Powered By Blogger

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Amazing Railways!

Indian Railways never ceases to amaze me. The most visible symbol of dynamic delivery in the nation is perhaps facing one of its most severe financial crunch in recent times. A commercial organization that is in monoply, is in the sellers market and whose produce is something for which the common masses and commercial bodies are forever queing up, finding itself in financial distress is something that one is unable to digest.

And therefore expenditure control has become the buzzword, without realizing that revenue maximization, not expenditure control is the open secret of success of all forward looking commercial organizations. Expenditure control implies a clampdown on all aspects of expenditure with the exception of the bloated salaries that the federal government servants have undeservingly become accustomed to.

That all expenditure is not wasteful and thus cannot and should not be controlled is a realization that is conspicuous by its sheer absence. Such a measure that does not differentiate between investment and wasteful expenditure is bound to lead the railways into a downward uncontrollable spiral. The sad part is the total absence of an appreciation of the ground realities and the basic understanding of running an commercial empire. If only our focus was on revenue maximization and not expenditure control, things would have been very much different and easy.

Yes, empire we still are, but an empire lost in a time warp. Unfortunately we are slowly emerging as the most visible symbol of how not to run a commercial organization. It is equally unfortunate that the fundamental constraint in running a commercial organization, with constant selling prices and upwardly spiraling input costs, is not handled the way it should be - head on.

It is not that everything is wrong with the railways. We can still boast of one of the finest workforces and highly responsible trade unions in the nation. We still have reason to be proud of the non stop criss-crossing of thousands of trains across the subcontinent continuously, non stop despite all sorts of imaginable constraints.
One is equally proud of the fleet of outstandingly capable officers who are brilliant individuals but find themselves as a helpless cog in the system.

Yes, we somehow run trains, but we are equally capable of running the system with ease and then spend the spare energy in high quality physical growth of the system, something that is the call of the nation, the India of the twenty first century. If only we thought and also peeped out of the box!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The wake up call

Connaught Place today is the most visible symbol of all that is wrong with "Bharat". I call it the visible mess of the nation. The state of affairs at the Connaught Place is symptomatic, symptomatic of a much deeper malaise within the sarkari tantra of the nation.

That Bharat is not what it was, is already widely known and appreciated. What most of us perceive as our nation is not what "Bharat" is all about. The intelligentia and the upper crust from which most of us from the ruling classes hail, does not have even the foggiest idea of what "Bharat" is all about. A land of abject poverty and deprivation, a land of mind boggling gaps in infrastructure and a land of glaring contrasts. The real "Bharat" lives in its villages, most of which are underdeveloped beyond imagination.

What one also fails to appreciate at first glance is the deep rooted mess that we actually are in. Realization dawns upon us only during mega events like the ensuing CWG when the mess that we are in, severely hampers our ability to deliver even "passable" quality on a large canvas. This realization is perhaps the best gift that CWG has given us, the finest wake up call that we have received in over sixty three years of existence as a free nation.

But will we ever wake up, is the question that continued to haunt me even before the arrival of the latest wake up call. Do we, the bureaucrats of "Bharat" ever want to wake up? Do we, the bureaucrats of "Bharat" have any stake in taking the wake up call? Are we not comfortable in the corrupt mess that we find ourselves in, and yet aspire to climb onto the top of the garbage heap?

The wake up call is neither for the politicians, nor for the masses. It is for US, the bureaucrats of "Bharat" whom one British playwriter aptly described as a bunch of bumbling nincompoops.

We better wake up now!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Whose recognition are we seeking anyway?

It is rather unfortunate that almost all of us seek recognition for the work that we are required to do in the normal course as employees of an organization or as members of the society. This malaise unfortunately has infected the topmost echelons of the society, the politicos, who have their names engraved on stone plates, placed almost everywhere, with perhaps the exception of taps, washbasins and commodes.

It is equally unfortunate that almost none of us seeks self recognition or does his job in the name of God. I find it rather demeaning to do anything and then seek recognition from mere mortals, whose claim to fame is not that they have achieved anything great in this life, but that they have been able to, by hook or by crook, occupy a temporary slot(all jobs are temporary slots) on planet earth.

Why is it so? Why have all of us stopped valuing whatever we are doing until some other mere mortal does so. Why we have lost all faith in the almighty and have started regarding people sitting on high chairs as Gods. The worship that I am witness to, by the bureaucrats, of blokes sitting in high slots can at best be called shameful. And the same bloke who while occupying the high slot treated others with disdain is shown the dust by the very people who earlier worshipped him, with personal motives of-course.

Perhaps things may be better elsewhere, but the Indian bureaucratic system of which I am also a cog, is the perfect setting for the above scenario.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sixty third birthday!

The nation shall be sixty three tomorrow. But where are we? Have we as a nation arrived on the international scene? Are we an economic power? Have we been able to provide the basic necessities of "Roti", "Kapda" and "Makan" to all our citizens? Have we achieved a respectable rank on the human development index? and finally are Indians, really happy?

The answers are a big NO. No, No, No, No and NO.

We are a nation, in the capital of which one witnesses abject poverty, where electricity and water are in short supply almost everywhere including the capital city of New Delhi. A nation where beggers are aplenty and people live on the streets in substantial numbers. But we are also a nation that is an atomic power, that launches rockets and is also home to the wealthiest man on the planet.

A nation of stark contrasting realities. That is what we are at sixty three!

While we are not a failed state like many of the banana republics, but we are also not a state that has passed with distinction. There are shortages and there is chaos, but an abundance of corruption that touches every aspect of the lives of almost all its citizens, excepting those who are either super rich or really powerful like our politicians and the bureaucrats.

Yes, it is true but unfortunate that India has emerged as a nation that is suitable only for these two classes, who either wield power or who are rich.

That is where we are at sixty three.

When we had our tryst with destiny sixty three years ago, we were like a five year old who has been let free. An immature child who has been ordained to take all decisions pertaining to his life. The child certainly will mess up his life and so have we as a nation. The mockery that we have managed to make of ourselves during this brilliant opportunity of commonwealth games is indicative of our sheer immaturity and inability to govern ourselves. While the mature converts a problem into an opportunity, the foolish and the immature convert opportunities into insurmountable problems and embarrassments.

What a shame. Yet I have hopes that at-least in its seventies, the nation would become and also behave like a respected adult of that age.

Friday, August 13, 2010


The turnaround of Hotel Palash in Bhopal can be called spectacular even by the most conservative estimates. The hotel that did a turnover of only Rs seventy five lakhs in 2002-3 touched almost Rs seven crores in 2009-10, a jump of almost ten times in seven years. This turnaround brought back memories of Hotel Ashok in New Delhi that despite posting its lowest ever turnover of thirty six crores in 2002-3 turned around and posted a fifty eight crores turnover in the subsequent year, despite 9/11 being a party stopper for almost everyone in the tourism sector.

The same was true of the corporation, the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation rose from the ashes to become the leader of the tourism sector in the country. A loss making entity, first wiped all its losses and then emerged to become a successful business enterprise. The state, beautiful though it always had been, also emerged from behind the shadows and came to be regarded in the same league as the established states of Rajasthan and Kerala in so far as tourism is concerned.

The Madhya Pradesh stint reinforced in me the belief that nothing is impossible to achieve. That India can, with a lot of effort of-course, discard the "developing" stamp and enter the "developed" league is a thought that engages the mind every now and then. That the question is not of shortage of funds, but inadequate application of traits like will power, commitment and integrity is also a thought that cannot be discarded.

People often criticize the public sector on grounds of non-performance and cite sarkari ownership as the root cause. Being witness to many public sector turnarounds and my actual participation in two, has led me to believe that the shades of ownership are not relevant, what is relevant though is the CEO of the enterprise. He can take it forward or sink it, irrespective of the share holding pattern of the company.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Romancing Railways

The romance is back.

The ongoing resurrection of the Rewari Heritage Steam Shed has brought back the romance of the black beauties in my life. Cupid struck me on the platforms of the Cawnpore (now Kanpur) Railway Station platform in the early sixties and the romance that then started and ultimately blossomed with the resurrection of the Fairy Queen in the late nineties had shown a marginal decline during my stints away from the trains.

Rewari now marks the rebirth of my romantic association with the black beauties that once romped across the continent in all their glory. In all ten beauties are expected to be ready for the ramp before the games start in October. The beauties are black because they were always so, but perhaps they have inspired the games also to take a black hue.

Fairy Queen was a dream, a dream that I dared to live despite being a bureaucrat in a developing country. The queen gave me and also the railways its first Guinness world record. That one incident inspired a lot of steam lovers to come together to form the Indian Steam Railway Society, the first and only society of its kind in the country.

The rejuvenation of steam locomotives shed at Rewari will once again kindle the romance of the black beauties in many hearts. Rewari ultimately, god willing, is bound to emerge as the mecca of steam locomotives in the world, an international tourist destination that would find its place in the itineraries of all those lovers who cris-cross the globe in an attempt to have a glimpse of the sight that they love the most - a majestic steam locomotive spewing away steam and smoke, totally uncaring of its surroundings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Digging into the common wealth

And why not? It is common wealth and so all those who are a part of the CWG, directly or indirectly consider it to be their right to partake of it freely and merrily.

I am not surprised at the fact that there is corruption in the organizing of the CWG. I am however amazed at the sheer extent of it. India has set new records in the sport of corruption, whether it is able to set any new records in the games or not is a different matter. I am now firmly convinced that our prowess to indulge in corruption is much greater than that for genuine sporting events.

I recently had the occasion to attend one of the CWG dinners, ostensibly in the honor of visiting security personnel. Disgusted is a mild word to express what I really felt during the party. It was shameful to witness senior politicians attired in white kurta pajama dancing with scotch glasses in hand. If such is the character of the powers to be, the loot that is happening in the name of CWG is perfectly understandable.

CWG was meant to be an event of national pride. Rather it is emerging as an event of national shame. Till now only natural calamities were regarded as a bonanza for local officials and politicians. Now it appears that sporting events have overtaken natural calamities as they provide a much bigger canvas for extensive loot. How the hell can the nation and its citizens accept and condone the blatant loot of national wealth in the garb of CWG. And why should we? After all it is the taxpayers money, not the personal wealth of a couple of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

From newspapers reports it appears that the national govt has put its foot down in the matter of hosting the Asian Games. I hope it does the same for Olympics also, which if organized in India would enable a much grander loot of the national wealth by the corrupt. Their future dreams now lie shattered.

Till very recently I could not understand why a nation that has miserably failed in providing even basic necessities of life like water, electricity, sanitation and housing to its citizens, even in its own capital, should indulge in such transient extravaganzas. The recent reports in the media has perhaps provided all the answers.