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Friday, August 24, 2012

desi bureaucrats

The role of government servants in a democratic setup should necessarily be confined to implementing the policies of the government in accordance with the basic laws of governance and in conformity with the rules and procedures framed for the purpose. The role has definitely not been designed to assume the role of the government or to block delivery under the garb of adherence to  rules and procedures. Unfortunate it is that rules and procedures framed primarily to facilitate deliverance have emerged higher in the pecking order to delivery itself, primarily at the behest of unconcerned bureaucrats.

Unfortunately the Indian bureaucrat lives in a world of illusion, right from the start. Aspiration to become a civil servant is not borne out of a desire to serve the nation but to be a part of the machinery that has the power and the perks. Power and perks is the draw, serving the nation is an undesirable headload and that is what I have widely witnessed in my over three decade of working for the government. With the exception of a few who could be counted on the fingertips with a couple of fingers to spare, the rest of the senior blokes merely occupied the chair, threw their weight around and merely fended for themselves most of the time. Ego issues, like who comes on the line first almost always commanded a much higher weight-age over the need to deliver. Merely pushing files out of the chamber emerged as a much bigger necessity than taking a decision that leads to delivery.

Remaining busy has been the motto and what better than the mundane to keep a top bloke occupied. In tune with this philosophy, routine operational issues of a petty nature have been occupying almost the entire working hours of the apex bureaucracy in the railways. Visioning and policy is out, jumping on symptoms is in. Even the agenda documents for apex level meetings resemble a hefty book and make hilarious reading.

And the race to impress the top guy is what the bureaucrat becomes adept at right in the beginning of his career. The race however is not for the national good, but for self perpetuation. An Indian bureaucrat also learns fairy early that what really matters to fulfill his earnest drive for self gratification are doles from those above and therefore those below almost always get the short shrift. The never ending cycle of licking above and kicking below continues ad-infinitum.

And the nation almost always lays the blame at the altar of the politician. A tragic irony indeed, as both have emerged from the same “devoid of value systems” society.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The season of scams

It is an extended season of scams with the latest “toothpaste” variety literally taking the cake. The race for distinction started with the games when even footpaths and racetracks literally transformed themselves into mints.  The 2G, NRHM and the ideal scam (adarsh) followed with the ideal setting new peaks with the high and mighty literally usurping the rights of those who laid their lives for the nation.  And there have been many more and tempered by age and the sheer numbers, my memory is not able to keep pace.

The only good thing about the scams is that they have not been petty and the figures have never fallen foul of a couple of tens of thousands of crores. Yes, it appears that the nation has indeed made it to the big league and shall never again be found wanting if ever nations are ranked on the basis of “moolah” made by those who sit on the roof.

And why not? Corruption is now our national fabric and why single out the high and mighty? Petty corruption has almost engulfed the nation and no service or sector has been left untouched.  Any business with the sarkar at any level, cutting across sectors and shades of governance is invariably tainted by the customary greasing of palms.

Even definitions have changed. Corrupt is either the one who rakes in the moolah yet never delivers or who charges rates beyond the established norms. Gone are the days when government service was a noble means to serve the society, now it is simply a lifestyle. Gone are those youngsters who joined service with bubbly enthusiasm and loads of principles. Now what the start-ups look forward to are loads of “moolah” and bubbly lifestyles. What a change in the last two or maybe three decades.

Corruption of the professional kind is not even blinked at. Highly damaging, yet it does not invite even raised eyebrows and that is indeed a cause for concern. The entire fabric has become so corrupted that it is almost an impossibility for any one, within or outside the system to be able to deal with the system in a straight way. And yet the masters, both political and bureaucratic merely skirt the most important issue plaguing the nation in favor of the ordinary and the mundane, and that too merely to give a semblance of earning their salaries.

So why blame the top alone. It is almost like the kettle blaming the pot and this game shall continue unblemished till the time the system does not change the way decisions are taken and contracts are entered into. Unfortunately the realization that the rabid complexity of the tantra has led to low deliverance and demise of value based systems has not yet dawned on the powers that be.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In God we trust!

Ramdev's shadow loomed large over the sixty sixth anniversary of the independence day of the nation. It was only yesterday that he swarmed by his supporters had almost held the city to ransom over the basic issue of corruption. Yet he blinked first and left, in what was a battle that had just started getting fought.

Yes it is true that for the first time the nation is in the throes of a war on corruption launched by two citizens who are honest and have taken the nation by storm, and fortunately would not be cowed down by the might of the state. And this time the state also played its part tactfully, staying away from confrontation, and in the process making the other party blink first.

For the first  time many of us did not feel the fervor that occasions like the independence and republic day have the capability to rouse. How can one take a pride in a nation that has been taking rapid strides, merely in the realm of corrupt practices? In an environment marked by an all pervasive and deeply entrenched corrupt practices, how can one be inspired by independence day speeches that are not from the heart and at best  classify as mere rhetoric? It is indeed sad that even the might of the nation that is on full display on such occasions now fails to have the desired patriotic impact and merely assumes the aura of a grand spectacle.

That is what we have brought even the most sacred of our national events to, a mere grand spectacle. Sad yet true.

Anna is a ray of hope. Having ignited minds and brought the issue of corruption center stage, the issue now needs to be taken further to its logical conclusion. The entire tantra needs to be cleansed of inefficiency and corruption and a system based on integrity and justice that the existing pillars of our democratic system have failed to achieve in the over six decades of the existence of a free nation, needs to be firmly established. Thankfully India is not China where a Tianaman type strike can crush public movements in a single swipe. Yet India is also not a nation where the masses can resolve and say - this far and no further, for they have also, perhaps out of compulsion become an integral part of the the system that thrives on corruption.

In the absence of a suitable alternative, even 2014 may not provide a solution. The deep morass that has engulfed the entire tantra now needs a leader who has the integrity, understanding, conviction and courage in an abundant measure to be able to take on the might of the system for the benefit of the nation. But the horizon does not offer hope. The days of oral pills and surgery being over, what the system now needs is a massive dose of chemotheraphy on a sustained basis and perhaps that is the only treatment that may work, yet we need a doctor to initiate treatment.

In eighty four million gods we trust and they may bless us with a solution.

Insha Allah.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The fiasco at London

The hockey fiasco at London has indeed hit the country hard. Tall claims and massive campaigns launched prior to the games have fallen flat on the face and the team has set a new record, of losing every single game in its group. The only solace for the team is the equally dismal performance of its arch rivals from across the border. Yet the results are not at all surprising, keeping in view the track record of the nation in matters that have tall claims attached to them till the debacles surface.

Even otherwise the national contingent has performed far below the hoopla built prior to their departure. The current tally of four odd medals, sans gold, puts us at the forty fifth place in the pecking order. Not even a face saving scenario, considering that every sixth human being on this planet hails from our glorious motherland.

The tall expectations that the citizens end up having whenever a national contingent leaves our shores for a sporting extravaganza never fails to surprise me. Surprise because a nation that has been a rank failure in almost all spheres except that of unfailingly notching up its population with amazing speed, is expected to perform in the sporting arena. How the hell is that possible, for how can the mess be all pervasive, yet leave the sporting arena untouched. Our national trait of messing up everything under the sun in its attempt to remain almost always at the bottom of the list of nations cannot be allowed to corrupt itself, just for a few medals. And what are a few medals for the patriarchs of a nation immersed deep in poverty and corrupt practices.

A sterling performance in the sporting arena would need sustained inputs, hard work and perseverance, traits conspicuous by their very absence. The tantra that governs the nation has tied itself into knots and unfortunately has now started believing in its own rhetoric. At a much lower level, I am witness to rhetoric of blasphemous levels in the railways, an organization the mandarins of which have started believing that outputs can be delivered sans inputs and that mere advice instead of support is going to take the organization somewhere. Somewhere it would definitely go, but not forward, is what I am absolutely certain of.

Recently an ex minister said on camera that while all his former secretaries were loyal to him and are now loyal to the current minister, it is unfortunate that the loyalty of the team of secretaries is to the minister and not to the organization. How sad and how true. As long as the loyalty of the servants of the government remains confined to their bosses and not to the nation, fiascoes like the recent one in London shall keep on surfacing  with assured regularity. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rotten to the core!

Anna is at it once again. Kejriwal, his team member is sick after seven days of fast and has cited the example of Gandhi, when asked whether his fast can be forcibly broken by the authorities. With an absolute bureaucratic as well as political indifference towards the cause, I am afraid that he may become the martyr that he has been openly talking about.

Corruption at its worst is at the core of Anna's agitation that has touched the chord in the heart of all right minded indians who are as yet untouched by this rapidly proliferating virus. Perhaps it has also touched those who are corrupt, as genuine goodness is revered even by those who have crossed the line.

Indeed it is true that the biggest malaise facing the nation is rampant corruption that has touched every nook and corner of every sector of this once great nation. The sarkari tantra being the fountainhead of the virus has engulfed the entire nation and its populace in a vice like grip. The corrupt deeds of the politicos and bureaucrats alike have become the mainstay of news columns across newspapers. Yet the populace remains resigned to its fate and partakes of the loot whenever an opportunity arises. The penetration is almost total and that perhaps is the only single instance of perfection achieved in the nation.

Yet the working of the bureaucracy and the political machinery never ceases to amaze me. Despite corruption being at the core of the malaise afflicting the nation, the constituents of the tantra keep on fiddling with routine mundane issues and in the process attempting to convey the impression that they are busy in serious issues that the nation faces. Yes, unless the issue of corruption is brought center stage and tackled head on,  I am afraid even movements like that of Anna are not likely to give results.

It also needs appreciation that the battle is tough, primarily because of the resigned acceptance and also tacit indulgence of a very large proportion of the masses. The poor literacy levels also contribute in the inability of the masses at large to appreciate the damaging affect that corruption has on the fabric of the society. Yet, it is possible provided there is will on the part of the tantra, not to scuttle movements like that of Anna but to look inwards and accept the malaise openly, as a precurser to the tough remedial steps that would need to follow.

Till then we continue to remain happily in the muck!