Education#x Chapter 7 – Finance

Rural Development Through Educational System – A Report

Chapter 7
Finance

Contents

Finance
The Budget for RTES Project
Salary Scales
Accounts
Pricing
Social Problems and Their Financial Implications
Bank Accounts
The Bouncing Cheques
Computer and Accounts
Funding
Hire of Equipment
Renting of Facilities
New Enterprises
Purchases
Thefts


Finance

The financial aspects of most schemes are often the most important, yet the least discussed. A very good idea may cost so much that it may not be feasible.

A very desirable service like health care may be planned in such an overambitious style that it may not be affordable. Because of the high costs of estimates, many good schemes do not take off from the ground. It is therefore necessary to have a modest budget demand, so that the scheme can be implemented and then the scope be enlarged as more funds become available. More funds do become available when the scheme is seen to be effective, relative to the costs incurred.

A modest budget does not imply only a small amount. A scheme of ultramodern hospital facilities for all villages may be a scheme of unaffordable dimensions. The budget for such a scheme can be pruned by restricting the scope of implementation. We may say that the scheme, to start with will be implemented only in a few villages. In spite of the smaller budget demand, such a scheme may still not be acceptable, because the “value for money” spent is not good enough. So what we need to consider in a new scheme is “How much will it cost, if it is to be implemented all over India?” If a scheme is affordable when the costs are extrapolated to its final stage, then it should be considered from other points of view. Those proposals which are too expensive for all-India implementation can only be considered as experimental schemes, intended for development studies.

The Budget for RTES Project

The project “Rural Technology through Educational System” was funded jointly by CAPART and Ministry of HRD for four years for implementation in three school with a total intake capacity of 240 students each, in VIII, IX and X Std.

It is our claim and belief, that this proposal for a new scheme of education, aimed at not only a relevant, effective and community oriented education, but also towards rural development through the education system, is financially viable and will deliver good value for money. This conclusion can be drawn from the results obtained as seen from the approved budget and actual expenditure, and the general system and philosophy of operation. This can beseen from the budget figures for the 4 year RTES program, implemented in 3 schools from October 1988 to September 1992. It is to be noted that this proposal was drafted and submitted in early 1987. Yet at the end of the project, in 1992 the expenditure was substantially less than in the budget.

The relevant figures form the original proposal are reproduced below.

Approved Budget of RTES Project. (Amount in Rs)

Head/ Year

1

2

3

4

Salaries & Services

1,44,000

1,58,400

17,424

1,91,664

Materials & Supplies

36,000

39,600

43,560

47,916

Travel & Transport

6,000

6,600

7,260

7986

Contingency

5,000

5,500

6,050

6,650

Equipment

2,00,000

nil

nil

nil

Overheads 3%

11,730

6,303

6,933

7,627

Total

4,02,730

2,16,403

2,38,043

2,61,843

The above budget includes salaries of two lecturers for traveling between these three and other schools for coordination. If this is excluded, the cost in the final year, with 10% increase allowed every year, is as follows.

Capacity

  • Formal students 240 students each year.
  • Max. formal students 720
  • Non-formal students 60 each year.
  • Cost at full capacity: capital cost per student intake Rs. 667
  • Recurring cost/student/year Rs. 287
  • Recurring per student enrolled Rs. 745

It this system is to be extended to 50,000 secondary schools, with 3 million students, all over India, the recurring cost per student intake, will be Rs 745 x 3 million or Rs. 223 crores. The capital cost for equipment will be approx. 200 crores.

Our actual expenditure, including the coordination staff, for four years for these three schools, is as follows. Recurring over 4 years Rs. 7, 87, 874 or an average of Rs. 1, 96, 969 for an intake capacity of 240 formal and 60 non formal students. This is Rs. 656 per student intake capacity.

Capital cost incurred over four years was Rs. 170,945 or Rs. 570 for the 240 formal and 60 non-formal intake capacity.

It is also our recommendation that the capital expenditure should come from the community and only the recurring costs should be borne by the government. This has been seen as feasible as the communities did collect amounts for building and some equipment not provided by the scheme in this project(see chapter 6 : Community Involvement). It is also suggested on the basis of the ABC analysis of the equipment costs, that the capital cost of Rs. 667/ student can be halved to approximately Rs. 333 for the same capacity, when the curriculum is intended for pre-vocational work experience/ socially useful productive work program. The modification in the equipment list is shown in the appendix.

As against the recurring expenditure of Rs. 7, 87, 874 actually incurred by the three schools in this project, they gave services to the community (valued) by the community through payment) or Rs. 3, 45, 539 over the same period. This is about 44% of the recurring expenditure.

It should be pointed out that the Rs. 3.45 lakhs is not profit made by the school that can be used to cover the recurring expenditure, it is the amount paid by the community for services rendered. The profit from this has been given to the school and the staff and students and would be approximately 15% of this or approx. Rs. 50,000. But it is to be seen as a fall out effect of the investment in education, not only producing skills in students but also giving strategic services to the community and adding to the GNP.

The Above Budget was Based on the Following Basis

1. Instructors salary Rs. 900 p.m. consolidated and increasing every year by 10%.
2. Lecturers salary Rs. 1200 p.m. consolidated and increasing every year by 10%.
3. Materials cost. Rs. 50 per student per year.

Salary Scales

The salary scales were arrived at taking into account the following observations.

Instructors
All the selected staff were trainee staff at our Ashram on Rs. 300 p.m. they were quite happy to have got the job as instructors at Rs 900 p.m. This salary was considered appropriate for the work effort they would be putting in, in comparison with the farmers and other members of the community to whom they would be providing services. With this income they would be able to maintain a good standard of living in the village. This expectation was confirmed in the first two years.

Lecturers
In the case of lecturers, there was a dilemma in fixing the salary scale. The qualifications expected was a diploma in Engineering or a degree in Agricultural Engineering. Perhaps a higher salary might have attracted better candidates. However our experience was that even the better candidates were poor in producing results in shop floor work, in comparison to our rural technology graduates, this often produced a conflict between them as the engineering diploma had to go to our RT boys for help. So the scale for the lecturers was fixed at Rs 1200, at which we still got reasonable candidates. Even with this scale there were disputes about the share of the surplus to be given to the lecturers, the lecturers had contributed little in delivering the services and the instructors resented their claim to a share. Also the lecturers failed to demonstrate leadership of the technical team, as in most cases they knew less than the instructors.

In fact because of their technical skills, the instructors had earned respect from the other teachers as well as from the headmasters.

On the same basis, it is my feeling, that for the effort and the commitment to work shown, some of the teachers seem to get better than they deserve, in comparison with the farming community in the village.

Accounts

Accounts has a special significance in this project. Accounts should not be seen as something only to detect fraud, but should be seen as a tool for development. It is the breakup of costs that often shows where there is an opportunity for savings. Such are the areas, where more development effort needs to be spent. Accounts also make it possible to control expenditure, take rational decisions based on facts as brought out by accounts. It also makes possible systems such as quick disbursement of profits in profit sharing schemes. Both these have been attempted by Vigyan Ashram, with some promise of success. It is therefore felt necessary that keeping accounts be made simple enough for our rural technology “graduates” to handle.

A system of keeping accounts has therefore evolved which our instructors in the various schools followed without great difficulty. The system was also compatible with our computerised accounting, in that the information obtained from the schools could quickly be transferred to the computer. The usefulness of such a system is such that I have no hesitation about recommending that we use computerised accounting for the combined accounts of all the schools. This will be done initially by the nodal agency coordinating the rural technology sections in the various schools.

Pricing

Pricing of the services as also any products is an important aspect of the rural technology system. It is therefore necessary to discuss at some length, the policy in this regard.

The price includes the direct costs and depreciation and overhead plus a margin of profit. We have felt the need to keep our prices attractive to both the customer and the producer. Generally we have kept a margin of 10% depreciation and a 15% margin for the institution. We have not included indirect overheads, like supervision etc.

In many cases, we chose products or services where the existing market rates were considerably more than the cost of materials. In the philosophy of Henry Ford Sr. The difference between the market price and the material cost represents the potential price reduction that development can bring down. We have often used this criteria for selecting items to develop for rural use, locally.

Resource Generation or Semi commercial Operation?

In order to produce a real life situation for learning, we have propagated the concept of semi commercial operation. We mean by this an operation where the material costs, labour, energy, depreciation costs are recovered with a reasonable profit of 15% from the sale of products or services. The purpose here is the real life open market situation for learning, rather than generation of an income to offset partially the costs of teaching.

The semi-commercial operation does reduce the cost of education to the extent that it saves on materials and some equipment, which are paid for by the sale of product. It not only makes the teaching more relevant, but also because of the greater practice, sharpens the skills to that extent. It brings the community nearer, gives them services at lower cost, thus nurturing demand, can give strategic services, where these may not be commercially viable(for example the medical tests made available in a village).

The semi-commercial operation is resource generation to the extent that the community service does not make any demands on the school grants. However, it not intended for, nor is it likely to generate sufficient resources to reduce dependence on Government grants. This will be possible only if the scale of operations is enlarged to make production the major activity.

An analogy of a hospital and a medical college may be useful. Generally a medical college is attached to a hospital. Here the hospital is the main activity and the medical education is a secondary one. Our present status represents a stage where one may say, it is like a small hospital attached to the college just for the education purpose.

In cities the concept of on the job training by attaching to a production unit is well accepted. But in the rural areas, there are no such units to attach to. So our concept may be considered as starting a small production unit specifically for training.

Why can’t these units be enlarged so that the profits can take care of at least a part of the education costs? This is not immediately possible for the following reasons.

1. The staff does not yet have the management skills needed for commercial successful operation. The scale should be therefore small, so that risks are reduced.

2. The site of the operation is selected on the basis of the need for education and not on the basis of profitability of the operation.

3. The capital required for the larger scale cannot be collected easily by an educational institution, until it has proven its ability in starting new enterprises.

4. For education we have chosen the subjects on the basis of long term needs of the people. For commercial success, ventures in all these areas may not be possible.

What may be possible is however, part of the cost of the teachers salary may be paid by the enterprise. Thus we believe, though we have not yet demonstrated it successfully, that the instructors may be given a smaller salary than the “market rate” but given the opportunity to earn additional amount from the semi-commercial operation. This will be particularly feasible in the field of agricultural subjects.

Social Problems & Their Financial Implications

In the course of our work, we have perceived many social weaknesses, that had such significant financial implications, that I considered them as social problems. Such problems did affect our program in terms of its effectiveness. They were :

Drop outs without a job

This is our main target group, for the non-formal RT certificate course. The number is constantly increasing. We should think therefore more and more of them would seek admission. But this has not happened and is a sign of failure somewhere. The three RTES schools have also not been successful in attracting a large number of non-formal students.

On the other hand, the sewing classes and the rural lab to some extent, have shown a steady flow of girls who want to take some non-formal course. Among the boys, the poultry course had a steady clientele.

The question that bothered me was, what do these drop outs do? I see a large number among them, moving around, well dressed, often riding a moped (borrowed). They do try getting attached to a truck as a helper, going to Bombay or Pune or some such activity that does not explain their visible “affluence” or life style.

Some of these do join the RT course but drop out within a short period, because they do not like any hard work, particularly farm work. Obviously they do not see it as a financially remunerative occupation.

I have a fear that such boys, particularly the smarter ones will be the targets of illegal / undesirable activities of all sorts. It is most important that our non-formal courses should be made financially attractive to these boys put them to a nationally productive effort.

We have seen, and I am convinced about this, that many among them, given sincere effort, are capable of significant contributions like the boys who do complete the RT course or other courses and have now some sense of direction.

I feel proud of the boys who build the mini tractor, the mobike, who operate the computer and also do all the counting and so many other things that one can be proud of. If we can harness the growing number of these school drop outs in search of a career, and can give skills, enterprise and motivation, India will be a different country. If we fail, they will be the terrorists of tomorrow. This problem is of the almost importance for our economy as also the society.

Corruption in the job market

Speaking to the young boys, one hears constantly that one cannot get a job unless one pays the “price”. Every job has a price; the job of a peon, a bus conductor or a teacher or any other the jobs that are attractive because of their scales and “security”. One does not hear about such “prices” for jobs with well known industrial houses. The perception of these boys may be exaggerated, but I know there is some truth in it. The effect of this is to create a feeling that no matter what skills you have, if you still need to pay amounts from Rs 10,000 and up, why bother about the effort to get the skills? pay the amount somehow and get job, this is the reason why most boys do not find our RT course and its demands on discipline and hard work, attractive.

The dowry system

The search for a source of money to “buy” a job, as mentioned above, leads to the spread of the dowry system and its effects on the ill treatment of brides. It is sickening that even many so called educated and otherwise good boys ask for a dowry. Dowry is considered as a measure of one’s worth and esteem in the society.

If the dowry is such an easy way to get funds and then buy a job, why work hard, and why do the RT course?

The vandalistic trait

An evil of another sort, but a major hurdle in development is this vandalistic trait. From 7-10 year urchins who have dropped out of the primary school, to school and college students who are struggling hard to stay in the rat race that is education, there is a tendency to destroy, damage or test destructively any thing new that they see. I hope my perceptions are wrong, but this is what I get after trying to understand these phenomena for over 10 years in this area. I give examples below.

I. When stones are arranged in a line by the road side and painted white, these boys consciously kick them out of their proper place.

II. Newly painted name boards become targets for stone throwing, or for testing of strength until they are damaged. The older boards don’t attract such attention.

III. Any new device, like a water valve or a small construction or test piece,including carts etc. become objects of curiosity where they test how strong it is by twisting and jumping on it in all possible ways until it gives way.

IV. New planted saplings are just pulled out and put aside. I would be happy if they steal them, but no, they are just thrown aside.

Newly made surfaces, painted, cemented or otherwise finished, cleaned or otherwise made conspicuous, get the attention of these boys who write their name or just “Vigyan Ashram” or some such thing. This is even the staff who work here the students and so many otherwise normal boys and perhaps girls also, who want to reaffirm their literacy by a chalk anywhere.

Indiscipline

Here I have in mind a particular kind of discipline the discipline of keeping things properly in their place. This habit seems so rare, that all sorts of things get lost and damaged. Nuts, bolts and particularly washers are dropped on the ground and never picked up, borrowed books or stationery are left somewhere, not stolen necessarily, and lost. Hand tools, engine starting handles, electrical wires, screwdrivers, keys of locks, spares of machines and so many countless things of regular use, get misplaced, damaged and ultimately lost. This is not just a direct finical loss but also a lot of time is spent searching for it when it is needed; thus loss of productivity is also a part result of this.

Another aspect of this is breaking of electrical plugs and sockets by misuse and finally taking a short cut, by direct insertion of wires into the socket or making temporary connections by twisting wires, without any use of insulation tapes, pouring kerosene on hands for washing off the paint, not leveling up the lubricating oil in the engine, because the oil tin is not found, not lubricating anything until it breaks down, not using safety goggles because they are lost, not using the welding screen, because somebody stepped on it, the cable is burnt because it touched the newly welded hot surface, and countless such instances. These are not because of a lack of knowledge. It is because of the lack of discipline in doing things as instructed. Such acts are not just loss of money but can cause accidents.

In some way, I feel these unfortunate boys cannot see into the future, they just live the present and some how muddle through. This is a problem I feel our education has to solve. Perhaps, it is because, as kids they did not have a proper Balwadi education, where such habits are aquired. We started a Balwadi in the belief that after 7-8 years we might see the effect in the new generation.

 

But this is an important social problem and they have huge financial implications.

Bank Accounts

It is important to have the habit of using bank accounts. Many people, even commerce graduates, in the rural areas, have not operated bank accounts, and don’t know how to. It is a general habit to keep cash on hand. This has many disadvantages. Not only is the idle wealth not used productively, but also can be lost, stolen, borrowed, misused etc. It is commonly known that whenever a farmer receives large amounts (of cash) from payments against sales, or otherwise, the chances of burglary or thefts increase. There is also a “friends circle” who expect to be treated and feasted. Any cash payments made usually have no record, neither receipts nor records of expenditure.

To encourage the bank habit, as also to reduce risks in handling big cash amounts, we made it obligatory for all staff to open a bank account, if they didn’t already have one. All salary and other payment were done by transfer letters to the banks. We liked to receive payments also by cheque, but the risk of a bouncing cheque is great, in spite of the recent law making this a cognisable offense. We have even paid by bank demand drafts, where the vendor would not be willing to accept our cheque.

The Bouncing Cheques

We would have liked to get big amounts by cheque or DD. But this has put us into trouble before. Poultry sales involved tens of thousands of rupees. In the early days, the broker would come to the farm to pick up the birds and pay cash against delivery, counting these would take some time, particularly because these sales were generally effected at night. Later, as the risks of hold ups of these vehicles became more, the brokers would ask for collection of the dues from their officers. This would mean a number of trips to Pune, a distance of 60 kilometres. Often the amount would not be paid in one lot but in stages. There would be no receipts for funds given or even formal receipts for birds delivered. We accepted a cheque from one such client and it was only after 3 weeks we dscovered that the cheque had bounced. The collection of the amount took three or four further visits over a couples of months. A worse case was a cheque that rebounded twice and our recorded complaint with the police had no tangible effect. The person was openly taunting us that there was nothing that we could do about it.

On the other hand, many villagers who had bank accounts, gladly accepted our chques and this was a great help, also accounting of bank transfers is so much easier.

The use of banks is particularly good for the school accounts. The habit of withdrawing big amounts and keeping the cash with one self is not only a risky habit but also given to misuse. Some boys quickly develop the habit of keeping a couple of thousand rupees as advance with them and using it for personal expenses.

The spread of cheques or bank transfers, would be a great help in rural transactions, for the safety as also the ease of accounting, because of the pass book entries.

Computer and Accounts

Computers are wanted by every one, because they are modern. They are also expensive and difficult to maintain in the presence of dust, high temperatures and rough handling. Many have looked at different kinds of justification for computers in the rural settings. Though we initially resisted, because we were not clear where and how we could use it, we now strongly recommend the use of computers in all school centers.

We first had a Spectrum home computer, costing about Rs 3000, given as a gift by Ashok Kalbag, in 1988. This was used with a TV and a tape recorder. We tried it and then purchased a Rs 95 program called “Finance Manager”. We saw that this made our accounting very convenient, but it had no system of printing so apart from testing we did not adopt it. We then met Shri Arjun Wadkar, who showed how we could get a disk drive and monitor and a normal printer. We aquired this and for Rs17,000, in December 1988, then we computerised our accounts, correspondence by word processing, database files and also spreadsheets. We soon found that the computer was not only used for 6-8 hours a day, often late in the night, but it became an indispensable part of the system. We had no way of using Devanagari we were on the look out for a PC that could :

1. Work powered by a battery.
2. Give us Devanagari script work processing.

In 1991, we got an offer for a PC and information to help us convert it to battery operated system. The GIST card would give us Devanagari. We took a bold decision to purchase the computer, and depend on our own learning to make it battery operated(see history of Vigyan Ashram).

We spent approximately Rs. 25,000 on our PC with a GIST card of which the GIST card was about 8,000. We had no air conditioning, just a cabinet to keep out dust. We wired our printer to connect both the Spectrum and the PC. The system has been working very well since then, after initial teething troubles.

Both the computers are heavily used and late night use of computers is an everyday affair.

The accounts are now on the PC which has enabled us not only to give much more detailed classification, but also the reports are much more explicit. The spread sheet, the data base have all been switched over to PC as the latter programs are much more powerful and easier to operate. Only the word processing and hence the English correspondence is still faster and more conveniently done on the spectrum. But the computers have become a most essential part to our set up.

We claim that our computer has paid for itself in about a year. We have no accountant not even a graduate in commerce. All our accounting work is done by our own staff, and now the responsibility is taken by a SSC with rural technology training(March 1993), the other RT boys are doing Marathi typing, and data files for word data, and spread sheets. This has certainly saved more than the cost of the computer in the salary of an accountant in one year alone. But the accounts are done faster then most accountants would do and better. We can get the costs incurred in a particular batch of poultry or a particular plot on the farm, in just a couple of minutes, because of the computer.

It has given certain other benefits. The staff does see the glamour of being able to learn the computer so it has a strong motivation effect. It has also on the students and the public who now see us as a “modern and sophisticated” institution.

The computer case can be seen in the future as follows. The machines with suitable jigs enables boys with less skill to produce results that need a higher level of skill. The design of the jig therefore upgraded their ability to a higher level of skill. The computer does the same thing for intellectual skills. The boys who find even simple calculations difficult to do, and have problems learning languages and other skills , can do work of much higher order of sophistication, because that skill has been put into the program. Thus word processing has made it easier to write good text, accounts are easy, and so on.

We see immense possibilities for upgrading of skills in this way. The conclusion. The computer is a major tool in our rural development strategy of using local human resources for their own development. From the maintenance point of view, we have shown the feasibility of using a PC with two disk drives, and a battery operated system and one printer.

Funding

We have had no problem with funds. We have been stressing economy and strict financial control. We have been sending reports regularly and the documentation is reasonable, though could have been better. We have been able to reach a level where roughly 1/4 to 1/2 our total expenditure comes from locally generated funds through community services. In other words, we are spending that much less than our funding.

The figures for some years are given below

Expenditure from Grants and Non Grant Sources.

Institution

Period

Grant Rs.

Non Grant Rs.

Vigyan Ashram

Jan 1987-Nov 89

10,43,785

7,09,999

Vigyan Ashram

Oct 1991-Mar 93

9,40,000

3,83,463

Loni School

1988-91

2,56,000

77,961

Dhamari School

1988-91

1,56,000

51,782

Mukhai School

1988-91

1,56,000

1,16,309

The per year non grant expenditure of Vigyan Ashram has remained around Rs. 2.5 lakhs, but the grant expenditure has increased substantially from new projects.

Hire of Equipment

While normally we do not hire any equipment but provide services with that equipment through students or staff, we made it policy to hire equipment under the following conditions

1. To other institutions for short periods in a crisis.
2. To ex-students wanting to start a new enterprise for a trial period.
3. To develop a new product for getting feedback.

In all these cases, the equipment was given on hire only after consideration of own needs. Our own facilities were also opened for use by others, sometimes without charge on special consideration when group interests required.

Renting of Facilities

We have preferred to rent facilities rather than purchase, when trying out a new scheme. Thus our farm and the students hostel are rented facilities. We never acquired a vehicle but hired a jeep when necessary. This is not only economical but also builds relations with the community. Our asking trainees to hire a room in the village not only added to the building investment in the village but we specifically developed people to take paying guests for boarding (meals) only.

New Enterprises

To encourage new enterprises we gave the following assistance :

1. The text lessons covered cost estimation, budget, balance sheet, and cash flow.

2. Our poultry course covered decision making on the basis of data and making estimates.

3. Also in the poultry course we got the students to draft loan proposals. We also helped them to make their actual bank proposals by making standard drafts available.

4. We covered comparison of profitability of crops for selection of variety of plants.

5. Those who had acquired skills, were given outside or own orders on contract.Later when they were functional, we extended equipment on hire and then they purchased their own equipment.

Purchases

Purchasing is often a key operation where major expenditure occurs and is also the area where there is a great risk of leakage and wastage.

The purchases from a village base is more difficult, because of communication problems. It takes on an average about 3 hours to reach Pune from our village, and telephone communications is only through trunk calls that are not always audible and take an uncertain time to materialise.

The process starts with making a purchase list and other jobs to do, getting specifications, where available, and approximate prices and approval for the expenditure.

We have found that generally we could not write full and proper specifications. (and if they were writtendown, the purchaser and the shopkeeper may not necessarily understand them). Secondly, sometimes samples have to be taken, thirdly the prices are not known and they vary continuously so we have to take more cash than estimated. Every purchase “mission” had about 20 or more different types of articles to be purchased, varying from chemicals, steel, automotive parts, to electronic components and stationery. The articles also varied from items weighing 50-70 kgs to very delicate items of negligible weight like a computer floppy disk.

Carrying cash usually between Rs. 3000 and Rs. 10,000 and traveling by public transport was always risky. It is an achievement, that in 10 years we have had no theft of the cash during these purchases.

Having purchased the items, one had to deliver some of them to the transport depot in the city, for loading onto the truck going to Pabal. The depot, and there was only one, that booked goods, to Pabal, was just mere office space, so the goods would be accepted only if the truck from Pabal was due, or else one has to wait till it comes and then load it and go for more purchases. Thus heavy material like steel sections, etc. were the first to be disposed off and then one had to go back for purchases of the other items that one could carry as personal luggage. As this group often weighed 20-30 kg we had frequently to send two persons on the purchase mission. This necessity was turned to advantage by sending also students and junior staff, who had never been to Pune or very rarely. This market familiarisation was a very useful part of the training in entrepreneurship.

Having loaded the material on to the truck, the goods would reach us usually some time the next day, there are instances when they have reached us within three or four hours and also where they have taken four or five days and we were helpless in recovering the cost. Our legal advisers said it would cost us more to recover than the value of the goods. The transport charges were uncertain, but we never felt cheated on that account.

The other problem was control of purchases. Sometimes wrong goods were purchased and they would not be taken back. Sometimes the price paid would be excessive. Very often the dealers, a large number of them do not give proper cash memos. There are three types in these.

1. Some scribble on a scrap of paper.

2. Other say if we want a “bill” we will have to pay tax. Even when we agree to do so, they give, not a cash memo but a invoice on a printed form, and do not show the tax on it. I feel this is just penalising us with a higher price, for daring to ask a cash memo.

3. Only a few give a proper cash memo.

Then there are the shopkeepers, who ask after the price has been paid, “What amount do you want mentioned in the bill?” obviously, it shows the extent of corruption. There are a few, big shops, where we made regular purchases and we have built up a relationship of trust.

Getting gas cylinders, like oxygen cylinders was a specific problem. The gas in the cylinder is on rent after two weeks rent free period. If we consume fast, we spend on the gas, if we are thrifty with the gas, we pay heavy demurrage. The cylinders are so heavy that even two persons cannot lift them and load them on the truck. Often the truck would take it and bring it back without filling, because there was no one to receive it at Pune. We have some times spent two or three weeks without getting the cylinder filled.

Octroi, demanded even on things sent for filling or for repairs, is another source of trouble and corruption. Purchase are thus a major problem and a lot of time and money is lost in this. The financial cost of purchases would be difficult to estimate. Being in village, we are isolated from information and very often we lose out by not knowing about the new products coming into the market, or where a particular item is available.

Thefts

We have had some problems with thefts but it has not been a major issue. This does not include petty thefts. Major thefts have not occurred, but what were we to do if our man carrying some thousands in cash gets robbed of the cash or claims to have been robbed? We have taken the stand that until the goods are received and signed for, the amount is treated as advance to the staff member. If he is robbed, then we would only accept the explanation, if he has registered a case with the police. Fortunately, this situation has not happened.

The other kinds of thefts, loss from the Ashram have occurred. Petty items, then calculators, and finally a Dumpy level from its box, without taking the box. The police have not been of much help in these. Once when a visitor had lost his camera, during lunch hour, the police threat of interrogation, brought the camera back anonymously early next morning. Ours is an isolated campus. But inspite of this we had no occasion of burglary, even when they were happening all around us.

 

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