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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!