Powered By Blogger

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

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.