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Monday, December 30, 2013

From despair to hope!

Pain and anger over the Nirbhaya incident marked the national mood in the December of 2012. Such was the pain that a nation normally used to celebrations abandoned the new year bash and such was the anger that the entire populace clamored for nothing short of death penalty for all the rapists including the juvenile. It was perhaps the first time in the history of independent India that the entire nation rose in unison against gross injustice and torture perpetuated on one individual. It was also perhaps for the first time that the middle and upper classes spilled out of the confines of their homes onto the streets, to show solidarity with a cause and anger with the incident as well as the state of the nation. Perhaps everyone felt as if  mother india herself had been defiled.

The December of 2013 in sharp contrast has been marked by a mood of despair yet anxious expectation. Despair and frustration over the abysmal standards of governance witnessed in recent times and anxious expectation over the results of the mini general elections that are indeed a pointer towards larger changes to occur in the way governance is conducted in this country. That the quality of governance and call for probity in public life and not merely anti incumbency mattered in this mini mahabharat was its main redeeming feature. For once the people of this nation voted for good governance in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, and for AAP in Delhi out of sheer frustration with national parties. 

I only wish that the anger, frustration and despair does not spill over to 2014 and that this year marks the beginning of good governance in this nation thirsting in vain since its tryst with destiny.

Perhaps the time for a real tryst with destiny has now arrived. Maybe we the people of India, the resilient people of India may now opt for spine in favor of resilience and for the call of conscience in favor of greed. The silent acceptance of mal-governance, corruption, high handedness and inequality may soon be a thing of the past if and only if the change that has happened especially in the capital of the nation proves to be a real change and not a hashed continuance of the status quo.

We as a nation have a problem in almost every sphere of our activities. Be it poverty, lack of housing, water, electricity or basic infrastructure, there are shortages galore, shortages that do not have a plausible reason to exist after sixty six years of self rule. Why Delhi should be internationally known more as the rape capital of India than for any other reason is what makes us hang our heads in shame. Why we are way below in the transparency index and a front runner in corruption is beyond rationale. 

Screwed or perhaps warped governance is at the root of almost every issue, yet our leaders, good and bad blabber only about further tweaking the system for marginal improvements that remain merely sinusoidal. While any bureaucracy thrives on the backwardness of the nation, the inability of the public representatives to understand why we have not reached where we should is inexplicable. That a machinery built to rule is unfit to govern is a realization that has not sunk in despite failures galore on every front. 

The day we have a leader who understands this very basic premise and then makes structural changes in the processes as well as the machinery that makes policies, takes decisions and enter into contracts, the country would be able to make up for the lost years.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Victorious Democracy - Hope Lives

Who would have ever thought that Kejriwal, the national icon of defiance and honesty would be taking oath as the Chief Minister of Delhi after participating in a battle, the results of which defied all odds. His victory brings to fore the greatest strength of the indian democratic system, a system where governments regularly pass the baton of change without rancour and where even an ordinary citizen can aspire to reach the top through ballot, not bullet.  
The recent elections have once again displayed that the nation has sufficiently matured to endure the pangs of democracy. Despite the ills plaguing the nation, rampant corruption being the most visible amongst them, democracy has taken deep roots in this country unlike many other nations of similar elk. Thankfully hope is not yet dead!
The singular trait of the developed world that India a member of the forever developing group shares is that governments smoothly change by ballot without the hullabaloo normally witnessed in many developing countries. To a great extent this can be credited to the strength of the national institutions that were set up in the post-independence era. The credibility of the machinery conducting general and state elections, the election commission in conducting the biggest electoral battle in the world is now unquestionably established. Also established is the environment of mutual trust that almost all political parties generally have with the commission that functions as it really should - in an unbiased and nonpartisan manner.

Despite low literacy levels, the electorate that often displays a high level of understanding of fundamental issues cannot be taken for granted anymore. It now has the proven capability to show that even established political pundits can be way off the mark while making profound assessments. Till the results started pouring in, no one was willing to give the Aam Aadmi Party more than a single digit figure, yet the electorate gave them the mandate, almost and placed Arvind Kejriwal in the top seat in the hope of being blessed with good governance. 

Arvind Kejriwal is not merely a person who has ascended to the throne of a state in the shortest ever time frame in history, he is indeed a phenomenon and an assertion by the common people of the capital that they are sick and tired of acts of gross abuse of power by powerful men and now want a change, a change for the better. Contrary to popular expectations, the common man pinned his entire hopes on the Aam Aadmi Party and it would therefore be a sad travesty of justice if these hopes are belied. This change is therefore also a realization that the common man in his heart of hearts really aspires for goodness and dreams of Ram Rajya. 

The recent election in Delhi will also go down in history as the culmination of a series of events that catapulted an ordinary citizen, to the highest seat of power in the state. While the rise has indeed been meteoric, the fall will also be as drastic if the new dispensation fails to provide what they promised - good governance. The proof of the pudding is always in the eating. 

For the sake of the national yearning for a society based on value systems and for keeping alive "trust and hope" in the common man, his dreams have to convert into reality. If they really do, it would indeed mark a major turning point for this nation. The great national experiment has just begun.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It is all about being human!

Birthdays are an ideal occasion to introspect and then if possible, attempt to emerge as a guy better than one has been. My fifty fifth today brings back to me a kaleidoscope of my earlier years, my follies and my weaknesses rather taking center stage.

Fifty five is fairly old despite how young one feels at heart. It is almost seventy over with only about thirty remaining, yet the very thought that one can make a much bigger mark in the remainder is what gives hope and strength. May god give me the strength to get over all my mistakes and shortcomings and help me in emerging a better human being that one has been in the past. 

My morning walk today again gave me an opportunity to blabber out my thoughts. Perhaps the youngster who accompanied me gave his ear out of sheer respect for seniority, yet the blabbering had some sanity and its essence may remain at the core of all my actions for the rest of my life. Perhaps much more important than being wealthy or powerful is being a genuine human being, an act so simple yet so hard to emulate. Emulating simplicity or genuineness is not only difficult but almost impossible, because these traits cannot be emulated, one can only be. Yet the effort has to go on, not only for my own sake, but also for all those who are the intrinsic constituent of my own tiny universe. 

If only the clock could be turned back a few decades, I would radically cut down on my nasty behavior, catch up on a lot of reading and writing that I have missed and not waste time on issues that now appear as mere trivialities. It is indeed true, yet a fairly late realization, perhaps for many like me that life should not be allowed to while away on trivialities, there are much bigger and better things to do like simply being human.

Yes it is true that in the bureaucratic circus I belong to, being human remains farthest from our thoughts and actions and that is the root cause of all our failures, our failures that are not merely ours but strongly impinge upon the organization we work for and the nation. Our sole focus on self gratification and absolute lack of concern for others has hurt the nation in the last sixty seven years and would continue to do so in future unless we recast the governance model of this great nation.

My last five years in the service of the nation begin today with the prayer to the almighty that this period should not be allowed to go in vain. I strongly believe that the contribution to the society at large that one is able to make towards the fag end of the career is what will give me the satisfaction to carry on unabated even after I hang up my official boots on the last day of 2018.

This purpose of this blog is only to strengthen my own thoughts and resolve!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Combating Corruption - The Lok Pal way

Amidst high drama the Lok Pal finally becomes a reality with the parliament giving its nod. With this the national aspiration for a corruption free nation has again started rearing its head. 

The achievement is definitely creditable with Anna, the parliament and the government to a limited extent sharing the honors. The intent is pious and the motives honorable, yet having delved in the complex maze of the tantra for a considerable period of time makes me wonder whether this historic move would indeed deliver what its founding fathers envisaged.

The plethora of agencies ostensibly created to combat corruption, namely lokayukta's in the states, CVC, CBI and CVO's in ministries and public sector have obviously bitten the dust. Else what was the tearing hurry or even the necessity to create one more agency without going into the apparent causes behind such large scale failures? How many check posts do we really need?

Mere intent is not enough. A thorough appreciation of the system that the nation follows is equally if not more essential and that is where the mandarins of the nation who dream of a corruption free society have been failing miserably. Perhaps the intent is also missing as apparently omnipresent is the drive to display a semblance of seeking a corruption free society. Sick and tired of such self seekers is the common man who gets taken for a ride both by the dispensation in power and those aspiring to take their place, almost always. 

In over thirty three years of working with the tantra, I am yet to come across a superior who brought the issue of corruption on the table or attended a meeting in which the ills of the organization especially those relating to corruption and value systems were discussed candidly. I am also yet to attend an independence day celebration at the red fort where the prime minister makes an open call to eradicate corruption and warns those indulging in the same of swift and severe consequences. I am absolutely certain that corruption would take a nose dive the day we get such a prime minister and we bring this issue on the table.

Perhaps everyone feels helpless and the apex levels who are well taken care of have no stake in bringing about the improvements that they also once desired. Sad it is that in the drive to reach the top, the bureaucracy as well as the politicos have given the go by to everything else. 

Corruption is a symptom not a disease and any symptomatic treatment therefore is bound to fall flat on its face as we have continually witnessed. India has emerged as a rare nation where every single interaction of the common man with the sarkari tantra is invariably laced with corruption. Is this indicative of a society gone to seed or a tantra that encourages corruption to flourish? If the society has indeed gone to seed then precious little can be done and that makes me lean towards the latter with optimism, the tantra is to blame not our moral fabric. 

The complexity of the tantra is at the root of both corruption as well as non deliverance. The existing tantra was designed to enable a ruler to rule over his subjects and lack of trust was therefore at its core. A plethora of thumb impressions therefore ensured both a casual as well as a corrupt approach. It is indeed sad that the complexity continues to be aggravated despite self rule for over six decades in the hope that somehow it would help to combat corruption. Unless the manadarins start appreciating the need to simplify and recast the decision making and contractual mechanisms, there is no hope whatsoever of a corruption free Bharat. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Getting used to removals!

I had an almost similar feeling on two previous occasions.

The first time it happened, I was much younger and highly volatile. Being sacked from the top level assignment of CMD, ITDC and also premature repatriation back to railways was a jolt from the blue. A jolt primarily because the ITDC stint has been the finest innings that I played so far, besides believing till then that the government generally recognizes merit. A government that openly lauded my work and flaunted me as a blue eyed boy on many occasions did not blink even an eyelid in showing me my place when deliverance started hurting vested interests. Yet the culmination was the outcome of almost a year long battle that I fought with the department entrusted with the task of palming off family silver.

The second time it happened, the jolt was even bigger. The Minister of State to whom I was assigned as an Executive Director summarily terminated my services even though he never left any opportunity in lauding my tremendous contribution in improving the railway stations that fell in his constituency in a record time. Perhaps repeated mentions within the government and the party as Lohani’s Minister egged him to do what he did. While the sacking from ITDC was not very unexpected, this time the summary removal caught me by total surprise. Yet by this time I was getting used to blatant acts of injustice by those in power and also started appreciating why our nation continues to stand still. 

Yesterday evening was the third of my summary removals from an assignment though not as high profile as in the case of earlier removals, yet fairly important from the operations point of view. In the background of the recent scandals in railways, the flourishing corruption and blatant display of lowly personal conduct by the apex levels, this removal was also not totally unexpected. Perhaps not being a sycophant, having a bit of a spine and also being honest to the core created an unfavorable situation that led to what happened.

Yet I am neither disheartened nor demoralized. Perhaps it is because of maturity acquired over age or simple acceptance of the rot that engulfs the railways more than it engulfs the nation. Why cant’ an officer be judged merely on his leadership abilities and sheer deliverance, especially in a developing nation I wonder? Why do top bosses and their better halves clamor for sycophant subordinates basically for petty personal gains that really do not matter in the long run? 

Governance in this nation needs a deep cleansing and the railways literally needs to be washed of all its ills of sycophancy, protocol, gross mismanagement and corruption to enable real progress. Till then all talks of moving forward would remain just hot air.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Organizational Excellence

Inaugural Address
Delivered by Ashwani Lohani at ISM, Dhanbad on 6th December 2013

Really a pleasure and an honor to be with all of you here for the national seminar on organizational excellence with emphasis on ethics. An honor because the Indian School of Mines is a great institution and a pleasure mainly for two reasons – the first - it is an enlightening experience to be addressing a big gathering of budding youngsters and the second – it was at a god forsaken place called Patratu in the Dhanbad division that I got the first field level administrative posting in my railway career. Oh what an experience it was – I was 29 and Patratu was the biggest hub of activity on the eastern railway and a place always on the edge. It was here that I realized the tremendous, almost overpowering role of the human resource in running organizations. It was here that I learnt that “Men” is by far the most important of the 3M’s that one talks about in management.

And so ladies and gentleman, I am indeed happy and honored to be here today.

I am no management expert as is often misunderstood. In my career spanning over 33 years I have never been nominated even for a single training session in a management institute and therefore I regard all of you from the department of management studies as far ahead of me in so far as management techniques and strategies are concerned. My only plus is the varied experience that I acquired during various postings in the railways – open line, headquarters, production units and the National Rail Museum, in the Govt of India as Director Tourism, as a public sector honcho at the infamous ITDC and later at MPSTDC along with my role in the state government of Madhya Pradesh handling all governmental functions in the department of Tourism. This variety in postings gave me an insight into and experience of the grand mess that in other words is known as a government department or undertaking. The two public sectors that came my way imparted a rare experience of handling loss making commercial entities about which I can confess I knew nothing about till then.

It is my varied experience and that indeed is all I have that therefore forms the basis of  my talks and any impression that conveys eulogizing of any kind needs to be taken in the right spirit. This is my humble request to this august gathering in all humility.

The subject of today is organizational excellence yet what really is excellence in organizations all about, I often wonder?

Perhaps it is all about achieving the optimum blend of profitability, productivity, operating ratio, work culture, employee and customer satisfaction, ethical values, environment and corporate social responsibility. Or maybe much more, as I said earlier I am not an expert on this subject. Please bear with me therefore if at times you feel that my blabbering is not making any real sense. Yet if I am asked to lay a finger on the one single indices that can be a pointer towards organizational excellence, it has to be the operating ratio of the organization.

My first visit overseas was an eye opener. It brought me down to earth and that did me a lot of good in ensuing years. I would therefore like to relate two or perhaps three incidences that really had my head reeling and made me appreciate that there are no rich and poor nations but only productive and unproductive nations. My second visit overseas mainly to the land of the rising sun and then England also opened my eyes wide and fully awake.

By then I was almost convinced that the road to prosperity goes via deliverance. What is needed in our country is a quantum jump in deliverance – cutting across sectors and states. Since then the hindu rate of growth has failed to impress me for that would keep the nation relatively at the same place almost forever. Why cant’ we aspire for growth rates in excess of twenty five percent per annum especially in the case of commercial organizations, I have since wondered. Perhaps therein lies the difference between capabilities of managers and leaders.

We need to cultivate leaders rather than merely focusing on imparting managerial skills. One definition of leadership is that it is the art of achieving many times more than what the science of management says is possible. This is one singular trait the trail blazing results of which have been amply witnessed in the cases of Gandhi from India, Lee Kuon Yew of Singapore and Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia to name a few.  

Leadership is the issue, nothing else is. It is a lot about believing in yourself even when none believe in you. It is also about being more committed to speaking the truth than seeking the approval of others. Besides it encompasses all core managerial and human values.

Now let us look at success.

We all aspire to be successful, yet what is success all about?

It is important not to measure personal success and sense of well being through material possessions. Success is not about what you create for yourself, it is what you leave behind that defines success.

Success is your ability to rise above your discomfort, whatever may be your current state. You can, if you want, raise your consciousness above your immediate surroundings. 

Success is about Vision. It is the ability to rise above the immediacy of pain. It is about imagination. It is about sensitivity to small people. It is about building inclusion. It is about connectedness to a larger world existence. It is about personal tenacity. It is about giving back more to life than you take out of it. It is about creating extra-ordinary success with ordinary lives.

If wealth gave happiness and satisfaction then Mukesh Ambani should be the happiest person in the country and if power and position gave that, then our prime minister should, yet that is not the case. There is something else within us that is the true  fountainhead of happiness and satisfaction. The sooner in life we understand this simple philosophy, the better it is.

At Patratu I started appreciating the real value of the human resource. The combined strength of over a thousand men working in unison delivered much more that what even the best of my predecessors ever expected of the team. That the men in return expected neither enhanced wages or promotions or rewards but genuineness on the part of management was a realization that dawned on me at Patratu and continued during my next stint at the Diesel Locomotive Works at Varanasi. That unions are an essential part of any enterprise with a substantial workforce, yet they merely thrive on the incompetency or non genuineness of primarily the apex management was also a deep realization.

Slowly with the passage of time it dawned on me that whether it is a parchun ki dukaan, towering corporate or a nation, it is the top guy who really matters and everything else is merely a symptom. Yet how wrong most of us really are in almost always attempting to tackle symptoms? Thankfully our family doctors are not like us – they rightfully attack the disease!  

Tackling the 3 M’s in a defined time frame to achieve the desired objective is at the core of the philosophy of management. Yet in the complex maze of organizations that we live in, we invariably fail to appreciate that the “will” to achieve is at a much higher plane than the how’s and the why’s. The regular engagement in the How’s and Why’s therefore amazes me no end. There are examples galore of the tremendous success achieved by nations and organizations inspired merely by the sheer will power of the leader. The meteoric rise of Germany in the thirties and then again after total demolition in the second world war is a vivid example of the power of the will power. I often wonder what would have happened if we Indians were left in the lurch in 1945 as the Germans were –we would still be begging the developed world, the world bank and the IMF for dole. What we would have done with the dole is another matter. National catastrophe’s like cyclones, earthquakes and what Uttarakhand recently went through have started emerging as occasions for the rulers to make hay while the sun shines. Unfortunate yet true! How deep is the abyss still I wonder?

A few days back one of my younger colleagues asked me how to differentiate between a good and a bad posting. My reply was that a posting conventionally regarded as good by the masses is bad and vica versa, provided of course rollicking in power and money is not the aim and making a difference is. After all who ever said that USA has potential or Germany has potential? It is India that is still accumulating potential in almost every sphere of activities. Potential is indeed a dirty word and generally postings regarded as bad possess tons of untapped potential.

Tackling the tourism major, the India Tourism Development Corporation and that too during the era when the nation was going through the motions of selling the family silver was an interesting assignment. Beleaguered on all sides – heavily loss making and corrupt organization, my not belonging to the elite service of the nation, the adhoc appointment and the disinvestment ministry excited about the selloff to follow, even paying the salaries to staff was by no means a cakewalk. And then 9/11 came as the icing on the cake! Yet Hotel Ashok, the flagship and the conscience keeper of the corporation posted the biggest ever hotel turnaround of those times – its turnover grew by almost 60% in the year when the hotel industry worldwide plummeted. This turnaround that gave jitters to the powers that be was mainly fuelled by two components – the decision to turnaround taken by the apex management and the absolute commitment of the staff in ensuring the success of the effort that followed.

Firm adherence to ethics, value systems and genuine concern for the employees is what really differentiates excellent firms from the routine. Clamping down on corrupt practices, imbibing value systems and providing genuine leadership to the men therefore has to be the fundamental focus area of the top guy. That this is far more important than merely chasing production or revenues is not yet apparent to many of the corporates especially those from the sarkari sector! 

In the rotten sarkari domain often most of us are at a loss to decide from where to start, and therefore there are umpteen sad stories of merely confining ourselves to planning and power point presentations that paint a rosy future yet fail to impress. Grandiose future emerging from dingy rooms occupied by demoralized employees is just not acceptable. And therefore in all my postings I literally begin with a cleaning up drive starting with the seat of power to be followed by other offices, units and workplaces. I really cannot visualize a bubbly enterprise in the absence of smart offices, units and workplaces. The men have to start feeling the change and that is what started happening at the dingy headquarters of Madhya Pradesh Tourism in 2004 and continued to happen for the next five years.

The organization turned around in the very first year and the turnover rose so fast that the profits at the end of five years were almost double of the turnover at the beginning. Meanwhile rapid strides in infrastructural development, innovative and bold promotional campaigns and making things easy for the private sector to make an entry propelled the state to the fore front of tourism in the country – an achievement celebrated by a number of recognitions in the form of national awards given by the federal government.

While managerial excellence played a major role, the almost vertical growth was made possible by inculcating ethical values, rooting out corruption and genuine concern for the men of the corporation. 

What however took me by surprise was the tremendous positive response of the railway staff in the Delhi division of Indian Railways. Infrastructural development works that normally take decades to show were completed in a record time and at such low costs that even the CAG profusely complimented the renovation works at New Delhi station in its audit report of the CWG games. Here again a transparent environment, genuine concern for the men, quick decision making and regular emphasis on value systems played a major role. 

All great performances appear smooth, be it Geet Sethi playing billiards or Sachin Tendulkar scoring centuries and all bad performances give an impression of tremendous activity. The test is that if an organization and its constituents appear to be at peace with themselves it is almost always certain that the organization is on the road to achieving excellence. 

Leaders clearly differentiate between remaining busy and delivering. They also quickly separate the grain from the chaff. 

Finally I would like to conclude by saying that achieving organizational excellence is simple though it often appears impossible. It only requires the will, commitment, genuineness and integrity on the part of the management. Once the decision to achieve excellence is taken, the next step is merely to put our life and soul in achieving the objective. 

Thank you everyone for being patient. 

Thank you for this honor once again.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


(This article was published in the PIONEER of 27/11/2013)
A decline in our moral conduct and the understanding that the law takes a long time to reach the guilty, have encouraged people to be more defiant and brazen Two recent incidents have shown the mirror to our society as people who were looked upon as role models and crusaders have bit the dust.
Who could have ever dreamt that Tarun Tajpal of Tehelka fame would stoop so, in absolute variance with all that his paper claimed to stand for. Tehelka had been identified with exposé of acts of corruption and low conduct in high places. It was in the forefront when the people of this country felt defiled by the brutal rape of Nirbhaya last December. It highlighted gender issues, yet what its poster boy had the temerity to commit, in the confines of a lift, has left us all stupefied. The trust of the people, in what they perhaps recognised as the brave voice of sanity, stands betrayed, even as the victim has been violated. The relationship of trust and mutual respect that needs to exist between superiors and subordinates in organisations, especially ‘open’ ones like media houses, has also been put to shame. 
The exposé on the Aam Aadmi Party also shocked the nation beyond belief. People, more so in the city of Delhi, felt cheated and shattered by what they saw and read about the conduct of a few of the contestants. The tide of hope that recently rose in the people has apparently ebbed on witnessing the conduct of those who defiantly rode the steed of honesty. Perhaps good governance may still emerge, yet the public euphoria that had started enveloping the city has begun waning. 
This was meant to be. Understanding human nature is easily the most complex exercise known to mankind. Its complexity is identified by the ground check that while all of us know fairly well how we would like to be treated by others, we rarely use that same yardstick when treating others. The lesser the variation between the two treatments, the greater is the man and vice versa. The fact remains that the mandarins of Tehelka and the AAP hail from the same society that we are a part of; a society that has started producing scams and displaying human conduct of the lowest variety with amazing regularity in recent times.
Incidents like these and many others that we are ashamed of and forced to witness, arise because of two reasons: First, the general degradation in our social behaviour, and second, the lack of fear of retribution spurred by the abysmally slow pace of the judicial machinery of the country. While laws are in place, the process of justice delivery is so agonisingly slow that the thought of being able to get away is emerging stronger by the day — especially among those who regard themselves as the upper echelons of the society. And why not? There are examples galore of blatant travesty of justice in the everyday life of the people of India.     
There is absolutely no doubt that our social fabric needs a thorough cleansing. The emergence of a just, fair and prosperous social system is long awaited. Yet, the moot question remains as to how shall it be achieved in this otherwise hopeless scenario.
We, the constituent of the Indian nation, have perhaps never appreciated that organisation and nation-building require the toil of generations. Such achievements definitely do not come cheap. Even the examples of many nations in the developed world and some in our neighbourhood, have failed to arouse us from the slumber that we have been in, since the nation came on its own.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PM's call for sanity

The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have echoed what the country's bureaucracy had long wanted to hear from the head of its government - that there is a need to differentiate between malafide and mistake. The leaders also said that unless this is done, the decision making process would continue in a state of paralysis. How true and how timely though ostensibly the reason may be different - to save those in power from the heat of the CBI. Yet the solace that these words have given especially to those who are honest and hence a miniscule minority in the bureaucratic fabric of the nation cannot be under estimated. 

Having worked directly under Jagmohan in his avatar as the Minister for Tourism and Culture, I admired his penchant for honesty as well as governance. His style was a far cry from the present times when we are almost always in a situation of honesty sans governance or governance sans honesty or the limbo ie neither governance nor honesty. Practicing effective governance not misdirected efforts at finding faults and crushing with an iron hand dishonest practices that come in the way of deliverance has been the style of Jagmohan who by far has been one of the most able administrators that the nation has sired.  

The working of governments is mired in bureaucratic red tape the world over. However the complex web of the tape is generally inversely proportional to the level of development of the nation. The more developed the nation, the simpler the web and vica-versa has evolved with the global realization that delivery is far more important than process. Yet India continues to be unique in that the web is getting more complex by the day with an absolute disregard for delivery.  

It is indeed unfortunate that even after over sixty six years as a free nation, the tantra and its components continue to lack clarity over what is supreme - process or delivery. Following the process appears to have gained a higher ground over deliverance and therefore we continue to be perpetually, almost at the bottom of the list of nations in all developmental indexes. It is this penchant for processes that has led to the current scenario where a genuine mistake or a deviation from the process even if carried out in the overall interest of the nation gets equated with malafide. A situation ripe enough for the vigilance setups and the CBI to merrily meddle in leading to the paralysis that the Prime Minister spoke about. 

The paralysis that the Prime Minister mentioned in his address had to happen. There is absolutely no doubt that the administration needs to be clean and dishonest practices curbed yet this cannot be the the sole talking point or focus of the establishment. The establishment is meant for delivery, more so in a nation that regards itself as developing and anything that helps delivery therefore needs a proactive support. There is also no doubt that corruption is presently the most severe of our national ailments and therefore needs to be fought tooth and nail. Yet we need to realize that surreptitious attempts to nail corruption as we are witness to in the present times cause more harm than good. Unless this issue is brought onto the table in all official forums, debated at length within the bureaucratic and political establishments and even placed as the most important issue plaguing the nation in the speeches of the prime minister and president delivered on the independence and republic day ceremonies, the battle would not be won.

The Prime Minister has touched a raw nerve in all of us. Yes there is a subtle undercurrent of fear that keeps many of us away from decision making of any kind. Procrastination has emerged as the order of the day. Yet I hope that the conscience keepers respond to the call made by the highest authority in the land to free the sarkari machinery from the fear of the unknown in taking decisions.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The dangerous mindset of being superior!

(This article was published in the PIONEER of 8/11/2013)

While exhibiting a total lack of concern for the task of nation-building, society has brought in a system of distinction and discrimination. That of the master and the servant, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the common man. The privileged consider heaping atrocities on others their right
The case of the death of a maid servant at the hands of the wife of a Member of Parliament, is shocking. That this incident comes close on the heels of a number of similar atrocities — a doctor couple torturing and locking a 13-year-old maid, a corporate executive inflicting extreme torture on her maid, and a retired Army doctor torturing his domestic helps in Bhubaneshwar — does not come as a surprise.
It is reflective of the perverted mindsets that have taken root in this nation which boasts of a proud history and rich culture. These incidents, that made national headlines, are a small part of what is happening in the confines of homes across the country.
Mahatma Gandhi once said a man should be judged by how he treats people from the lower strata of society. Only few who roll in wealth and power in India will pass this test. The total disregard for human values while treating not just domestic servants but also other blue-collared workers such as rickshaw drivers and coolies, is conspicuous by its universal presence in our societal system. Indeed, the Mahatma must be turning in his grave at the sorry state of affairs in the nation.
The varna system that divided Hindu society into four broad categories — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras — was aimed at efficient management with all day-to-day activities being taken care of. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, varna emerged as the major criterion to determine status within the social hierarchy. It has now evolved into a ground on which political battles are fought and favours dispensed. This was not how it was meant to be.
While exhibiting a total lack of concern for nation-building, society has brought in a system of distinction and discrimination. The master and the servant, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the common man — these are the major categories with various levels of gradation.
Ultimately, the measure of a person in our society is assessed on the informal system of these gradations and the more formal varna system. In the process, value systems have been given a convenient go-by.
The recent cases of abuse of domestic workers at the hands of those we regard as the cream of society are exceptional ones that got highlighted. They had sufficiently out-of-the-ordinary stuff to qualify for prominent space in national dailies and television. But the malaise runs much deeper if we look below the surface. The fact remains that in the total absence of dignity of labour, a man whose physical labour earns him a living, is regarded inferior to those who have other callings in life.
This is a far cry from the developed world where every human being is treated with basic respect and given the dignity due to him. The false feeling of superiority that is enshrined in the masters makes them regard torturing their inferiors as something that is normal.
It is a problem of mindset. Almost every person who, in his own opinion, has ‘arrived’ in society, treats those whom he considers inferior to him with utter contempt. The same high-profile woman who killed her maid may just be treating her own family with love and affection.
Perhaps the solution lies in issues relating to governance. The absence of role models in society is only catalysing the rot. A complete lack of effort to create a value-based society is leading us to this dangerous situation. It is time that those who are in Government and, therefore, have the potential to emerge as role models, show us the way.

When men in white do black deeds

This article was published in the Pioneer of 13/11/2013
Is this Kalyug at its worst? If so, is Satyug round the corner? After all, Time always goes round in circles. How much more do we have to suffer?
That Caesar's wife must be above suspicion, is an ancient saying. Julius Caesar said this when asked why he divorced his wife Pompeia. She was suspected of wrongdoing, and Caesar, therefore, could not associate with her anymore.
The essence of this pearl of wisdom is that the needle of suspicion, of wrongdoing, should not point at even the associates of men in power. Yet today, even distant associates consider it their birthright to steal from the till when a relation or a close acquaintance is temporarily placed on the pedestal of service, unfortunately regarded by many as the pedestal of power.
In ancient times, the power of the kings was considered to be absolute. Yet the welfare of the masses remained at the core of almost all their actions, with only rare exceptions. The kings of the present times, the politicos and bureaucrats alike, despite being temporary and chosen adornments of the state machinery, flaunt and blatantly misuse power for self-perpetuation. This is an act that we are witness to, with amazing regularity. In recent times, the ‘holy’ Tihar has been witness to many such kings landing in its lap, as retribution for the crimes that they committed, crimes that were often treacherous and amounted to a blatant betrayal of the trust that society imposed upon the perpetrators. This reminds one of another ancient saying: Vinaash kale viprit buddhi. Perhaps vinashkal or bad times is upon us, and rightly so. The sins of the society and the keepers of its conscience have perhaps exceeded what Bharat Mata can bear.
This leads one to another thought. Why do men in power in this country wear starched white clothes? Is it because it gives the false impression that the person is as clean as his clothes? White is cleanliness personified, and the ultimate depiction of purity, and, therefore, perhaps it is supposed to provide a convenient cloak to hide one’s dark deeds. The cloak of white has become so acceptable that it is flaunted with impunity almost everywhere. That white offers an opportunity for inner cleansing and purification of thoughts and emotions and, ultimately, of the spirit, while at the same time, refreshing and strengthening the entire energy system, is lost on this breed of people. The men in power present themselves in a cloak of white, attempting to fool the masses — an act in which they have generally been fairly successful. The naïve public, that generally accepts things at face value, is taken for a ride. In India, this ride is still continuing even after over six decades of existence as a free nation.
It pains one when the conduct of even apex-level functionaries in society is unbecoming of the high positions they hold in trust. Watching the incessant march of men in power into the precincts of Tihar jail, and other such places of atonement, is as satisfying as it is painful. The tremendous penchant for accumulation of wealth and power that one witnesses in society, pains — and so does the total lack of concern for justice and equality. The scams that surface with amazing regularity makes one feel like one has been duped by people for whom duplicity is a settled way of life. Men-in-white committing acts in black remind us of the story of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. 
Is this Kalyug at its worst? If so, is Satyug round the corner? After all, Time always goes round in circles. Perhaps the ensuing ‘Mahabharat’ may provide the answers that the nation is seeking — for what now appears to be an eternity. Only time shall tell. Till then, keeping our fingers crossed is the sole option.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hastinapur would show the way!

Kejriwal gives hope, to the nation as well as humanity. A meteoric rise indeed yet there may be many years when he finally arrives unless of course all poll predictions go wrong that they may and he emerges from the shadows to occupy the throne of Hastinapur.

A former civil servant whose better half still serves the national government and for one who still resides in accommodation provided by the very sarkar he seeks to replace, his guts are indeed amazing and therefore the slight tinge of envy in many of us who would love to be in his boots yet do not have the courage, integrity or the commitment to be so.

His incessant battle against the establishment and also the anti establishment is against all odds, yet a battle that he is fighting with gumption. For his cause is right and intentions noble and this is what really matters when one is fighting for righteousness. Perhaps his integrity and commitment to the cause is what gives him the strength to keep on fighting what appears to be a one sided battle. This reminds us of the Mahabharata, the epic battle between the kauravas and the pandavas, the battle between the right and the wrong, between evil and goodness where despite heavy odds the pandavas won and in the process gave eternal hope to the people of Bharatvarsh.  

“Ekalo Chalo Re”is his slogan and perhaps the right and the only way when the odds are stacked almost to the level of being regarded as impossible. It is always only one man who can take an organization, a state or a nation forward. Gandhi dressed in the barest of attires amidst a sea of immaculately attired adversaries achieved for this nation what even massive armies would fail in. Truth was his only weapon and renunciation of ego his biggest attribute yet he achieved what till the very end appeared almost impossible. 

Arvind Kejriwal is not a Gandhi, but the closest to Gandhi that the nation has got so far. His battle is for a cause that is right, though his means are more direct and do not totally abjure violence. India is not China or Egypt or Syria where the masses have sufficient inner conviction to move out on the streets and face bullets for a cause, yet many people have often come out at his call, not sufficient enough to cause an uprising, yet sufficient enough to create a nationalistic fervor.

The nation is staring at the toughest electoral fights in its history. The battles are bound to be severe and maybe violent at times as patna has recently displayed yet the thought that nectar emerges only after a massive churning exercise has kept the nation moving forward in search of good governance, something that we have missed in the first sixty seven years of existence of an independent yet not a free nation. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

State firms fail because of inept management

(This article was published in the HT of 17/10/2013)

On October 10, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told a private TV channel that the national carrier - Air India will have to make itself  “profitable or a subsequent government will have to explore at privatising.” The statement created a flutter reminiscent of the era of disinvestment when the hospitality sector giant India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and many others were sold off.

As the head of ITDC, I was often amused at the irrationality of the excuses trotted out for justifying the sale of the family silver — governments should not be in the business of running hotels, the company facing huge loss and the government needs money — were the three major excuses trotted out, but without substance. The counter-arguments were: if the government can’t run even hotels profitably then can it run the nation, give us time and the company will be as profitable as those in the private sector; and if the aim is to maximise sale proceeds why not sell through an open auction and why attempt restricting post-sale operations.

Major properties were palmed off at prices that would not fetch even a decent house in the outskirts of Delhi. Unfortunately, the tremendous enthusiasm over selling the family silver overshadowed the need for sanity.
The theory that governments should not be running businesses and, therefore, get rid of them is inherently faulty. Running a business enterprise requires sound commercial sense. That is why private enterprises burn the midnight oil while selecting their chief executives. Had the same diligence been applied while choosing CEOs for State firms, the story of even the national carrier could have been different. With the might of the State behind it, the public sector has an inherent advantage over the private sector. Unfortunately, this advantage is now being frittered away.
Also, the latent strength of the Indian public sector enterprises lies untapped even after 66 years of Independence. It defies common business sense why many of these commercial enterprises set up with public funds and backed by the State perform so badly.
The reason lies in inept apex management as often the criterion for appointments lack merit. That the kinds of ownership and technicalities are mere peripheral issues and what matters is the commitment, zeal and integrity of the person in charge of these enterprises.
Air India and ITDC are textbook examples of inherently profitable business enterprises brought to the mat by inept managements.  Contrary to public opinion, blaming political masters or the external environment for the ills of a company merely diverts attention and shrouds the real causes. The fact remains that the ‘companies act’ and the ‘memorandum of articles’ sufficiently empower the chief executives to ward off any hostile threats to the efficient working of the enterprise, yet in many cases the chief executives lack leadership traits besides showing undue eagerness to succumb.
Any commercial enterprise, be it the local paan shop or a multinational corporation, is only as good as its leader, or in other words the officer who heads it.
Unfortunately, most of the senior officers only look upwards and display extreme keenness to be identified as the blue-eyed boys of the powers that be. They achieve that goal but in the process the company they head often lose out.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cleaning the stables!

The battle to apportion credit for the ordinance rollback is indeed amusing. The ordinance that emerged out of the desire of politicos cutting across party lines to remain in the reckoning despite being convicted of crimes was processed in total disregard to the orders of the apex court and the need for probity in public life. Now that the prince has called the bluff, the race amongst different political dispensations to assume credit for the withdrawl has indeed assumed hilarious proportions.

The proposed ordinance followed by the bill was definitely against the concept of ethics and probity in public life. Unfortunately our political system has degenerated to such an extent that it has become almost impossible for a decent guy to aspire to become a public representative. While the court order is a major step in cleaning the stables, what is ultimately required is to evolve a system that attracts and retains good guys in governing the nation through the political route. 

In the melee caused by the battle, the primary issue with tremendous ramifications did not perhaps get the attention it so rightfully deserves. The issue is the sudden and abrupt reversal of a cabinet decision of the government of India at the calling of an individual even if the individual is dead right. The reasons are right, yet the methods are wrong.

While the nation appreciated the bold, desirable and much needed line taken by the prince, the sanctity of a cabinet decision of the republic that needs to be maintained has been violated.  Had the cabinet on its own reversed the decision after self introspection it would not have caused consternation amongst the populace, but now it has. A situation wherein a Member of Parliament is placed on a mantle higher than the cabinet of the republic is undoubtedly sad, irrespective of the party in power.

It is a downhill race to doom. With each passing day we witness a new low in the conduct of our leaders and institutions. During discussions, a leading industrialist recently highlighted the sloth in the judicial system of the country wherein decisions are for sale almost everywhere with only rare exceptions. The rot in the executive system is also so deeply entrenched and acceptable that people feel slighted only when work does not get despite bribe being paid.

And the race to be the blue eyed boys at the expense of the nation is indeed getting murkier by the day. But what has really taken the cake is the conduct of the present dispensation rising in unison to turn down what they only earlier proposed. Perhaps they also knew what they were doing was wrong.

The silver lining however is that right seems to have ultimately prevailed despite politicos cutting across party lines willing otherwise. Long live the prince. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The times are changing

Finally Lalu goes to jail. I vividly remember his days in the rail bhawan and the eagerness of the powers that be to line up and do his bidding, in fact do the bidding of his cronies. How my head still hangs in shame at the conduct of those whom the society regards as having arrived.   

Yet this indeed is a moment for all of us to rejoice; one more member of the power club goes to jail close on the heels of Asaram Bapu. This is the true beauty of our democratic system that even power and pelf of the highest order fails to prevent the entry of the high and mighty inside the precincts of the holy jail. Yet the ground reality that even such high profile arrests fail to act as a deterrent is a failure beyond comprehension. Sukh Ram, Kalmadi, Raja, Kanimozhi, Choutala and many others passed considerable time behind bars yet surprisingly fail to deter others of their ilk from following suit.

This country amazes me. A self anointed godman openly flirts with and sexually abuses young girls despite the presence of unsuspecting parents a few metres away. The brazenness of the godman as well as the naïveté of the parents are disturbing in this nation that calls itself modern. The crime of the godman is undoubtedly worse than the rapists of Nirbhaya, for while the act was similar, the godman also crudely exploited the sentiments of his own naive followers. How I wish we also had a law that prescribed stern punishment in city squares for such heinous crimes, yet I am certain that the fellow would walk out with a punishment not commensurate with the crimes on humanity that he inflicted.  

Modi’s speech in the capital has perhaps been the only piece of reassurance that the nation has had in the recent past. His address held promise for the future, a vision of the emergence of our nation as a state that shall brook no nonsense internally or externally. The emerging internal contradictions in the ordinance that ensured the entry and continuance of criminals inside parliament and state legislatures also gives hope that perhaps the political class has seen the light.

The best thing about the verdict of yesterday is that the spectre of Lalu will continue to haunt aspiring politicians and bureaucrats, a class that has aspirations for quick silver for a long time to come. That a powerful politician who throughout his life had scant regard for institutions and probity has been made to bite the dust by those very institutions would indeed prove to be a humbling experience for many.

We are indeed in for rapidly changing times! 

Monday, September 23, 2013


The battle for the throne of Delhi is indeed getting exciting by the day. With the ongoing affairs reminding us of the reign of “Bahadur Shah Zafar” it is apparent that a takeover is on the cards and rightly so, the kingdom of sycophants, robbers and people clueless about what character and value systems are all about needs a shakeup and an overhaul.

Arvind Kejriwal of the RTI and Anna brigade fame is eyeing the premier state of the sultanat and it appears that he may scrape through to victory. His strategy is simple yet may prove to be effective as the two main groups have more than disenchanted the aam aadmi with the result that the aam aadmi party that lacks money and muscle power may yet make the finishing line. Even if it does not, it appears absolutely certain that the party would have made its presence felt sufficiently enough to cause discomfort to both the national level dispensations. 

That the forthcoming hustings due in the spring of 2014 would turn out to be the battle royale of the century is beyond doubt. Never before in the history of independent India has its populace felt so helpless, so cheated and so angry at the bunch of nincompoops who constitute the ruling clan. The Durga Shakti incident of Uttar Pradesh, the wave of rapes and indignities heaped on the fairer sex and the repeated and blatant cases of loot with absolutely no concern for the aam aadmi have led to the ongoing wave of disenchantment with almost everything connected with the state. The fine line that distinguished the robbers from the rulers has become blurred. 

Closer home, the ongoing affairs in the lifeline of the nation have also deprived its constituents of any sense of pride and dignity that they possessed. We have shed both our wealth as well as dignity.  

At birthday parties of tiny tots, one often witnesses amusing fights for the cake. It is sad that in real life, in the political arena of modern India we are forced witnesses to fights over pieces of the cake with members of the ruling clan as well as prospective rulers leaving no stone unturned in ensuring a disgusting display of concern only for the cake with the sole intent of self gratification. The nation can and is indeed rapidly going to hell.

Yet being a hindu I believe in destiny and the almighty. With Modi around, perhaps the next hustings may provide us with the faint ray of hope that can lead to sunshine and brightness all around. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th of September has indeed been lucky for the nation and its constituents. In Modi, the nation got a new ray of hope in the otherwise hopeless scenario that we find ourselves engulfed in. The enthusiasm of the constituents over Modi got a major fillip by the rare court verdict that that satiated the collective conscience of the country. The perpetrators of the heinous crime on the 16th of December have been paid back in the same coin and for once, justice was not merely seen to be done it was actually delivered. Yet the mere fact that the juvenile who was the worst of the lot has got away lightly should lead the society to introspect whether someone fit to rape and murder be treated with kid gloves. Is it not a travesty of justice?

Perhaps the nadir had been reached, both in governance as well as social values and the now the road is only up, uphill I must say and moving forward therefore would indeed necessitate a resolve much more firm than what the nation has witnessed in its history. It appears that the second war of independence has just begun, and this time it is not freedom from foreign rule, but freedom from mal-governance, rampant corruption and a erosion of ethical and moral values. It is indeed time that we as a nation realize that true freedom and development do not come cheap and the price would have to be paid even sixty six years after the tryst with destiny.

A new era of nation building appears to have dawned on this land that was once regarded as the noblest and richest territory in the world. That is what gives a rare significance to Friday the 13th of September 2013.

Many of us are shocked and angry at the clamor of a few misguided souls lamenting at the award of death penalty to the gang of four, the gang that achieved the rare distinction of carrying out the most heinous crime possible on a human being. That these misguided souls would have been singing a different tune had their own daughter undergone a fate similar to Nirbhaya is also true. While the hanging would indeed act as a deterrent to many rapists lurking in dark corners and allays, its impact would be many times more if it is carried out in full public view in the Ramlila maidan. The ground that every year witnesses the mythical victory of good over evil would indeed rejoice over the real elimination of evil from the society. 

Evil needs to be crushed with an iron hand and not given an opportunity to rise again. Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two holiest epics of the hindu religion have shown the way that evil needs to be crushed for the good of the society. This judgement therefore gives solace to aggrieved hearts and there were millions of them after the 16th December incident. 

Friday the 13th would indeed have a new connotation from now on!