Tolerance vs Intolerance in Governance

Commander VK Jaitly

During last couple of years, there has been a lot of debate on being tolerant or intolerant. In fact, suddenly many unknown or hardly known literary personalities returned their awards in the name of intolerance in the country. Somehow, media tried to create an impression that India had suddenly become intolerant.

I am of the view that Indians by and large are highly tolerant towards everything. We sacrifice our own comfort and our own health and wealth to appear to be tolerant. We wish to appear to be goody goody all the time, every time and everywhere. In fact, we go to the extent of tolerating our enemies also. We even tolerate the anti-social elements also who damage the beautiful fabric of the society and humanity at large. In fact, I see the trait of being so much tolerant as a problem. Exceptions are always there.

Despite India getting independence almost 70 years back, we continue to lag behind in the world on many parameters due to our tolerant attitude towards a lot many maladies, our society is afflicted with. Our leadership not only tolerated the inefficient bureaucracy but became totally dependent on them and their whims and fancies. On the other hand, the bureaucrats tolerated even the most corrupt, self-centred and family centred political leadership.

This mutual tolerance towards each other became the bane of Indian Governance. And when the senior lot lived in a compromising, cosy comfort zone, the officials in the lower rung of administration had a field day. It was breakdown of the governance. Who was the ultimate sufferer? The mute spectator, the public, the nation. The common man suffered but after hundreds of years of slavery, they had also become tolerant to injustice meted out to them.

Is there any one area of public administration or governance that we can be proud of? The lack lustre performance of our ministries, PSUs, state governments, municipalities and to the panchayat level, we had deep rooted corruption. The public welfare was the last priority. Even Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had to openly acknowledge that only 10 paisa reached the poor for the designated project out of 100 paisa allocated by the central government. Even the honest people at various levels of administration kept on tolerating all this.

There had always been some sparks of intolerance in various places across India by some stalwarts or by some very common people. But their efforts were localised and created a difference only within some limited radius for a limited time till they held the reins of the operation. Many of the readers of this mini article may be reminded of some efforts they made at some stage of their life to make a difference.

I am reminded of my first day at my office at RK Puram in 1997. This was my first tenure at Delhi as a Deputy Director in one of the Defence Department where 95% employees were civilian staff and hardly 5% were uniformed defence officers. By now I had spent about 18 years in the Indian Navy and was very proud of our spick and span Naval Establishments and shining ships.

But the office at Delhi was a totally different picture. There were cobwebs all around, wires hanging here and there, files full of dust scattered all over and even on top of the cupboards. The chairs and tables seemed to be of pre-independence era and could twist in any direction by around 20 degrees due to lose nails at all the joints. I was shocked to see such dilapidated condition of my office that I had just joined.

When I discussed this with my other colleagues and my immediate boss, the simple reply was; ‘Relax. You do your job. This is Delhi. You will also get used to it very soon.’ But my inner conscience was intolerant to all this. At the end of very first weekly HOD’s meeting, the boss asked the customary question: ‘Any doubts or any issues.’ All the other HODs nodded in the negative way.

I raised my hand. ‘Sir, I wish to highlight an important issue.’ By this time, I had already seen plenty of dust in Director’s room near the window AC and a few cobwebs too. I just wiped the area near AC with my fingers and showed the plenty of dust to Director and said: ‘Sir, if this is the state of the Director’s office, what will be the condition of the remaining office area.’

My Director didn’t know where to look at. To cut the narration short, I was given additional charge of DD (Admin). I immediately gathered all the staff and requested for their cooperation and they agreed to clean their own table and chair daily and I got hold of the area sanitary inspector and within two months, the office was absolutely neat and clean. Old files had been burnt. New furniture was in place and the full office was nicely painted and for the first time Diwali was celebrated at our office in a big way. The culture of the office had changed. People even started coming to the office in time and people were happy with the working conditions and obviously productivity increased. My boss too was very happy. I feel even the self-esteem of all our employees would have gone up.

Same staff, same people, same office, same supporting staff. I just became intolerant to the dilapidated prevailing conditions. I refused to accept the logic given by my colleagues: ‘You will get used to all this.’

Let us become intolerant to all the non-sense that goes all around us. Let us be intolerant to poverty, hunger, lawlessness and indiscipline in the society. Let us be intolerant to the dirty lanes and by lanes in the vicinity of our offices and residences. Let us be intolerant to the mosquito breeding heaps of garbage and puddles of water anywhere and where. Let us become intolerant to the diseases like malaria, chikungunya and dengue that takes a large number of lives every year. Imagine the human loss and the economic loss to the country with thousands of people spending weeks and months in hospitals fighting against these diseases instead of working in the fields or factories .

Let us not tolerate any more what is not good for our society, our nation and the humanity at large. Let us wake up and use the intellect God has given us to find the difference between what is Good and what is Bad. Let us not tolerate inefficiency and indiscipline from our employees. Let us not tolerate those who damage the public property just to express their intolerance to a cause or a belief. Let us not tolerate people who keep talking about their Rights only and have no regard for their Duties. Let us not continue to tolerate the dictats of the political or the religious leadership that divides this world on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Let us all become intolerant to these enemies of the society and humanity and make efforts to stop their evil designs.

Albert Einstein beautifully remarked:

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people
who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”