Administrative Reforms Tsunami!

 

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The above slide depicts the difference between a specialist and the generalists. India currently is administered by Generalists where now the need is for both Generalists but in many places that of specialists.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/plan-to-import-talent-a-third-of-deputy-secys-from-outside-govt-starts-work-to-induct-400-directors-5776102/ 

This news item from a newspaper must have sent shock waves through a particular section of the administration in India. Prelude to this was the appointment as External Affairs Minister, of Mr Jaishankar, recently retired career diplomat who had handled his work with aplomb during his career. Instead of appointing a politician, Jaishankar, the domain expert was appointed.  

The British ruled us for 150 years. They created an administrative infrastructure to suit their needs and not the needs of India. At the top of the pyramid were the elite IAS service and other such allied services. Their job was to ensure that the British rule and its arm functioned smoothly. Their main targets were to ensure that the taxes were collected on time, to break the agitations against the British government and nip them in the bud. (Remember Jalianwala Baug?) An example of different priority was the cultivation of opium in Bengal and Bihar. British made sure that all the produce was sold to the government and at one stage British sold Opium worth Seven Million British Pounds in a year to China from India; for opium growing areas officers were expected to give top priority to opium fields over all other functions. Anti-mutiny work and Opium farming were a couple of services which indicated that the system was designed to run in ironclad fashion with no allowance for deviation. It was a sound system, and it served the purpose of the Britishers. We inherited and continued with the same system even after the Independence was achieved, which helped us initially. It served its purpose till the last colony, the one in Goa by Portuguese, was driven away in 1960.  

As usual, everybody was happy with the status quo. Why repair something which ain’t broken? Out of all central services, the IAS was considered top echelon even above the Police. As administrators, they advised the government on every subject under the Sun. The system continued to remain ironclad with all the keys safely with the IAS team. They decided rules, regulations, salary rules, transfer rules everything. It ensured that Civil Services always had the best deal. They continued to have a group of staff to support them at home with many other facilities. As per the rules, they were generally transferred every three years or less to make sure that special interests were not created. So from district administration to finance, finance to technology, technology to Land reforms and the law was the typical journey. They were considered experts in whichever department they were handling.  

Tsunami2

I started thinking about persons who appear for a competitive examination at the age of 25. Based on this examination and interviews, they are selected to become an officer to run a district, the state and the nation. The system was probably alright till the ’70 s of the last century. But slowly, with the advent of computers and India getting linked to the global economy over a period, their “expertise” was found wanting though was never challenged. Most of the selected persons have been smart people with reasonable intelligence. But the situation has changed so much in the last 25 years or so that everybody realised that we must have domain experts to run the government departments too!  

All domains have become multidisciplinary where even technologists can find going tough. For example, GST involves knowledge of taxation, law, commerce, computers and project management. Aadhar card needed software knowledge, database expertise, data science; fortunately, we had Nandan Nilekani to handle this.

Rajeev Gandhi recognised the lateral entry need in government when he was the PM. He invited Sam Pitroda to suggest the ways and means for India’s entry into the modern telecom & electronics era. That was a masterstroke, and India did start moving in the right direction under Pitroda’s guidance. But such entries were infrequent. Pitroda had direct access to Rajeev Gandhi so he could put aside objections from the administrative framework. The massive behemoth of administration prefers the status quo to anything else. The people were Subedars in their domain. They would try and not take decisions or move the files backwards and forwards. The administrative infrastructure was like Khan Market gang, privileged, with everybody knowing each other. India moved at a snails pace if and when, in spite of the group. Twentyfive years back, the Indian growth story started, so did the need for the specialists.  

Who could break the shackles of generalists? Dilliwalas? No way. In came a confident Narendra Modi, a rank outsider from Gujarat with a background of a tea-seller. A common man but a man with zeal to take India forward. In his first term, he broke shackles and started with improving efficiencies. All the subedars had to swipe their cards in the office at nine am. Time frames were decided for specific actions and achieved. 

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Now in the second term, the government has realised that only the advisors and consultants are not going to make the government more efficient and successful. Executives also must be specialists where needed, and this is what the government has started. Now if you reread the above article, you will realise the importance of specialists. I am very much aware that every system needs both specialists and generalists. For understanding social issues (and many such issues) and tackle them, generalists will continue, and they may be essential also. But the government is trying to fill 1/3 of the positions with specialists.  

Two critical points to be remembered are that the empire is going to strike back looking for rules, loopholes and ways of preventing lateral entry from happening. After all, the entry of specialists is directly affecting their career prospects and importance. Reservations is another issue that needs to be handled. In allowing the lateral entry, reservations need to be kept in mind. When the first nine such positions were filled, the HR department decided to advertise each post as an independent post and not as a pool of secretaries. Single post declaration allowed HR to overcome reservations requirement. The change will cover a large population in India. Though the number of entries being discussed currently is only 400, unrest can start leading to agitations. 

Friends, the modern world, say in the last 30 years has changed so much that the specialists and subspecialists will be needed everywhere. How can the administrator decide which fighter plane India should buy? Should we have Shinkansen or Maglev or TGV trains for India? How to improve and ensure that modern electronics goods are manufactured in a big way in India? Even specialists are going to find it tough to understand such things. But this change is going to create a big Tsunami for the administrators whether they like it or not!

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Wake-up People!

When we are born, we do not know what we are going to do in our lives, most of the times. But some are born, and their destiny is written at the time of birth! Like some are born to become kings and queens, or heir to a business empire, some are born to become Presidents of a political party. Children following their parents footsteps and sometimes parachuting at high positions is a routine phenomenon. It is known that such children listen to the subject discussions at home from childhood, so they are likely to be more mentally ready than other children 

But what is the Dharma of whatever we do in our life? We should try our best to act from the bottom of our heart and true to our ability. But does the world behave this way? People under the garb of modernity, liberal thought, show as if they are giving the yeomen service to the society. But in many cases, it is observed that the denominator is self, to hell with everything else, including the nation.  

During and after the recent election, a lot of discussions were going on about Political Pundits, Experts, Reporters and their ilk. What is the job profile of these people? To my understanding, these people are supposed to be connected with people at ground level, have the feel of what is happening. The ordinary person like you and me are supposed to be enlightened by these Gyanis! But have things happened this way? The answer is an emphatic NO!  

PranUncle

How did things go out of hands? Years back, I had met Mr Pran Chopra, who retired as the chief editor of The Tribune. We met at Naukuchiatal, near Nainital during a holiday. We were together for almost a week, and the insights that we got about the life of reporters and the way newspapers worked in those days were interesting. The gist of what he said was that in whatever they did, the truth and the nation were the two main interests. Everything else was secondary. Now everything is reverse of what Pran uncle mentioned.  

We have been hearing about Luteyns gang or Khan market gang often. But these are not the only people who took this route. At the local level, too, in every state, in every capital, in every significant newspaper, the sycophants and people with selfinterest existed in large numbers. All these people had become blind with their own thought processes, their analysis of the situation and their prediction about the electoral mathematical equations, the usual caste and religion! They forgot about a small thing, the people. People who vote were last on their mind. They were all busy cursing Modi, looking down at NDA and assuming that caste, equations, statelevel bosses were good enough to win the election and form a non-BJP government in Delhi. They appeared to be drunk on their self-judgment. They were so blind to the realities of life that even when exit polls started indicating a resounding victory for NDA, they simply refused to accept the polls. Many said that the lowest numbers shown in a poll were the correct numbers and those too were exaggerated. Reporter after reporter would give his/her theory how finally “Acche Din” (good old days) will come once the current government loses.  

Personally, I am for any leader or a party that tries its best to improve the state of the nation, the society and the people. I really don’t bother if party A is winning or B. All governments, leaders make mistakes, have their quota of blunders. But the government should have the least number of corrupt people. In India, we have seen that the number of schemes that have been floated since independence are the means to make money. The leakage in such programmes was reported to be very high, and only 15% of the money reached the people. The % is very similar to social work done by Rotary Clubs where their social work “achieves” the same success rate! In the case of Rotary, the money is spent on dinners, parties. In one example, the money is blown, and in the other, it is made; but the result is the same.  (Disclaimer- I am NOT a rotarian and this information is shared with me by some resrious rotarians!)

How did such close groups start? In Delhi, you were either an insider or then you were an outsider like Modi. The insiders went to the same schools and colleges like Stephens and Oxford. Everybody knew everybody; either your brother or sister was together in the class, or you were neighbours in Delhi, of course, Lutyens Delhi. Your address could never be Chandani Chowk or Nizamuddin! The coterie was formed, and modern court jesters were born. You got the exclusive news leak and were always the part of the gang of reporters on foreign jaunts on the Prime Minister’s plane. On TV shows or in your weekly columns you wrote and discussed whatever was fed to you; your stomach was too full to challenge anything.   

Of course, some reporters did their job and somehow managed to “break the news”, in spite of the coterie! Such people were challenged and openly called to be working for “interested” groups. But the coterie never bothered to take a look at their own face in the proverbial mirror!  

Why were these people against Modi and BJP? I can understand having a different political viewpoint. But is it possible that anything and everything that is done by a government is wrong? Chidambaram was finance minister in the previous government. He writes an article in Indian Express, every Sunday, discussing how all the steps taken by the government are leading India to the precipice of no return! In the financial world, every decade or so, we get recession, stagnation or sometime stagflation. But this is the part of the natural economic process of correcting itself. The world had the same issue in 2008, and in 2019 the same problem has started. Car sell is plunging by 25%. Instead of talking about the economic cycle, these people start blaming the government as they are now out of favour, out of their “dole” from the government.  

One crucial thing everybody forgot was that everybody’s assumption about the default people in India. Some kept on thinking that default ruling party or an alternate option was Congress; like people thought that default business families were Tatas and Birlas. When Dhirubhai Ambani came and took over, nobody knew. Ambanis turnover is now Rs. One lac crore. Similarly, when Congress got 44 seats in the 2014 elections, the same group thought that it was a matter of time and Congress would be back with a bang. NDA was the new Ambani of the political scene, was never understood by these people.  

But some of the intellectuals have realised their error and have openly started writing about their mistakes of perceptions. Shekhar Gupta, a well-known commentator, has  publicly accepted in the interview below that somehow he was blinded  

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=372025410115387&id=234508140533782 

Meghnad Desai is another person who is bluntly telling Congress about the irrelevance of Rahul Gandhi.  

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/out-of-my-mind-dear-rahul-just-go-5760615/ 

It comes back to the same thinking; a democracy prospers only when there is a good, positive opposition party. Opposition should be constructive. Even today, Congress made a statement that with around 50 MP’s, they can make life miserable for the government in the Loksabha. Is that your narrative? Where does nation come into the picture? Where is the positive intent?  

These changes will happen only when people introspect, (Ashok Chavan has made a statement that Congress lost in Maharashtra because of Vanchit Samaj party ditched them at the last moment, Congress was perfect in what they did), show positive intent, have pragmatic policicies, not just shout the slogans.  

We should learn from the Westminister System followed in Britain by having a shadow cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet or Shadow Ministry is a feature of the Westminster system of government. It consists of a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government, and whose members shadow or mirror the positions of each member of the Cabinet. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s responsibility to scrutinise the policies and actions of the government, as well as to offer an alternative program. The Shadow Cabinet makes up the majority of the Official Opposition frontbench. Is it not a better alternative to stopping work in Loksabha at the drop of a hat? 

 

 

Status Quo, Election-nama!

Status Quo means the present state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues. In life, we humans try to avoid change and want the status quo. Such a status quo is what politicians always hope to achieve. When the status quo is maintained, life becomes easy for them to manage. India gained independence in 1947; we were a vast nation with a significant population. British had plundered the national wealth for their benefit. Add to this the partition that created a new nation Pakistan. The Indian nation survived the first fifteen years on the goodwill of millions of Hindu Gods! There were crises after crises which were somehow overcome with the help of the United Nations and other countries like the USA and Russia.

British had left behind the legacy of brown sahib’s in the form of Indian administrative service. The charismatic leadership of Nehru took over the reins of running the nation. Majority of people poor and rich, both were awed by Nehru and the ICS/IAS officers and their ilk. After Nehru’s death, with a small break, his daughter took over the Prime Ministership. It was the Dynastic succession, and all others were treated as commoners. Commoners had no chance! Running a Dynastic style strives for the status quo, to hell with India, especially poor and uneducated Bharat. To maintain the status quo, you need sycophants. Suddenly, training schools giving a degree in sycophancy mushroomed! Ironclad administrative infrastructure and the sycophants made sure that the whole country was anaesthetised! Whatever the kings and queens did was accepted without much challenge. Masses were kept uninformed and poor! Those questioning the royalty were steamrolled! A minor spectre of a group of people challenging the Dynasty was a blink on the horizon with a couple of seats in the Loksabha, in early ’80 s!

The nation was on the growth rate of around 2%, which many called as Hindu Growth rate! In 1992, India had to take significant loans against the national gold reserves. We were forced to improve laws to make the atmosphere business friendly. After a gap of a few years, the Dynasty again took over as if the nation was bereft of competent and capable leaders. The dynastic grip led to the birth of influential regional leaders. The era of coalition governments had started. Still, the status quo was primarily maintained by the rulers with license raj and coterie of prominent businesspeople. Nation had started growing at a faster pace from 2% to 7%. The more rapid growth was the result of changes in laws and the birth of the IT industry where Indians showed a flair to shine! The world started to notice India and many multinational companies started coming to India. Still, the dynasty rule by proxy came back with a break of five years. While they ruled, the status quo was maintained. But during their latest, ten-year stint, many scandals and financial irregularities came out. The scandals finally broke the stranglehold of the family, and the current government came in power. But this new government was the culmination of the spectre that was seen as a blink in early ’80 s of the last century. Modi took over as the prime minister in 2014.

It became evident that the new government wanted to do things differently to change the way of people’s approach. They wanted more participation from people; they did many things to bring back the anesthetised population to senses. But dynasts and their coterie treated this victory as beginners luck. They were a bit stunned with the idea that a non-Delhi person with no propah English accent became the prime minister. This person was neither Oxford-educated nor was he from a great family lineage. The rulers of India have to be Oxford/Harvard guys as they had to handle the IAS led infrastructure. The administrative gang was one group which knew that once they came out of Mussoorie school, they were the kings! No one in this world could touch them except for transferring them. How can a senior bureaucrat be expected to reach his office every day at nine am and swipe his card? On top of this, there were stories that their team of servants was likely to be eliminated. Please read the article below on the subject.

https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/modi-government-lok-sabha-elections-2019-indian-bureaucracy-ias

Combination of status quo raj and relaxed approach to administration was one of the primary reasons India was able to continue with large scale corruption, loan frauds which remained hidden due to quid pro quo approach by business people and administrators/bankers. The group of dynasts and administrators was complimented by the creation of a group of media gang which is now infamously known as Khan market gang. Khan market gang supported the dynasty and their coterie irrespective of results of their work.

Along with the new government came up another group, which came to be known as “Tukde, Tukde gang”, came to the fore! This gang was leftist, liberal and generally sympathised with anything that was done against the government, including armed rebellion. Showing support to proven terrorist was their specialisation. This gang was not afraid to go to jail. In real life, they were perpetual postgraduate or doctoral students. They got free publicity from the media all the time. Their main aim was to keep turmoil boiling, under the guise of liberal views.

During the current election campaign, all the above were anesthetised into thinking that what Modi government had been doing, was despised by the common man. There was a big hoopla about how the days of the government are numbered. Regional satraps like Naidu, Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and others started behaving as if it was only a question of crossing 23rd May to start taking oath in the new government at the Centre.

They never knew what the population of India was thinking. The highly educated, middle class, poor all were enlightened by the revolution of social media; caste, was not in the equation this time. Caste politics was thrown out of the window. Citadels were flattened, dreams of the above gangs were shattered. Campaigns reached such low levels that the prime minister, the chief ministers and other senior people were openly called thieves. The opposition parties continuously kept on challenging the Supreme Court and Election Commission with frivolous petitions.

The opposition parties had raised the temperature of the system in general. They created hype and started believing it. Rajasthan chief minister had claimed that since Congress had won the state election only six months back, they will win all 25 Loksabha seats in Rajasthan. They lost all!

When the exit poll results started coming out, there were indications that current the BJP government could get 300 plus seats. At one end of the spectrum, the figure was around 240, and at the other end, it was 350. The 350 number predicted by Axis/India Today combination was trolled by saying that they were “sold”. The “knowledgeable” gang of reporters/experts started sharing their knowledge and opinion that these are final days of Modi government. Anaesthesia effect was seen again. In the end, Axis/India Today predictions were vindicated.

Friends, I can keep writing on a lot, on this subject. What I have written is not about parties, candidates, results etc. But I tried to write about how the nation was put out to sleep by a combination of Dynasts, non-flexible bureaucrats and their ancient systems formalised by British, to suit them. Later the team of Liberal, foreign-trained Oxford or Cambridge educated media experts joined the bandwagon. All of them supported the old style, Dynastic style of working and put everybody to sleep. Unfortunately, they also went to sleep and did not know that India had moved on. The opposition simply did not accept these figures. Mamata Banerjee went to the extent of saying, “All this is gossip which I don’t believe. But I am afraid by calculating these extravagant figures, the ruling party will hack EVM’s all over India and cook the figures to match exit polls.”

There is one funny side to hacking theory. Rahul Gandhi lost in Amethi but won in Waynad with the highest margin. Supriya Sule, Pawar’s daughter, won but his nephew lost. Which EVM’s were hacked?

Finally, when they woke up from the deep slumber on 23rd May, 303/353 and 17 times 0 and few times 1 per state were the numbers that became famous! Majority population had woken up, and they have given BJP a mandate to take them on a progressive path for the next five years. I hope that the opposition team also wakes up, pulls up their socks and forms a robust and healthy opposition with constructive politics! Jaihind!