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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Caught in a time warp!

Modi’s focus on the five T’s has led to a desirable scenario, that of introspection by all those who regard themselves as the constituents of the T’s. It is however obvious that of the five, the common man of this nation is affected more by two, T for Transport ie Railways and T for Tourism making it evident that sorting out the “travel and hospitality” sectors would indeed be high on the agenda of the next dispensation that rules the centre. Indeed a highly promising prospect.

And rightly so, it is the avowed responsibility of the government to set on track those sectors that have a high social impact and utility, yet have gone wayward due to their own inner contradictions.

Often referred as the lifeline of the nation, the railway system of this nation has since independence emerged as the most glaring example of corruption, inefficiency and sloth in a corporate; more at the managerial, decision making and policy formulation levels than at the functional. Otherwise how is it indeed possible for a commercial enterprise operating in a sellers market in a monopolistic scenario that too in a nation of our size and population to consistently underperform, both quantitatively as well as qualitatively in what it produces for sale. In this scenario that any corporate worth its salt dreams of, the growing chasm between the demand and the supply and the rapid deterioration in the quality of its services is indicative of an absolute lack of leadership and managerial abilities especially at the bureaucratic level.   

The decision making and contractual processes that were made by the british masters to keep the locals in a tight leash have long since lost their relevance, yet their continuance for no other reason other than a strong internal resistance to change of any kind is not an attitude that would keep an organization especially a commercial one from a string of failures. Unfortunately railways has been moving in that direction with the routine dressing up of figures keeping the reality under wraps. The extreme complexity of procedures that the railways has arrived at out of a penchant for total mistrust and absolute disempowerment is at a total variance with what commercial setups are supposed to practice. And therefore the feeling of utter helplessness that one witnesses even at the apex levels in all the three tiers of management.

Yet despite rank inability and an absolute lack of inclination to make a positive contribution, travel by its senior officials in luxurious saloons fit for Maharajah’s is a sign of the time warp that has engulfed the entire Indian railways. Is it not a sign of a feudal mindset that while the rest of the country is unable to get even one berth on the train with ease, a small section of the senior railway officials travel in one full compartment fit for eighty in reserved or one eighty for unreserved.

The feudal mindset is also reflected in the scenario where kow towing to bosses wife has emerged more important than pampering the boss himself and definitely many times more important than work itself. A scenario where positioning of reception and dispatch parties at stations for senior officials proceeding on and returning from train travel has overtaken the need for deliverance is as expected definitely pampering ego’s but at the cost of good governance that in any case has been missing from the railways since a considerable period of time indeed. 

The time warp is absolute and total. A lavish cocoon with tremendous perks in the form of saloons, bungalows, bungalow peons, parties, gifts, free travel, ample opportunities for loot and a fleet of pliant and over caring subordinates is what the upper crust of this commercial organization finds itself engulfed in. And the almost complete disempowerment ensures that the focus does not waver from the perks – authorized and mostly unauthorized ones.

The shroud of the time warp has to end for the railways to truly move forward, not merely in a cosmetic sense. Hopefully the new government will initiate the much needed reforms in this giant monolith and make it indeed what it always should be - the economic lifeline of the nation.

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