consultation with the industry. While there is a lot to be desired, these MES courses are a good attempt at outcome based vocational course design.

One of the first steps was registering Funfirst as a vocational training partner (VTP) and our Kolhapur site as a Vocational Training Center. Like all government processes in India, it was long and tedious. It took months and was very frustrating. So it was a big deal when we finally got the approval. We decided to start with Electronics 101 and Material Management 101 and chose 20 employees from our plant to be trained. We could start training!

Well, not really. We faced a challenge in the form of the Government web portal for this scheme. Long hours were spent registering our people and then enrolling them according to the planned training calendar. The servers were down most of the time. One of us had to spend the night in office to upload data on the server since it worked best at night. The battle against the portal’s vagaries took many days but we plodded on relentlessly. Finally, one sunny day (or a dark night), our course enrollment was complete. Now, I hoped we could start training!

This was our first time training so all of us were nervous and excited (understandably). Our new trainers spent hours planning their course and many more studying in preparation. After all, this was also their first time in training. Our trainees, who are existing plant workers, showed a lot of enthusiasm and grit, doing their best to balance their education and work at the plant. They regularly took small assessments and exceeded expectations.

All too soon, the course was completed and it was time for the final assessment by a third party assessor. While we were confident about our training we nervously asked our trainees about their performance on the assessment. The wait for the result seemed to last for eternity. One afternoon while checking the portal, as had been the hourly ritual, we noticed that the results had been uploaded and each one of our trainees had passed. We were overjoyed with our first batch.

However, we were not satisfied with just the results. Vocational education has always been short changed in our country and we wanted to find out if our trainees had really derived some benefit from the course. I personally spoke to more than half the students and their feedback was more than a little surprising.

Almost everyone felt that they understood most of their course. Some of them have worked for many years but they had only a superficial or mechanical understanding. For the first time, they realized how things were done. Even in cases when the courses were not immediately related to their field of work, all of them were happy that they gained some more knowledge. It enabled them to ask more questions, submit better reports and take initiative in doing simple tasks which earlier, they relegated to their colleagues and superiors. Couple of them said that they always had an interest in electronics but could never get trained in it. Now they have repaired small appliances in their own homes. All of them are eager to do more such courses in the future.

Drilling techniques in a Mumbai Training
For far too long, the ‘blue-collared’ workers have been marginalized and their careers have stagnated due to lack of advancement opportunities. They are treated as inefficient machines who should not have a career path. Professional development and work satisfaction is not even in the vocabulary. Good quality, sincere training leads to more productivity, efficiency, confidence and satisfaction at work.

And this is just the start. In India, there are many people waiting to have their story taken forward.

This post was originally written by me for Funfirst's blog which can be accessed hereIt has been edited and posted on this blog.