Thursday, May 5, 2011

An enforced TIME OUT or Recovery from atrocity coming to an end

These past few months have been life changing, difficult and frustrating and I do see some light at the end of the tunnel as the physical healing process is noticeable . The lack of transport to go places and get things done has also meant a big financial loss to me in the agricultural field as well, and something I had not expected or bargained for.

The insurance proceeds for the loss of the vehicle finally came through nearly 3 months after the accident from my insurer, but that hardly provides 50% of the funds necessary to purchase an alternative vehicle leaving me in quite a quandary as to what to do. I will not be able to drive for a further three months rendering a further question of how to get along till that time.

I use the tuk tuk mode of transport, to take the dogs to the vet, go to the bank and the basic shopping. I have been unable to go to outside physio, being on the farm, these past few weeks. When I go to Colombo in a few days, I will have to recommence that, by either home visits or rely on some transport from family to get to the hospital for such therapy.

In the meantime, it is the IPL (Indian Premier League Twenty20 Cricket) on the local channels, as I don’t have cable to keep me occupied in the evenings and sorting out other matters during the day.

There was the Royal Wedding too, on my birthday, which surprise surprise was telecast live on Rupavahini, the main state Channel. Otherwise I would not have been able to watch as the aerial I have does not allow other channels on my set. Of course I reminisced as I was in the Mall that day 30 years ago when the grooms parents were wed and saw similar outpourings of joy and laughter. I was working in London at the time and living not too far away from the proceedings of the wedding, though the service itself was near my workplace at St Pauls Cathedral.

It is noteworthy to point out that I had made some payments some years back on some EPF/ETF contributions based on an totally unfair assessment which insisted that I have a domestic on EPF when no one in Colombo does. Now having made all the payments and penalties, they are now hassling me for the same amount saying they have not received the same. We therefore have to go and dig out check stubs and obtain copies of the cheques from the banks in order to prove that the payments were made, as there must have been some form of misappropriation of funds at the department, which they are not able to get to the bottom of. If this is one incident, I dread to think how much money has been misappropriated by those responsible in safeguarding the workers contributions of the country’s citizenry.

The forthcoming Pensions Bill therefore will again be full of anomalies, where in the end the onus will be on the employee to prove their contributions, which is really a very impractical request. In this day and age of computers it should be a matter of just logging into the database to find out one’s contribution at any moment in time, with no problem.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When the cat is away the mice are fighting

I am both immobile as far as walking is concerned and without transport, so I have had to manage the two properties in Polonnaruwa by remote control and have had to face an untold amount of issues. I decided that as it was impossible to manage the staff to allow them to do the cultivation of paddy, that task was dropped and the land given to others to farm for a rent, usually payable in paddy.

Then I had to deal with one member of staff (in a drunken state) who had hit another in the adjoining property owned by my sister. I told the recipient of the blows to make a police report, as I was concerned there would be a repeat of the incident. The Minneriya Police refused to take the statement at first, as they are also resource constrained and each of these incidents have to be investigated. (This is an indication of the ground realities in Sri Lanka where there are so many disputes in villages of this nature and the Police are stretched in being able to investigate them, and so their initial inclination is to refuse to take on board any but the most grave incidents. My name had to be mentioned in order that they agree to take the statement. (Hand written in a large book – no computers yet in the SL Police)

When the investigating officers arrived the next day to speak to the accused, on my property he had evaded the Police, much to my annoyance as this causes further problems for me also. He was then asked to show at the Police the following morning where the accuser was also asked to be present, which he failed to attend, thereby mounting his and my problems.

This staff control and management has already been referred to on numorous occasions and I have yet to come up with suitable solutions to this perennial problem. Staff require ever increasing benefits, not reciprocated by reliable and conscientious performance. I believe the core of the dispute was also to do with one person being honest and the other deceitful, with the latter being shown up by lack of performance and the former unable to take the shame resorting to a lowdown brawl. Why not fire him you may ask, but replacements are also a rare commodity in such parts.

It is important to appreciate how difficult or impossible it is to manage an agricultural enterprise in Sri Lanka by remote control, and in order to effectively perform this productively one needs a much larger investment in Land and Manpower as well as a superior quality of the human capital.