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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Exceptions inspire hope!

There can be no output without a commensurate input, yet every input does not guarantee an output. Anyone who understands this simple philosophy will surely appreciate why great things happen at times and do not happen at other times.

The sarkari tantra is largely composed of people who display either or both of the following traits. One of expecting output from others sans input and the second of freely dispensing advice almost all of the time even when what is needed is support. And it is indeed unfortunate that even the so called crème da crème of officialdom displays these traits in abundance.

My successful stints in handling commercial enterprises were successful not because of lady luck, but because of a very strong belief in the uselessness of these traits. Yes it requires courage to plant inputs in a decaying organization that does not display any symptom whatsoever of turning around, but that courage can only be borne out of experience and a firm confidence in one’s own prowess.

It is also necessary to appreciate the uselessness of being encapsulated in rank, a phenomenon that many of us witness at almost all levels, by almost everyone who is a part of the sarkari tantra. The date of reckoning seems distant to someone who is busy relishing the perks and power of office. I wonder why people who sit on official chairs do not appreciate that what is assigned to them is not theirs but theirs to protect and develop only. Yet the power that chairs tend to give, invariably goes to the head direct and straight, despite statements to the contrary.

And the change at sixty that overtakes most of the bureaucrats never fails to amuse me. Their human like behaviour, their concern for the organization and the sense of vision and concern that these chameleons display immediately after they cross the bridge is hilarious. Yet there are exceptions and I have in recent times worked under one such exception who displays the finest of the qualities of the human race.

And it is such exceptions who still inspire hope in a system that can at best be called putrid!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Building Nations?

Nation building needs to be learnt from the germans and japs. Countries that were totally devastated towards the end of the second world war, had in a matter of a few decades emerged as economic powerhouses. The transformation that took place rapidly was fuelled by the personal involvement, hard work and contribution of the populace.

Looking at our systems of governance and the general character of the population, one shudders to think what would have happened had our nation met the same fate during the war. I am certain that we, the citizens of this nation would still be praying to god for divine help, cursing our misfortune and imploring the government to seek financial assistance from international funding agencies. Most of the mulazims of the sarkari tantra would in fact be rejoicing over the windfall that befalls them whenever such events take place.

Nation Building is a misnomer in so far as we are concerned. National Loot would perhaps be more appropriate. The fence eating the crop is the ground reality.

The rapid march to Tihar of people who used to be held in high esteem till recently is a pointer to the gross loot of national resources by its custodians. This coupled with professional corruption of the worst kind practised by the bureaucrats is definitely not a step in the direction of nation building.

Or is it is nation destruction that we are talking about? I am confused!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Of Turnarounds

Air India badly needs a turnaround, but it cannot get one unless it decides to turnaround. Yet the signals that regularly emanate from this "deep in the shit" organization tell a different story. A solid internal reluctance to turnaround despite regular proclamations of the intent by all those successive gentlemen who aspired for and sat on the hot yet cushy seat.

Cushy it is, for it provides an ample opportunity for wining dining and loot by all those who manage this and other "deep in the shit" organizations. The cushy lifestyle that they offer to the top guys ensures that the concern for the organization, especially the welfare of its men takes a back seat. What Air-India needs right now is a "people's guy" as its CEO, not someone from the services who generally has only his own comfort and status in focus, almost always. Yes, it is true that the various services of the nation, including the elite ones produce officers who live for self and die for self with no concern whatsoever for the welfare of the organization, nation or the people despite falling in the category of "public servants", not rulers of the nation that they start imagining they are, sadly from the day one.

My stint as the main honcho of the Delhi division, the largest division of the mighty railway system of the country has reinforced my belief in the goodness and the immense utility of men at large. It has also reinforced my belief that the primary problem of the nation is neither the politicos, nor the unions; it is the bureaucracy that with passage of time has emerged as a self sustaining machinery. The "Officer" class has to take the main blame for the pitiable condition the nation and organizations like the railways and Air India find themselves in.

What was earlier thought of as an impossibility in the division is now regarded as child's play by many. The staff is solidly behind all our initiatives and the unions with their positive support ensure a smooth run for all the developmental measures that have changed the face of the division in a period of just two years. And contrary to popular belief, the politicos never intervened. Yet, the staff continues to be the favorite whipping boy for many belonging to the officer clan, who in my opinion would fail to make it to the cut-off list in any developed nation.

Unless we appreciate and then take steps to realize the tremendous latent potential that men have within them, organizations like the railways and Air India shall continue biting the dust and the unions and the politicos shall continue taking the flak.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Environmental Blues!

I often wonder how Corporate headquarters, especially in the sarkari sector, most of which have abandoned any semblance of cleanliness or orderliness try to make their subordinate offices neat and efficient. Such claims or efforts, in my opinion are not even worth the paper which they are written on or issued. Only exceptions, so far in my career, have been experiences with the Rail Bhawan in Delhi and the Vallabh Bhawan in Bhopal. These two office buildings present quite a non-sarkari appearance and an equally appropriate working environment. They definitely smack of efficiency, whether they are or not is besides the point. A visit to the Rail Bhawan surprises even the hardcore Delhiite. The corridors, toilets and public areas are definetely a cut above the rest of the Bhawans. And even the archives are a class. One can locate a file or a noting made almost fifty years ago. But, a dekko of most of the sectional offices and officers chambers leaves one dazed, mainly because of the glaring contrast between the public and the private areas. Well anyway, the mandarins of the Rail Bhawan definitely deserve a pat on their back for their efforts in keeping the building clean and smart. I also remember my visits to the Paryaran Bhawan which houses the union ministry of environment. Well now matters seem to have improved but earlier I used to wonder how a ministry which cannot maintain its own environment do justice to the “environment” of the country?

Environment is perhaps the most important aspect that we experience, yet surprisingly fail to appreciate. My first brush with environment was during those heady days of probationary period at Calcutta, almost a three decades ago when while descending the stairs of the metro station at Calcutta, I came alive to the impact environment has on us mere mortals. It was an unforgettable experience. The same Calcuttan who treated littering and spitting in public places as his widely practiced birthright changed colors within a space of only a hundred odd steps. One does not dare litter or even spit inside the metro stations at Calcutta, merely because of the pride, which the clean environment instills. Similar experiences at have reinforced this belief and I am now convinced that one does not litter a clean place. Also having experienced the effect which cleanliness and orderliness had on me in almost all the offices I have inhabited so far in my career, I stand convinced that a neat, clean and organized environment generates positive vibes that have a multiplier effect on efficiency with consequent growth in deliverance.

And so my first task in joining any new organization is to try to effect a change in the working environment. It has happened in all my offices, in railways, the ministry of tourism, the India Tourism Development Corporation, the State Tourism Corporation and now the hot seat of Delhi. Cleaning up the seat of power and that too literally is the task for the first day, to be followed by beautifying the working environment, both hardware and the software. I find it strange how we sarkari babus manage to retain paper that is useless, out of date, irrelevant and often even dirty enough to soil our hands and the table it is put upon. And so we have piles and piles of files, piled up in almirahs, inside and on top of them in typical government offices, and absolute indifference on part of all of us to do anything about it. And it is not just files, but old cardboard boxes, file covers, old pieces of dusting cloth and if one looks hard enough, even old slippers tucked away under the almirahs. Broken furniture is omnipresent.

But before passing any value judgement, let us try to analyze why a sarkari mulazim maintains his home absolutely spic and span and yet fails to carry his zeal to the work place. Is it lethargy, aversion to cleanliness, too much work or just indifference? Indifference it is, but why? The answer lies in our not being able to correlate our actions with deliverance and that leads to indifference towards whatever we do at work and also the surrounding environment. Official work has become a drudgery that has to be endured. Nothing matters whatever we do has become the prevalent belief even amongst the elite in the ruling class – the bureaucrat. And this is something that has to change, if we are to change for the better.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Constant Change

That it is possible to do things even in a complex organization like the "not so great" Indian Railways is a belief that got reinforced in me during my current stint with the delhi division. It is however a different matter that very often the effort required to move a molehill within the railway system may often be more than enough to move a mountain in the rest of the nation.

Yes it is true that the amount of effort I had to put in to make marginal improvements may have been more than adequate to turn around the national carrier, so be it.

A very interesting line that emerged during the new year celebration in the lawns of my office on the 2nd was that while the men on the field run the trains on the track, those sitting in offices at divisional, headquarters and Board levels run trains on paper and in the process remain sufficiently busy to believe themselves to be the movers and shakers of the railway system.

Often I get angry at the system and its constituents, but more often than that I pity them, especially the upper echelons. While the lower echelons are doing what they were ordained to do, ie run trains, the upper echelons are increasingly failing miserably in playing their assigned role. That the assigned role is not mere sycophancy or remaining busy in mundane bureaucratic chores is a fact that has not yet been appreciated by the officer community of the railways. Yes we have miserably failed, both in living up to the expectations of the organization and also completing our assigned responsibilities. And that leads to frustration, a symptom widely visible in the upper echelons of the organization.

The railway bureaucracy needs to radically change the way it works or else the organization shall ultimately collapse under its own weight and complexities. The existing processes need to be consigned to the flames and new ones evolved. Yes, it is an accepted fact that bringing about change in the highly complex world of railways is an extremely difficult task, yet it is not an impossibility and therein lies the beacon of hope.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Good Morning 2012

1st January 2012

A new year heralds a new hope

A new desire to achieve something spectacular

A new resolve to remain committed, sincere, truthful and honest

A new determination to fight and win against all odds

Continuing to believe in the goodness of men

Continuing to believe in the necessity of change

Continuing to believe in the equality of mankind and the stupidity of hierarchial segregations

Continuing to have faith in God

Continuing to pray to God to give us the strength to be just, yet firm

A new march on the road to collective success

Let 2012 be the best ever year for all my colleagues, acquaintances, family and friends and the organization I work for