Thursday, February 28, 2013


Elections are more about luring voters!

Unlike many post-colonial nations, which have descended to dictatorships or sham democracies, India has wedded to a reasonably stable democracy unhindered throughout its post-independence stint. However, the success of very essence of democracy in India were largely held off , especially if benchmarked against the best examples of it, because of certain challenges caused by the some basic deficiency in the country’s social and political dynamics. India’s political outfits have time and again exploited the short memories of poor and illiterate (or at best the semi educated) masses that forms the basis of the country’s electoral pattern. Therefore, the inefficiency and status quo of the country’s/state’s incumbent governments are ratified by the voters on the merit of just few months of developmental work before the election. It is an enigma why the voters are such crassly swayed by the otherwise pillaging politicians and cannot see the devil in their stealth! So, projects worth hundreds of crores are announced and brandished before election to tilt the electoral balance in favor of the ruling parties. And such is India’s electorates’ psychographics that in many instances it works too! The best example of it has been in West Bengal, where for 34 years of Left Front rule there were no anti-incumbency factors at all despite their shoddy and slapdash work during the tenure. They derived latitudes by tall talks and announcing projects before elections that were either never implemented or remained incomplete once the election was over. The flaunting of projects and schemes just before election has become a norm throughout the nation in the hope of shaving down opposition’s margins. Before the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) election this year projects worth Rs. 519 crores were announced along with major reforms in the transport sector worth hundreds of crores.

To beat these faltering, the Election Commission of India in its model ‘Code of Conduct’ has specified strict Do’s and Don’ts for the political parties: it has banned announcement of new schemes, projects, financial grants and laying foundation stones that are rooted in the sole effort to influence the voters. Yet, the parties escape these rules by announcing schemes just before they come into effect, as has been the case in West Bengal, Gujarat and other places. One of the reasons why the incumbent parties can create firewall by these announcements even though the voters know it to be a bogus is because they hardly have any other options! The cliché is followed by each and every party, which provides no alternatives for the voters that can crystalize into a realistic change in governance. And most importantly, the election in India in most instances are not fought on developmental issues at all – they are fought on the flimsy lines of caste, creed, religion…et al. The illiterate or semi-literate electoral base cannot believe any paradigm change in their lives is possible at all – so their voting decision is not based on positive signals of developmental issues, but on the regressive demographic matters.

Another interesting signal that helps decipher a phenomenon before election is the unearthing increasing cases of scams and financial embezzlement! That’s because it is most accurately foretold that the politicians would resort to corrupt practices when implementing welfare schemes for their voters.


Thursday, February 21, 2013


Competent administrators can do more justice to their posts

The grind that one has gone through dealing with Indian bureaucracy not only represents their corruption and sloths but also their incompetence. The flaws in the recruitment process and the regulations of the bureaucrats have overbearing effect on the outcome of their efficiency level that really doesn’t match what it should be. A very important Ministry like Defence or Science & Technology are no different either, with the recruitment process of bureaucrats lacking in every aspect of the yardstick and in the process inviting criticism that can put the Ministry off-guard regarding the credibility of the employees of its bureaucracy.

The bureaucrats are recruited from the general streams and then trained to hone their skills required for the requisite job. The training and their ability to grasp the skills requires a few years – and since they generally are positioned at a particular office for 5 years before they are rotated – the cycle almost comes to completion by the time they are ready with their wherewithal for the job and they are moved out! Therefore the looming wastage of time, human resource and money is enough to prove that the government is not doing its bit to improve the quality of its bureaucrats. In Ministry of Defence, particularly, this kind of knowledge and expertise gap frequently leads to delay in different activities like acquisitions, training, military readiness and expenditure. The late Mr. K. Subrahmanyam’s recommendation suggested on the similar line highlighting the incident of Defence Ministry duplicating the military’s file through the bureaucrats as a case in point.

Praveen Kishore, a World Bank fellow, and a candidate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government in one of his reports suggests that "Opening up the higher civil service, particularly at the senior levels, could be beneficial." This can obviously act as a catalyst to the general improvement of Ministry's infrastructure, acquisitions and project completion. In China, more than 75 per cent of political seats are occupied by young technocrats thus making sure that the efficiency is at its peak from day one, unlike our country wherein bureaucrats take years to get settled and conversant with work culture and technology. The same is true for UK, Singapore and other nations. A few nations went ahead and have established world-class institutions of politics, governance and administration. Such institutions are present in nations like China, US, Israel, Mexico, Mongolia, Singapore, Ecuador, New Zealand, Japan, Sri Lanka, Liberia and even in Kuwait - to name a few, literally.

Currently, there is no system or procedure of even evaluating the 'acquired-competence' of a babu even after five or six years of his recruitment. In spite of suggestion in ARC (that has been acknowledged and accepted), no much heed can be seen in administrative reforms. This gives rise not only to corruption but also creates leakages in the delivery mechanisms. Without an iota of doubt, an war veteran or an seasoned aviation professional would do more justice to Defence or Aviation respectively than a bureaucrats with an Arts background.

The candidates recruited for bureaucracy must have technical background where the need for training can be avoided to a large extent and thereby precious time, money and resources can be saved. The five years taken by bureaucrats to learn the nitty-gritty can be saved by deploying him to a department for which he is fit for! The same approach can be replicated to all Ministries, that calls for expertise and technical competence, for averting the risks and enhancing performance for all the stakeholders involved, at large!


Thursday, February 14, 2013


Focus should not be only on service but manufacturing as well

The economies that focused on strengthening their manufacturing sector, post World War II, have prospered and became global economic superpower to reckon. However, in India, the manufacturing sector has been a laggard compared to the fast and racy service sector. As a result, the service sector’s contribution to the economy is 56.4 per cent compared to manufacturing sector’s 26.4 per cent. Only some patches of growth trajectory experienced by the manufacturing sector even if impressive and optimistic is never enough to catch up with the service sector in terms of employment generation and human capital exploiter.

However, the wide eyed analysts are staring at the stunning performance of the manufacturing sector that jump started from December last year delivering the highest growth rate in previous 6 months. The HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ India (PMI) – a production measure – is ever increasing peaking in December with an impressive 54.7 points, if anything, is an indicator of rising demand and frantic purchasing. However, in spite of this high gliding manufacturing run, the employment creation bottleneck persists as it used to be. The primary reason for that is high worker to fixed capital ratio or in simple parlance capital intensive industries that has become the preferred choice for both promoters as well as the consumers. A twin and opposite development of capital intensive export products have more than doubled from 25 per cent in 1993 to 54 per cent in 2010 on one hand, and labor intensive products, which has 30 per cent share has exactly halved during the same period to 15 per cent (based on the estimate by Indira Gandhi Institute of Developmental Research). As a result, despite some erratic and sometimes notable growth in the sector the employment growth has plummeted from 2.61 per cent in 1993-94 to 1.02 per cent in 2009-10.

In contrast, the service sector is expanding in leaps and bounds producing nothing short of an eye-popping contrast! In fourth quarter of FY 2011-12 when industry sector was growing at 1.9 per cent, the service sector was striding miles ahead at 7.9 per cent. Consequently, the top 3 employment generators in India for 2012 have all come from service sector viz. Healthcare, Hospitality and IT/ITES. This paradigm is the cornerstone for even engineers from top institutes opting for service when they should be engaging themselves for manufacturing sector, for which they are trained. The fees for IIT students was a huge subsidy delivery even till the last year, when it was pegged at Rs.50,000 a year, a subsidy of Rs, 1 lakh per student per year. And where are the returns of this investment, meant to train the students as functions of manufacturing sector boost, going to? Either to the foreign shore to bolster their own industry or to IT or banking sector for which engineers are not trained in IIT at the first place! But at last the government has realized the vain nature of the fund flow and decided to off-load the subsidy burden for the IIT students. The other government engineering colleges too pins to be on the same trail and it requires some extraordinary policy measures from the HRD ministry to reverse the trend.

The neglect of manufacturing sector and its dwindling health can stage perils for Indian economy in terms of long term prospects. The post war miracle economies of Germany and Japan were driven mainly by manufacturing boom and now the mercurial rise of Chinese economy is based on the same footing. India should not leave its future at the mercy of just one sector and put out the importance of manufacturing sector in its entirety!


Thursday, February 7, 2013


Behavioural training of police can refurbish their image

When the Indian public life is riddled with corruption,  scam, crime and other ghoulish social manifestations; a recent incident with my colleague forced me to wonder whether every stakeholder in the paradigm is worth demonizing! My colleague and his wife went for a holiday to Trivandrum via Cochin. They reached there by bus from Cochin at 11:00 at night only to find that all budget hotels were occupied. Despite visit to several hotels, they failed to find one that had rooms vacant for them. After their visit to probably the last hotel in that area, they saw a police van standing next to their cab. Drawing inferences from their past experiences, they knew that they were heading for trouble. He almost imagined how these police would take them to the police station, harass with all sorts of nonsense and then draw money from them. But on the contrary, the police team was in fact eager to search hotel for them at that wee hours! And the gesture was extended by none other than Assistant Commissioner of Kerala Police who was patrolling the area at that time. He then assisted them to a compatible hotel and arranged an accommodation and further offered them an accommodation at police club the next day. What was the icing on cake was that he called up the next afternoon and gave his advice on the places of interest in the city. This is seriously a rare 'encounter' one can ever have especially if one is from a city like Delhi. Cases of police misbehaving with civilians are plenty across the nation. In a recent case reported from Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, 2 ITBP personnel molested the wife of a shop-owner during a search operation.

It is my sincere conviction that this one man is not in isolation to experience but a flag bearer of a changing police attitude across the country. The Shipra Path police station of Jaipur being recognized as the best Asian police station, the mission of Tamil Nadu police of ‘Friends of police Movement’, Mumbai Police’s determination to protect, particularly, the weak and downtrodden et al. are some of the genuine pointers towards the same.

After recent cases of heinous crimes that rocked the nation, there are certain police forces in India which have already taken steps to curb crimes committed on women and children. It was way back in 1987, when UNICEF proposed a project in training of the force for better security of women and children. A very few police forces at that time came forward to comply with. However, Mr. Ajai Kumar Singh of Bangalore Police was the only exception where the programme was implemented. An outlay of Rs.50 lakh per annum is spent annually by police force in Karnataka for training of its police with perceptible positive results. Another welcome step was taken by the National Human Rights Commission in association with IGNOU in 2011 by launching a 5-days online training programme on creating mass awareness of human rights for police personnel.

Therefore, better training and greater accountability certainly will help the Indian police force rise in the benchmark of the best in the world. The building of people centric police require reforms involving total change programme, skill enhancing methods and implementing and institutionalizing change interventions. Otherwise, the people who require them most have to be at the mercy of some few exceptions. What is more important is that imbibing the trend of doing ethical policing a matter of pride and dignity by the Indian Police Force will add great value to make Indian internal security system the best in the world!