July 2017 Thinking practice – thoughts on everything & nothing – Regularly updated

30th July 2017

Ghaktopar building collapse : No guidance on how to prevent a recurrence

A four storey building collapsed in Ghatkopar, Mumbai on 25th July. 17 people lost their lives. Dangerous renovation that tampered with the structural foundation was the cause. The person who initated this work brushed aside any objections of residents because he was politically connected.

The sad part about the coverage is that not enough focus is seen in informing people how to handle similar situations in the future.

Two questions.

Where do we complain if we think somebody is going about building repairs unmindful of structural safety?

What is to be done if we want to check the safety of our building?

No starting answers available in this information age. From reading, what I understood is that every five years, a structural engineer should be roped in to audit an old building. Checked the BMC website. Why can’t it be responsive to what is happening, unearth critical information as guidance for citizens and share it as a pop-up? An FAQ feature would have been great. Where do citizens go to search for a structural engineer? Surely, the BMC can provide a list. The cynics would say such ‘certified’ engineers who be the ones who would help residents ‘manage’ the approvals. And if that could be the case, this apprehension should be tackled. But first, people should speak about it.

Sadly, few people even think about galvanizing people around to demand that public authorities do better. Check out the BMC website and the link on disaster management. It is laughable. We go through a man-made tragedy and do not probe it as an alert citizenry. We deserve the public representatives we bemoan. They come from our ranks.

 

25th July, 2017

Prisoners retain an ethical code

The Bombay High court has pulled up jail authorities for trying to pass off an inmate’s death as an accident. A government hospital doctor played a part by not mentioning any “obvious external injury” in the provisional death certificate. The whole episode could have been swept under the carpet. That it did not happen was because the jail inmates ran riot over the issue. In a subsequent post-mortem report, several injuries were noted on the body of the inmate. They hold out the strong possibility of murder having been committed by people in positions of authority.

Abuse of power is one way to see the story. Another way is to reflect how prisoners or jail inmates continue to retain an ethical code. These people are in prison for crimes and wrong-doings. And yet, when something like this takes place, their sense of right and wrong kicks in. They still believe in an ethical code; a code that informs what is acceptable and what is not in a civil society. This moral outrage, provided it is not accompanied by extreme violence, offers a glimmer of hope. Hardened criminals become indifferent and amoral. They would not have found anything amiss in the inmate’s death; might is right – being their motto. That this has not happened in Byculla jail gives hope but should also instill responsibility. Key question- Do we manage prisons in a way that retains an ethical code & preserves a sense of justice? Clearly, the death of this inmate suggests otherwise.

A tennis player speaks about easy money without trying too hard

Australian tennis player, Bernard Tomic was fined and lost his sponsorship after he spoke about being ‘bored’ during his Wimbledon defeat. In an interview, he admitted to not having given 100 percent all the time. His words – ” ..if you balance it out, I think all my career’s been around 50 percent and I haven’t really tried and I’ve achieved all this..I never loved tennis. I am just going to go about it as a job..Wouldn’t anyone want to take a job in a professional sport in one of the biggest sports in the world and only give 50, 60 percent and earn millions of dollars? I think everybody would take that”

Tomic’s comments have sparked strong reactions. As a society, we like to showcase 100% commitment. The underlying assumption is that positive results come only with 100% commitment. Is that the case all round? We do see people who don’t give 100% and yet are earning big money. And there are operations people who always need to give 100% and earn less because what they are doing is supposedly routine. Then there are sectors that are booming or business cycles that are on the upswing. People who have got their timing right are making hay while the sun shines. They don’t not need to love their work either. People will feel outrage about the possibility of a tennis player earning so much after doing so little and with such an attitude to boot. They will not feel the same about their work world.

Driverless cars in India : Should we disallow them to preserve jobs?

Our road transport & highways minister had this to say about driverless cars, ” We won’t allow driverless cars in India. I am very clear on this. We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs. In a country where you have unemployment, you can’t have a technology that ends up taking people’s jobs” There are 22 lakh commercial drivers in India at present. By opening 100 driver training institutes, the government plans to provide jobs to 5 lakh people over the next 5 years.

By the power of legislation, can we stop the use of technology? This ceases to be a theoretical question when we broaden our awareness. Is it about just taking people’s jobs? What about road-safety? What about people’s lives? It could well be that the technology proves itself capable of radically improving safety in transport by preventing 99% of accidents. What does one do then? It could well be that driverless cars can be seamlessly integrated into a traffic management system that automates traffic directions or diversions and smoothens traffic flow precisely because humans are not involved. What about the precious time people might save in driverless cars, time that they can utilize for whatever they deem fit? This can be an opportunity to think , ” We are delaying the inevitable. Can we begin right away to restructure the sector. Can we define our objectives in a way that makes fulfilling a social need (providing for jobs) become somebody else’s business or social opportunity? ” As Peter Drucker said – Every unmet social need is a business opportunity in disguise.

 

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