Anusha Bharadwaj: Tides are changing and many people are embracing first-name convention, including the bureaucrats.

Anusha Bharadwaj, the executive director of Voice 4 Girls (http://voice4girls.org) understandingly upholds No Sir No Madam drive.  Voice 4 Girls works on enabling marginalized adolescent girls in India to take charge of their future.  They impart critical knowledge, spoken English, and life skills through activity-based camps in order to empower girls.

Anusha holds an MBA in Rural Management from Institute of Rural Management, Anand.  She has devoted most of her career working for NGOs.  In addition, Anusha has worked to uplift and accredit children from socially backward areas.   She embarked onto Voice 4 girls as she always had the desire to elate the condition of girls in India.

She believes that addressing someone as ‘Sir/Madam’ does not always mean that you respect the person.  Anusha states, “The idea of respecting elders is so ingrained into us that we utilize salutation in order to display respect.  It is high time that people start talking about this issue as a lot of people blindly heed to salutation edict.”

Consequently, she has instilled No Sir No Madam doctrine in her organization.  Anusha conveys that she has given her employees the liberty to address her in any way they feel comfortable.  Some of her employees refer to her by first name and some as ‘didi’ or ‘akka’.  This has assisted her staff to feel at par with her.

A lot of private-sector companies have now adopted the first-name convention.  Although this is a great way of ensuring parity at the workplace.  Anusha mentions that there are some boundaries that should be not crossed.  Especially, while interacting with female colleagues, people should not take the freedom of communicating on a first-name basis for granted.  They should maintain the sanctity of professional workplace and be respectful to everyone.

However, the government sector in India still continues to cling to a salutation dictum.  It is deeply rooted in bureaucrats to consider anyone addressing them by their first-name is disrespecting them.  Anusha remarks — ‘Sir/Madam’ culture is very much dominant in government offices.  “The Indian Bureaucrats are accustomed to being addressed with salutation. But in my opinion, the tides are changing. Many young officers are now are comfortable on a first name basis.  In her time when she worked with the Department of Health and Family Welfare, AP Government, she was comfortable addressing the bureaucrats either Sir/ Ma’am while they would automatically address as “Ma’am”.  Although in the recent times that she has been working with the Government she feels things are changing with the new crop of young IAS officers.

In continuation, Anusha talks about the discrimination people from lower-economic classes have to face in India.  She vocalizes, “We have always been biased towards less-fortunate people.  We look down upon them and consider them as inferior.  The major reason for such discrimination is a concept of social classes that is deeply rooted into us.  Thus, we need to stop differentiating people on the basis of their caste and financial backgrounds.  We ought to treat them equally and help them overcome the ‘No Sir No Madam creed’.”

This prejudice cannot be removed from our minds overnight.  Ergo, she suggests we should talk about instilling the concept of mutual-respect into people.  Additionally, make people aware about the ways one can be respectful without adhering to salutation custom.

Anusha winds up by quoting, “Change happens everywhere.  The best place to restructure an age-old habit is to start from your home.  Wherever you see social injustice being done, take an initiative and do something about it.” She also urges the No-Sir-Madam cause to go beyond the salutation and address issues of biases and injustice.

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