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Friday, August 26, 2011

Rajtantra Vs Prajatantra

In this era of Anna, it is necessary that the crucial difference between Rajtantra & Prajatantra is clearly understood. Britishers introduced "Rajtantra" primarily because they had to rule over our nation. When the British left in 1947, a new set of our home grown rulers took over and continued with the tantra of the British. Rajtantra was primarily created for the citizens of one nation to rule over another nation. Designed with a ruler and slave mentality in mind, rajtantra was not the ideal tool for governance of a free nation.

So we have an anomaly. We have "Prajatantra" in force but the tool for implementing the same is "Rajtantra". And therefore we as a nation have been a failure. The faulty tool for governance that we have been using is responsible for the rampant corruption that has engulfed every single sector and service of our bureaucratic tantra. It is also responsible for the slow pace of development and growth.

How can a system based on mistrust be expected to provide a corruption free system is what I am unable to fathom. The ongoing "Anna" led churning in our nation will therefore not lead to any concrete result till such time we simplify the decision making and contractual mechanisms within the bureaucratic and political system of our nation.

Till then a corruption free society shall remain a utopia.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Restructuring Railways

The ongoing debate on the IRSME site about the superiority of SCRA vs DR has me totally foxed. While on the one hand one longs for the much awaited IRS (Indian Railway Service), their is still a band of people who would prefer to continue with the divide in the mechanical cadre, one of the nine disciplines of the railways.

It is rather sad that the railways, unlike other sectors of the government, failed to evolve with the times and sadly so, for want of a strong decision maker have preferred the status quo since the time the country came on her own in 1947. So while the nation is managed by one service, namely the IAS, the railways is (mis)managed by nine, with each service having a narrow sectoral focus and none, none of its officers having the capability to take an overall view.

The separation of the railway budget from the general exchequer, sometime in the early nineteenth century was done primarily on commercial considerations. It was felt by the british that the railways being a commercial organization would need flexibility in its finances and hence this decision. Unfortunately the railways have emerged as an extremely rigid organization, more rigid that even the typical government departments, thereby nullifying the original objectives of this decision.

The contractual mechanisms and typical decision making processes in the railways are rigid and archaic. Perhaps this is due to the lack of a will to change, a situation that has occurred primarily due to the multiplicity of services on the system.

It is high time, the railways get a chief executive who looks beyond the narrow confines of his service and pulls us out of the abyss we find ourselves in.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The great disconnect!

India Shining, has been one of the finest example of disconnect in recent times, disconnect that the topmost echelons of the sarkari tantra generally have with the ground reality. Similar examples of disconnect can be seen in the public sector enterprises that are not doing well and in almost all sectors under sarkari control.

Living in a make believe world is the most common folly of all those who regard themselves as the rulers in the present day democratic India. A make believe world where everything is hunky dory despite the ground realities being abysmally different. And why not? This is the best scenario to be in for a top notch sarkari mulazim as well as the malik. Question the existence of problems and feign ignorance about sensitive ground level issues is the mantra. Questioning is the easiest when almost everything is in the dumps and the questioner is in an inherently advantageous position vis-a-vis the one who has to provide the answers.

And the railways is also no different. Here the number of observers, the number of people who are busy passing value judgements on diverse issues under the sun far exceeds the number of people identified for delivery. A blanket refusal to accept the ground realities, in their eagerness to present a rosy picture to the powers that be and perhaps enter their good books, has emerged as the hallmark of the upper crust in the railways. And therefore while there is general deterioration in the infrastructure with hardly any noticeable efforts towards improvements, the frustration levels in the field officials who are invariably left holding the baby is also on the rise. Wasteful expenditure on infrastructure provided whimsically is also a result of the absolute disconnect.

At the present critical stage in the growth of the nation, we already have more than our requirement of policy makers and pen pushers. What we need, if the nation is to move forward, is an army of committed field workers and a sarkari tantra that supports, not advices the field, and also does not create layers and layers of disconnect.

Is it too much to ask for?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Steam?

Why talk of steam now? This question has always engaged the minds of many men who matter, at different points of time in our quest for a limited scale preservation and revival of steam locomotives.

I clearly remember those heady days of mid 1990’s when the revival of the Fairy Queen was on the cards. Also on the cards was the birth of a niche tourism segment in the country, the “Steam Heritage Tourism” segment. And I clearly remember the detractors and also the supporters who remained committed in their support resulting in the victory of the cause. The GUINNESS world record and the National Tourism Award that followed left no one in doubt about the genuineness of the stupendous effort that had been put in.

The birth of the steam engine of James Watt marked the beginning of the industrial revolution in the world and the steam locomotive of Stephenson that subsequently followed, revolutionized the way people were used to traveling till then. Rapid advances in locomotion and railway systems thereafter, resulted in huge benefits to the economy and the society.

The advent of diesel and electric locomotives on the railway scene resulted in the rapid elimination of steam locomotives from main line operations. Yet nations that were and still are much more advanced than us, did not destroy the glorious heritage of steam locomotives. Almost the entire western world retained sizable number of steam locomotives and also associated skills, primarily for the twin causes of heritage and tourism. We unfortunately, took on large scale destruction of steam locomotives in right earnest and went to the ridiculous extent of destroying each and every single of the WG class of locomotives, ostensibly to meet scrap disposal targets or was it sadism?

Our sincere efforts at destruction bore fruit in the year 1995 with the phasing out of steam locomotives from the broad gauge and from the meter gauge in 2000. Our efforts to remove steam even from the hill railways, where the locomotives added a bit of romance to the journey also bore fruit in later years.

Therefore while nostalgia for steam locomotives took the western world, especially the UK by storm in the late seventies, some of us also felt nostalgic beginning ninety nineties and that led to the historic run of the fairy queen culminating in a Guinness world record adding considerable value to the international image of the Indian Railways.

And then as is the national culture, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and the bandwagon broke.

The resurrection of Rewari started the ball rolling again. The efforts of Vikas and Saraswat and the guidance of Sethi, the evergreen president of the steam railway society bore fruit. Steam, once more appears to be getting back on track. Insha-allah.

The question yet remains unanswered. Why steam?

Well the presence of raw fire that fires raw power in the belly of steam locomotives is the draw. The unique sound, the rocking gait, the shrill whistle, the throbbing body and an open design bordering on nudity are features that impart an irresistible charm to these black beauties. The die hard steam enthusiast believes in the individual and unique personality of each steam locomotive, a personality so individual that it warranted a crew of three, a driver and two fireman, by name to man her.

The charm apart, the steam locomotive is one of the most revered items that constitute the heritage of mankind, a heritage that propelled the industrial revolution in the world. Should we let that heritage die in our country, whereas the western world that is miles and miles ahead of us in development is still carefully nurturing and preserving steam locomotives.

And lastly for the cause of promoting steam heritage tourism, a niche and fast growing tourism segment in the world. We arrived in this sector with a bang, a bang that only the Fairy Queen, the oldest working steam locomotive in the world could have provided and yet we have not moved forward, as much as we should have done.

The arguments in favor of limited and careful preservation of steam locomotives are unbeatable and Rewari has once again provided the push and shown the path. We now have no way to go but forward.