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Friday, December 30, 2011

Employees First

How many of us have ever reflected on the state of the employees under their control. In my over 30 years of sarkari seva, I have yet to be summonned to a meeting or discussion that had the welfare of the staff at its core. And yet this "great" organization professes that it is geared up to take full care of the passengers that throng its trains.

I fail to understand how an organization that does not have the welfare of its men at its core, even dream of taking care of the millions of passengers that utilize its services, not for the love of it, but because of the absence of alternatives.

Interaction with a contented staff has been a rarity during my current tenure. Most of the employees are unhappy and frustrated and therefore actively contribute in the overall unhappy scenario. Each keeping the other guy unhappy and simultaneously blaming the system for his unhappiness.

The problem with sarkari systems is that they are driven by rats, both of the bureau-c and techno-c varieties. These rats as a clan are generally self centered and therefore fail to look at the welfare of any human being other than themselves. This one point mission of welfare of the self has had a devastating effect on organizations especially HR centric organizations like the railways.

Yet, the babudom leaves no stone unturned in mouthing platitudes relating to the welfare of its passengers.

Whom are we taking for a ride anyway?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Public Sector Blues

Public sector chiefs who thrive and survive on sarkari dole do not deserve to park their backsides on the seats that they have been almost gifted away. Yet they leave no stone unturned in flogging the corporation for the personal benefit of their family and friends.

I have never believed in the superiority of private sector management over the public. I have also always believed that the one single factor that makes or mars a business is the quality of the chief executive and not the shades of ownership. Yet I am amazed at the extent to which most of the public sector chiefs always crib about the government not letting them function.

The nose diving Air India is a classic example of a profitable public sector almost bleeding to death due to gross mismanagement by its bureaucrats led by the almost always high profile yet nincompoop chief executives. I for one definitely do not accept the oft repeated arguments laying the blame for all bad financial decisions at the feet of its political masters. If the chief executives were honest and committed, it was very much within their powers not to let the ministers have a free run at the expense of the company. ITDC is another such example that witnessed both, the best and the worst bureaucratic managements in a short span of time.

And that leads us to a fundamental question. Whether the governments of the day really want the public sectors to perform or want to exploit it or worse still, just do not care. I personally feel that it is a combination of the last two options - exploit fully and just dont care about the rest.

Mere lip service will neither take the public sectors nor the nation anywhere but downhill.


Leadership vacuum

The "vision vacuum" that we witness in the upper echelons of the bureaucratic setup in the great organization that I work for amazes and also saddens me no end. Even a petty businessman has a vision, and yet this largest single commercial organization of the nation drifts along without a vision or a sense of direction. Lack of vision and direction has now emerged as the unique trait of this organization that once was referred to by prefixing "great" to its name. The mediocre management at all levels of this monolith has also distinguished itself almost always by its penchant for the routine and jarring reaction to symptoms. Blaming the organization and its constituents for one's own failures or frustrations has also become a common trait of all those who occupy the hot seats, generally undeservingly.

It was almost always like that with very few exceptions of course. Yet only one exception stands out even decades later and that is Ravindra who is revered and missed even today by many of those who yearn to pull the organization out of the abyss it finds itself in. He is perhaps the only top guy I have ever known whose inner radiance glowed on his exterior self. A top guy whom one looked forward to interacting with and who alone could provide the leadership and vision that one misses badly in the railways of today.

Times change and with that the quality of men also change. The materialistic world of today where occupying a chair has become a goal, not for doing something for the organization or the nation, but for the power, perks, glamour and glory that goes with it has revolutionized, not for better but for worse the way we bureaucrats of India work.

And that leads me to wonder, when shall we hit the bottom?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taste of own medicine

My friend Vikas Arya has hit the nail right on the head when he says that the officer clan of the railways, has started getting a taste of its own medicine through the recent suspensions of faultless officers. His statement has opened up a new line of thought, hitherto unexplored.

It is indeed true that the officer clan of the railways never batted an eyelid in imposing indiscriminate suspensions and punishments on the front line staff, without caring a fig about whether the guy is really responsible or not for the act of high treason that the guy is being charged with. What has however emerged as a serious concern is that the bar has been moved upwards and officer class has also started getting a taste of the medicine that they regularly prescribed to the downtrodden. I find it ironic.

The fact remains that the railways with over fourteen hundred thousand employees has lost its HR focus totally and absolutely. The concern for the “aam railway man” has almost evaporated in the last few decades. It amazes me that in my over three decades of service, I have not been summoned to attend even one meeting that had the welfare of the staff at its core. Is it not sad that we discuss budgets, operations, materials and projects and even welfare of the super bosses, but never, repeat never the welfare of the staff.

Leave alone welfare, the system presided over by the railway bureaucrats leaves no stone unturned in exploiting the staff to the hilt. Classic instances of the same are some very glaring exploitation cases of irregularly utilized railway staff at residences of very senior railway officers who go even to the extent of physical assaults and extracting money from the hapless employees.

And I am amazed at the extent of charge sheets being issued, aghast at the trampling of self esteems and sad at the overall environment that promotes injustice and tends to deprive basic human dignity to those below by those above.

And the management continues to think that the problems plaguing railways lie elsewhere. How foolish and how sad!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Loss of Pride

The suspension of a senior railway officer for alleged dereliction of duty in providing accommodation to VVIP’s speaks volumes about the spinelessness of the bureaucratic setup in the organization. An organization where seniors, who leave no stone unturned in pulling up their juniors and prostrating before their superiors almost all of the time, can’t be expected to take a stand before the powers that be as they are busy making an impression for purported future gains. The most unfortunate part is that the juniors, when they become seniors continue to behave in the same fashion thereby indicating that perhaps something is deeply wrong in the core of the organization.

It is really unfortunate that the organization regards “mard” as those who pounce on their juniors and lay flat before their seniors. Shouting at and humiliating subordinates is a much practiced trait of those regarded as bold and brave by the system. Such bold and brave officers exhibit their braveness through suspensions and harassment of their subordinate officers and staff in an organization that is HR driven and also projects itself as HR centric. A management that accepts even shit from above, but not even suggestions from below is what we have evolved into. I find it hilarious to the extent of being ridiculous.

A recent incident in which a train driver committed suicide by jumping off a running train, perhaps for fear of being removed from service as he marginally passed the starter at a train stopping station is indicative of the magnitude of fear psychosis present in the system at almost all levels. The misplaced emphasis not on giving infrastructural inputs or taking care of HR, but on following ridiculous norms of punishment whenever an untoward incident takes place is a strategy neither designed, nor suited for development and growth in the twenty-first century. The fact that successive generations of management at the apex level have failed in their avowed duty of providing leadership to a rudderless organization thereby bringing the railways to such a pass is neither acceptable nor pardonable.

Such incidents that are indicative of a total lack of concern for HR would make any self respecting officer hang his head in shame. I am however certain that even these will fail to jolt the railway bureaucracy out of its self centric slumber.

Such incidents make me momentarily lose pride in the organization I work for and today is one such day.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In deep shit!

The news of a lady IAS topper getting arrested for graft is a true reflection of the staid state of affairs in the sarkari sector of our nation. While it is an accepted fact that almost the entire sarkari machinery is laced with graft, yet most of us found it hard to digest that a lady and that too a topper of the civil services would stoop so low. It is really disgusting that things have come to such a pass!

This news would undoubtedly affect the perception of the masses who so far laid a high premium on the fairer sex and also on the academically brilliant. Males were always considered wayward, but now the fairer sex too has joined the bandwagon and that too with a bang. Now only the almighty that too in person can help this nation as his blessings from afar have failed to cleanse this country of eighty four million gods and goddesses.

Despite the above, my mood this sunny morning is upbeat and the cause deter is two honest ticket examiners by the name of Bindra and Grover who displayed a high sense of personal integrity in discharging their official duties and therefore were given a well deserved recognition in my room. But what these two exemplary gentlemen told me and my commercial officers during the brief interaction that we had is nothing short of a horror story that again dampens the spirits. The unbecoming conduct and the unfair demands that most of the travelling members of parliament make, made my head hang in shame. After all these shameless members of parliament are the true representatives of the society that we all live in and therefore the deep sense of shame that I felt. What was even more horrifying were the stories of the demands and misuse of privileges displayed in abundance by the people who constitute the vigilance department of the railways, free meals and free upgrades being the least of the problems. A classic case of the fence eating the crop.

What has the nation come to?

What is so radically wrong that the moral fabric of the nation has gone for a six and almost everyone in the sarkari sector has accepted graft as an integral part of his job?

Is the job and what it entails, as promised at the beginning of the career not satisfying enough? Or is the compensation not adequate?

Perhaps the answer lies in the general lack of satisfaction in almost all jobs in the sarkari sector and also the perceived sense of injustice that the sarkari mulazims carry in the back of their minds. Job satisfaction is almost missing, except for those few who are strongly willed and the extreme complexity of the tantra ensures non transparency.

We already have a rapidly increasing number of srakari mulazims within the confines of the holy Tihar. The rulers of this nation have perhaps mistaken “amanat” for “milkiyat”. What is temporarily handed over to them in trust is not for self gain is a thought that needs to percolate throughout the tantra and the earlier it happens the better it would be for the nation.

I wonder where are we heading to? Only time shall tell!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rudderless drift!

Mission, Vision, Objectives, Targets, Action Plan, Individual Action Points and in that order organizations are supposed to think and act. It is basically a pyramid of sorts and the bottom layers are to be in consonance with the upper. It obviously cannot be otherwise.

Is it not therefore unfortunate that in the railways, while the mission is unambiguous, there is an absolute absence of vision at all levels, in all sectors and in alll territories. How can inclusive development be possible in this scenario. And therefore we have disjointed capacity addition plans in a scenario where even completed works have failed to give the necessary respite.

Traffic on the railways is increasing very fast, be it the passenger or the freight sector. Rightly so, being in a monopolistic situation in a sellers market in a nation where economic growth is bound to spiral, railways need to continuously gear up to handle the ever growing traffic.

But are we even looking in that direction? With the existing traffic being far in excess of our capacity to efficiently handle matters, every incremental growth is adding to the chaos. Therefore while normal commercial enterprises welcome a growing market, we in the railways while paying lip service to the advantages of the growing traffic, actually in our hearts dread the scenario that can at best be described as menacing. A situation where even routine maintenance of the track becomes a headache for operations is definitely not a very happy state of affairs to be in and the situation is bound to worsen rapidly with the ever increasing number of trains and almost frozen infrastructure levels.

On a micro level, it pained me to experience the reality that the already over dense Delhi area does not have a master vision plan for the passenger and goods segment. Piecemeal, yet highly cost intensive works are limping ahead with no target dates whatsoever. These works are also a classic case of blocking precious funds for long periods without even a hope of returns in sight. And we say we are terribly short of funds.

Yes we are short of funds and the situation is really comatose, yet should not this catastrophic situation impel us to put our act togethor?

Shall we ever learn?


Monday, November 21, 2011

Passion is the key

Prannoy Roy in his keynote address delivered at the Sanskriti School on the 19th of this month talked real sense. It was neither a speech, nor a eulogy, it was an advice to the students, an advice that struck a emotional chord with all those present in the hall, young or old.

Passion is the key he said. Passion in whatever one does is the key to success he stressed. So either one has to find his true calling that ignites passion or find passion in whatever one is doing. Any job done passionately leads to success as well as contentment and performed dispassionately is a sure shot failure.

Ashok Pradhan a retired senior IAS officer whom I met today is perhaps a very fine example of what Prannoy stressed upon. Ashok Pradhan was as bubbly and as full of enthusiasm today, as he was over thirteen years back in the hallowed precincts of the Transport Bhawan. It was his enthusiasm and passion for work while working as the director general of tourism that pleasently struck me on my first day in my first job outside the rails. That he still almost looks the same as he was thirteen years ago and still has the same level of enthusiasm reaffirms what Prannoy told the students.

All great men, almost all of whom have achieved greatness by dint of sheer hard work and perseverence have one thing is common and that is passion for whatever they are doing, Sreedharan, Pachauri and Amitabh Kant are other exemplary cases of passionate people at work, that readily come to mind. With passion, one can move mountains and cross frontiers generally considered invincible, even in the sarkari sector where excuses for failure are generally the order of the day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Random Musings!

How wrong we generally are in regarding:

a) A hard worker as one who always sits late in office.
b) A diligant worker as one who always has a heap of files on his desk.
c) A dumdar officer as one who abuses and roughrides over his subordinates.
d) A man occupying a high seat as a bada aadmi.
e) Wealth as a sign of prosperity and happiness.
f) A senior as a superior.
g) People occupying high chairs as deserving of respect.
h) One political party as better than another.
i) Leadership as only a political trait.
j) A grand plan better than a doable yet small plan.
k) Almost everyone else as corrupt and/or inefficient.

Gandhiji once said "How can an individual feel himself elevated by the humiliation of his fellow human beings". Is it not really unfortunate that most of us railwaymen take pride and a sadistic pleasure in humiliating our subordinates while at the same time leaving no stone unturned in behaving as great sycophants in front of their superiors.

I find it ridiculous when highly placed officials feign ignorance of rules whenever they demand undue favors from the system and display an excellent grasp of the rules whenever anything is to be denied to others.

Why do officers who want the top officials to behave in a particular fashion, do not follow their own thoughts when ultimately they occupy the high chair.

People who do not have the guts to place in writing under their signatures, their own very verbal instructions do not deserve to exist.

Dividing the nation!

With the proposed division of Ulta Pradesh, four new states are in the offing in the country. One state divided into four apparently to facilitate growth, but actually for political gains. Whether such divisions help the economy or not is debatable but one thing is certain that they help the politicians and bureaucrats alike by giving them new opportunities to loot the nation. More Chief Ministers and Ministers, Chief Secretaries and Secretaries and a full complement of hangers on is definitely what this division shall result in.

Sometime back the (not so)great Indian Railways also went through a similar exercise thereby increasing the number of zonal railways from 9 to 16. The gains or the losses are there for everyone to see. While the railway bureaucracy has definitely gained by virtue of more posts resulting in improved promotional avenues, the railways as a whole have lost out terribly. As it is, the headquarters offices handling only negative functions were always redundant bodies, the need to further proliferate them had absolutely no rationale whatsoever. So now we have a number of zonal railways that have only three divisions to supervise, one general manager in the rank of a special secretary and a fleet of additional and joint secretary level officers, to supervise three functionaries. How superfluous and how ridiculous.

The irony of the situation is that the public, the naive public generally fails to see through such games of the politicians and initially regards such measures as being beneficial for the masses. It is only with the passage of time that the damage caused by such exercises is experienced and by then it is always too late to redeem the situation.

Anyway what can a common man do against the machinations of powerful politicians and a faceless bureaucracy?

It is a hopeless scenario of the fence eating the crop!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Misplaced Focus!

Misplaced focus is a common ailment of sarkari officials, railways being no exception whatsoever. The higher the bloke in sarkari hierarchy, the more likely he is, to have focus on issues that are generally irrelevant and are of no consequence to the organization.

In other words, it is all about beating about the bush, yet keeping oneself thoroughly occupied in mundane matters and moving around with an air suggestive of involvement in important matters of state. Well we bureaucrats are generally adept at such posturings.

The fundamental issues affecting railways are lack of leadership, severe deficit in infrastructure upkeep and growth, out of date processes and tremendous yet growing complexities in day to day working.

Is it not strange that the largest single employer in the world is totally devoid of even a semblance of HR focus?

The organization has got skewed so badly that it would require monumental effort at the apex levels to set things right.

Getting engrossed in the mundane and daily chores is perhaps the easiest thing to do. Yet, is it not unfair that the guys who have the authority and also the mandate to steer the organization find it safe and also convenient to delve only in the mundane, leaving the complexities at the mercy of god?

Yes we are at the mercy of God and the only thing one can do is pray!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hoping against hope!

Railways never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think that everything is lost, out of the blue comes a tremendous performance that defies all norms of conventional expectations. The tremendous performance however remains confined to the youngsters only with the old foggies, and I consider myself one, hardly having any say or contribution in its deliverance.

Believe me that the above comments have originated out of the brilliant performance of my officers, cutting across departments in the restoration work in the aftermath of the Kalka Mail accident of the 28th instant.

The senior echelons of the management also contribute by way of advises almost always delivered with the wisdom of hindsight in hand. Period. That is the contribution of the higher management levels when its role infact should be supportive and visionary. Is it not unfortunate that the 1.4 million strong organization is generally led by a group of people who are not leaders of men, but who on the other hand leave no stone unturned in castigating their team whenever things go sour.

Reactive management is perhaps an ideal term. A management that reacts on almost everything under the sun, a reaction that causes more damage to the system than the incident itself. Time established systems and conventions are distorted with impunity by pigmies who wish to leave their mark, even if by assisting in the sheer destruction of the organization.

And we have almost arrived. An organization that fails in the satisfactory completion of even low level mundane assignments is what we have become.

Yet, the brilliance of youngsters gives hope, a hope that all is not lost yet.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Royalty on track

The King & Queen of the tiny kingdom of Bhutan were like a whiff of fresh air. Receiving them at the quaint Safdarjung railway station was an honor for us railwaymen who also left no stone unturned in rising to the occasion in preparing the special train for the newlywed royalty. This royal train that shall ferry the King and the Queen across the state of Rajasthan for the next four days, may perhaps do much more for Indo-Bhutanese relations than many other acts and treaties.

Despite its inherent drawbacks and overcrowding, both inside and outside its system, the Indian Railways is yet a great organization. That it still manages to deliver and deliver fairly well despite a multitude of odds stacked against it is a wonder in itself. The Royal Train that was conceived only a few days back, was turned out neatly in all its splendour and also despatched in time by the hardworking and focussed officers and staff of the division. A perfect example of dynamic delivery in a nation where positive occasions are getting rarer by the day.

Perhaps all is not lost yet! Insha-allah.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Love for hangers on!

The highly feudal character of railways has given rise to a peculiar trait in recent times that of providing protocol to the higher rank officials. Senior officials demand and get protocol for as mundane an activity as visiting or arriving at railway stations. The higher the official is placed, the higher is the expectation for and from protocol arrangements. The sensitivity of this highly irrelevant practice should never be underestimated as the servility in providing protocol often forms the basis for evaluating an official or a department. The better halves of the protocol hungry officials also leave no stone unturned in reminding the puny officials that they also can be ignored only at the own peril of the junior officials.

I often find it strange that while the really powerful officials of the state like the cabinet secretaries and chief secretaries make do without protocol of any kind, much lowly placed, in the order of their utility to the organization and the nation, officials of the railways cannot step an inch without a senior railway official following in the tow.

The reason for this unusual penchant for hangers on in the guise of protocol arrangement perhaps lies in the rank inability of railway officers as a clan to be able to make any meaningful change in the surroundings that they live in. The absence of satisfaction from ones job invariably leads to deriving a warped sense of power that the protocol arrangements definitely provide to officials who are generally otherwise pygmies, both in stature and in their personal contribution to the organization or the nation.

Railways is perhaps the only organization in the entire nation where officers of the rank of joint secretaries to the government are a dime a dozen. And the organization therefore leaves no stone unturned in regularly reminding them of their worthlessness by assigning them on mundane protocol duties. Perhaps this is another way of showing disrespect for the entire officer clan, by a tribe of officials who have no respect for themselves either.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blog is the answer for my "Unsaid Thoughts"

1.Empowerment is non-existent. No officer from the lowest to the highest has any authority to take any decision that has a financial bearing. How can a bunch of powerless people bring a change or deliver efficiently is beyond my comprehension.

2.The entire system is based on mistrust. Every action requires a plethora of thumb impressions. There are inspections and monitoring galore. A request for support is met with by an advice on how to improve matters by more inspections and intensive monitoring. Matters are never accepted on their face value. Hidden intentions/interpretations are always assumed.

3.The decision making process is extremely complex. In fact it is much more complex than even state governments and central government ministries. Complex is actually a mild word.

4.Our contracting processes are also extremely complicated. Role of finance is debilitating in nature. We are increasingly ending up with unworkable low value contracts in all areas.

5.Our system of carrying out developmental works through the Works Program route is primitive, inefficient, illogical and cumbersome.

a.Nowhere else in the entire governmental system is there such a distinct and wide disparity between sanction and funds. Everywhere a sanction is followed up with release of funds. In railways sanction and release of funds are separate and unconnected exercises with the results that while projects are merrily sanctioned, funds are rarely given with the result that we have a massive shelf of sanctioned projects.

b.When a work is sanctioned, the executive has the authority of going through the work awarding process. In the absence of funds, we have ended up with a number of projects that are half complete. A scenario of locking funds without returns.

c.In the entire system, works valuing over 5 times the funds available are proposed year on year. Tremendous amount of wasted effort at all levels.

6.Our vigilance setup treats every violation of a rule or procedure or even minor deviation as a malafide with the result that no one has an inclination to take a tough decision that can have even a minutest element of risk. Delivery suffers badly in such a scenario.

7.The absence of a railway officer in the entire railway system has made matters worse. What we have are only departmental officers who never come out of the narrow confines of their departmental thinking. Nobody therefore watches/monitors the overall interest of the railways.

8.The existence of nine services where there is the need of only one is the crux of the problem. Tremendous fights/manipulation for top slots.

9. The organization also suffers from structure imbalances. Headquarters offices have only a negative role and therefore not required. Railway Board has more officers than all other central ministries put togethor. Too many brilliant brains with no work. What they can achieve is stoppage of work and that is what they all end up doing. The officer cadre should be radically downsized and railway structured on commercial lines.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Maintaining sanctity of processes!

Sanctity of processes and procedures is what all of us strive to maintain at the railways, irrespective of whether deliverance happens or not. It is true that deliverance in the railways has emerged as a by-product that may or may not take place, but we should always have at hand our excuses and reasons of non-deliverance for that keeps us safe, alive and climbing.

Somehow I am unable to appreciate the way railway works, despite being on the hot seat of Delhi for almost two years now. The way most of us railway men think and act foxes me completely. The penchant for the mundane coupled with the tremendous focus on penning down inspection notes and other A4 documents for others to read and improve matters has created a scenario where most of us are wasting their time without even knowing about it. The servile attitude that officers are more prone to display the higher they climb on the organizational ladder also does not help. Obeying orders is fine but restraining oneself from speaking out the truth and the ground reality just because it may be inconvenient for the powers that be, is something that is plainly unacceptable.

Tethering on the verge of bankruptcy, Railways is presently passing through a very crucial phase. Ever increasing volumes of traffic and the rapidly rising staff costs, coupled with the long stay on increasing passenger and freight fares has brought us to the verge. Any further period of inaction on resolving this imbroglio would see us nosedive into an abyss from which it would be almost impossible to emerge.

Despite the financial bankruptcy and the tremendous complexity of procedures, railways still manages to deliver in the form of running its quota of trains, a task that any other organization in the country would have miserably failed at. It is also gratifying that after a very long wait, there is also a silver lining in the form of a committed and humane bureaucratic leadership at the apex level.

Perhaps all is not lost yet, and we may yet emerge from the shadows.

Insha Allah!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

May God help us!

My recent meeting with a cabinet minister amused me no end. In fact with the rapid deterioration in value systems especially of those in power, the behavior that earlier used to evoke emotions of disgust, now only amuses me, that too only mildly. The cause of the meeting was once again the issue of encroachments on railway land.

People who would go to any extent in sacrificing national interests for purported electoral gains now throng the corridors of power. As expected, the Minister was not at all concerned about the blatant grabbing of government land by the land mafias in the garb of helping the poor. His only concern was his own vote bank that needed to remain intact to enable him to have another shot at power and thereby continue self perpetuation till eternity.

It is true that the politicians of today live only for themselves. Like the dalal street investor, they also invest in elections with the avowed aim of ensuring astronomical returns for the grand survival of all their future generations. The bureaucrats of today also follow suit aggressively, sacrificing both professional integrity as well as the financial absolutely. Like the politician the bureaucrat of free India with some exceptions has also learnt to live only for himself. His focus remains confined to his posting, house, promotions, foreign trips and other perks and like the politician he also sacrifices the organizational and national interest at the drop of a hat, for petty personal gains.

The overall scenario is disgusting and hopeless. How the hell shall this nation ever come out of the abyss that it finds itself in shall remain one of my biggest nightmares.

May God help us!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Over vigilant vigilance!

That the Anna brigade has brought the issue of corruption centre stage in one of the most corrupt and backward nation of the world is absolutely true. What the brigade however does not know or realize are the complexities of the tantra, complexities that can be appreciated only after experiencing them, not otherwise.

The organizations responsible for eradicating corruption or for catching the corrupt have also moved to the hyper-active zone. Spurred by Anna and also the rising prices, the various vigilance set-ups have also raised their consideration fee. After all the vigilance inspectors and the vigilance officers are also part and parcel of the same corrupt society, so why blame them if they also partake of the loot.

Jokes apart, it is an established fact that the various vigilance set-ups in the nation have with passage of time emerged as the fountainheads of corruption. They thrive on corruption and therefore have no stake whatsoever in its eradication. When corruption thrives, the mandarins of the vigilance set-ups rule the roost and if ever corruption were to be really eradicated, they would not know what to do.

Some organizations like the one to which I belong have taken the vigilance business to absurd and ridiculous proportions. Every single act that is even a minor deviation from the prescribed rules and procedures is sufficient to issue a charge sheet followed by subsequent long drawn out investigations. And the rules and procedures are also many. The massive building that many call as the ministry is busy churning out rules and procedures for specifying almost everything under the sun. Perhaps placing a ban on supply of A4 size paper to the over bloated ministry may be the best thing to do.

Why do we need a separate vigilance set-up is what I have been unable to appreciate in the over thirty one years of my service career. Is it not the primary function of an executive to remain vigilant and prevent corruption in the organization and men under him? Is the executive not to be trusted and every single act of him is to be put under the minutest scrutiny for even a miniscule deviation from the books?

I always wonder what sort of organizational culture we are brewing? Is not deliverance more important than anything else? Or is babugiri the numero uno priority? Let us first be clear and then suitable results that would need to be accepted will follow accordingly.

Having been out of my mother cadre for over a decade, I could never have imagined the extent to which systems have gone rotten in an organization that often calls itself commercial. And amongst the many departments that the mother organization is divided in, vigilance perhaps takes the cake. The best and the most striking example of dishonesty in the garb of honesty.

May God help us!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Untapped Potential

Potential is a dirty word. Unfortunately many of us associate potential with a positive trait that needs to be flaunted. During my stint(s) in the tourism sector, I often came across people, even the doyens of the industry who left no stone unturned in eulogizing the tourism potential of India as if the potential itself is something that if flaunted would fetch both tourists and forex.

In India there is potential everywhere. There is potential in the building of roads, in eradicating poverty, in increasing tourism, in railways etc etc. On the contrary, one would not find much potential in the developed countries, say the United States of America. Lack of deliverance ensures conservation of potential and deliverance its extinction. Obviously, the extinction option is preferable, yet we take pride in tons and tons of conserved potential.

That conserved potential is not the preserve of infrastructure alone also needs appreciation. Most of us human beings who throng the sarkari sector also have vast reserves of untapped potential. The complexities of the tantra ensure that the untapped potential remains well conserved and the sarkar as well as the sarkari mulazims forever remain devoid of the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with the extinction of the vast reserves of untapped potential.

The tantra needs to be unshackled, the earlier the better.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Output sans input

The scenario amazes me no end.

The most common folly of all of us is expecting “output sans input”. If only output could be achieved without any tangible input, our nation definitely would have been one of the most progressive nations of the world. Alas, that is not to be!

Mere advice, suggestions, observations and reprimands are definitely not the only tools available with us for ensuring delivery. This is to be experienced as well as understood, yet it is unfortunate that while we appreciate that for us any output needs a commensurate input, we fail to apply this principle when deailing with others.

And so we have an oft repeated scenario of the officialdom demanding output from the system and also their subordinates without either being prepared or being able to give commensurate input.

Hawa mein nangi talwar chalakar system aur utpadakta improve karna chahte hain. Idiots!

How silly. Besides the so called yearning for deliverance often turns out to be hollow and if probed further is found to be borne out of a desire to impress some bloated ego superior.

And as a bonus we have our vigilance setups. One more naka that often demands deliverance every day from the field staff in the form of hard cash to be delivered to the die-hard inspector and if that is not done, the employee who finds himself tied in a vicious circle suffers. The vigilance setups have with passage of time grabbed a major role in perpetuating corruption, especially in the railway system. Yet we regularly have our shams in the form of vigilance week, pledge on integrity and what not.

The system stinks. What stinks even more is total apathy of the senior management towards administrative issues, even those like the ones described above that are nibbling at the vitals of the organization. I wonder whether we shall ever wake up from our "Kumbhakarani" sleep and then overcome the inherent reluctance to do anything that can even remotely be of help in setting the system right?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Corruption calling!

Time to rejoice, we have been certified as numero uno in the nation by the CVC.

Rejoice because we are now the certified number one in atleast one field, how does it matter that it is corruption that we are talking about. We have beaten the PWD’s, State Governments, DDA and many other veterans in this sport and therefore celebration is definitely due.

India being a nation of crabs, many of the spoilsports from amongst us would try to belittle this achievement by citing many flimsy reasons. They would say that the railways treats malafide and violation of rules and procedures on similar footing and hence the high score. Such spoilsports deserve to be shown their rightful place by all of us who through their rightful and not so rightful actions have brought honor to this great organization.

Jokes apart, the fact remains that we have achieved almost the impossible. And therefore it hardly makes a difference that we continue to have our minor follies that make us the butt of jokes almost all the time.

A once great organization brought to its knees by its own masters, how painful and also how pathetic. A classic case of achieving self destruction by non-stop shooting ones own foot.

Are we really that corrupt? Having served the railways for over three decades, I must have been an idiot of the highest order to have been oblivious to this great reality. I always thought that despite all our ills and there are many of them, the railways are still the finest example of dynamic delivery in our nation where every government department, without fail has achieved perfection in the art of often absent and at times inadequate delivery.

A plethora of rules and procedures, almost all of which border on the ridiculous have brought the railways to this pass. I am presently preparing a compendium of idiotic rules and procedures and am almost certain that the compendium in its final form is bound to be as fat as the Britannia Encyclopedia.

Jokes apart, I must confess that concluding railways as the numero uno can at best be called distorted. Being surrounded by a highly motivated team of brilliant and committed youngsters, almost all of whom do not display any symptoms of being on the take whatsoever, I find it a bit difficult to digest the conclusions of the CVC. The CVC is also not wrong as it is only the railways that has classified every minute deviation from its silly rules and procedures as an act of malafide, leading to the high score that we earlier ridiculed.

Our penchant to structure every single triviality has landed us in this soup.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Nation of Discussions and Ideas!

The recent high court blast took the country by storm. I find it amusing that almost everyday there is something or the other that takes the nation by storm. And then we have debates, discussions, comments, allegations, suggestions by the high and mighty in various forums that we, the common citizens of this nation watch with anticipation but do not really relish. Each and every single one on the panel has plenty of ideas about what others have to do to set things right.

An often touted post blast statement reminds us of the fact that while the united states has been able to prevent any such incident post 9/11 while there are incidents galore in our nation. True, but such indictments have to be viewed in light of the fact that no sector in the nation can excel in isolation. It is also rather unfortunate that each and every single one of us expects sterling performance from others and has advice galore on how matters can be improved in all areas other than the ones under his direct control.

Multiplicity of agencies and diffused authority can only complicate matters, not resolve them. Unfortunately even this basic premise is generally not appreciated by the high and mighty of this nation. And we are going ahead with creation of more agencies everyday. The proposed Lokpal is another example. One more thana, one more naka, one more checkpoint like so many others that demand and receive obeisance from the masses.

Despite regular visits to developed nations, our political and bureaucratic masters pick up nothing from them, except perhaps some freebies. These developed nations have moved forward because they have developed and implemented a governing machinery based on trust. Their machinery is simple and efficient, quite at contrast with what we have. And yet this simple fact is what our high and mighty miss during all their sojourns.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the hindu way of thinking. All of us expect godly miracles without us moving even a finger. And therefore while we have accusations and ideas galore, the nation keeps on sitting tight where it is without moving forward even an inch.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Times Now Debates

The hotly contested "Times Now" debates find more than adequate viewership. The subjects are relevant to the times and the entire debating session is also well handled. The choice of speakers also does not leave more to be desired.

While the content is good and appreciable, what really stands out as a jarring note is the acrimony between the speakers. With daggers drawn out, the speakers attack each other as if they belong not to different parties but to different gangs whose only wish is to eliminate their rival.

It is a big change from the days of Jawahar and Patel, when mutual respect for the opposition was at the core of the working of the parliament. Even during Indira days, Atal compared her to Durga, when Bangladesh was liberated.

Gone are those days. We now have the likes of Tiwari whose pedestrian ways has considerably lowered the image as well as the dignity of politicians and political institutions. We have so called eminent people on the panel who opppose for the sake of opposition, who have no morals or character and who are more a bunch of chamaleons than responsible politicians of a democratic nation.

Perhaps the Anna Hazare crusade may result in the creation of a better nation and a saner political environment. It appears that the nation is in for good times now!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rajtantra Vs Prajatantra

In this era of Anna, it is necessary that the crucial difference between Rajtantra & Prajatantra is clearly understood. Britishers introduced "Rajtantra" primarily because they had to rule over our nation. When the British left in 1947, a new set of our home grown rulers took over and continued with the tantra of the British. Rajtantra was primarily created for the citizens of one nation to rule over another nation. Designed with a ruler and slave mentality in mind, rajtantra was not the ideal tool for governance of a free nation.

So we have an anomaly. We have "Prajatantra" in force but the tool for implementing the same is "Rajtantra". And therefore we as a nation have been a failure. The faulty tool for governance that we have been using is responsible for the rampant corruption that has engulfed every single sector and service of our bureaucratic tantra. It is also responsible for the slow pace of development and growth.

How can a system based on mistrust be expected to provide a corruption free system is what I am unable to fathom. The ongoing "Anna" led churning in our nation will therefore not lead to any concrete result till such time we simplify the decision making and contractual mechanisms within the bureaucratic and political system of our nation.

Till then a corruption free society shall remain a utopia.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The rot within!

Overcrowding in train compartments has also manifested itself in the officer cadres of the bureaucratic machinery of the railways. That we have many more officers than what we actually need has never been in doubt. And this excess of officers has created more problems than what it has solved, the promotional prospects of the officers. Is it therefore not ridiculous that merely to better the promotional prospects of the officers, we have screwed up the entire organization?

The role of the headquarters offices is also suspect. Mere provision of curbs and controls cannot be and should not be the basic purpose of any set-up. Unfortunately with the divisions handling field level operations and the policy level being (mis)handled by the Board, the headquarters offices merely end up handling the functions of a middleman or a post office. With no positive contribution to make, the team of bright (and not so bright) officers is forced to make its presence felt by continuously acting as brakes.

I am also amazed at the rampant misuse of railway staff at the residences of officers and senior supervisors. While on the one hand we regularly crib about shortage of staff in crucial categories, on the other hand we turn a blind eye or even become an active partner in the game of using crucial staff for low level household chores. How can such officers and staff who either misuse railway staff at residences or connive in the same, consider themselves honest is what I am unable to fathom.

One of my officers recently mentioned that railways has emerged as a sycophantic organization to the core. Even the lowliest of the staff appreciates that the best means of rising (if one calls it rise) in the muck is by taking good care of those above. It is unfortunate that the officer cadre goes a step further by believing in this adage and also practicing it to the hilt.

The rot is absolute, total and mammoth. How the hell can it be cleaned up shall always remain one of my worst nightmares.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Corruption crusade - a holistic view

Anna Hazare is a crusader, a crusader against corruption, the most common virus afflicting the country at present. His mission is indeed noble and has caught the fancy of the masses. That Tihar has now become home to many of the erstwhile powerful and corrupt is sufficient evidence of both the widespread corruption as well as the recent efforts of the government in tackling the same.

The moot point however is whether the proposed Lok Pal bill would be adequate to eradicate the deep rooted corruption in the nation. No doubt, it shall help by instilling fear of god in members of the sarkari tantra, but will that be enough?

The answer is “No”. Corruption cannot be eradicated without going into and then eliminating the systemic causes of the same. The root cause of corruption in the sarkari tantra is its complexity. This tantra was designed by the british to rule over untrustworthy slaves. It is unfortunate that the same old tantra is still flourishing and new complexities are being added with each passing day. How can therefore one expect trustworthiness from a tantra based on mistrust? The complexity of the tantra attained through the web of thumb impressions on files provides a shield to the financially as well as the professionally corrupt. Besides it also adds heavily to inefficiency and consequently low productivity, thereby retaining the nation forever in the developing category.

Corruption, complexity and productivity have a direct bearing on each other. The earlier it is understood by the powers that be, including the crusaders, the better it would be for all of us. Trying to tackle corruption in isolation, howsoever good the intentions may be, would not yield the desired results.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Corruption centerstage!

Anna Hazare has jolted the sarkar.

Anna Hazare has also woken up the nation.

Since the Tianaman incident in the early nineties, I always wondered whether a public uprising is indeed possible in our nation of over a billion. The recent show of public solidarity against corrupt regimes in many nations in the middle east also filled me with a deep sense of sorrow for our nation that though not governed by an autocratic regime has also not failed in setting an absolute high in corruption levels in the public domain.

Revolutions to succeed require a critical mass of incorruptible people. We are rather fortunate or maybe unfortunate that our nation of over a billion people has so far been unable to produce the critical mass.

The Anna movement is appreciable because of the purity of its purpose and also because of its ability in shunning the politicians so far. It however needs appreciation that the politician, of whatever hue and shade he may be, is a true representative of the society we live in and no purpose would therefore be served by merely castigating him, whether he belongs to the treasury or the back benches. The politician is the true face of the society and if the face is bad, so be it.

It is true that corruption has been so deeply ingrained in our society that for a common man, it is almost impossible to get anything repeat anything, done from the sarkari tantra, without the customary greasing of palms. Fortunate are the senior politicos and bureaucrats and also the super rich who are not affected by the malaise and this is a major contributory factor for corruption to flourish. People who can change the system remain unaffected by the system and therefore have no stake in changing it. The complexity of the sarkari tantra with its plethora of thumb impressions for even mundane matters is the real culprit.

We already have many checkposts in the form of CBI, CVC, Lokayukta, police and innumerable vigilance setups. How much will one more checkpoint in the form of a Lokpal help is therefore a matter of debate.

A holistic view on the entire issue of corruption is the need of the hour.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

True independence!

The 64th anniversary of Independence day is round the corner. Indians became the master of India on this day - for worse or for better, I regularly ponder in hindsight. A baby nation that did not have the capability to tie even its own diapers acquired independence to take major decisions in all matters pertaining to its growth and development.

And look where we have arrived?

A nation of scams galore, a nation where real development has touched the lives of only a miniscule percentage of its population, a nation that still ranks almost at the bottom of the human development index. A very sorry state of affairs indeed.

And yet the rulers of this nation never fail in patting their backs for the supposedly great job performed by them.

This 15th, let us truly turn patriotic for once. Let us resolve to improve matters and be prepared to pay the price for the same. This independence day let us all resolve to fight and eliminate the evils that fall in our domain, without bothering about other areas. Let us decide not to be corrupt professionally or financially and not let anyone in our domain to be corrupt. Let us resolve to work all seven days of the week irrespective of holidays and leave due.

Let us for once give more to the nation than what the nation gives us.

This call is more for the armchair bureaucrats of the nation rather than anyone else.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Thanedar certifies!

Thanedar ne achha character certificate de diya.

Yes. The division is on a new high after receiving hearty appreciation from a most unlikely source, the office of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India. The CAG in its much awaited report on the "CWG loot" released on the 5th of August, while severely castigating every department involved with the games, has found sufficient reasons for showering lavish praise on the railways for the work done in improving the New Delhi Railway Station.

After the National award conferred by the Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India for the excellent work done at the station, this praise has further reinforced the belief that despite the rampant sloth, all is not lost yet and sarkari agencies that appreciate good work have not yet ceased to exist.

My skeptism on sarkari matters may also reduce in due course, courtesy the objectivity of the CAG observations.

And this new high has the possibility to spur us to achieve further excellence in the various spheres of activities indulged into by the Delhi division of the Indian Railways. Insha Allah!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Change or Perish!

Deep introspection is the need of the hour.

Simultaneous beating on many fronts is what the railways is now getting everyday without exception. The recent accidents have brought the issue of safety in full public glare and the railways needs to urgently do something in this regard. The public clamor for improving punctuality is also becoming louder by the day. Rapidly rising disposable incomes are also leading to higher expectations about passenger amenities and services.

While it is true that the railways is still the most visible symbol of dynamic delivery in the nation, it is also true that its working systems and procedures are archaic and totally unfit for the twenty first century India. This is the crux of the problem, and needs to be addressed, if the railways is serious about its role as a transport service provider and also its image perception. Mere lip service to issues that we have become adept at, shall not carry the railways any further in the present rapidly changing world.

That the malaise is a symptom of a deep rooted disease borne out of our inability to change with the times is a fact that needs appreciation by the mandarins of the railway bureaucracy, the earlier the better. Merely flogging the system and indulging in drives, counseling and punishments without giving any concrete inputs has time and again proved to be counterproductive for the system. How can, in the present times, deliverance be expected from a system that has succeeded in only created fear, not pride and commitment in its constituents? Yet, our over indulgence in cosmetic and peripheral handling of the organization is borne out of a mediocre mentality that seeks solace in following the simpler and the oft trodden path that leads nowhere. Our archaic decision making and contractual mechanisms that are based on mistrust towards one and all have also been failing with predictable ease in the present times.

We need to change. Any commercial organization that has achieved the impossible by going almost bankrupt despite being in monopoly in a sellers market needs to change its processes and systems in totality.

Perhaps the time for change is now knocking at our doorsteps. Insha Allah we may respond!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Redeeming Greatness!

True democracy is one of the redeeming features of this great nation. Despite the poverty and the below par growth and the often nagging doubt about the maturity and also the ability of this nation to assimilate and practice democratic systems, the nation has time and again proved that democracy has indeed taken roots in its governance machinery. What however needs appreciation is that the governance machinery has also evolved from our society and therefore cannot be far removed from the ills that plague the society in general. This vicious circle can only be broken by a leader, a true leader for whom the nation and its citizens have been waiting expectantly.

The very fact that transition of power at the state and federal levels in this nation takes place with amazing ease, unlike most of the other developing nations is a glaring testimony to the assimilation of democratic systems in our nation. It is also true that while corruption has spread its tentacles far, wide and deep, the growing presence of the erstwhile powerful people in the holy confines of the Tihar, gives us confidence that all is not yet lost. The Anna movement also gives us hope by displaying that the people of this nation still have the capability of starting a cause based movement, not for personal gains but for the overall benefit of the country. Despite the muck and the sloth, the presence of few committed and honest individuals in our political machinery, even at the apex levels also give us a reason not to lose hope.

Till the advent of the Kalyug, Bharatvarsh was always a great nation. It still has the potential to rise and acquire an eminent place in the community of nations. What is however needed is an awakening, an awakening that shall jolt the nation out of its slumber; and the redeeming feature is that a ray of awakening has slowly started getting visible in recent times. One can only hope and pray to the almighty that the churning that has recently started, continues till the nation is thoroughly cleansed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Selling the nation!

My recent meeting with a public representative, considered volatile by many, pushed up my adrenalin level by a few inches. The issue was that of illegal encroachments on railway land. Being one of the the many custodians of the land that is national property, I get agitated at attempts by certain vested interests to usurp it under the garb of "caring for the poor and downtrodden".

Why do the messiah's of this nation display their caring attitude for the so called poor and the downtrodden by dispensing national property through dubious means. If one has genuine feelings for the poor, one should stick his neck out and help others by loosening his own purse strings. Taking this line even further, I am aghast that many in the bureaucracy too belong to the same breed and exploit the organization for currying favors from their superiors and anyone who can even be of transitory personal help to them.

The widespread sloth often leads me to wonder as to what is the true calling of a government officer. Is it to curry favors with powers that be with the hope of maybe occupying a high chair someday or for other transitory gains, or is it something much bigger and more valuable. While the answer is obvious, yet the behaviour and attitude of the majority of the bureaucracy cutting across sectors and services often makes one think otherwise. Yet the saving grace remains that still there are many in the service who have the capacity to hold their heads high in a nation where "loot" both petty as well as substantial by the custodians has become the order of the day.

My simple query as to why the messiah's do not offer one of the bedrooms in their house to the poor instead of settling them on national property followed by a statement that for dispensing largesse, one should loosen his own purse strings rather than that of the exchequer led to an amicable end of the meeting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Warped bureaucracy!

Having st(r)ayed outside railways for a considerable period of time, my opinion about railway officers in general was not the true reflection of the ground realities. What really amazed me after joining the hot seat of Delhi was the tremendous capability and speedy potential realization that the functional officers at the field level displayed. On the contrary, officers of a relatively higher seniority who inhabited the head offices and Bhawan had absolutely no concern about the ground realities and with some exceptions of course, cared only for their personal welfare.

There is something about this great organization that allows officers to retain their talent and also goodness till about the selection grade level, beyond which a rapid deterioration in the zeal and commitment is amply visible. Perhaps this is directly related with the overall usefulness to the department that different units within the mammoth railway system have. And there is absolutely no doubt that the redundancy levels within the railways bureaucratic machinery are definitely much higher than anywhere else in the sarkari tantra.

Other than providing jobs, there is absolutely no rational justification for the existence of headquarters in our system. The Railway Board too, through its acts and deeds gives the appearence of a thoroughly mismanaged corporate office, not a ministry that it is supposed to be. The inability to make a positive contribution to the organization that pays them a handsome salary, has resulted in creation of hundreds of negative roadblocks in these two organizations. And the railways suffers in the bargain.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Testing Times

We are indeed IN for Testing Times

We have rapidly increasing number of trains

We have rapidly increasing number of passengers

We are in fact handling more trains and passengers than what our capacity permits

The recent accidents have also jolted us out of our slumber

Our trains and stations are dirty

Our infrastructure is crumbling

We have no money

We have a bloated bureaucracy, busy weaving webs

Corporate Governance is conspicuous by its absence

The system jumps on symptoms, yet does nothing about the disease

There is no direction

Staff morale is low

Corruption is rampant

Our public perception is poor

Yet despite the ills we still retain the potential to emerge as the finest example of dynamic delivery in a nation where almost nothing works

Is it not sad that a commercial organization that is in monopoly in a sellers market has brought itself to this stage

Who is responsible for this mess?

Is it the politicians? NO

Is it the staff and the unions? NO

It is the officers belonging to the seven services (Excl RPF & Medical) who in their quest for oneupmanship have brought the railways to its knees.

It is the presence of only departmental officers and the sheer absence of even one railway officer in the entire organization that has made us a vision-less and a rudder-less organization


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Treating symptoms!

Logically I should not be writing this piece, but my heart says I should.

The recent Kalka Mail disaster has again brought national focus and attention on the railways, albeit not for reasons that can be called flattering. The railways is now again going through the motions of finding the exact technical reason that led to the derailment and the catastrophe. While the newspapers reports cite various different plausible reasons for the incident, but it is more than apparent that each different likely reason that has been sourced and published can be attributed to a different cadre officer of the railways. Is it not unfortunate that railway officers as a clan traditionally guard their turf, the department that they belong to, even at the expense of the organization, especially at moments like these when nothing but the plain truth or an unbiased reasoning is the need of the hour.

Safety and punctuality, the two main quantifiable attributes of the railway systems around the world are symptoms not diseases, yet it is unfortunate that the national railways of our nation despite its most honorable intentions looks at only a symptomatic treatment of the issue. Is this because of our rank inability as an officer clan to do anything about the ills that the railways is beset with or because it is perhaps easy and also convenient not to deviate from the oft trodden path of merely beating about the bush to the chagrin of the entire nation.

It is logical that for every output, a commensurate amount of input is mandatory. It is also true that organizational symptoms can only be altered, for better or for worse only by giving infrastructural and environmental inputs in the right direction. Yet the sarkari tantra's of our nation perhaps think otherwise. When shall we start appreciating that mere advice, drives and coercion are not enough for achieving success even for these twin attributes.

Any organization that is bereft of a long term vision and an associated action plan shall never achieve success in the true sense. Similarly any organization the human resource of which, right from apex to the lowly always remains busy in the mundane shall also never move forward. The mundane should happen on its own and the officialdom should occupy itself primarily in matters relating to growth and achieving excellence.

The widely prevalent absence of even sheer common sense amongst folks who, by virtue of the chair they rest their backsides on, consider themselves adequate to pass value judgement on every issue under the sun, never fails to amuse me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Stubborn nation!

The Mumbai blasts have taken the country by storm and the security agencies are once again on the mat. On the mat for not being able to prevent such incidences from happening and on the ground for having to deploy extensive forces almost everywhere in the country primarily to make a big show of security preparedness and confidence building measure.

Is it not an almost impossible task to maintain a security vigil over a developing country of over 1200 million people? Besides, the extensively prevalent chaos supported by the absence of an appropriate information technology infrastructure helps to make matters worse. Yet the security forces and its top bosses continue to take the flap for an apparently impossible task.

When shall we realize that a well oiled and efficient intelligence gathering machinery would be far more effective in preventing such incidences than a fleet of gun toting men who are also from the same "uncivil" society as the rest of the sarkari mulazims who are not delivering, by choice.

If lack of deliverance on the part of the entire sarkari machinery cutting across sectors and states has become an accepted phenomenon, would it not be illogical to expect a very high level of preparedness and delivery from the internal security forces? The sloth has to be uniform, almost everywhere with perhaps the exception of the nation's military, that surprisingly despite odds is ranked as one of the finest in the world.

And that brings us to the basic issue of delivery in the sarkari sector. The rotten decision making and contractual mechanisms have helped us in retaining our lowly position in the human development index and shall continue to do so.And I am sad that nothing is going to change even after such ghastly incidents.After a brief furore, there is again going to be a lull till the next incident once again jolts us back into action.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The art of complicating trivialities!

The sarkari tantra, especially the railways has achieved perfection in only one discipline and that is the "Art of Complicating Trivialities". It is indeed amazing that while delivery has been made next to impossible, we have on the other hand acquired an immense capability to complicate even petty and highly simple issues.

And therefore everything has become an issue. I am appalled that in the last eighteen months, I have failed to come across even a single matter that does not have a web of issues attached to it. Every dam matter has been complicated to the hilt, to the extent that everyone, right from the base to the apex is occupied in resolving mundane issues.

Is it because of a massive oversupply and over-existence of bright officers in the system? Definitely yes, we have more services and officers than we really require. And therefore inadequate availability of quality issues to a fleet of brilliant brains has led them to apply themselves to issues much below their level leading to complications beyond imagination.

It is easy to indulge in the routine. The development route is difficult and has attendant risks attached to it. But the gains are higher, both for the organization as well as the individual if the difficult route is pursued. Yet we hardly find individuals deviating from the routine. Indulging in rank mediocrity has become the bane of this nation and also the organization that gives me my daily bread.

Are ten brains better than one? "Yes" is the obvious answer that a sarkari babu is likely to give, but the same is not true. It is always one individual and one brain, even if mediocre that is likely to give better results that a group of bunched brains.

Indulging in mediocrity and bunching of brains has indeed helped us in achieving perfection in the art of complicating trivialities.

God help this nation! Amen!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pygmies have bloated ego's

Never trust a short man, one of my favorite bosses told me long time ago. Right he always was and this advice of his subsequently helped me in forming opinion about people. What my favorite boss failed to realize is that one does not need to be short in stature to be a pygmy.

To be a pygmy, in conduct and action, one need not be a short man compulsively, though it definitely helps. During my visits to Bhawans of various kinds located in the capital city, I am amazed at the proliferation that the pygmy class of people have witnessed in the last two decades. And it is hilarious that generally the pygmies tend to steer themselves towards the corner as well as the larger rooms with greater ease than the giants. So we almost always have a situation with the pygmies occupying the larger rooms and the giants much smaller cubicles in Bhawans that are designed to steer our nation on the path of prosperity.

And the pygmies rule, with invisible ground level impact.

A pygmy is truly recognized, not by his height but by his "EGO". The genuine pygmies have bloated ego's that gets ruffled even by miniscule issues and matters generated by those below him, while even major insults heaped on him at the hands of those above fail to make any impact whatsoever. A genuine pygmy who once occupied a prime room in the second floor of a Bhawan that we all rever, considered massaging the feet of his minister as his "RIGHT" that he cannot be deprived of even by the minister concerned. What devotion!

The rule of the pygmies is here to stay unless the thoroughly outnumbered giants somehow by chance make it to seats that matter in the governance of this nation.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Misplaced Loyalties!

I often wonder why the sarkari kind of people are generally not loyal to the organization they work for? Why other considerations almost always take priority over loyalty to the organization that provides sustenance to the employee and his family?

Sacrificing organizational interests at the drop of a hat is what we all tend to do almost always. And there is always sufficient justification to indulge in the same.

Loyalty to the organization does not imply merely sticking to the rules and procedures. In essence it means making a positive contribution to the organization that pays for ones daily bread. It is tragic that most of us who make a living out of the organization pay no heed to its welfare. The concern of the bureaucrats, especially the senior railway bureaucrats confines itself to the welfare of the self.

Loyalty to the organization should always take overriding priority over everything else. It is sad that loyalty to the "boss in the chair" has emerged as the focal point in the lives of most of us railway officers. And this loyalty is also temporary. The boss remains relevant only as long as he occupies a vantage chair and so is the loyalty of his subordinates to him. Loyalties switch on the day of retirement.

The crop and the culture that we are breeding sickens me!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unrealistic expectations!

The issue of corruption is now center stage. The Hazare and Ramdev movements are based on the understanding that politicians are corrupt and therefore a strong mechanism is needed to checkmate them. This has led to the ongoing long drawn out and heated debates and discussions on the proposed lokpal bill.

Inadequate appreciation of the issue of corruption has caused the above scenario.

Corruption has two faces, financial and professional. Due to lack of understanding of the the professional kind, financial corruption alone is generally considered synonymous with corruption per-se in the nation. The genesis of financial corruption lies in the rapidly depleting standards of national character, and its root cause lies in the complexity of the sarkari system that we have adapted to ru(i)n the nation. Too many thumb impressions for even petty decisions have diluted the concept of responsibility while at the same time giving adequate cover and shield to the corrupt. Enabling corruption has therefore emerged as the strong point of our existing system.

Professional corruption on the other hand is as damaging as its financial counterpart, maybe even more, primarily because of its extremely high ripple effect and its being freely practiced by almost the entire bureaucracy. The higher the pedestal occupied by the bloke, the higher is the damage he causes through his blatant acts of professional corruption, the most common of which is the art of "not taking decisions". And therefore the file, the sarkari tool for taking and communicating decisions keeps on shuttling up and down, right and left, backward and forward and in the process keeps on bloating like a pig.

Identifying the politician as the major culprit in the popular game of corruption is perhaps the biggest mistake almost all of us make. While the politicians are no doubt generally corrupt, the bureaucracy invariably takes the cake in this field with the lower rung generally specializing in financial and the upper crust in professional corruption. Service, only of the self, family and friends has emerged as the motto of the bureaucracy, cutting across sectors and states. Besides why deliver, when no one asks for it. Keep on coasting along, purposelessly and handle files as one would a ping pong ball or a shuttle cock and in the process keep on rising to the top, like muck in stagnant water.

Movements such as those witnessed in recent times are no doubt piloted by men with good intentions, but unfortunately these good men have very little idea of the manner in which the wheels of governance move in this nation. And therefore it is imperative that before another watchdog institution is created, the contribution made by the CVC and the Lokayukta needs objective assessment. The creation of a Lokpal, without cleansing the tantra would tantamount to creating one more checkpoint, one more roadblock that would further slowdown the snail paced system of governance that we have in our nation.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The crusade of the crusaders

The current scenario in the country makes one sad. After all what is the fault of Baba Ramdeo that has made him undergo an experience so painful. First being pampered and then being kicked, by the establishment, just because he stood up for truth, and also commands a very strong fan following. If it was just truth, none would have bothered, but what created fear is the following. What appears from the media reports is that he has been hurt mentally, more than physically. Anna Hazare, another crusader also has to often face what one can term as, disrespect to a pure soul, and that is because he comes out as a genuine crusader for probity in public life who has also acquired a larger than life image in the nation.

The crusade to cleanse the society of its ills is a tough call that cannot be fully appreciated by most of us, even armchair crusaders like me. That a crusader would have to face ignominy and his life shall be tough, sometimes even to the point of extinction is almost guaranteed and yet he crusades. A trial by fire is what all crusaders have to face and that is the real truth of their lives. And that is why crusaders like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdeo are rare commodities. Perhaps if one searches around with a magnifying glass, not more than one crusader from amongst a millian Indians would be found.

Yet, these crusaders give us hope, a hope that all is not yet lost and the nation can still be redeemed. A hope that in this nation of people with jelly like spine who are prepared to accept gross injustice at the hands of a few, there are still a few men who have the courage to stand up, even to the might of the empire, for the cause of what all of us secretly desire in our hearts, evolution of a just and equitable society.

And that is reason enough to live and rejoice!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Change of Guard!

Change of guard leads to interesting times. When the guard changes, the men who directly or indirectly report to the guard also change and on full display in those times is the frail character of men. Salute the rising sun and kick the setting sun is always the motto of "common" men, who thrive in the sarkari tantra.

The setting "sun" unwillingly, after many failed attempts at continuing his reign slowly descends from the sky and starts assuming human proportions and form, a radical contrast from his once divine apparition. Gone is the arrogance and the common tendency to dispense, not favors but what he once considered the fountain of knowledge. Slowly and steadily, as the D-Day approaches, his general tendency to demean those who were under him and lick the butts of those above, starts reversing. The memory that once failed him when the sun was at its zenith, slowly starts returning and the common man who stood forgotten starts getting recognized.

The rising sun on the contrary is on a different high and starts assuming godly proportions and form. Suddenly the words that he utters are lapped up by all those who flock around him. Whatever is left of his spine after so many years of service to the nation (bullshit) starts assuming a new form, that of jelly in front of his political masters and iron in front of his subjects. The subjects too have by then switched their loyalties and are always more than keen to display their appreciation of whatever the new rising sun says or does, while at the same time demeaning all those who occupied the chair before him. For petty personal gains, they are more than eager to pay obeisance in whatever form is called for, to their new master. "Soul" is sold for a pittance.

The game continues. The rising sun becomes the setting sun and a new rising sun takes over. The organization and the country remains where it was.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Failed fast!

Baba Ramdeo is almost back where he came from, Haridwar. In a midnight swoop, the great show that he orchestrated was brought to a naught and the Baba escorted back to his karma bhoomi. If nothing else, this incident definitely displays the might of the Government of India, and also, considering the reception that the Baba got on his arrival at Delhi airport, the chamaleon nature of the politicians of this great nation.

Passing a value judgement on the incident may not be a very great idea, for the judgement can go either way, considering which side one is on. The plans of Baba were also not very pious, as they could have easily disrupted, the tranquility of this very sensitive city of ours, the city of Delhi. Post the initial euphoria, the citizens of Delhi would definitely have preferred to live without the troubles that a huge congregation right in the heart of the city can cause. To that extent, this action appears in the national interest.

Can such a congregation as had been planned, make a difference to the most talked about issue of the decade, the issue of corruption in high places? Doubtful, unless one was looking at a revolution on the lines of what happened recently in a few countries and what was attempted a few decades back at Tianamen. A revolution; why not, but is the nation capable of the same. So deep is the interlacing of corruption in our society that the critical mass of citizens essentially required for a revolution would never be available. Besides revolutions are almost always against one individual, and here in India, it would need to be against the social fabric itself, by the very society that has created the fabric in the first place. How ironic and therefore utterly impossible!

And therefore do we have to live in(and with)the corrupt society forever? How can the present state of affairs come to an end? Definitely a change of the party at the center would hardly make any difference at all, considering that the entire political milieu is almost of the same type and there is nothing much to choose from. Then what?

The answer lies in the simple issue of leadership. Perhaps someday, some leader may emerge who shall pull the nation out of the abyss it finds itself in. Another line that may have a fair chance of success is the framing and implementation of quickly implementable draconian laws against corruption. A swift punishment of the kinds as witnessed in the middle eastern countries for those who indulge in corrupt practices, would definitely deter even the hard core corrupt. Death by hanging, or amputation of a limb and that too withing a few days/weeks of the incident may perhaps create sufficient deterrence for the corrupt. Holidaying for a few weeks/months in the confines of the holy Tihar definitely disheartens some, yet would never prove to be enough deterrence for those who make their billions through corrupt practices.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The unforgettables - Corruption!

It is about corruption all over the newspapers, every day. After Anna Hazare, it is Baba Ramdeo who has jumped on the bandwagon. The Prime Minister also everyday displays his steely resolve to stamp out corruption. The march to the abode of the thieves, the Tihar jail, has also started in right earnest, though it is yet to pick up speed. The concern is whether one Tihar shall be adequate for the fleet of corrupt men(and women) in high places that this nation can flaunt? All good intentions no doubt but shall these measures really help?

Not much really! All these measures including the oft repeated expressions of a steely resolve against corruption definitely make a good headline, but that is about all. Like all good intentions that are not backed up by action, a sight so often witnessed by bureaucrats like me, the present euphoria against corruption shall also fade away with time. Forgotten shall be the Kalmadi's, Kanimozhi's, Raja's and Behura's and their place shall be usurped by a young and dynamic team of plotters who shall not disappoint the citizens by leaving no stone unturned in milching the nation.

When shall the nation, including its well intentioned bigwigs realize that corruption is not a disease, but a symptom. When shall we appreciate that it is not only the CWG and the 2G that we have to fight against, but the entire sarkari tantra, each and every single kalpurja of it, that has gone absolutely rotten. And if corruption was a disease, the nation is so highly infected by it that there is no chance of survival. And if it is a symptom, we only have to look for the disease and cure it.

The archaic decision making and the over complex contractual processes that throng the entire sarkari system, cutting across sectors and state boundaries are the culprits. These processes lead to diffused accountability and no responsibility whatsoever. The oft touted symbol of dynamic delivery in the nation, the Indian Railways is no different. Despite being a small player in the gigantic railway network, I am amazed at the rot and the sloth that these two archaic processes have led to. Deep rooted corruption, down to the grassroots, and yet the management, the top management chooses to be oblivious of the same and finds solace in mundane chores that are rapidly pushing the organization downhill.

We from the hindu religion believe in destiny and I am therefore convinced that it is the destiny of this nation to forever continue to occupy the prime spot in the list of the most corrupt societies of the world. Amen!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Great nation, not so great people!

Not everything is bad about India after all!

A country where elections see a change of power with amazing regularity, a country where the high and mighty are toppled even by new entrants into politics with amazing ease. A country that despite practising and displaying gross mismanagement cutting across sectors and state boundaries, is perhaps still the finest example of conducting free and fair elections from amongst the biggest conglomerate of electors in the world.

Yes, it is indeed gratifying that India is the finest and the largest example of a truly functional democracy in the world. A country where everyone is free to do whatever one pleases and this has also been our bane. A nation that acquired independence when almost eighty percent of its citizens were illiterate and the national infrastructure was in tatters, yet it made its constituents free and look where we are now.

Peaceful coexistence of contrasts is another feather in the cap of the nation. Here the dirty rich coexist with the abject poor, the powerful with the powerless and the gliteratti with the glitter less. A nation that offers the perfect platform for a revolution and yet nothing happens. The citizens happily accept whatever platter is offered to them.

Yes, India is indeed a great nation after all!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Restructuring Railways

The ongoing debate on the IRSME site about the superiority of SCRA vs DR has me totally foxed. While on the one hand one longs for the much awaited IRS (Indian Railway Service), their is still a band of people who would prefer to continue with the divide in the mechanical cadre, one of the nine disciplines of the railways.

It is rather sad that the railways, unlike other sectors of the government, failed to evolve with the times and sadly so, for want of a strong decision maker have preferred the status quo since the time the country came on her own in 1947. So while the nation is managed by one service, namely the IAS, the railways is (mis)managed by nine, with each service having a narrow sectoral focus and none, none of its officers having the capability to take an overall view.

The separation of the railway budget from the general exchequer, sometime in the early nineteenth century was done primarily on commercial considerations. It was felt by the british that the railways being a commercial organization would need flexibility in its finances and hence this decision. Unfortunately the railways have emerged as an extremely rigid organization, more rigid that even the typical government departments, thereby nullifying the original objectives of this decision.

The contractual mechanisms and typical decision making processes in the railways are rigid and archaic. Perhaps this is due to the lack of a will to change, a situation that has occurred primarily due to the multiplicity of services on the system.

It is high time, the railways get a chief executive who looks beyond the narrow confines of his service and pulls us out of the abyss we find ourselves in.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taste of the society

It is indeed gratifying that in this land of Balwa, Kalmadi, Raja and Kanimozhi, we also have leaders like Mamta Banerji, a person of unflinching integrity. A person who can defy the conventional norms of our thoroughly corrupt society and yet command the unflinching support of her constituents.

The elections in the state of West Bengal, besides propelling to the top chair, a person of impeccable integrity have also given hope to the citizens of this nation, a hope that cries out loud that despite the all round degradation, all is not yet lost. That one can still sweep elections on the wave of charisma alone, a charisma that emerged out of total commitment for the downtrodden and a burning desire to improve the nation, is a reality that gladdens the heart. The state of West Bengal is now on the threshold of a golden era.

But what about the nation? The large number of hi-fliers, politicos and bureaurats alike who strut about in the courtyard of Tihar these days is indicative of the state of the nation. People who were masters of our destiny till very recently are now busy cooling their heels in the holiest abode of the scum of the nation - the Tihar jail. And this is just the beginning. If the "just" course of action continues, in the near future one would witness many more powerful people finding solace within the confines of the premier jail of the nation.

What however surprises me, is the reluctance of the people to accept the state of the nation as it is. Almost all of us, including those whose contribution in things unsavory is substantial, crib about the imperfections in the social structure and also the created environment. Crib, in the hope that someone else shall set matters right, for they are uncomfortable with the taste of the society.

After all one cant' escape the taste of the society one has helped create.

Reality Vs Statistics

Statistics shroud reality, and this is the fundamental reason why almost all of us are busy in creating favorable statistics.

Though we generally don’t’ ever, but we all should occasionally stop and ponder, whether good statistics can ever take priority over good deliverance? Yes for short term personal gains, statistics alone make all the difference, yet in the long run, focus only on statistics can destroy any organization. And this is generally happening with amazing ease in the sarkari sector cutting across sectors and state boundaries.

The civil service, of which I am also a miniscule component, takes pride whenever it submits improved statistics, figures that are apparently better than the corresponding period of the previous year, and invariably since the day this nation became independent, we have been witness to continuously improving statistics. Yet, this developing nation is still almost at the bottom of the list of nations in about all development indexes. This fact alone proves the irrelevance of statistics for the organization and nation at large, despite its extreme relevance for the fleet of babus who (mis)manage the country.

This reinforces the theory of a total and absolute disconnect that the so called managers of this nation have with the ground realities. This situation has to change if the nation has to march forward. And for it to happen, the political masters have to put the bureaucracy in its rightful place, that of true servants of the nation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The great disconnect!

India Shining, has been one of the finest example of disconnect in recent times, disconnect that the topmost echelons of the sarkari tantra generally have with the ground reality. Similar examples of disconnect can be seen in the public sector enterprises that are not doing well and in almost all sectors under sarkari control.

Living in a make believe world is the most common folly of all those who regard themselves as the rulers in the present day democratic India. A make believe world where everything is hunky dory despite the ground realities being abysmally different. And why not? This is the best scenario to be in for a top notch sarkari mulazim as well as the malik. Question the existence of problems and feign ignorance about sensitive ground level issues is the mantra. Questioning is the easiest when almost everything is in the dumps and the questioner is in an inherently advantageous position vis-a-vis the one who has to provide the answers.

And the railways is also no different. Here the number of observers, the number of people who are busy passing value judgements on diverse issues under the sun far exceeds the number of people identified for delivery. A blanket refusal to accept the ground realities, in their eagerness to present a rosy picture to the powers that be and perhaps enter their good books, has emerged as the hallmark of the upper crust in the railways. And therefore while there is general deterioration in the infrastructure with hardly any noticeable efforts towards improvements, the frustration levels in the field officials who are invariably left holding the baby is also on the rise. Wasteful expenditure on infrastructure provided whimsically is also a result of the absolute disconnect.

At the present critical stage in the growth of the nation, we already have more than our requirement of policy makers and pen pushers. What we need, if the nation is to move forward, is an army of committed field workers and a sarkari tantra that supports, not advices the field, and also does not create layers and layers of disconnect.

Is it too much to ask for?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bleeding public sector!

PC Sen in his article “An airline hijacked” published in the HT of 9th May 2011 has hit the nail right on the head. Both Air India and Indian Airlines that were airlines of repute till a few years ago and are now collectively known as Air India have hit the dirt. The reasons for the same may be many, yet the inability of the management to succeed in a commercial sector that is growing rapidly and is also inherently profitable cannot be but decried. Similar is generally the case with all government run hotel corporations that despite being part of an inherently profitable sector generally bleed to bankruptcy.

My two stints as a public sector honcho, namely the short-lived stint at the India Tourism Development Corporation and later at the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation have reinforced my belief that the CEO positions in public sectors are primarily leadership positions. Any CEO who does not appreciate this basic premise is bound to fall flat on the face and that is what has been happening regularly in the Indian public sector scenario.

PC Sen has rightly mentioned that the employees are the key to success of any organization and any organization that does not place the welfare of its employees as its primary focus shall rarely succeed. Unfortunately this has been happening with amazing regularity at most of the loss making public sector enterprises. Otherwise how can one explain the rationale of major staff related decisions taken without actively considering the genuine concerns and anxieties of the people who have to run the show – the employees. And these concerns and anxieties can be appreciated only if the top management is transparent, does not live in an ivory tower and has a direct line with the staff.

My stint at the India Tourism Development Corporation coincided with the aggressiveness that was then being displayed in the disinvestment of the public sector and also the 9/11 incident which affected tourism worldwide. The combined synergy of both the events made the revival extremely difficult, almost impossible in the eyes of many, yet the rapid turnaround that the company witnessed in 2002-3 was the result of a massive team effort, a team effort that even the junior-most of the employees identified himself with.

The iconic success of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism in finding its place in the big league of Indian tourism and also the unprecedented financial turnaround of the state tourism corporation was fuelled by the same employees of the once beleaguered corporation, who were earlier being blamed for the mess that the state tourism corporation was in. Posting over 30% growth per annum by a state public sector undertaking that had already hit the bottom and was being actively considered for a sell-off again proved that a turnaround is possible provided the top guy has employee focus and is committed to the growth of the company.

Any commercial enterprise, be it the local pan ki dukaan or a towering corporation is only as good as its leader, or in other words its top guy. The top guy has to have leadership capabilities and by his words and deeds, should be able to command the unquestioned loyalty of his men. Everything else is secondary, yet unfortunately most of the top guys only look upwards and display extreme keenness to be identified as the blue eyed boys of the powers that be. Blue eyed boys they become, but they lose the company and that is what has happened with most of the commercial enterprises that have rapidly gone downhill.

The top guys also have to be able to distinguish between the “effort to deliver” and the “decision to deliver”. While the effort part is good and appreciable, the decision part is almost mandatory. Unless the company led by its top guy decides to deliver, the effort will almost always never bear fruit. It is also sad that generally, the top management gets busy in the “how” and remains busy in the same while the corporation continues its downhill slide. What the top guys fail to appreciate is that the “will” to turn around is far more important than the “how’s” and “why’s”.

And lastly, any commercial enterprise that works in a competitive environment, howsoever profitable the sector may be, has to have its foundations firmly in the ground, grouted in value systems that are universally accepted as good and also good practices. Corruption, drinking on duty, indiscipline and sexual harassment are ills, the eradication of which should remain foremost on the agenda of the top management that would invariably need to lead by example to succeed.

The public sector enterprises are businesses like any other, the only difference lies in the ownership pattern that is vested in the government. The success or otherwise of any business depends more on the top guy than on the ownership pattern and this is a hard reality that needs universal acceptance.