Secretary Notes on Outstanding Issues
Dear Friends, Greetings. Hope you had a great Diwali. Sorry for a long read below, please indulge me.
There is one particular individual who is carrying out a systemic propaganda against all the residents of this township, through trolling and shadow boxing using classic sockpuppet tactics, the beneficiary of which are some who have always profited from our disunity.
The individual was requested multiple times to attend our public meetings, raise those questions in public and participate in our debates. However, they never chose to give us the pleasure of their participation which makes their agenda highly suspect. The invitation nevertheless remains open despite their feeble excuses.
They are clearly driven by motivations that may possibly have nothing to do with public welfare of us, house-owners. They have inflated sense of self-importance and think everybody owes them explanations, including the sub divisional magistrate and of course, the Association office bearers – typical Troll attitude. This individual seeks the power and authority of some governor to whom all of us must report to, but will not move even a pin, merely question. I never wanted to accord their questioning any dignity by replying directly, but I have been asked to represent the majority and make some things very clear. I am sorry for not being very polite, but I am peeved at the ‘no-work but criticise’ smart-aleck and the message has to be firmly conveyed. Our tolerance of dissent should not be misconstrued as a sign for permission to disrespect others, sow discord and create endless problems unnecessarily in addition to whatever burdens we already have.
Questioning – Rights and Duties
Everybody has the right to ask questions. However, one should not misuse that right to disrupt any project – it has to be balanced with contributions. (1) Participate, Contribute and Question. (2) Participate, Contribute and Question. (3) Participate, Contribute and Question. Can’t stress this enough. Hope that individual gets it? First, PARTICIPATE. The right to question is justified by its intentions, e.g., to get clarity and resolve issues. The questioning must follow established conventions, like asking for a turn in a public meeting. Argumentative questions merely for the sake of asking them should rightly be frowned upon by the collective. The questions may appear fair to some, but they don’t solve problems, merely create new ones. In the philosophy of Democracy, Cornelius Castoriadis notes that “the practice of incessant questioning prioritises the power of question over the activity of creating / instituting as well as over that created. Creativity and creation are thus subordinated to the power of questioning.” And concludes that when questioning is given primacy, no work will ever get done. We cannot let one person or a few to hijack the entire agenda of all house-owners through incessant questioning to the point of paralysis. Questions are contagious. Spreading FUD through questions is easy. Countering these questions require much effort and energy than asking them.
We are volunteers accepted by the community at large, not paid managers, nor elected to some public office like the Municipality. The idea of an association is for all of us to come together cooperate and resolve common problems in a civil, collaborative way. The office bearers have volunteered to work for common good. Asking questions of them is welcome, but one has to participate in the entire process, share ideas, and contribute effort, time or money before one acquires the right to question others. In short, I am your peer, neighbour and co-township-houseowner, I will cooperate with you, but I am not under anybody’s authority. We are not servants of each other, but equals. Every House, One Vote is our principle. Ask, but do not make questions your only contribution to the community.
The individual has not contributed to the fund for resolution of the ongoing STP crisis. He/She is however, discharging sewage to the common sewage system. Every single day, we spend tens of thousands of money to remove this sewage by sewage transport vehicle to the Cuddalore Sewage Treatment Plant. Others contribute this money. What decent person will live off the money of others?
3. The person in question is dishonestly and shamelessly taking advantage of other’s decency and removing his or her own faeces and domestic sewage on other’s hard-earned money, no matter how little. Before they ascend their toilet throne and assume such a high intellectual ground to pontificate, they should first pay their own dues and share in the monetary cost. They will then earn their right to ask accountability from others.
As I see it, right now, you and I are paying to remove this individual’s excrement, but I am under no obligation to listen to their other verbal diarrhoea masquerading as logic. On top of it all, they assume such an attitude of smug snobbishness and self-importance that it is impossible to engage them in decent conversation – I tried once, never again. They think their English will bedazzle and impress everybody, but still, their sewage stinks as everybody else’s and they should pay their dues to get it removed.
The arguments raised by that individual are classic ‘FUD’ tactics. That is spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, resulting in disharmony among all of us, already a number of discordant views are aired. If he/she really wanted answers to genuine questions, we would be most happy to provide. The condition in all decent society is however, to wait your turn, ask nicely, politely and with genuine interest and use the answers to solve problems. Indulging in rhetoric of confrontation using prejudicial language, under the guise of questioning can be tolerated only to a certain extent. Cease and desist please.
Rs. 15,000/House – Decision Factors, Justification
How was Rs. 15000/house arrived at had already been explained adequately, I will strive to explain again. In our initial communications, we had indicated that the budget of the STP project should ideally be around 30 Lakhs since the proposals that we received are in the range of 30 to 40 lakhs. At some point, we will have to negotiate a final estimate with the builder. We cannot reveal that we are prepared to pay 30 lakhs, we might even negotiate for lower. Now, if 30 Lakhs is our estimated budget, we will have to factor in a comfortable margin for contingencies and overheads. We cannot go on a fund raising campaign again if the project cost exceeds estimations. Principles of project management always advises to hold 20% of the total estimate as reserves while budgeting = 6 Lakhs. In total, our target for fund raising is 36 Lakhs.
In any fund raising, exceptionally decent people will be the initial responders who will be about 20%-30% of any given population. The next 20% will wait to see if others are contribution before they commit their own payment. This first 50% is somewhat easy to collect. As we progress from this 50%, at every further 10%, we will encounter increasing levels of resistance, transitioning from passive to active. By any conservative estimate, only 60% of the population will contribute, it will take extreme levels of patience, effort and convincing to raise the remaining 40%. At the end, we can never expect above 80% to contribute. The factors are many. A huge and significate number of houses are locked and/or the owners uncontactable. Many houses are unfinished.
Only imbeciles will assume that we will be raise the entire amount. To arrive at the sum to be calculated, we need to factor in the following:
• Capability to pay
• Comfort Amount (A emotionally justifiable amount )
• Maximum Amount that Maximum Number of People will Pay
• Amount that will yield the quickest 50% of the total sum (we don’t have time)
The sum of Rs. 15000 was arrived from the above considerations. Many have already paid 2000 Rs. If we lower the 15k to 10k, we might need 360 to 400 houses to pay, which is close to impossible, given that there are less than 350 inhabited houses.
At 15k, we will need 240 to 260 houses to pay which is conservatively and pragmatically possible.
Hope this explains the 15k. Even if we, by some magic, overshoot our collection target and collect as per some idiotic estimate, 52.50 Lakhs, we can decide what to do with the excess amount later : either refund the reminder, or place it into a corpus fund.
Being a voluntary body, if you need some information, please come to the office and help yourself to it. Please let go of this mentality of asking others to do the effort that you yourself are not willing/incapable of doing. E.g: Give me comprehensive report of this and that: Who has the time to create that report? I don’t. If you want, do it yourself. Transparency means all data is available to everybody equally – no secrets, but not necessary that we will have to bring it out in platters to your tea desk, please.
General Body Meeting
Coming to the second issue: General Body Meeting.
We are not averse to a GB meeting. In fact, it has been our very first resolutions that any amount above 10 lakhs has to be resolved at a GB meeting. Calling a GB before we have reached 50% of the estimate would be premature. We will not have the necessary funds to start the project and there is no point in trying to select a builder, having failed to secure funds first. Please have patience, don’t rush to conclusions that insinuate that we have something to hide. We simply have more work to do before calling a GB.
We will try to complete the fund raising by 5th November, get pollution board shortlist and convene the General Body Meeting on 5th November to finalise the Builder. Every Owner will have a chance to participate in the decision making process.
We have four proposals so far. Before the Pollution Board technically assesses them and evaluates their suitability for us, we don’t want them to be placed in public for the simple reason: these are treated as kind of closed tenders, we don’t want endless discussions on them before the Pollution Board does nor do we want these builders to know where exactly they stand and try to influence members/pollution board, etc. Once the pollution board passes them, we will share them with you and we can decide at the GB. Again, please don’t keep asking for stuff on WhatsApp, ask your street representatives and have a productive conversation with them. Argumentative questions only tend to irritate those who are working. The cacophony is distracting us from our one singular mission at this point in time: collect funds, choose builder, do the regularisation of the layout.
Third Issue: Payment in instalments, Accounts, etc.
Frankly, I do not have the time to go on indefinite rounds of fund raising, I can’t expect others to do so. If anybody proposes this idea, we invite them to be the lead fund raiser, implement their idea of staggered payments and go around collecting them. Giving ideas from an armchair is easy, as long as they are not the ones going out of their comfort zones and doing field work.
We are volunteers and we can only devote some time to this collective effort. Keeping track of single STP payments, itself is a big job. If you break it down it down to instalments, we might have to employ a nice number of collectors. Neither practical nor ideal.
We are still compiling and reconciling Bank Transfers, etc. We do not have manpower to do auditing to see who has so far paid maintenance and who has not – it is frankly not our priority right now. If you want to know that fact, walk up to the maintenance office and please do the audition yourself. We are not trying to hide anything, we just don’t have time to do everybody’s idea of transparency. If you want any data, collect it from all the receipts and documents in the office yourself. Don’t talk about rights to data right now, we will set up automated online reports later. For now, it is only STP and Regularisation work.
Please do not just keep questioning and criticising every decision and work we undertake. Frankly, it is so demotivating, exasperating and draining us of our drive and energy. I am already asking myself why I impulsively jumped into this damn business. Now that I have committed, I want to see this through, come what may. One Troll is taking a huge toll on collective morale. We need to take a breath, place our belief in the executive member group of 40 and encourage all to participate and contribute.
Take up Issues, Don’t just give Ideas!
All other Issues like Accounts, Association Registration, Bylaws, Bathroom Cleaning, Shrub Clearing, Snakes, Security, roads, broken down boundary walls, maids registration & ID card, Car stickers, entry control and scrutiny, and what not.
We are quite aware that there is a multitude of issues facing us – from reforming duties of maintenance staff to avenue trees pruning. However, the one pertinent, urgent and most pressing issue of them all is the STP cum Regularisation Issue. We want to concentrate on this two for the time being. If anybody wants to tackle other issues, do not merely question us on it, come on and take up whatever task or issue you fancy and do it please. You are most welcome. Don’t just ask questions and expect us to run and do it.
Have an Idea? Do it yourself. Can’t do it alone, pitch it to others and form a team. Great example: Group of our ladies hit upon the idea of leasing a sewage transport truck instead of paying for each trip. They did not just throw the idea for somebody else to execute, they took it upon themselves to look for licensed sewage transport vehicles for lease until we resolve the STP issue. That is the spirit of initiative and logical conclusion of an Idea.
For heck’s sake, don’t go preaching on and on and on about what should be done and how it should be done. Pitch in and do it.
I am paying, I demand…
Lastly, let me on behalf of every house owner make this clear: You are NOT paying Us – there is no Us, it is only We, Ourselves. You are contributing your own fund TO PROTECT YOUR OWN STANDARD OF LIVING. Do not think you are doing anybody a favour by contributing. If you do not want to contribute, we won’t force you to, we understand that a very small proportion of people are incapable of being decent enough to be responsible citizens and will find some excuse. One way is to raise incessant number of questions on motivations of others (ie, poisoning the well) that are clearly only an attempt to avoid paying and shamelessly hiding one’s own dishonesty. Another is to resort to whataboutery and throwing muck in the room and escaping in the resulting chaos. We will not lower our standards of decency and will only use principles of Satyagraha and Moral responsibility to gently but firmly coerce them to contribute their due. Every house will contribute to the STP, now or at some point in time.
Phew, I am emotionally drained now. I am afraid I might have offended some, I sincerely seek apologies for few harsh words. I hope you will understand where I am coming from.
I must place my deepest appreciation for all the support we are receiving. We will try to fulfil the huge expectations of the community but we are not infallible, unless you support us. Let us all recommit to the task at hand: The damn STP.