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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Think Big Act Small

A simple mantra, yet almost never followed. Half hearted attempts at climbing lofty mountains when even crossing foothills is difficult, is an oft visible sight in sarkari territories especially railways.

The turnaround of the New Delhi Railway Station in time for the CWG was the culmination, not of a mega revival project but of a large number of small yet focussed action plans. And what a turnaround it was that made even the sceptical CAG take notice and record his appreciation in no uncertain terms. This simple turnaround with a massive impact could not happen earlier due to the dilemma that all my predecessors faced in light of the perpetual grand plan running in thousands of crores to give a world class look and feel to this station. A grand uncertainty over shadowing simple yet doable development plans for decades is an unacceptable scenario, a scenario that was accepted and justified at almost all functional and policy making levels in the railways. Sic.

Ambitious plans that generally fall flat on the ground, is the unfortunate ground reality of the sarkari sector in the country. That it is fashionable to talk about grand plans and pedestrian to talk about small matters is a trait that is rapidly taking us downhill.

My arrival in the state of Madhya Pradesh in mid 2004 as the head domo of tourism revived hopes even at the apex political levels. Everyone expected major changes almost immediately and hoping for an impressive response, the chief minister asked me about my plans. My plans were however confined merely to improving my chamber followed by the entire head office, the flagship hotel and then all other seventy odd properties and then only attempt something major. I was clear and hence could clarify to the chief minister that tourist destinations across the state would come on my radar only after setting my house in order, an exercise that would take around a year. The results that subsequently emerged exceeded all expectations and ultimately resulted in positioning the state as the numero uno in tourism.

We have to dream big, yet act small if the situation so warrants it. However the act should always be within the competence of the executive who is responsible for its execution. The reality is unfortunately otherwise. The people who occupy apex levels and are primarily meant to dream and provide leadership are so distant from the ground realities that neither, do they dream nor are they able to avoid becoming another roadblock. It is in the backdrop of this ground reality that it is necessary to instil in all sarkari executives a thought that doing something small is far better than not doing something great. This shall ensure that some things do happen and great plans on paper do not always over shadow small plans on the ground.

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