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Friday, August 28, 2015

The inherent goodness of mankind - 2

The huge outpouring of emotions on my last day in the service of the heart of incredible India took its toll. Yes, despite the huge anticipation of an impending challenge that I always looked forward to,  I was drowned in the sea of love and emotions. And why not, the love and affection put on open display by almost everyone in my circle is enough to give pangs of pain to anyone, and I have always been by nature, a very emotional person.

Madhya Pradesh is a lovely state, inhabited by simple people and MPT, by hardworking and sincere men who lifted the organization from the abyss to everest and I sincerely hope they continue to rise further under bureaucrats whom I always admired and also loved.     

The outpouring of sentiments from men in the air also overwhelms me. Air Indians I am certain are also as good and God willing, perhaps a shade better than the ITDCians, MPTians and Railwaymen. This belief stems from my experience with one such guy who worked with me since the last six months and who is now going to plaster the MP sky with planes, albeit smaller ones. I believe there must be scores like him and that thought alone gives me confidence and courage.

HR is the crux, unfortunately most of us in the sarkari seva pay no heed to it and remain embroiled in the mundane. If everyone is able to realize his or her potential, there is no reason why organizations will not grow by leaps and bounds. The mere thought that all of us, at the core are one with the almighty makes me treat with utter disdain the artificially created divides, for I have often experienced great work being delivered by mortals unfortunately regarded low in the artificial hierarchies.

I often remember with great pride, the rise from abyss of men during the days ITDC was being hived off. The tremendous zeal that my men then displayed to pull the organization out of the red and compete with the best in the private sector often make my eyes swell with tear and pride.

Perhaps I have been lucky, having gotten so much love and respect in the past, and God willing this lucky streak shall continue. This I am absolutely certain will be the greatest test of all my beliefs and convictions, the strongest of which is the belief in the inherent goodness of mankind.


Friday, August 21, 2015

On the move once again!

This time to head the beleaguered Air India, the erstwhile Maharajah of the nation with its trademark logo. The sheen has been lost but not the inner strength is my firm belief and this alone gives me the hope that the skies can be ruled once again. And it shall happen.

My diehard belief in the inherent goodness of men at large who have delivered while I have merely shown them the way is the reason for my optimism. My experience in running commercial enterprises is that leadership by apex management indeed remains the primary issue, while the mundane takes priority and that too in a reactive manner. Providing proactive leadership is the crux and playing on the front foot the easiest way to demonstrate the same is what I believe in.  

Heading Air India had always remained a dream, especially since I was shown the door after turning around Hotel Ashok Delhi and putting on the right track, the India Tourism Development Corporation, for since being turned around myself, the belief that a turnaround is indeed possible had festered inside me.

And now the moment of truth has indeed arrived. All my beliefs, and there are many would now be put to test and I will realize whether I was wrong or right. Yet I have to be right for I cannot afford the ignominy of defeat especially in my last tenure. My firm belief that will power is still the biggest power to overcome any obstacle and impeccable integrity and adherence to value systems the only way to perform miracles would now once again be put to test.

My stint at ITDC helped, for I witnessed a tremendous team-work amongst employees, something that till then was never considered possible. And when the team rises, as I pleasantly witnessed, a turnaround emerges. Yet hard work has to act as the major ingredient of the pie.

And Madhya Pradesh Tourism has been fun. With open support from the powers that be, the men at the corporation rose to the occasion to propel the state to the forefront of tourism in the country and the corporation, a perfect commercial enterprise.

A motorcycle advertisement where the rider blends with his bike and they become one has been one of my greatest inspirations. That is the crux, the CEO has to completely blend with the organization that he heads, almost like sugar in water and then the decisions that he takes would invariably tend to be right. Gut alone provides the right answers in commercial organizations, I have almost always realized.

Like always before I shall not fail this time also, perhaps my last innings in the service of the nation, is a promise that I have made to myself.

May God give me the strength!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Kalam after Gandhi

The nation cried after a very long time. It wept when Gandhi left, tears trickled down when Nehru departed and now an avalanche of tears and emotions flowed when Kalam passed away. That mere religion is not at the root of genuine love, respect and emotion is the true learning from this incident that engulfed the nation into sadness.

Today is Guru Punima, the day of reverence to all our teachers and what can be better than to remember the true teachers that this nation had, Gandhi, Nehru and Kalam. Gandhi gave us our greatest gift, the gift of freedom that he snatched from the jaws of the British, armed only with the greatest power on earth, the power of non violence, the power of non submission to what is inherently wrong. Gandhi was also the most powerful man ever to walk on earth for his power was truly personal, the genuine power that emerges from being truthful and one with humanity and this trait alone ensured the submission of the greatest nation of that time to the rightful demands of a very big section of the humanity. And Nehru led this nation in its most difficult times.

Kalam, I met for the first time properly when along with Arunima, my better half we went to his residence to invite him for the annual function of the railway women’s organization. His simplicity was just amazing for we could never have visualized such a big man to be so simple, so down to earth and so humble. Accustomed to the rough ways of those in power and also out of it, we were simply charmed into submission and at that very moment we fell in love with the greatest of human being we had ever met in our lives. He came for the event and conquered forever the hearts of all the railwaymen present for the grandest yet simplest function of their lives.

Kalam, the truest teacher that this nation has ever had showed us the meaning of words like humbleness, humility, commitment, truth, integrity and being true to oneself, the organization and the nation. That these are not mere words from the english vocabulary but have a great inherent meaning and value for the humankind is the biggest learning imparted by the greatest missile man and the finest president ever born in this republic.

He mingled with the differently abled kids on the day of the function as if he were a kid himself and therefore could feel the pain and the joys of being one whom the allmighty has made not like many others. His beaming face, his voice laced with emotion and love and his direct connect with the people, especially the children who are the future simply transports one to a different environment.

And to the men in power and out of it, his life is a subtle message that authority is vested only for the good of people at large, not for self aggrandizement.

His soul left his body while he was teaching at Shillong, a true teacher he was.

Gandhi once said “My life is my message”. Kalam never had to say it, yet his life shall forever remain the most powerful message for the nation after Gandhi.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Protocol, gifts and bouquets

The recent incident on a railway division where a senior officer was found threatening the subordinate for contributing towards the marriage gift of the daughter of boss of the senior was nauseating to say the least, yet none in the officer community was surprised.

An organization steeped deep in unethical practices cannot be expected to be jolted by such a minor incident that otherwise took the nation by surprise and also pricked the conscience of many who have not yet crossed the line between honesty and theft.  

I am reminded of an order by one of my ex-bosses who subsequently rose, if one calls it rise, to become the head of the nation’s largest monolith. The boss was brazen enough to verbally order for departmental get together dinner and booze parties to be organized at the expense of some hapless contractor every month. And as expected I failed to comply and landed into many subsequent soups at the hands of the boss who rose to the top, in rank, expertise in brazen loot and lowly acts of personal conduct. Yet no eyebrows were raised, when the boss issued his brazen order or when I was busy paying the price for my misconduct of brazen defiance of unethical orders.

Yet the latest incident is indeed beyond justification. How can senior officers be so brazen so as to threaten their juniors into submission merely for collecting an extremely high value marriage gift. That the junior by not succumbing to unethical pressure tactics rose a few notches in my eyes, notwithstanding, the conduct of the bosses is indeed extremely uncalled for, despite reflecting a true picture of the deeply prevalent rot in the society.

Excessive bent towards providing protocol to the senior servants of the government also saddens me. Why this bent towards something so immaterial and that too at the cost of delivery per se hurts me to the core. And that too when all these peripheral trappings are bound to vanish in thin air as soon as one crosses sixty. Yet people do not understand and the rot continues.

And the same with giving bouquets and opening the door of the car, not as a token of respect but just to please superiors for petty personal gains.

Sometime back I had taken a drive against plaques that were installed only to carve in stone for posterity the name of the blokes who did the honors while laying the foundation stone or during the commissioning of the facility that should have been there in normal course. Yet I must give credit to these blokes for so far their names have not appeared on plaques next to taps, cisterns and commodes.  

When is all this going to end, especially in the biggest corporate on the globe and till that happens, all our dreams shall remain in air? Tragic is’nt it and also sad that we are giving up on an organization just to satiate the ego of a few who but for the same could make a difference if only they desired. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ease of Living in India!

Ease of doing business in India is a much talked about issue in present times and rightly so – more businesses means a better economy for the good of everyone. Yet I wonder whether tackling issues that impede business is an activity more important than setting right issues that hamper living itself?

It is a fact that living in this nation as a common man bereft of power and money is no cake walk. For every single interaction with the governmental machinery is laced with graft and or pain, be it an act as simple as getting a driving license or as difficult (sic) as registering property.

A machinery that is dishonest to the core with a few exceptions of course is what makes doing business or ordinary living in India so dam complicated and difficult and therein lies the major difference between ours and the developed world. And unless and until we are able to handle the basics, progress would be confined merely to the paper or at best to rhetoric that most of us have been digesting for decades since we came on our own.

Dishonesty or simply put, endemic corruption is the biggest issue plaguing this nation.   

Being honest and that too one who does not tolerate dishonesty in his own realm is indeed a difficult preposition. And the definition of dishonesty is not confined merely to greasing of palms but extends much further. Being true to oneself is what honesty is all about. Being able to look in the mirror without finding a slimy individual in the shadows is what being honest is all about. Being prepared to pay the price for being true to oneself is what honesty is all about.

Yet in a world where the tribe of honest people is shrinking by the day, the dishonest who are apparently flourishing are in true sense not, for inside the core of their hearts they know their true self whom their own conscience detests.

Half-hearted attempts to control the dishonest only result in this tribe searching for and finding ingenious ways of going around the roadblocks. The solution indeed lies in changing the moral fabric of the society that perhaps would take lifetimes of struggle. 

The media is full everyday of reports about people in power raking in the moolah. But such reports do not touch even the fringes of the real problems plaguing the system. While occasionally a big fish lands in the net, the small fishes who throng almost every pond in the country continue with their (mis)deeds unabated. And the common man as well as productivity continues to suffer.

The present federal government has noble intentions yet there are serious misgivings about it being able to stem the prevailing rot, for the rot is miles deep and widely strewn around. In this democratic nation of ours with thousands of years of glorious history, there is no way a common citizen can interact with the system with dignity and grace. Till such time the rot is first curtailed and then cleansed, I do not see much hope for the nation in true sense, yet I pray to the almighty everyday that the present dispensation really succeeds down to the grassroots level in its pious intentions.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The mind plays games and we play along!

The fine line keeps on getting blurred often.

I always believed that good and bad are like black and white, distinct and apart, but life keeps on attempting to teach otherwise. It teaches that good and bad are separated by a fine line that often keeps on getting blurred.

Is all that is on the side of the powerful, superior or the wealthy, good and all that is not, otherwise? Is there not an absolute definition of good or bad? Are we to go by the general perception of the public based on what they follow or practice or is the voice of conscience the better and the ultimate arbiter in the tussle between the good and the bad?

Is the system superior to the objective? Again a question that has no straight answers; a question that all those in the service of the sarkar keep on grappling with almost always. If the system comes in the way of achieving the objective, what are we supposed to do with it, still follow it or give it the go by. What we do, then actually defines what is superior and more often than not, it would be the system not the objective.

Then how the hell the country is expected to make progress in the true sense is what I always wonder. And the very fact that most of us either do not care or do not appreciate this basic premise is what exasperates me.

The tremendous energy that all of us have, gets dissipated without making the contribution it should, to the society at large. And that is tragic.

Remaining busy shuffling papers is not how I view my life should be. Paperwork is meant to merely a mechanism of making things happen, not an end by itself. And therefore it pains me when papers are merely shuffled around and we remain engrossed in a maze of files, meetings and discussions while organizations and the nation stands still.

Injustice and lack of basic concern for humanity is also what pains me. Is life deigned to be like this as ordained by the almighty, or what we generally witness is the aberration? What is the purpose and what is the grand design of the lord in creating the human life, life that appears to me to be the epitome of imperfection.

These and many other questions bother me, more so because there are no real answers to them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The lifeline chugs along!

The economic lifeline of the nation, the Indian Railways is a great organization. For almost over a hundred and sixty years it has been carrying the bulk of the passengers and freight of the nation and thereby emerged as an acknowledged symbol of growth, delivery and consistency in a nation that has often been witness to inadequate performance by various public utilities.

Railways indeed has a glorious history. In the initial decades its inception, it grew at a phenomenal pace, pace that is incomprehensible even in the present age of technology and managerial systems. Connecting the golden quadrilateral in less than twenty five and completing each of the hill railways in two to three years are achievements of tremendous stature even now, Such were and perhaps are the capabilities of this great organization. The very fact that the national railways moves over a thousand million tonnes of freight a year and passengers almost equal to the population of Australia every day, displays its inherent strength, commitment, focus on delivery and resilience.

Yet despite operating in a monopolistic situation in a huge sellers market, this great organization finds itself at the receiving end with amazing regularity. The huge ever increasing gap between demand and supply shows a massive lost opportunity that despite being in the best possible business scenario is neither fathomable, nor appreciable. Any business enterprise, and perhaps the railways is also one of them, would encash such a dream scenario to its fullest, in the interest of the organization and also people at large.

And that leads one to wonder, what has really gone wrong along the way? Why an almost vertical growth that businesses generally achieve in a scenario of monopoly and sellers market is not coming our way? Another thing that worries all those who love this monolith is the general situation of drift and helplessness prevailing even at the senior management levels. Apparently an overdose of rules, procedures and processes that has no doubt helped this organization run despite what may, has also been the major cause behind its rank inability to widen our horizons and progress in tune with the needs of a rapidly emerging nation.

Why this grand failure to succeed even in the best possible business scenario, is what really bothers me and perhaps not seeing a silver lining bothers me further?

Yet, the very fact that reforms, both structural and procedural are now on the anvil gives cause for solace. And the new minister like a whiff of fresh air has provided a ray of hope for this monolith mired in red tape. The setting up of a committee, headed by the eminent Mr. Debroy, mandated with the charge of recommending structural and process reforms is also a move in the right direction. Yet keeping in view the enormity of the issues involved and past experiences, hopes shall continue to remain at a low ebb till such time actual changes, not merely intentions, emerge at the ground level.

While railways is still regarded as a symbol of delivery, there is ample scope for improvement all around. A visit to a public institution or a city or a town, with rare exceptions ofcourse lays bare our rank failure in exploiting the potential that exists.

            Why is it so? Why is it that in our country, the word “public” in a public institution or a program often conveys an image of “sloth”, “inefficiency” or “corruption”. How is it that ownership by the most powerful institutions in the country, the governments, is more often than not regarded as a negative, even though ideally it should be otherwise? Where have we gone wrong, where have we slipped, are points to ponder?

            I like almost everyone else grew up with a popular belief that in a democratic system, the government is of the people, for the people and by the people. This belief evaporated with passage of time and more so during my service with the group of ruling elite in various capacities, cutting across sectors and states. Almost always, the tantra has been busy, serving itself or otherwise, without much concern about delivery and this to me appears to be the main reason why the nation even after almost seven decades of self rule continues to remain almost at the bottom of the list of nations in many development related indices.

            Sadly performance rarely matters within the system and the definition of merit also often appears warped. Yes there are exceptional bureaucrats and politicians, but they are far and few and can be counted on fingertips with a couple of fingers to spare. The tantra being perpetually blamed for the ills of governance even by its constituents who do not appreciate that it is they who make up the system, is indeed a hilarious scenario. 

            So what went wrong along the way? Perhaps we were not mature enough for self rule when we had our tryst with destiny, or the economic model forged in earlier years was not the right way or perhaps we never changed with the times while the world did and allowed archaic structures and processes get the better of us. 

            The national penchant for process rather than delivery is in my opinion the biggest hurdle in our march towards progress. That the sum total of goods and services produced in the country is the sole deciding factor on whether we are a rich or a poor nation has not yet sunk in into the national psyche. And therefore almost everywhere we have a fleet of pen pushers who fail to look beyond the file, for whom, not delivery but the file remains the ultimate objective. Yet these pen pushers share only a minor portion of the blame for the national debacle. Our archaic structures and processes, commonly known as the system remains the main culprit. This system marked by its ridiculous complexities also works as a highly efficient shield for the shirkers, inefficient and the corrupt – both of the financial and professional variety.

            This lack of concern for deliverance is so firmly enshrined in the minds of those who form the bulk of the servants of the government that almost everyone believes taking organizations or nations forward is the job of someone else. This general perception needs to change and that is possible only by changing structures and processes so radically that responsibility for all acts of omission or commission starts getting affixed, without the shroud that was available earlier.

            Simplification of structures and processes is the need of the hour. Our decision making and contractual processes that are presently mired in mistrust need to be simplified so that they become efficient and whenever required, direct accountability can be affixed.

            And we need to look at the human resource – for one witnesses that remaining engrossed in the maze of great dreams, lofty ideals and lofty budgets yet remaining totally oblivious of the most precious resource of all times – the human resource is not going to take us anywhere. Genuine concern for men and genuine efforts towards their development and growth is one singular thing that would propel organizations and nations forward. “Kundalini Jagran” is basically a hindu concept, but to some extent meets with my ingrained beliefs. All of us possess tremendous latent potential, yet remain blissfully unaware of it throughout our lives. Every single one of us is capable of superhuman achievements without getting physically tired, if the environment is positive, vibrant and encouraging.

            And the rampant corruption, often hidden under the table hurts. Yet officially its presence is never accepted for want of a habit to tackle inconvenient. Also absent are value systems and ethics in the entire governance machinery. In my over thirty five years of service, I am yet to attend a meeting called by my superior wherein issues relating to integrity, ethics or value systems are discussed and this inability of ours to bring these issues out in the open is the root cause behind the downfall in moral values within the governance machinery. Yet it is possible to correct things – despite the extent to which the rot has set in, if only one starts.

            My personal experiences in the railways, federal and state governments and national and state run public sector undertakings has left me convinced that a turnaround is possible, that it is still possible to bring about major changes for the better provided we believe in the need for deliverance, the latent potential of the human resource and the crying need to inject ethics and value systems in the entire governance machinery.

            It is never too late to wake up…………………….

Random musings

The chasm between field and head offices is an ever widening one. Those in the field always have a grouse against those comfortably settled in apex offices and wonder why the field realities remain invisible to these guys who really matter. And the very same guy on being kicked upwards to apex offices conveniently avoids the ground realities in favour of his warped perceptions and continues to be regarded in the same league as he regarded those above him, earlier. The relay continues with a lot of unhappy people emerging all around.

I have always wondered why field postings are meant for relatively junior and the headquarter postings for those born much earlier. Perhaps it is the general perception that wiser people should inhabit the superior offices and the not so wise, the lowly ones. This, despite the fact that it is predominantly the work at the field level that decides the fate of organizations whether they move forward or stay where they are.

On the other hand, the work of the superior offices is to provide vision and direction besides facilitating the working of their subordinate units, activities that they rarely indulge into. Unfortunately they end up attempting to monitor what the field units are doing, without generally providing any value addition whatsoever and therefore are regarded more as an evil that one has to live with than an office one usually looks up to.

Why shouldn’t then field offices have a status much higher than the head offices? And postings then should also follow this logic with sheer competence, not rank in the hierarchical set up deciding where exactly the bureaucratic bloke should park his backside upon.  Seniority then should not really matter and even the seniormost bloke, if competent should be parked in an assignment where his capabilities and talent can be best utilized. On the other hand even a junior official if perceived to have vision can be positioned in assignments in head offices where providing vision and direction is the major concern.

After all positions within bureaucratic setups should be positions of authority and responsibility, not merely positions of power and the aim has to be delivery, not merely positioning of men in hierarchical assignments.

Railways is a classic example of an organization where the field formations are generally treated with contempt by superior offices that themselves repeatedly on many occasions prove their irrelevance. Yet there is a race for superior yet irrelevant positions for the field is regarded as inferior to setups ensconced in ivory towers.

When shall we wake up to the reality that positions that impart power and authority are merely roles that one plays and each role has its own relevance? Regarding one role as superior to the other is a folly that most of us commit. After all real progress can only be achieved by a confluence of roles, all working in tandem with each other.   

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The inherent goodness of humankind!

Despite setbacks, and there have been many, I refuse to dilute my belief in the inherent goodness of men at large. Evil, though it often lurks in the most unlikeliest of places has not yet succeeded in changing this belief despite tremendous environment inspired efforts.

I have always believed that men are inherently good and why not – after all, all of us are a part of the tremendous cosmic energy that we recognize as God. And if God is good, how can his constituents be bad or evil? What we generally witness are acts that are bad or evil and we often make the mistake of treating the act and the actor as one. Difficult it is to differentiate between the two, yet we have to, for therein lies the essence of life.

And therefore those who form their own opinions based on the true understanding (if that is indeed possible) of the infinite cosmic energy, and are not swayed by the opinions of masses are the ones who live life to the fullest, and that is how it is designed to be.

The theory of Karma sounds good and often takes a lot of burden off our heads for our acts of misdemeanor, yet I fail to be firmly convinced.  After all the infinite cosmos is not meant to be like humans – holding us responsible for each and every single act of ours – for by its supposed nature and constitution it has to be forgiving and not revengeful. And there is also no supercomputer at work, logging down each and every single act of over six billion souls and then paying them back in the same coin in this life or thereafter.

Yet goodness by itself is a reward that should enthuse those who indulge in evil to take recourse to course correction. Acts that are good and humane in nature impart a deep sense of satisfaction that is often divine in nature. Yet the intent is what really matters, good acts committed with the intention of appearing good in the eyes of others may not yield desirable results.

And that leads me to think whether there is a level above mere acts of goodness or evil. And if there is, it has to be genuineness and that again would come out of a deep and pure thought process that too over a period of time. Being genuine is maybe what really matters, to and in this world of ours and the great cosmos.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The turmoil continues!

I am often amazed at the generally prevalent tendency amongst the upper crust to decry those who are actually making life comfortable for them. Imagining a life without the presence of those who serve us and take care of our routine needs at home and office silently and often efficiently makes me cringe in pain.

Our peons and personal staff in the office and our servants at home are generally the silent army whose existence is noticed only when the job they perform is not upto our hallowed expectations. And then they are shouted at and demeaned, very often to a ridiculous extent, not exactly commensurate with their failing.

Having lived in Delhi, the apex city of the country, for a fairly long period, I have suffered being a witness to the demeaning acts of those in power and also those who roll in wealth even if of an ill-gotten origin. The chief executive of fairly recent vintage in railways who almost daily went to the extent of snatching money from the hapless servants who worked in their home besides heaping many other unmentionable indignities. Many others in powerful positions also display similar traits of leaving no opportunity to pull down those very persons who make their lives comfortable.

Somehow I am unable to appreciate this widespread national malaise of human beings treating others of their own elk disparagingly.  Perhaps such a breed is not human after all and are many notches below even though they may be regard themselves otherwise.

Many media reports of politicos, bureaucrats and even highly paid corporate maltreating (often maltreating is a mild word) their household servants have emerged in recent times and that makes me wonder whether it has now become a social issue beyond correction. Perhaps it is symptomatic of a society evolving through the morass of ill gotten wealth and rampant abuse of power by those who were meant to emerge as role models. Yet what frightens is the sheer scale and often social acceptance or mere lack of concern for such practices.

Such conduct is indeed sign of a society that is immature and backward in the true sense. That demeaning others is surely not a sign of greatness is something that we have to realize from the core of our hearts. Yet who wants to be merely great in a setup where greatness is almost always equated with the quantum of power or wealth one wields. Perhaps when we acquired independence, we were a bunch of people uneducated in the real sense, but were destined for self rule and the chaos and misdemeanors by those meant to set things right therefore continues unabated. 


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

moving from turmoil to progress?

The level of unexpected turmoil in AAP has caught the nation by sheer surprise. Nobody ever expected a revolt of the level witnessed in the party that very recently won over ninety five percent of the seats polled in the Delhi assembly elections. A high majority generally confers an unbridled authority on all party supremos, and this majority was way above the high mark, yet it has brought out differences and internal fights in the open amazingly and surprisingly, that too against the founder supremo Kejriwal whose singly minded focus has brought the party to absolute power under circumstances that indicated otherwise. 

Definitely this is not a battle for supremacy for nobody can presently question or even aspire for the current supremos chair in the backdrop of the landslide victory under his tutelage. Then, is this merely a battle of ego’s that run deep within our systems cutting across political boundaries, sectors and states? Appears unlikely as ego of individuals has the tendency of being blunted by the power of whom they regard as rivals.  And keeping in view the battle against corruption that this party has always heralded, it cannot be a fight for spoils.

There is therefore definitely something else that has triggered and is also sustaining this revolt by a few but powerful founding members of the party. Perhaps only time shall reveal the truth.

Yet it is unfortunate, especially for the gullible public, who has by now gotten used to witnessing its hopes being dashed, generally by the political class.

Is there a hope left, the existing scenario makes me wonder? When the nation came of its own, over sixty seven years ago, great expectations overtook despondence in an overwhelming manner. We all expected the nation to soon occupy its rightful place in the comity of nations, but that was not to be and we continue to trod along as a forever developing nation. Perhaps the answer lies in an immature populace being given the reigns to govern itself and rhetoric in general being perceived as the solution to all ills. Unfortunately we have not come much further and development with minor exceptions ofcourse continues to be substituted generally with rhetoric and the ground reality remains far removed from promises.

Unfortunately in the absence of awareness and maturity in the masses, expectations of those governed, from those in power, continues to be low and the feudal mindset that prevails continues to fan the scenario. Perhaps the solution, like what has been witnessed in the developed world, lies in education and unless that becomes a focal area of governance inspired by commitment and integrity, the desired change would never see the light of the day.

The present dispensation at the center gives hope, yet the proof of the pudding always lies in eating and so we wait for the great change to emerge. Amen!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Madhya Pradesh - the heart and heartbeat of India

Back to where the heart is!

Tourism has again called me back in its wings. My fourth stint in the tourism sector began on the 8th of January this year with the government of Madhya Pradesh as its Commissioner and Managing Director of Tourism. Being wanted is definitely a great feeling that I have been exulting in since the day of my arrival in the beautiful state that I believe has been crafted especially for the roving tourist.

And this return, perhaps the only case of its kind ever in the country where the services of a central services officer have been requisitioned by a state government for the third time, often makes me feel like a tourism expert and at times I start acting like one. Yet I pardon myself on such mistakes that I often commit, regarding myself as a tourism expert or a management guru and sometimes as a leading exponent of smoking beauties, the steam locomotives of yesteryears.

Yet in reality I am none of the above. The nation has a plethora of experts in the tourism and management fields, experts who are many notches above me and given the chance would make a much better contribution than me. Perhaps my expertise lies in converting an idea into reality remaining within the system that is perhaps designed for acts of non-deliverance. And this penchant for delivery is not tourism centric – it has been happening in almost all areas with ease.

The faith and trust that the government of the state has reposed in me is not at all an easy head load. The pressure for deliverance is mind boggling yet the positive and friendly vibes that emanate from almost all sections of the Vallabh Bhawan have ensured that no even an iota of tension is in the air. Heavy pressure but no tension and too much on the plate is perhaps a utopian scenario in a sarkari environment.

The state is indeed not only the heart but also the heartbeat of the nation. Almost in the centre of the nation with ease of access, moderate climate, beautiful landscape, simple people and an amazing variety and richness of tourist destinations, all go to make this state the essence of the republic. The job that way is relatively simple. The richness has to be showcased, basic infrastructure put in place, craft culture and cuisine packaged and showcased, events created and packaged, private sector facilitated to put in place tourist infrastructure, information widely and efficiently disseminated and above all professionalizing the state run tourism corporation, handling which is my primary charge.

And all this would be possible. After all a beautiful state that is so well governed besides being headed by an individual who has concern for human values at the core of his heart, has to excel in the business of tourism.

I also now realize that far more important than mere showcasing that most of the leading states are indulging in, is the need to put right things at the ground level. And this is where the state of Madhya Pradesh stands out in almost all areas especially tourism where the works at the ground level have outpaced their showcasing. This has also resulted in a groundswell of support from the general public as they witnessed what they never had earlier – things changing for the better at a very rapid pace.

And this pace is now going to continue. And why not – when work becomes fun can excellence be far behind?  

Scrapping Article 66A – not enough for national rejoicing

The quashing of section 66A, the controversial cyber law by the supreme court comes as a relief to many, especially those who would not like the rich and the powerful to carry on with their indiscretions unopposed. Laying stress on the freedom of speech as enshrined in the constitution, the court consigned this controversial section to the dustbin mainly on account of its vagueness and arbitrariness. The arrests and harassment in recent times of citizens who criticized the whimsical acts of powerful politicians perhaps formed the basis for this landmark judgement.

2013 and 14 perhaps marked the lowest ever point in the history of the great Indian railways with a scoundrel of the highest order occupying the corner room and treating the organization as his personal fiefdom. This scoundrel and his wife displayed conduct of the lowest order and in the process tortured and humiliated scores of railway staff. His rank indulgence in corrupt practices set new records with all his cronies remaining busy in extortions, yet with very rare exceptions, hardly any officer or staff came forward in defiance of illegal orders and practices being perpetrated at the behest of the scoundrel couple. Despite frequent mentions of his gross misconduct in passing in the national media as well as social media, he passed into oblivion unscathed with almost the entire organization, with very few exceptions watching in awe and fear without taking recourse to the national or even social media to highlight what was indeed going wrong. This group would remain silent even in the post section 66A era that the apex court has heralded.

The quashing of section 66A would definitely make a difference, even if a minor one, only to the very few who have the spine and even otherwise were carrying on with their writing against unethical conduct and practices, regardless of the inconvenience they were often put through. Now it would be almost impossible to put behind bars or harass those who are vocal enough to say through the social media what others merely digested unmindful.

The moot question is whether we as an individual, as a karinda of the government, as an organization or as a society are indeed ready to accept a different and very often the truthful viewpoint. The answer is “not yet” for we have not attained the level of maturity that most of the societies in the developed world have. Suppression of free expression of the masses, unless ofcourse they are seditious in nature or promote national disharmony or terrorism, is not the right way of governing a free democratic nation. What we indeed need to suppress are acts that are criminal in nature and/or go against the basic grain of our social structure and in that we have been a miserable failure. The massive delays in bringing to task even the perpetrators of heinous crimes like gang rapes and murders even of ex prime ministers is a serious cause of concern and the root cause behind crime, social disorder and the rampant corruption that almost all organs of governments are generally embroiled in.

The quashing of section 66A is definitely a welcome step but does not give enough reason for national rejoicing. It can at best be regarded as the first small step in the direction of setting right the governance and social systems of the country, yet it can act as a catalyst for ushering in a plethora of reforms in the governance machinery of the country.