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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The top slot syndrome!

Do designations matter? Yes they do for almost all of us and that is reason enough for the great sarkari marathon, run not for the nation but for self perpetuation.

I often wonder why the honchos whom I regularly deal with, spend their lives aiming for the next or the top slot. These honchos never live in the present and therefore the question of delivery does not arise. And India therefore does not deliver. A nation, almost sixty five years of age miserably failing in providing even basic services to its citizens, that is what these honcho’s have brought the nation to.

A nation brought to its feet by its very own bureaucracy!

A post is just the means to deliver. Yet it is the misfortune of this nation that, the entire bureaucratic setup, cutting across sectors and services, regards it as a means for self perpetuation and self gratification. And so we have the top slots occupied by people who have never delivered, yet have kept themselves occupied by plotting and monoevring for gains with which even they are not able to identify themselves at the fag end of their careers. Almost all the top brasses that I have bumped into have been frustrated and demotivated creatures, who actually should have no right to be so, having reached the pinnacle of their careers. And without exception they blamed their subordinates and the system for their failures.

Top guys are not expected to give excuses!

What else one can expect from people who remain frustrated and demotivated and blame the system and others, despite occupying the top slots that the organization has on offer. If only these very johnies had a positive purpose and regarded a slot as a just means to achieve the same, the realities would have been much different, for them as well as for the nation.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The city of hope and beyond

I returned from Bhopal, the city of hope today morning.

Bhopal visits are always emotional affairs. The staff of Madhya Pradesh Tourism, the bureaucrats, the media and even the politicians and the unions, all give me a feeling that my not returning to the state for a third tenure is an unpardonable crime. I agree that I have to go back for the third and final tenure. Only God knows when.

There is something about the city that lightens up my heart and also my entire persona, immediately after alighting from the train. No doubt, it is a state managed well by Shivraj Ji, but there is more to it than merely being a state that is on the move. It is a state that accepted me, an outsider as one of their own and gave me heaps of love, respect and affection and now remembrance for all that I did in the pursuit of my own happiness.

It is also a state that allowed me to explore and then actualize my own, hitherto hidden potential. That so much could be accomplished in a three years tenure is a lesson that even I would find it difficult to forget. A commercial as well as a sarkari turnaround of a phenomenal level was achieved, thereby propelling the state to the forefront of Indian tourism in a modest time frame and in the process the state tourism corporation came to be recognized as an icon of success and change.

Railways on the other hand has evolved into an organization that neither recognizes, nor desires brilliance. The working of this feudal and highly sycophantic organization stands out as a sheer contrast to what I encountered in my previous posting. And that explains the ridiculous scenario in which we find ourselves – a commercial organization in a monopolistic situation in a sellers market racing to its doom. An organization where almost the entire senior brass, have no clue whatsoever about the purpose of their existence in the organization.

Give the men a reason for their existence, a reason that is linked to a cause and then witness the blossoming of the men and the organization they work for.

Is there hope beyond the dark clouds? I hope there is!

Insha Allah, we shall survive and then overcome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bankruptcy To Billions And Back

In the not too distant past, railways story of moving from bankruptcy to billions was being efficiently and effectively touted in various forums. The scenario reversed in a short time and now the common talk is how an organization that dealt in billions has reverted to bankruptcy.

Laloo’s turnaround was not exactly a turnaround as it happened without any change whatsoever at the ground level. Service, infrastructure and morale remained where it was, almost in the pits, yet the figures showed a marked upwards trend. Theoretical increase in wagon capacity and many other similar stunts that are bound to inflict wounds in the future enabled a marked improvement in the financials.

But, do financials really matter, if the finances so generated are not ploughed back into the system for systemic and infrastructural improvements? The answer is a big NO. A healthy balance sheet that does not result in improvements in services and infrastructure is as good or as bad as a diabetic balance sheet. Moreover a turnaround that falls flat on its face in a short time is at best a farce. The turnaround was therefore not what it appeared and was being touted at that time.

What is worse, financial bankruptcy or bankruptcy of vision? The latter it is, for how does one explain the precarious condition of a so called commercial organization that is in monopoly in a sellers market. Well we the bureaucrats of the great Indian Railways seems to have achieved the impossible.

Bureaucracy is the issue. An overbloated bureaucratic machinery with archaic decision making and contractual mechanisms does not really gel in the twenty first century. The problem is therefore not political but primarily bureaucratic in nature and unless the bureaucracy wakes up and starts working in a unidirectional manner for the organization and not for self perpetuation, there seems to be no direction of travel except downwards, aiming for the pits.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Muck at Ground Zero

I have now reached a level where I do not find it strange that we the bureaucrats of Hindustan, fail to see the muck at the functional levels, despite treading on it almost on a daily basis. Totally oblivious of the environment, we tread on uncharted territories lightly, with our eyes firmly fixed not on the horizon, but on the backsides of those above and those who matter.

The image of the sarkar is formed, partly by the conduct of its bureaucrats and politicos but mainly by the conduct, behavior and deliverance of its cutting edge functionaries, and that level remains neglected almost always whenever we talk of change.

A change is a change only when changes are visible at the ground level. Laloo’s turnaround was therefore not exactly a turnaround as it failed to make or show any change at the functional levels. Infrastructure, operations and services remained where they were, almost at ground zero, yet whatever happened was touted as a case study in management. How strange and how sad?

For a common man, and I am not referring to either the politicos, bureaucrats or the rich, it is impossible to get anything done from the sarkari tantra without the customary greasing of palms. Yes, heavy infusion of information technology has definitely helped in areas such as train reservations in railways and land records in select states, yet the areas that pinch certainly outnumber the smooth ones. House registration, electrical connection, water connection, an FIR, sending parcels on train, getting paid for contractual work etc are areas that display extreme smoothness only after applying substantial grease.

Yet our penchant for the almost dysfunctional vigilance setups keeps on growing despite the fact that the accumulation of muck at ground zero is continually on the rise, perhaps aided and abetted by these very setups that were ostensibly formed to curb malpractices.

When shall we, the people who really matter and who are mandated to bring about change indeed start walking on ground zero and removing the muck with their own actions? Till then, despite proclamations to the contrary, we shall remain where we are, at the bottom of almost everything.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thinking of 3 Idiots

Run after excellence and success shall automatically follow. True yet rarely practiced, this message hit me rather hard yesterday night while watching portions of the film with Arushi, my youngest child.

The regular jostling for prominence and recognition by persons not worthy of recognition themselves that we bureaucrats regularly indulge in, suddenly seemed to be an exercise in futility. The meaning of the word "success" itself started taking a new turn. That success is something that one can aspire for and achieve almost every day in our lives is a thought that hit my mind several times during the course of the movie.

Rancho, the hero of the film has an extremely bewitching personality. He is indeed genuineness personified and a truly genuine man can move mountains. Gandhi was one of this kind and he moved, literally pushed the mighty british empire out of the country. A man without biases, without fear, without ego and always ready to experiment even in uncharted territories is the one who can change the world, we all live in, crib about yet expect others to change. And it is indeed a genuine man who can heartily laugh at situations and also at himself whenever the situation so warrants.

Is it possible to get de-encapsulated of the rank and the position that the society has conferred upon us by virtue of being bureaucrats and hold humanity above these flimsy positions? Is it possible for us to rise above the rank that we temporarily hold? Difficult yet possible and Budhalakoti, the erstwhile General Manager of the Northern Railway who retired recently always remained far above the rank that he held.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Divinity personified!

Shri Shailendra Kumar Budhalakoti, a great man and also the General Manager of the Northern Railway retired from active service yesterday. He has been a man par excellence and a man much superior to any position that the system can device.

Mr Budhalakoti is perhaps the only human being that I have come across in my life who is as close to divinity as a human being can be. A pure soul, purer than that of a child and this is what divinity is all about.

For the first time in my career I witnessed a spate of farewells that had a massive outpouring of love and emotion and each and every one of the speakers spoke straight from the heart with a lump in the throat. And these were also perhaps the first farewells that were devoid of sycophantic connotations when a boss is poised to move upwards or utter disdain when a boss is about to move into oblivion.

Mr Budhalakoti has touched the lives of each one of us who have worked with him. Working with him has taught us the meaning of life itself. There is so much to learn from a great human being like him and every meeting with him has been a pleasure and a great learning experience.

The last two years of my career have perhaps been the finest, as I had the opportunity of closely working with Mr Shailendra Kumar Budhalakoti, a wonderful human being who places human values over everything else and has that one quality that is very rare amongst bureaucrats and that is Humility. My only regret is that I did not work with him earlier.

Most of the officers are feared, few are respected, but only rarest of the rare are loved and Mr Budhalakoti belongs to that category.

With a beaming smile on his face Mr Budhalakoti exudes positivity and radiance and a meeting with him gives encouragement and hope.

His management style is unusual for a railway officer. He commands respect and creates an environment where people are able to work and live without prejudice and fear and in the process creates a recipe for sure shot success, a success that he promptly attributes to his team.

Mr Budhalakoti shall be missed, missed like none else has ever been. Yet he is one boss who shall always be a part of our personal lives. He gives hope that all is not lost yet and it is still good to be good and bad to be bad and the society despite its apparent distortions is still eager to place on high pedestals such divine personalities.

The fragrance of his association shall forever live in the corridors of the Baroda House.