Powered By Blogger

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What defines merit?

I often wonder whether merit still counts in the present age India and am unable to find an exact answer. Merit rarely counts, is the best answer that one can think of.
Yes there have been cases where govermnents have recognized brilliance and merit overriding considerations based on money and proximity. E.Sreedharan is one such example of a person whose merit has been openly recognized and appreciated by the federal as well as state government. Nandan Nilekani is perhaps another. But that is about all. No other example readily comes to mind.
And so rarely we come across cases of an outstanding deliverance in this nation of over a billion people primarily because meritocracy has been finally given the go-by in this nation.
The sarkari sector definitely supports and promotes what it regards as merit. Unfortunately however, merit has a different meaning in this sector. Being from the elite IAS is considered meritorious, being well connected to the high and mighty is perhaps over brilliance and being stinking rich is also a fit case for being regarded as meritorious. Again, that is about all. And so all the institutions that are supposed to recruit people for important positions, with perhaps UPSC being the only exception, do their job on the basis of their own perception of what is merit.
The selection for board level positions in the central public sector undertakings is a classic example of a distorted merit assessment system. Both the methods of induction normally give weightage to the "connected" aspect, with the right phone call at the right time almost always doing the trick.
And so what does the really meritorious guy, with no connections and no surplus cash to be doled out as bribes, do in this country? Bide his time, I must say, because ultimately at some point of time, maybe a hundred or more years later, our nation, if it has to be pulled out of the abyss it finds itself in, shall be forced to start believing in and respecting true meritocracy as practiced in the developed world at present and not the pseudo kind, that it presently worships.

The koda factor

The recent scam unearthed in Jharkhand, involving an Ex Chief Minister has rattled the country. The scale of operations, pegged at over Rs 40,000/- per minute, non stop for over two years can only be termed as mindboggling. The tremendous focus that Mr Koda displayed, in amassing ill gotten wealth is however praiseworthy. If only he had displayed a fraction of this focus in building the state, things in Jharkhand would have been much different.

Many people sympathize with Koda, not because they think that he has been wrongly framed, but because he has been caught, while most of the politicians generally go scot free. I however personally feel that the biggest factor emerging out of the Koda episode is that he has upped the benchmark. Post Koda, any politician whose illgotten wealth is less that say a thousand crores, would develop an inferiority complex and regard himself in the category of a poor politician.

Politicians, cutting across states and party lines would now stand divided into two categories - one who have amassed over a thousand crores and the other who have less than a thousand crores. The lesser ones would struggle hard to achieve a semblance of respectability by quickly amasing wealth, obviously by looting the nation and crossing the thousand crore benchmark.

Corruption would now achieve greater heights and the country would also jump to the big league by having almost all its major politicians in the thousand crore plus category. India would also acquire fame for having the maximum number of multi billionaires.

The Koda episode has definitely given the politicians of this nation something to cheer about. Long live Koda.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Potential" is a dirty word

I get irritated when potential is talked about as if giving credit to the organization, place, city, state or nation. Is Madhya Pradesh great because it has tremendous tourism potential and does it give it any credit? Rightfully it should not. Realization of that immense potential is what should give credit and convey a positive impression.
Why do people say that India has tremendous potential and therefore should be regarded as great? Nobody ever talks about the potential of the United States or Britain. The difference is that while we have carefully preserved our potential, others, mostly the developed world has realized it.
Potential is therefore directly linked to deliverance, inversely proportional to be exact. We have done nothing and therefore we have tons of potential and those from the developed world have delivered and have therefore consumed their potential.
Consuming the potential is therefore what matters.
In tourism, the example of Kerala is worthy of emulation. A state known more for its militant trade unions gradually started first appreciating and then consuming its potential in the tourism sector. The state looked around and then realized that its backwaters, the tradition of ayurveda and the coconut lagoons can attract people and the famous Amitabh Kant took no time in consuming the potential of the state. On the contrary, states like the Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Orissa always took pride in the unlimited tourism potential that they ever had, with the difference that current Govt of Madhya Pradesh decided to do something positive about it. And the state surged forward in all spheres, especially tourism.
Let us all abandon the sense of pride that we Indians have started taking in the word "potential". Let the nation, state, city or organization be judged not by the potential they posess, but by what they have done to eradicate the potential.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A failed state

India is never referred to as a failed state. In fact, the rest of the world generally regards it as a superpower in the making. How follish the rest of the world can be. A free nation for over 60 years still half of whose population survives on less that 50 Rs a day! Is it something to be proud of? We have failed at building roads, generating and transmitting enough electricity or in providing any kind of water to its populace and in almost every other sphere of governance.
Cities that resemble large dustbins, cities that we have failed to even keep clean and villages, the lesser said about them the better. India has emerged as perhaps the world's largest mess, a gigantic mess that only our focussed politicians and nincompoop bureaucracy can be proud of.
Is it not sad that India finds a place at the bottom of almost all global indices, be they refer to the purchasing power, the human development index or the corruption scenario. Perhaps the most corrupt of all nations, where every interaction of those governed with those governing is laced with bribery. Every service of the government is on sale for those who can purchase it.
India has now emerged as a nation that is genuinely not for its citizens. It is liveable only for the rich or for bureaucrats and government servants.
Perhaps we a nation are not fit enough or mature enough for self rule. And therefore India is a failed state.

Friday, November 13, 2009

productive nations

A visit to the developed world always leaves me depressed in the end. The excitement at the beginning of the journey is always in deep contrast to the sense of despondancy at the end of the visit when I land in the motherland.
The despondancy is primarly due to reinforcement of the realization that while on a one to one basis we are better, as a society we are far inferior to them. Their roads, footpaths, houses, lampposts, parks, parking slots, railway stations, airports all go to prove their superiority as a system. It pains me to see that we are incapable of even keeping our cities clean, what to talk about building infrastructure.
And I am pained further when the leaders talk about building world class infrastructure. TALK is all they can do, and that is all they do.
Are we not aware of what is plaguing the system. Why evey Bharatvasi who leaves our shores is able to deliver while miserably failing in his home country. Do we not apreciate that corruption and a miserable decision making mechanism in the sarkari setup is the cause of our ills. Corruption, rampant corruption so deeply ingrained that even the corrupt has started believing that the system is responsible for his coruption and the persecuted suffers, but waits for his turn.
I feel sick and angry.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ideas stink

Ask the man on the street about ideas to improve the country. He would know exactly. Except that in all probability he would not know how to improve his own organization or his own personal delivery in the job that he is in.
This is perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of this country. Everyone knows exactly how the other person or organization should be functioning, but he or she is not prepared to do anything about his own sphere of influence.
And so in the sarkari sector, of which I am very much a part, everyone is busy generating, delivering or accepting ideas. Converting those ideas into physical activity on the ground level is generally and conveniently missing. There are exceptions ofcourse.
My staff often cribs about my dictatorial tendencies, but it is a fact that I do not encourage ideas from my subordinates, except those that directly pertain to the specific individuals sphere of influence or control. Yes one is permitted to give ideas about other peoples sphere of activities very rarely and that too in a positive manner, not as a measure to pull down the other guy or to show oneself off. A free flow of ideas can be generated by an individual only if he has excelled in his own sphere of activities, the excellence being substantiated by state/national level awards. Not otherwise.
And this banning of free flowing ideas has helped me in achieving excellence in almost all my postings, be it in the railways or elsewhere. Wastage of time is minimized, the time so saved getting utilized productively.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Excess of justice is injustice

Being just is good, but an overdose of justice can also be unacceptable at times.
One has to be practical. One has to respect sensibilities. One has to respect the fact that to err is human, but to forgive is divine.
Yes, thre are many instances of officials committing grave irregularities in official as well as personal lives. It is also true that often the punishment awarded in such cases, with exceptions ofcourse, falls far short of the requirement as per the needs of justice. The punishment awarded in such cases is generally less than warranted.
Yes, it is true that corruption cannot and should not be tolerated. But in a society where almost every politician and every bureaucrat is corruption personified, is it really just to expect high moral standards from mere mortals. The tremendous and also rapid degradation in moral values and standards of integrity in the people of this nation in general and sarkari mulazims in particular does not even shock people anymore. Corruption is considered an essential and tolerable part of the system, by all and sundry except some individuals like me who are tolerated rather than accepted by the system.
How long will this go on. How long will people continue to expect sympathy for punishments despite committing crimes that far outweigh the punishment awarded. Being soft shall not help, despite the price that one may have to pay at times. And being a soft state also does not help either. Something that we indians should have learnt the hard way, and if we have not learnt so far despite travelling on a long, winding and treacherous road, perhaps God also cannot save us!

Deceptive appearences

Yes. One should not judge people by what one sees or experiences. But that is how it is. Our judgements, pronounced so magnanimously, are generally based on external appearences and experiences. Human personality is however much deeper that the thickness of the skin. The real person is therefore quite often much different from what is evident from the exterior.
A rough guy may quite often be a soft guy from the inside and someone who appears to be a rogue may turn out to be infinitely superior to the guys who appear to be pleasent on the outside.
The prevalant method of assessing people totally dismisses what the guy may have inside him, something that is not apparent to the casual visitor. And so one makes mistakes, only to regret them later. And this regret is hard to overcome. It causes burns, burns that are deep enough to survive for long but also deep enough to remain unnoticed for long.
How strange and inexplicible!.