“Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”
European countries are known as social welfare states. It means the State is responsible for providing to all of its citizens work, housing, medical facility and education. Let us talk about a few items only. These are housing, power and water supply.
Anybody living in Holland or in any other European country is provided with housing whether he works or not. If he does not have work, he gets social support which is equivalent to the minimum salary of an employee. In addition, he gets medical assistance and for housing he gets extra support called Toeslag.
In European countries, houses are generally built by government agencies or private companies. But the blue print of the building has to be according to the Master Plan laid down by the government agencies. Residential houses are usually uniform and in a single row. Normally houses are 7x11 meters and the size of the house will be according to the ratio of the members of the family. For a single person, a bed room, drawing and bath room set will be provided. If a couple has one child, it will get two bedroom set. A couple with two kids will get three bedroom set. However, if anybody has higher earning, he can give a proof of his earning and can modify the house according to his choice. Anybody intending to have his own house will have to get space in only such localities as have the type of houses he wants for himself. In any case, houses are built by only such companies as are registered with the government.
The tradition of joint family has broken in modern times. When a boy or a girl is of 18 years of age, he or she can get his name registered in any municipal jurisdiction for having an independent house. Not everybody separates from parents after attaining the age of eighteen. Separation or no separation depends on the nature of relationship between the progeny and the parents. If the children have to study in another city they take a house there or live in hostels.
But invariably a boy or a girl has a private house after marriage. Boys and girls themselves decide about their marriage. Both families join the wedding function. Both families jointly bear the expenses of the wedding feast. Dowry is unknown to them though, of course, parents may offer a ring or some money out of their free will. When a couple is engaged and goes in for a house, their relatives ask them what are their needs to make the house comfortable and they make a presentation of such things as are needed by the newly wed couple. In this way, making of a new house is not any burden on one man. Boy and girl put a ring in the finger of the partner and then either get their marriage registered in the office of marriage bureau or they go to the church to perform marriage ceremony. Since relatives live separately and are not partners in each other’s earning, relationship is usually very warm and smooth. It is different from our system in which parents or parents-in-law are often abused and cursed. Our relationships become so boring that these remain restricted to only two occasions, viz. any marriage feast or condolence on some death.
A house is provided with all necessary facilities like electricity, water, gas and heating system. But one has to pay for these facilities. Meter for water consumption, power consumption and gas consumption is already installed inside the hose. Water and other service bills are charged according to the consumption. People consume water with much care. To conserve power, only such bulb will be on as is needed. It is not like our system that street light is on for the whole day. Everything goes according to an established system. Anybody going out of his room will put off the light. All these services are utilized only according to need.
There is no question of extravagance in any case. There is no sense of comparison or show off or jealousy. We Asians are surprised to find that these people have almost cast aside the sense of jealousy. But of course they encourage competition. Your near and close relative may be a millionaire or a pauper. Nobody pays any attention to it. Everybody is equal before law. If you go to government offices, shops and private outlets, you have to wait for your turn.
Except in case of emergency, one needs to make an appointment with a doctor before hand. If you are charged a hundred Euros per month as electricity fee, your total annual bill will be checked at the end of the year. If it is found that during one year you have not consumed power to the tune of 1200 Euros, the extra charged from you will be refunded. For the next year, you will get the electric bill according to the rate that you have paid in the previous year. Electric power consumption meter will not be checked every month. Only yearly checking will be done and calculations will be made accordingly. Unlike our country, don’t expect a functionary of electric power supply giving you clues of how to pilfer the electric power meter. All electric wires are connected underground with the power grid. Therefore there is no chance of putting a hook on the open transmission line meaning to steal power. Nor do you need to lift the hook early in the morning before you head towards the mosque to offer prayers.
They have made excellent arrangement of keeping homes warm in cold season. One may be poor or rich arrangement is uniform for making homes warm. This system can be either through electricity or through gas. If there is electric heating system, the bill comes along with electricity bill. People cooperate with the municipal committees in the matter of cleanliness. Annual bills have to be paid for cleaning the garbage. People of any denomination, rich or poor, without any discrimination enjoy the right to the use of utility services. In our country votes are demanded on promise of providing electricity and water. Yet we call the Europeans as “kafir” or infidels.
People generally rent houses. Nobody can turn a tenant out unless he himself vacates a house. If you fail to pay rent for three months, the municipal committee will issue a show cause notice. If the reason for default is genuine, it will help you in making payment in installments. Otherwise, the defaulter will be dragged to a court of law. Those who buy their own houses, incur two kinds of loans from the bank. One is to pay monthly rent on the principal amount of loan. But the amount of loan remains in tact. The house buyer is in happy condition only if the price of the house increases. He may sell the house to the owner and then liquidate the bank loan, retaining the amount of profit for himself. This can be a risky deal. Prices of residential houses may fall. People with good income distribute bank loans into two parts. They pay the monthly interest and also the amount of the loan in installments. That is why mostly people live in rented houses or pay the full cost of the house.
Indians and Pakistanis who have black money, credit it to the account of a relative or a friend in Dubai or in some other country and then ask him to remit it to their own account as loan. In this way they pay half of the cost of the house. Even if a house is on rent, property tax bill comes every year. A tenant has to pay only half of the tax the other half is paid by the company.
People consider Europe full of means. But adopt the escape route by saying that we are poor and unable to have as many means. Actually it is a matter of discipline. Do you utilize means in accordance with a clear cut plan or not? Do you make the law before which all are equals? Do you intend to eradicate corruption in society.
Farooq Abdullah has been living in Europe for many years. Omar was born in Europe. But neither of the two have lea rant anything from European system. They have not tried to understand the social system of Europe. They did not try to change any of the departments even to the nadir of one per cent. During 20 or 25 years of power in J&K, they have not been able to change the transport system in the State. Their party men have grabbed lands illegally. We wish they had changed the transport and educational system so that people would say some change has taken place. Leave aside improvement of housing, power, water supply and gas. The leadership befools masses of people in the name of water, roads and schools. They asked votes in 2008 elections for water and roads. But even today seven years later, our sisters and mothers carry pitchers of fresh water on their heads and cover a distance of two to three kilometers to fetch in home.
Yesterday as I was readying to visit the doctor, my son gave me fresh information about the new ticket system for bus commuters. He told me about the bus number. He also handed me a plastic card. A few minutes later I boarded the bus and displayed the plastic card in front of a computer screen. The screen showed the sign of Happy Journey. Inside the bus there was no feeling of cold and frost. It was pleasantly warm. The name of the bus stop is announced just seconds before the bus arrives at a station. Anybody desiring to get down at a particular stop presses the button and the bus stops. Before getting down you again display the plastic card before the screen which gives you the amount of fare. So you pay only for the length of the travel you have made. There is no conductor to yell at you and there is nothing of noise like stop or go. The driver drives the bus and stops the bus when a button is pressed at a station. He opens or closes the door by pressing a button on his right side. There is no question of a bus getting delayed. But if there is any fault, regular announcement is made on the bus stops from the computer screened put up there. There will not be a single commuter more than the prescribed number of commuters for the bus.
Compare this with the bus system in our country. Only after returning from Europe, one understands the epithet that “man is the best creation of God”. In India and in J&K, human beings are treated like cattle. If we are to have anything to do with the police or administration, they turn human beings into stray dogs. If dogs are treated badly, at least there is Menka Gandhi to protest against it. But there is none like her to protest against bestial treatment with human beings.
New government is in the making in J&K. One would like to know if it has any programme of infusing a sense of change by changing the system of buses and bus stops. Here are some suggestions:
- Have a bus stop after every one kilometer. A bus should not stop at any place other than the indicated bus stop. In case of violation heavy fine should be imposed on the bus driver.
- All buses aged more than 25 years should be scrapped. This rule exists but is not implemented just because the bus owners are police officers or politicians or the henchmen of political bigwigs.
- The transport department should not be allowed to become beneficial for the traffic police. Not only the general public but even some of the disgruntled functionaries of the traffic department openly say that they are helpless because they are obliged to grease the palms of high ups in the department failing which they have to suffer their wrath.
I forgot to mention one particular thing. In European countries, VIPs usually travel in buses. The reason is that on highways there is always great rush and jam. But the bus runs on the specific track that is reserved for it on which ambulances and police vehicle also ply. People prefer to travel by buses and trains because travelling by cars is expensive. Buses and trains are more comfort giving and keep strictly to the time schedule.
This article was published in various Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri newspapers.