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Monday, April 11, 2016

Battling the machinery

The uphill battle continues. What really foxes me is the mess and the amount of indecision at all levels that must have gone into almost on a continuous basis to achieve the grand mess that we are saddled with today at the national carrier.

Yes it is true that the typical staid way of functioning must have helped a lot, as that alone guarantees maintenance of status quo and hefty premium on non-deliverance. Strange it may sound but in the PSU jungles, it is not the tiger who is the most feared but the cunning fox that surreptitiously appears out of nowhere to claim its prey.

Addressing the young budding management students at the legendary IIT Delhi recently, I was literally at pains to explain to them the unlimited bundle of power that a human being is, yet that power and the potential remains untapped almost forever, with rare exceptions of course. The system that everyone criticizes and mourns for, yet accepts and perpetuates has a tremendous crippling effect. Endless debates and deliberations and yet remaining indecisive over even petty matters is the hallmark of the system.

It is a fact that the new government is trying its level best to pull the nation out of the accumulated mess of almost seventy odd years. No new scam hitting the nation since the present dispensation took over is at stark contrast with the legacy that they inherited. There is stress on integrity and value systems and interference is almost absent. Honest intentions are also conspicuous by their shining presence. While we are indeed witness to good strides in governance and development, yet the fact remains that a quantum growth and improvement would be possible only if the machinery radically changes the way it has been working. If it keeps working in the way it has been all along in the past, we would keep on getting the results we had been getting in the past. A total overhaul is required. Simplification is the name of the game. Things have to be made simple to happen and they shall.

The role of the check-posts, namely the vigilance and audit setups has to be reviewed and drastically curtailed. Malafide has to be handled with an iron hand, mistakes need to be merely glossed over. Trust in human beings has to be brought back and also the realization that if mere punishments could reform, crime would have hit a new low in India by now.

The recent facebook post of the coal secretary in which he has laid the blame for the lack of initiative at the feet of the five C’s is like hitting the nail bang on the head. That the 5C’s including the CVC and the CAG have succeeded in curbing initiative is a statement of fact that I have been living almost all my life. Initiative for an officer working within the governmental machinery is a personal risk for which he may end up bearing the cross all his life. And many therefore ask - why risk it, when a life devoid of initiative provides the same personal comforts sans pressures and also keeps the door open for elevation to the highest levels. Premium is there, but only for doing nothing.

Process reform is the key. Almost everyone appreciates it but hardly understands the same. It is indeed all about simplification of the decision making and contractual processes that swamp the governmental machinery. Unfortunately over the decades, in the garb of transparency and curbing corruption, almost all processes have been complicated to ridiculous levels. And therefore most of us who are not satisfied with merely twiddling our thumbs, are often at a loss for how to proceed forward and do things. And having worked in almost all sectors of the machinery, I can say with the courage of conviction that this maze is omnipresent.

The maze has to lift for the jewel of the east to rapidly emerge from the shadows.