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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!