It’s hard enough to promote sales on a rainy day, but this hoarding outside my store on Sunday just made me livid.
And what does one do in a situation like this? A political meeting for the health minister (Dr. Anpumani Ramdas) was being held at the hall on the opposite side of the road, and this huge hoarding was completely blocking my store and store sign. This photo below shows what my store usually looks like from the road.
I have to admit I was annoyed that my sales staff who had arrived at the shop nearly two hours before me hadn’t said a word to me. Their thoughts were, “it’s the government so what can we do”? Works well in the government's favour I suppose, that so many people think that way.
It was around 12 noon when I called the Assistant Engineer (AE) at the Corporation office – also opposite my store and right next to the hall where the meeting was held. I had his cell phone number luckily, because it was a Sunday and their office is usually closed. He assured me that in half an hour the hoarding would be taken down. He sounded sympathetic to my situation and agreed it wasn't acceptable for that party to put up hoardings without permission. I chided myself for being so cynical (“see, it’s all good- how helpful he sounded on the phone”).
Half an hour later and no action was taken. I called the AE back and he gave me the phone number of another AE, saying that he was just being nice earlier but that my “zone” did not fall under his jurisdiction. I called up the other AE who also sounded sympathetic and said he would send someone immediately to take it down.
I took a short lunch break and then called him back. This time his tone was different. He said that I should just wait until the meeting got over and that on Monday morning the hoardings would be taken down ("there's a meeting going on today- don't you see?"). All my talk of losing a business day must have bored him because he saved my number and didn’t pick up his phone after that. But not before he gave me the phone number of another Assistant Executive Engineer in the corporation office.
So I contact the third person with some authority to take down those hoardings. The AEE said he would send someone right away. At around 2:30pm, I got a call from my store saying the Junior Engineer (JE) was at my shop and that he would take the hoarding down but he would be doing so at the cost of my shop's safety. Don't think I've heard a direct threat like that before...
I spent another half an hour calling all the Assistant Engineers, the Assistant Executive Engineers and a Zonal Officer. After they stopped picking up my calls I called them from a landline. Finally at 3pm, my shop staff called me to say that all the hoardings were being removed- including the ones down the road. I’ll never know if it was my incessant complaining or if the meeting finally got over when it started raining on Sunday afternoon.
Quick tangent: I tried to call the police station and spoke to someone incredibly polite and helpful. He assured me that something would be done soon and asked me to call back in an hour. When I called back an hour later his shift was over and the next guy hadn’t heard about my complaint. The next guy asked me to come in personally and give a letter in writing which they would show to their superintendent the next day. That would have been pointless though- the political meeting would be over by Monday.
I tried calling the emergency 100 number so that they could direct me to someone who would take action. Little did I know the 100 number doesn’t exist anymore. My cell kept saying “call failed”. I called Just Dial for help, but they tried to re-assure me with “keep trying ma’am, it will surely work”.
I googled it the next day and found that the new emergency number is 108, not 100 in India. Why is this information not easily available to the public? Let me guess: it’s the government so what can we do.