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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pinning the executive down

Those who idle shall commit no mistakes!

The news report reg CBI filing an FIR into alleged improprieties in Air India’s purchase of software in 2011 came as a shock. Shock because ostensibly as per the stand taken by the company as well as its parent ministry, while there may be procedural lacunae, there is no apparent malafide in this case. Perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye.

Regardless of the issue, such an investigation is bound to hit the company hard as besides the pain of digging out old papers, questioning of many including the innocent and the honest and its attendant ramifications, it would further strengthen the belief that following processes is important and deliverance can take a back seat. That process overrides deliverance and merely following the laid down systems guarantees personal safety is sadly becoming the norm in almost all governmental organizations. Air India that has been a victim of gross indecision in recent years and only lately had started to come out of its slumber will also take a hit, I am absolutely certain, as an outcome of the unfortunate turn that this case has now taken.

Whether the variety of watchdogs that the nation has have been able to reduce the levels of corruption is a matter of debate, yet the fact remains that they have been successful in stifling deliverance almost everywhere.

Having maintained highest standards of integrity all my life, I am unable to appreciate the basic premise that we require a non-executive to keep an eye on every single aspect of working of the executive and that we should have checks and balances that are highly tilted in favor of the checks.  I also wonder how mere non-adherence to a rule or process, howsoever silly though it may be, is regarded as an act of malafide, sufficient enough to hound the hapless executive for years, if not decades. And what hurts even more is that one single incident of straying from the path, even if done in the overall interest of the organization or the nation is sufficient to wipe out years of proven deliverance. And then we lament that the organization does not perform!

The public sector is indeed the favorite whipping boy of the media, a media that makes or mars public opinion. A single news item like that of today would have made many think and also perhaps believe that the national carrier is neck deep in corruption, even though that is far from reality. The omnipresent shadow of vigilance and other more powerful investigative agencies over the minutest processes undertaken by the executive is one single factor that has caused the maximum damage to the public sector in our nation. Commercial organizations need to be swift in decision making processes, especially the ones that face competition from the private sector, but how the hell and also why the hell would an executive take a decision if he knows that it would be dissected in hindsight, motives would be ascribed even where there are none and he may even face a life of ignominy for a long time later, if the investigative agencies so desire. Is the risk really worth it ask many, and the universal answer is “No” and mediocre performance therefore continues to rule the roost, with many of those on the sidelines continuing to wonder and also treatise on why we are unable to deliver.

At a time when we have a Prime Minister totally committed to pulling the country out of the morass it has found itself in after almost six decades of failed governance, it is sad that we also have a machinery that believes in an overload of checks and generally regards officials as dishonest unless proven otherwise. Mistrust was indeed at the core of the decision making processes that we inherited from the british and rightly so : they were ruling over a nation other than theirs, but why should the same system continue when men are governing a nation of their own elk, is what is often difficult to comprehend. Mistrust has indeed continued for far too long under the garb of “checks and balances” and transparency, with its attendant damages that are visible almost anywhere.

When errors or mistakes are regarded as a malafide, best is not to commit them. And the only way that is possible is by not taking any decisions. This is the learning that has emerged over time and successfully assimilated by a large majority of those who are a part of the system. And surprisingly many still wonder why progress is not commensurate with the effort and also the desire. Continuing to be fooled by a beehive of activity while remaining oblivious to the fact that remaining busy, is by no stretch of imagination akin to deliverance has also emerged as a hallmark of the rotten system.

Yet the silver lining remains that still there are many who would continue to trod along, regardless of the price they may have to pay later. Perhaps the inner peace and satisfaction that deliverance brings in its wake still finds takers.