Archive for January 2013


Can lessons learnt from Ram Chand’s humble philosophy on good landscaping prevent rapes in India?

A female physiotherapy intern was beaten and gang raped in Delhi on 16 December 2012, and dies thirteen days later while undergoing emergency treatment in Singapore for brain and gastrointestinal damage from the assault.

This incident has shocked India like none earlier. People from across the width and breadth of country came out on the streets demanding justice for the victim. The newspapers and TV channels till date are full of views and counterviews from all and sundry on how the rape could have been prevented had this or that action was implemented. Predictably, inefficient policing, soft punishment to criminals and slow judicial process were at the butt of all criticism.

Dear readers you may be wondering who is (or was) Ram Chand and what his philosophy has to do with rapes. Ram Chand was no philosopher but an under paid old gardener (mali) reporting to humble self at milk plant Bhatinda, a non-descript town in Punjab, way back in 1982. Ram Chand had nothing whatsoever to do with rapes as well. So what’s the point? To see the connection I’ll have to take you down my memory lane.

I had recently joined Milkfed at Milk Plant Bhatinda as a freshly trained quality control manager by NDDB. By virtue of my being a post graduate in Agriculture also I was given an additional charge as FDO (Fodder Development Officer), responsible for development of fodder crops / seeds in four districts of Western Punjab. Along with FDO came further responsibility of maintaining landscaping of 30 odd acre Milk Plant premises. Ram Chand was one of the 10 malis I had in my landscaping team. Though the landscaping job entailed very little time, energy and effort on my part and was on sort of auto mode, I found this work most satisfying and relaxing. It was this job, courtesy Ram Chand that gave me one of two most precious lessons I learnt during those four tough years in Punjab when Khalistani terrorists had a field day every day.

One fine day I was on the fortnightly inspection round when I found that grass was profusely coming out of one inch gaps in prefabricated concrete slab payment that connected General Manager’s residence within the milk plant with his office some 200 yards away. As both sides of the payment had well-trimmed Japanese grass, this unplanned profusion gave a very ugly look to landscape. I got very angry and summoned Ram Chand who was responsible for this section to my office. I must confess that on that day I was extremely angry and nasty at the old man. More so considering the fact that Ram Chand was the most diligent and punctual of all the gardeners.

Ram Chand kept hearing my shouts and staring at me stubbornly for a minute and then suddenly exploded. “Why you don’t you reprimand Ashok who is always inside GM’s house washing utensils and doing errands for GM’s wife.” “Who is Ashok? “We don’t have a mali named Ashok”. “And what that Ashok has to do with your negligence”, I shouted back. Ram Chand mellowed down a bit and retorted that Ashok is a sweeper who is responsible for cleaning the payment.

As it happened, the leaves of grass from Ramchand’s lawn mowing exercise on both side of the payment occasionally got swept away to non-concrete groves which remained un-cleaned for a considerable period. Grass started sprouting between the non-concrete gaps from those small un-cleaned shoots that settle in between the gaps.

“I will be only compromising my job Chopra Sahib if I waste my time in removing grass from these gaps also but the problem shall always remain as such if the stretch is not swept regularly”, was Ram Chand’s cool explanation.
A sudden reality dawned on me. That was my first exposure to value of Quality Assurance over Quality Control. Essence of zero defect concept. One need to identify the cause of an error and correct same before it blows up into a problem. Doing a right thing at the right place and right time always goes a long way in producing right processes or products rather than choosing best products or processes from a host of mediocre and substandard ones after running them through a long drill of quality controls.

Superimposing this incident with one that happened on 16th Dec 2012 one can draw many parallels. One needs to thoroughly understand why ghastly rapes (grass sprouting within gaps) happens and nip the causes (sweep the payment) regularly to prevent the crime rather than asking for more and better police and judiciary (cleaning the gaps).

One need to fully comprehend what prompts apparently rational people (why men only?) go into that momentary lapse of reason and rape another individual? I know the answers are not easy to find but not impossible either. But one thing is surely certain – more and better policing / judiciary / strict punishment are not definitive answers. You can’t practically post policemen for each and every male (potential rapist) or female (potential victim) across the country. Perhaps, we need to take help from anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, biology and other disciplines to map the reasons and correct them at the right place and time to prevent future rapes.

May Ram Chand’s soul rest in peace?

P.S.: Ram Chand, unmarried, died of cardiac arrest at 60 before I moved to New Delhi in 1987.