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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.