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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Head & Mind

Where the head is held high and the mind is without fear - sounds like utopia.

Utopia it is, for all of us who tread on sarkari territory, the reality is starkingly different for the head is held low and the mind is full of fear almost all of the time.

Yes India is a nation of fear and heads lurking low. Heads are low because of absence of pride and the fear is the fear of the unknown. High on ego, but low on pride is what I discover when I interact with the railway bureaucracy. An ego that erupts over minor indiscretions by the subordinate but hibernates over even major insults inflicted by the powers that be. How I love the adjustable ego's of the railway bureaucracy, the higher the bloke in the feudal hierarchy, the more supple the ego he has.

And the fear of the unknown that kills initiative of any kind and makes one abhor risk taking even of a minor nature. Fear of transfers and fear of a less than outstanding CR, being the worst fears of a bureaucrat, especially of those confined to 5'6".

The head stoops low because of the lack of pride in anything we do as generally the mundane and wasteful acts keep us fully occupied. The inability to differentiate between remaining busy and deliverance is the culprit. And so the talks of achievement and importance are generally based on the days and time the bloke remains occupied in what he regards as official responsibilities. The head stoops low because of our sheer inability to make a diffference whatsoever, consequential or inconsequential.

Life is all about making a mark, a mark that is a reflection of the contribution that one makes to the society, a positive contribution, the negative ones being closer to a blot. A life spent without making a positive difference to the society is not a life worth living regardless of the altitude of the seat occupied or the wealth one has accumulated.

A deep thought before I retire for the day.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sick bureaucracy!

That the main issue with the railways is its archaic and feudal bureaucracy is a thought that has got firmly ingrained in my mind with passage of time. This though is in direct conflict with the theory that attributes blame to politicians for the mess that the railways finds itself in today.

Yes, the bureaucracy is sick and needs surgery, a major surgery for how does one explain its total disregard of its human resource and also other major issues plaguing the railway system and remaining engrossed in trivialities.

The mess is total and absolute and that perhaps is the only credit we can take, that of a job performed in totality.

A bureaucracy that treats its subordinates with total disdain and kowtows to its superiors. A bureaucracy that displays a total ignorance of rules and procedures when it concerns them personally and an outstanding grasp when others are concerned. A bureaucracy that utilizes with impunity, railway staff at home but does not even bat an eyelid in punishing railway staff for minor indiscretions. A bureaucracy that has brought railways to this pass, almost bankrupt, derives sadistic pleasure in imposing major punishments for minor lapses. A bureaucracy that licks the backsides of its superiors and boots its subordinates.

A bureaucracy, the higher levels of which still believe that the best form of management is ridiculing and blaming its men for all the ills of the system. Levels that conveniently forget that the railways is not their fiefdom and in the process behave as the masters of the universe.

A bureaucracy that encourages only the spineless to rise and then deifies them till they retire and pass into oblivion.

A bureaucracy that neither looks inwards, nor outwards, but only at itself throughout the service period.

A bureaucracy that reminds one of the famous story of the Indian crabs.

How can the railways even dream of improving services and have world class aspirations, when it has an overbloated bureaucracy that constantly has on display the worst in men. And therefore while the world is moving on, we stay where we are, even sliding backwards at times.


Sunday, March 18, 2012


Life confuses -

Is life all about being in power or
About Rolling in cash or

Is life all about merely raising a family and settling children
and leading a retired comfortable life Or

Is life all about helping others and being one with humanity
with no thought about caste, creed, position and belongings

A friend said -

"Bina Libaas aaye tey is jahaan mein
Bas ek kafan ki khatir itna safar karna pada"

And that gives another meaning to this journey when the futility of everything, every action gets illuminated

Or Is life all about just being at peace with oneself

Or is there a bigger meaning to life and if so then what it is?

Perhaps life is just to be lived to its fullest with all its ups and downs, both of which really do not matter in the long run, a long run that pales into insignificance when compared to the eternal run of the cosmos.

Confused am I and rightly so.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Great Railway Circus!

Various thoughts firmed over thirty two years of railway service cloud my mind in anticipation of the ensuing rail budget today. That the biggest public sector undertaking in the globe is going through turbulent times is a reality that is disturbing the internal peace of the railway clan.

Dinesh Trivedi is perhaps one of the finest railway ministers ever. A suave, polished and honest gentleman who has a vision for the railways, a vision that if seriously pursued by the railway ministry shall give a new and a positive direction to this economic lifeline of the nation. Such opportunities and such ministers are rare and will the railway services (the nine gangs) be able to take advantage of the silver lining is a thought that bothers me.

Reports of the Kakodkar and Sam Pitroda committees are not eye openers. We already knew the issues, yet did nothing about them. The reports have simply stated the plain truth. Will the railway bureaucracy that finds solace in petty operational matters of a routine nature, be able to handle the issues that have been highlighted is a thought that has been churning my mind ever since these reports were published.

Indian Railways is a massive organization, the largest landowner in the nation and the biggest single employer in the world. Yet the top brasses of this monolith have never engrossed themselves in matters relating to "land" and "men". I have yet to attend a meeting convened at the apex levels where issues relating to protection/leveraging of land and welfare of the workforce is discussed. How can such an organization that cares two hoots about its land and its men move forward in the twenty-first century is a thought that troubles me.

A commercial organization of the 21st century, the top bureaucrats of which still practice the archaic management style of abusing and ridiculing their own men and blaming everyone else for the failures of the organization.

Well that is the Indian Railways that our humble and visionary minister has to pull out of the abyss. Will he be able to? I live on hope.

Insha Allah!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

India Shining!

The results of the mini general results ruffled quite a few feathers. The results not being what most of the pollsters expected them to be signifies the coming of age of the Indian electorate. That the Indian electorate cannot be taken for granted is a thought that the recent results reinforced further.

What surprised most were the UP results. The massive mandate for SP, the severe drubbing of the Congress and the inability of the BJP to maintain the leading position it had in the first two hours of counting were certainly not what the general electorate expected. The defeat of one of the honest politicians and the sitting Chief Minister General Khanduri accompanied by the majority of his cabinet colleagues also came as a shock to many. The results of Punjab also defied expectations and that Goa has finally been able to elect a stable dispensation is a welcome but fairy unexpected development.

That mere smiles and promising words can get crowds but not votes is also a lesson that many would have learnt from the results of this electoral battle.

The country has had enough of the rhetoric, both of the bureaucratic as well as the political kind. That it now needs a proper governance machinery is a thought clamoring for attention and acceptance. In recent times, the nation also had more than its share of financial scams and sexploits, indulged in both by the bureaucrats and politicos and it now appears that the people have decided not to take things lying down by clearly showing their preference for better governance. Yet what choice do they have, being stuck between the devil and the deep sea and do things really improve even after the voter has shown his choice fairly clearly?

Failed governance, yes India is now a powerful example of failed governance cutting across levels and sectors. Else how does one explain bad roads, inadequate water and electricity, acute poverty and beggary, truckloads of crime and corruption, right here in Delhi, the capital city of this nation of over a billion. The state of affairs in the rest of the nation, especially the hinterlands would not be difficult to visualize. India not for Indians but for the rich and the powerful is what aptly describes this nation of ours that in historical times was referred to as a golden pigeon. Yet there is a faint glimmer of hope.

Insha – Allah, we may rise again.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Temples of modern India

The keeping of separate posts of Chairman and Managing Directors in State run corporations is not without a well reasoned thought process. Bureaucrats man the post of Managing Director while politicos who cannot be accommodated in the cabinet or any other juicy slot are slotted as Chairman of corporations. The mandate given to such chairman’s is not the revival or well being of the corporation, but to extract as much juice as possible for himself as well as his mentors. And this is the primary reason for the generally bad state of affairs in such corporations.
With the entire political system thriving on a policy of give and take, it is not really surprising that the political masters, cutting across parties and states are generally on a looting spree. Yes, it is true that there exist glaring exceptions, but these can be counted on fingertips in this nation of over a billion people.

Having had three stints in public sectors at the national and state levels, my inherent belief in the latent strength of the Indian public sector is yet undented. That the shades of ownership do not really matter in the performance of commercial enterprises and what really matters is the commitment, zeal and integrity of the top guy is a thought that has got firmly ingrained in me over a period of time. And therefore blatant attempts to foist known corrupt elements on the seat of Chairman’s of corporations generate a feeling of revulsion for the system. A system that justifies such blatant attempts as necessary in a democracy has no reason to exist and needs to be demolished and rebuilt.

Recent attempts, even at the national level to separate the post of Chairman from that of the CMD and gift it to a down yet not out of favour politician in central PSU's also leaves a bad taste in the mouth. National properties are meant to remain what they are and not to be hived off or utilized for petty personal gains. The entire disinvestment exercise that the nation went through at the turn of the century was a “sell off” in the garb of “improving governance” and a perfect example of professional corruption at the highest levels.

It is indeed sad that cutting across the political spectrum, attempts to sodomize what Nehruji called the temples of modern India continue with impunity!