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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Semmler way!

The conference on 28th on tendering and contracting was interesting, even though my presence there was brief. The participants were shocked when I questioned the basic premises of the tendering system. Why should we tender and if we tender why should we have a tender committee?

I remember those heady days of probationary period when we were told about the canons of financial propriety and the first canon was that government money should be spent as our own. Thereafter I have always wondered as to why we tender for sarkari purchases and contracts whereas for our own personal requirement we do not? And these complex sarkari procedures ensure, no they almost guarantee substandard quality, high life cycle cost, time over runs and a liberal sprinkling of corruption in the entire process. Despite the same, our insistence on following the complex procedures and at the same time mouthing the canons of financial propriety is not understandable.

Why are established practices and systems taken as sacrosanct, despite the same having brought the nation to where it is now? Agreed that India is not a failed state, but at the same time its ranking at almost the bottom of the list of nations in the human development index does not really make us proud. And the latest ranking on the transparency index also brings disgrace.

But why the sea of babus mismanaging the nation is not able to appreciate the same is what I have been unable to fathom so far. From the bottom of the pit, one can only rise and therefore getting rid of the existing procedures and systems does not, in my opinion, offer any risk whatsoever. Despite the same, while exhortation for superior performance continues, it is not backed by any effort towards a new way of working.

Status quoism is the hallmark of mediocrity. It is high time we looked at the "Semmler" way of management.


  1. Sir, in a country like India where democracy exists in the garb of autocracy and all the powers whether of decision making or execution are centralized, in almost all spheres particularly in political parties slated to govern the nation and the public sector organizations, it is not possible to expect diversification of these at the individual level or even to the lowest working unit level. Confining ourselves to India, we have a heartwarming exception – Delhi Metro headed by Sir Sridharan, where it exists to some an extent. Extraordinary ventures require extraordinary will and courage.
    Sir, only people like you can remember canons of financial propriety which is meant and can only be assimilated by those people who have not yet buried their conscience and whose heart bleeds for the deprived masses. But this species, alas, is rare, almost extinct! My regards to you, Sir, from the core of my heart. I feel sentimentally elated, to quote NBT news headline on People’s march against corruption on Gandhi’s birthday, “Mahatma, yeh kaum abhi jinda hai!”
    You have already pondered over rampant corruption despite cumbersome procedures and rules. Eradication of vice is matter of our own convictions, our own Samskars. In our organization we have gross misuse of manpower, at home and in offices, of official machinery particularly vehicles, purchases and execution of works at exorbitant rates, undue claiming of TA and overtime, etc. etc. squeezing the system in all conceivable modes.
    But the people who perpetuate such corrupt practices are never caught, because
    (i) They manipulate the rules and procedures to their gain.
    (ii) They connive with their higher ups, including enforcement departments like vigilance, audit, accounts etc. for mutual gain.
    (iii) And even if they are caught, escape with mild or token punishment by exercising their clout or greasing the palms of the concerned authorities, making them their partners in progress!
    (iv) They humiliate, harass or even eliminate (at least from the system), if anyone dares to point out such practices.
    Such brazen and open loot may put even dacoits in Chambal ravines to shame and may force them to ponder, “Agar thoda bahut pad-likh liye hote to achcha hota, in beehdon se nijat mil jaati, loot ke liye mare-mare bhatakna nahi padta aur shaharon ke Sarkari daftaron mein aaram se baithte, monthly pagar to milti hi, log lutne ke liye khud chal kar aate.

  2. In my comment above,I mentioned Gandhi’s birthday (30th Jan) instead of death anniversary , inadvertently. I regret it. But this Freudian slip may signify continuation of his memories in our subconscious. Mahatma is dead; long live his tribe and ideals.

  3. we as a nation has failed into managing better human development index and one of the worst performer to handle corruption in daily life from top to bottom is because;---

    1. we have no leader of national stature in political arena, and a leaderless society can only perfrom worst.

    2. though we have attained some leadership into some technical fields of IT and industry, but haveing distributedleadership in certain areas is creating different power centres.
    Societies with distributed power centres like Industry and Money, Political, Judicial all having different priorities can not accomodate each other for common national goals.

    Al that is need of the hour is someone takes over as a national political leader to lead this country and resolve national adversities of this ever growing population.

    Till such time mediocrity and national loss is our collective fate.