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Shall We Bell The President?

As our apartment residents association goes to poll this week, I cannot but help point out here that our association shares many things with the government of India, chief of which being that our president and vice president too have no real role to perform.

The election in our apartment complex is to pick a secretary, joint secretary, president, vice president, treasurer and 9 other office-bearers as representatives to the 9 residential wings in our premises. If we had been directly under the GoI, we would have had a separate ministry.

But our association, as I said, works pretty much the way GoI does. Let me explain this with the example of a true incident:

Some time back, the Madras High Court gave a verdict declaring our apartment building as illegal. The case itself was straight out of the curriculum of Indian School of Bureaucratic Farce (Motto: “Whatever it is, it should be in triplicate”). The apartment building, situated in one of the mainline locations of Chennai, was deemed illegal because —- this is why judiciary is still our only hope for salvation — it was built on ‘village lands meant for residential purpose’.

Anyway, even as we got to know of the court’s ruling, the residents association quickly swung into action and set up an ad hoc committee (legal), which, for its part, immediately swung into action by calling for an ad hoc meeting (legal).

The meeting, which lasted for four intense hours, during which many members —- some of them top management-level executives in transnational companies — discussed threadbare the court order and came to the conclusion that it was —- this is a straight quote —- ‘full of legalese’.

‘We need a lawyer. They are the persons well versed in all these legal stuff,’ the meeting sagely concluded.

So how to fix the lawyer who can take up the matter at the appropriate forum?  The ad hoc committee pondered over this important question and came to the practical conclusion that a sub-committee of the ad hoc committee needed to be formed. Its job was to shortlist a team of lawyers from which a final one can possibly be picked.

It is at this point, one of the committee members came up with the query, ‘do the association bylaws allow for forming a sub-committee out of an ad hoc committee?’ Every association will have at least one person who turns up at meetings to randomly ask the question do the bylaws allow this or that. Such persons basically needed to be shot. It is not a crime, but a social service. But our namby-pamby government and the bleeding-heart liberals will never allow us to do it.

Anyway, the sub-committee went in search of lawyers. The first advocate said that the best option was to file a separate appeal at the Madras High Court itself.

The second advocate patiently explained that the residents association should implead in the plea that the builder was filing in the Supreme Court.

The third was a legal firm headed by a retired judge, who, bringing in his oodles of experience to the fore, gave the advice, ‘don’t follow the other two advocates’. You must pursue this case outside of the court. You can work these things out with the civic officials, you know, he said, winking his eyes to drive home the euphemism he was trying to convey.

So there were, essentially, three paths in front of us. After weighing in the various pros and cons, we decided to take the fourth route, which was to stay put and do practically nothing.

Seriously, we sat on the matter for a few days. Nothing happened. Days became months. Nothing happened. Months have become years now. Nothing has happened. The ad hoc committee has now withered away because it is not clear as to what it should be ad hoc about any more.

But we residents are only too aware that the government machinery can perk up and initiate some kind of action any time. At that time we know what to do: Yes, we are always on the ready to form an ad hoc committee to help revive the previous ad hoc committee.

Meanwhile, I have a small and simple suggestion to make on the post of the President: Like the State Governors are taken to be the Chancellor of all the State Universities, the President of India should be deemed to the president of all the residents associations in apartment complexes.

By this simple expedience, residents associations can do away with the totally superfluous post of the president. And more importantly, this might actually help us to find some actual work for the President of the country.

I am sure the Constitution will permit that. But I am not certain whether our association bylaws would allow it.


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