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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Only Protocol!

Amongst many other things, our railways has also emerged as an extremely protocol hungry organization. In sharp variance with other organ of the state, its senior mandarins display extreme fondness for protocol during their official and demi official movements, an exercise that has been carried to ridiculous extents in recent times. One only needs to visit railway stations whenever such protocol hungry officials travel, to get an idea of the waste involved in such movements.

Where else in the nation would one find director and joint secretary level officers performing protocol duties for mundane official movements of officials senior to them, except in the railways?

Where else in the nation would one find senior officers and their better halves need to be chaperoned by officials of the rank of directors to the Government of India, even for movements within the city for attending official circuses?

Where else in the nation would one find men in uniform being assigned as shadows for top officials and officers in senior general management positions, and also as round the clock guard for their residences?    

Perhaps such acts impart a false sense of importance to the otherwise unimportant officials, but are the costs incurred justifiable even in the wildest of the dreams of the pigmies.

The sad part is that we all detest protocol when we don’t get it, yet await our turn to turn important in the eyes of others through such devious means.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Nayi Subah!

After almost a decade and a half railways is back with a mainline political party. And promptly did I see a news item crediting the top guy with the idea of raising fares during the tenure of Dinesh Trivedi, an idea that was promptly shot down along with the minister by the didi. And that made me wonder as to why the bravehearts who dived under the cot then, are now planting stories of their bravery in the national media. The spinelessness followed by sycophantic behaviour of the bureaucratic leadership sickens me.

Yet, the fact remains that the transfer of the railways to a mainline party augurs well for the monolith that despite being disabled and deflated by its own bureaucrats still remains the most visible symbol of dynamic delivery in a nation, now known only for its scams and delivery failures.

A mainline minister would do us a lot of good, provided the octopus bureaucracy of the railways lets him and not leads him up the path to nowhere.

The fundamental problem with the railways is its bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that feeds on its constituents, a bureaucracy that regards all subordinates as untrustworthy and all superiors as worthy of worship, a scenario one is unable to avoid even at the apex levels. A bureaucracy that regards as blasphemous even offering advice to its own ministers, yet unfailingly and with amazing regularity shoves advice sans support to all lower levels. “Lick above and kick below” has unfortunately become the motto of the senior bureaucracy in this organization.

Perhaps the biggest battle that the new minister would have to wage is against a mediocre run of the mill bureaucratic establishment.  Funds would necessitate a mere stroke of a pen, but changing the mindset of an almost dead, yet deadly bureaucracy would perhaps be the real challenge for the new minister.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Conformance galore!

Conformists rule the roost in all mediocre organizations and railways is no exception. An organization that remains devoid of even extremely faint traces of leadership invariably provides an ideal ground for the conformists to take deep roots.

In conformance lies anonymity and in anonymity lies a mediocre survival, a survival that provides not   satisfaction but ample opportunities for self aggrandizement.

I recently realized that it is only since my return to the railways that a liberal usage of the term “self aggrandizement” has been finding way in all my writings. Yes it is indeed true that one starts appreciating this term more in railways than anywhere else and perhaps I also would not have appreciated the same had I not spent a considerable time outside the organization.

For where else one would find, almost the entire fleet of babudom, with limited exceptions, merely living for themselves, without any concern for the organization, staff or the clients.  Which other organization provides its top level officers, opportunities to ridicule, punish, loot and exploit on a platter. And this exploitation is amply witnessed in misuse of railway staff at home, ridiculous protocols, almost ordering gifts from subordinates and yearly renovations of toilets and hanging curtains almost worth a nano whenever the incumbent changes. The brass is above rules and procedures and the brass cares only for itself is what the rank and file has learnt by experience.

The lack of vision and direction and absolute unconcern for men and land has also apparently emerged as a mandatory criterion for all those who are poised to move up in the conventional sense in this organization that had a "great" affixed to its name till very recently. 

Treading a different line requires courage and the brass neck deep in acts of self aggrandizement is obviously found lacking and therefore prefers to tread the oft beaten track.  The acts of the brass are adoringly emulated by those below thus perpetuating the rule of the conformists.

The most visible aspect of the conformist is his almost violent inability in being able to listen to a point of view that is not in conformity to his way of thinking. And therefore one witnesses either a heated or a subdued environment in almost all discussion forums at almost all levels. And that leads me to wonder as to the type of organization are we rearing for the future generations.

I am not sure whether my time shall come or not, but if and when that comes, either the organization shall change or I would  get the boot in the first few days itself. But I would definitely avoid like plague  the path that all my predecessors had tread upon.

Insha Alllah!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cultural degeneration

A visit to any of the establishments where I earlier worked has always been a nostalgic experience. My visit to mpt office in hotel janpath yesterday had me almost in tears. Blessed I am for the tremendous love and affection that I have always received from all those who ever worked for me, be it the ministry of tourism, the india tourism development corporation, my various postings in the railways including the last one at the delhi division and the iconic posting as the head domo of tourism in the heart of incredible india. Such has been the love and affection that often I wish it was possible to be in more places than one, all at the same time.

In the face of such an outpouring of love and affection, the rise up the ladder in the conventional sense seems to have lost all its charm and relevance. After all we are mere servants of the government and being a higher ranked servant therefore does not attract me the way it normally does the entire clan. What however is really of essence is our ability to deliver and delivery itself.

It is indeed sad that most of us from the bureaucratic clan regard a job as an instrument of self aggrandizement and perpetuation, not as a means to serve the organization or the nation by means of bringing about a positive change. And therefore one witnesses almost always, a hasty clamour for obtaining personal gains by the occupants of fancy chambers in sarkari buildings cutting across sectors and services in this nation of ours.

Sadder still is the state of affairs in the railways, a so called HR centric organization the managers of which display absolute indifference for all those who work for them while at the same time going to ridiculous extents to satiate the unhealthy desires of those above. Moreover the language and the demeanour of the top brasses is also increasingly become a matter of serious concern. The usage of intemperate language and the inability to accept a difference of opinion often leads me to wonder whether we are really railroaders or are slowly acquiring the cultural traits of road side truckers. Perhaps being in the business of transport, and the time having arrived we have sadly degenerated to the level of truckers.

Railroading with the cultural traits of truckers, what an irony indeed!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The fall of icons!

The most glaring symptom of a society of mediocres is in the manner they treat their icons. While the icons are revered till the going is good, they start getting reviled at the slightest hint of reversal of fortunes. And this is precisely what is happening with our greatest national icon, Sardar Manmohan Singh. From the high pedestal on which the nation placed him in the early nineties for his economic reforms and even in the early period of the UPA-1 for his integrity and commitment, he has already come many notches down with many more to follow. Yet even his high pedestal built over a lifetime of integrity and sincerity has proved to be inadequate against the rising tide of scams, scamsters and mediocrity in this forever developing nation.

It is indeed sad that the mediocrity has not spared even Sreedharan, the man who single handedly built the Konkan railway and the Delhi Metro, both of which changed the faces of the territories they covered. Yes, it is with a tinge of sadness that I sense malicious satisfaction even on the IRSME site when rank mediocres having no claim to fame, pick up straws to unsuccessfully pull down this greatest of the greats.

Yes, most of us relish attempts to pull down icons and regale at the fall for that is symptomatic of the vincibility of all those whom we placed a notch higher than mere humans. The thought that the icon  is also like us with human follies or we are also almost like him is what most of us of the mediocre variety then merrily relish.

The media invariably has a heyday, almost every day in our nation. There is almost always someone fairly high up in the hierarchy whose neck is on the chopping block for his acts of omission or commission. And so keen is the public to lap up the ugly that all negatives that are written or said about the high guy are accepted at face value. Pronounced guilty without a trial is generally the scenario.

When will all this change for the better? Will we ever move on from the society of crabs that we have become? Indian crabs who will never appreciate one of them moving up and out of the dirty basket that they all have been occupying for long. Till then we shall remain in the “developing” league, perhaps till eternity.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Rotting governance!

The ongoing mud slinging over the coal gate scam is perhaps one of the rare lows that the nation has ever witnessed. That the affairs of the nation shall come to such a pass would have been an unimaginable scenario for the founding fathers of the nation, who without even a shred of doubt would in recent times be madly turning in their graves.

After CWG, 2G, NRHM and Adarsh came Coalgate, the mother of all scams that has changed the way the people of this nation will perceive corruption in the future. The ballgame is now entirely different with figures of the money raked in being in trillions, millions and billions having hit the dust fairly early in the race.

Jokes apart, the situation is indeed tragic. If the office of the top guy and the top guy himself are now not above suspicion, the country has no option other than remaining resigned to its fate.  Cutting across party lines, almost every single politico, ably assisted and abetted by the senior bureaucracy, is busy generating wealth for himself and his family, at the cost of the nation. And the bureaucrats are also making hay while the sun shines.

How does the common man, the common man of Laxman, who is devoid of money or powerful connections survive and lead a life of dignity? The answer is that there is no way he can and therefore he does not. Perhaps the common man himself is involved, in his own small way in partaking of the loot that is on in the entire country, for how else does one explain that only the neta and the babu are corrupt and the common man is not. Both the neta and the babu are products of our society and therefore represent the same in true letter and spirit.

The tragedy of the scenario is not merely in the scams galore, but in the silent acceptance by many of the glaring loot by a few. Being a part of the complex sarkari machinery is even worse as being a close witness to the widely pervasive sloth and rot in the machinery for change and delivery dampens hope for many.

Yet, with a faint ray of hope, life moves on!