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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Make things simple to happen and they will happen

I often wonder, where did we go wrong in the last sixty three years. Why despite a stable democratic system inherited after centuries of foreign rule and oppression, Bharatvarsh did not really take off? Why, on the economic front we are still at the bottom of the list of nations. Why even basic infrastructure like decent roads and highways were non-existent till now, and it required a major resolve to start building them at a pace unimaginable, only a couple of years earlier. How is it that every Bharatvasi who leaves our shores becomes a success story, despite being an abysmal failure in his own motherland? Why, Why, Why, Why and Why. These Why’s, I think will haunt me to my grave.

Yes we all have to start questioning and start asking why? Isn’t it ridiculous that in the system we live in, a procedure or a rule or a policy is easily and almost always allowed to take overriding priority over deliverance? Isn’t it equally ridiculous that the same system lays such a strong premium on non-deliverance that at times the achievers stand the risk of being victimized. And in the process, deliverance suffers and has suffered in the first fifty years of the existence of a free Bharatvarsh.

My first discourse on deliverance was after my visit to Germany in 1991 where I thought, I unraveled the secret of deliverance and then shared the experiences with my wife and all who came in contact with me. During visits to German locomotive builders whose productivity was fifty times ours, I understood why the purchasing power of an average German was as many times that of a Bharatvasi. And this ratio of fifty was not due to just technology. The major factor was an enthused human being who delivered for the eight hours he worked as opposed to remaining or appearing busy for eight hours. The crux is delivery, not deliberation and the sooner we understand this as an individual, as a society and as a nation and relate it to our capacity to purchase even household items of everyday necessity, the better.

Over three decades of being wedded to sarkar has left me thoroughly confused. In the hallowed sector, one is generally assessed by how busy he remains, how rule and procedure oriented he is and how subservient he is. How productive one is, generally remains immaterial unless it is to be twisted and used against him. Procedure orientation is welcome but output orientation is considered an unacceptable trait, and delivery, if at all it happens is always looked at with suspicion. Cutting across official buildings spread all over the country, one comes across a sea of babus, who appear busy but have no interest whatsoever in delivery and are therefore not delivering. And if deliverance happens, it is more by chance, less by choice. And so we have become a rashtra of non-achievers. A rashtra where anything happening is considered an achievement and so one has all the foundation and inaugural stone ceremonies galore for things, which should have been there as a matter of course.

“Make things simple to happen” and then things will happen. Things will happen at the hands of even the so-called average and mediocre and then the country would have no option other than taking off for the big league. Unfortunately the primitive feudal mindset still continues. During the British rule we were slaves, and the system was accordingly designed to make untrustworthy slaves work. Why we are still carrying on with the same system is what I am unable to fathom. The same old system, which required a hundred thumb impressions for a job as trivial as even buying a spoon, continues. The same old system where everyone is considered unworthy of trust and you have to have a countersignature over the signature of every responsible person continues. Somehow we have ended up believing in and therefore practicing “Make things impossible to happen” as the solution to all ills including the all-pervasive corruption. I quite often wonder why we don’t make it easy to do things. Why even simple matters spin out of control requiring phenomenal effort to execute? Why things happen so easily in the developed and even the developing countries and never happen in our motherland? Why our motherland even after fifty years of independence is still grappling with primary issues like water, electricity and housing? Why we can make one rocket and one atom bomb beautifully and fail in mass quality production of even petty items? Why projects initiated with great fanfare are found rotting only after a couple of months? All this, I feel is because we have made doing anything impossible. I really dream that the country would one day adopt the philosophy of “Make things simple to happen”.

If even buying a spoon is a project, how will factories and powerhouses get built? And therefore as a first step let us de-complicate the over complex decision making process. And I am not talking only about the big decisions. Even petty decisions at the field level also require being de-complicated. Let us reduce the number of thumb impressions per decision. Let us if possible eliminate or drastically reduce files. This will radically improve productivity, fix accountability and in the process eliminate corruption. Everyone will then be fully accountable for his or her acts of omission or commission and will either pay the price for non-deliverance or enjoy the fruits of achievement besides standing the risk of immediate exposure for acts of impropriety. Another step is to de-complicate the complex mechanism of contracting. Our contractual procedures are so harrowing that ultimately one ends up purchasing poor quality products and services at unreasonably high and sometimes unworkable prices, and also in the process creating ample opportunities for loot. Let us for once accept that our decision-making processes and the contractual mechanisms have failed the country and therefore deserve to be overhauled.

The remarkable book “Maverick” by Ricardo Semmler tells us about a multi billion dollar organization, which has no policies, no rulebooks and believes in absolute delegation. The employees decide their own wage, decide their timings of work, take decisions about production and create their own working environment. And instead of bringing about a chaos, which we Bhartvasis believe such a system shall, the organization is growing at an annual rate of more than 70%, besides being rated as a model organization in Brazil. If structured and complicated decision making systems, strong procedure oriented budgeting systems, elaborate vigilance setups and an over bearing bureaucracy has brought the country to the present situation, we would be better off without them.

Let us make things simple to happen and then they will happen.


  1. It is really admirable when a senior bureaucrat speaks with so much sensitivity from the core of his heart. For me, you are amongst the illustrious lineage of officers, who have made Indian Railways proud, like, Dr. Jagjit Singh, Ex GM/SE Railway, during sixties ,authority in Operational Research ,author of large number of papers and books: Mathematical Ideas-Their Nature and Use, Great Ideas in Information Theory, Language and Cybernetics ,Statistical Aids to Railway Operation and of course the popular book Modern Cosmology published by Penguin Books. He was the first Asian recipient of the UNESCO Kalinga Prize in popularization of science; Sh. GH Keswani Ex GM/NR was an authority on philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell; more recently Sh. YR Anand, Ex CRB, noted Gandhian, Sh.RR Bhandari Ex MM and author of repute on the history of Indian Railways and of course Dr.Sridharan. I pray such breed flourish to serve the nation better.
    Regarding the complexity of plethora of Rules and Regulations it is pertinent to note that there are nearly 94 amendments of the Constitution of India in just 60 years of its enactment and it was adopted on British model which has no written constitution. Similarly we formed innumerable Codes and Manuals for day to day working in the Govt. offices. Of course, it is high time we get rid of cumbersome procedures and simplify the things to happen. DMRC may be taken as role model for it. There the Schedule of Powers including financial, percolate down to the lowest possible level to achieve the efficiency and quality of services. But at the same time exemplary punishments are given for inefficiency and financial impropriety. It has worked well with the exception of certain instances of erosion. Foremost reason of its success is iconic Dr.Sridharan who although, had to face humiliation several times in his career.
    Do we really need statute books and codes of rules and laws? Do we really follow them? We are a Nation of contradictions: We are deeply religious people but with abundance of crime and corruption. Rather, we feel pride in breaking the norms. In a certain ad in the TV we are asked to wear a certain brand of under garment to break the queue and jump to the front in the line. And the things we ought to break such as “walls” between brothers, families, states etc., we are asked to build with certain brand of cement with unbreakable quality. We, in the government sector, have a work force in group A,B,C and even D cadre who come through rigorous competitive examinations and are comparatively more intelligent than the rest but at the same time with a tag of most lethargic and corrupt.
    Transparency in public life has taken the back seat, even at the highest level. Recent appointment of CVC, amid controversy, is an example. Candid confession of outgoing CVC regarding acceptability and even glorification of corrupt with his ill gotten wealth is chilling reminder of the future of our society.
    In the present times, it is humiliating to stick to the norms and observe values in public life. One has to face ridicule and even persecution. Squeezing and milking the system of its resources and minting money by unfair means have become hallmark of the day.
    Doesn’t our posterity deserve a better, fair and cleaner society?

  2. sir, i saw your blog and really inspired and impressed.sincerely i admire you and adore your energy level and passion for work. you write about why in last 63 years we didn't progressed. since i am a part of system i can say that our delivery system is total failure .
    for example :due to your effort first time at nzm contrat amount was very good but what happened at the time of commonwealth game the most important aspect i.e . cleanliness is in wrong hand. you know it contractor can not deliver what you want, but your system has not shown any courage/ vision and awarded it . here no body is corrupt even politician but your system has no time to understand the problem . sorry if i wrote anything wrong . you are like elder so i shared my thoughts. best regards,niraj

  3. Who wants productivity?
    In sarkari system manipulated statistics of numbers is productivity, Ouality output is immaterial.
    Who wants less confusion?
    More Confusion, more abuse of Authority and more money.
    Do there any need to tell anyone?
    Everyone from top to bottom knows but keeps mum conveniently or may be helplessly.
    Who can address it?
    everyone from top to bottom, sounds good but can the bottoms ones reform? No, they can only make little difference which will never be enough.
    IT should come from the top, from the policy makers, from the bureaucrats,but apart from few they are busy with their sycophants, Country can wait for now.