Thursday, February 28, 2008

Critical analysis of railway budget needed

Lalu Prasad Yadav is known more for an undistinguished rule of Bihar, the dismal state he left Bihar behind and for a slew of corruption cases against him. The state under his governance registered the lowest level of human development indices in every sphere from literacy to infant mortality. Surprisingly the very same person as an union railway minister is lauded for successfully presenting four budgets so far without treading on anybody's toes or upsetting the feelings of aam admi with his token reductions. According to news reports he has boosted the revenues of railways substantially and has brought in new processes and products. What is it that he has done something novel to succeed where many illustrious ministers before him could not ? Is it that the current high growth in the economy is aiding railways in augmenting its revenues and enabling him to cut across the board the passenger fares even while petroleum ministry has to struggle to get even a token increase by Rs 2 for oil? After all railways and oil ministries are limbs under the same union government. While one can afford to be profligate, the other is unable to raise the prices even where they are compelling and more than justified. One is driven to the irresistible conclusion that the entire exercise is driven by electoral considerations and not on any economic wisdom when one considers the areas where railways are lagging behind.Evidently the railway minister is able to build the revenues of railways, despite the reduction of the fares and increasing trains even when the passenger traffic is a losing proposition, by cross subsidizing from the earnings on cargo freight. The latter has gone up phenomenally thanks to the economic growth allowing the minister such a luxury of cutting passenger fares even to higher classes of travel who hardly need such concessions from the minister.People should ask whether there is a let down in upgrading infrastructure like annual repairs and maintenance of old lines and building of new tracks. Is sufficient resources earmarked for adequate replacement and renewal of wagons and coaches and also modernizing the cargo operations? Is the minister making adequate provisions for mind boggling pension and PF liabilities? These are the areas that the cognoscenti should discuss in the dailies. The officials cannot obviously talk about such matters. Though the Rs. 25,000 crore surplus seems suspect, it is hardly sufficient to meet the huge capital requirements without allocations from the central kitty.One feels there should be a critical and in depth special audit by eminent firm of independent auditors to bring out impartially the issues that are generally not spoken about while presenting the budget. The audit by C&AG however good it is suffers from long delay becoming historical in nature. The finance ministry (not the railway ministry) should be empowered to choose the auditor.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sarala's sin

-by KParthasarathi Wednesday, February 27, 2008
There was a smug smile in Sarala’s face as she sat under the fan in the living room at Saraswathi’s place. It was warm and sultry outside. The cool air and the cooler Pepsi raised her spirits further. This was the first time she had dropped in at her friend’s place. They were college mates who were placed in different cities for years. It was only recently they were in the same city. Since they reached home late, they did not meet much except talking on mobile endlessly. Saraswathi did not fail to notice a sense of satisfaction in her face. She asked her friend Sarala”You seem so different today. What is happening?”
She replied calmly with no trace of guilt “I betrayed my husband this morning. A vile creature, I hate him from the bottom of my heart.”
Saraswathi was shocked and asked “What are you blabbering? Are you in your senses?
“Yes, very much in sound mind. I wreaked my vengeance for what he has been doing to me all these years. He was treating me like a door mat and trampling on all my wishes and aims. You know he has been torturing me for years and I have been putting up with the nonsense. The last straw was when he slapped me last week in the presence of his sisters and mom at a family function. He was out to prove to those wretched people that he had me under his thumbs” replied Sarala.
”Serves him right, though I do not agree with your method. How come you got this crazy idea? Who was the lucky guy anyway?” asked the friend.
Sarala refused to answer saying she was bound by a promise she made to him. All the efforts of Saraswathi including the remark that she also had a score to settle with her husband who was a Lothario failed to elicit any name. She would not tell except that she knew him in the course of official work. She was in charge of event management for an international conference of an industry association to be conducted in a five starred beach resort. She had a room there for her office. This guy worked for the very large industrial company that was sponsoring it. He had met her frequently. He was a tall, well built hunk and ruggedly handsome who she thought got romantic ideas whenever he was before her. He had a big dark mole on his cheek that accentuated his charm. She decided if she were to have a fling, why not make use of this willing male and she called him for an early morning encounter and wreaked her vengeance on her husband.
Saraswathi became a bit morose for some unknown reason she would not reveal. When Sarala excused herself to go to toilet, Saraswathi saw the book Deception point by Dan Brown. She had been wanting to read it. When she took the book, a passport size photo fell down unnoticed on her lap. As she was skimming through the book, Sarala returned. She saw the photo on her lap with a surprised look and presumed she must have seen it. She asked her whether she was happy now at the discovery of her accomplice in the sin.
It was then Saraswathi saw the photo. It was a hammer blow that left her angry and speechless. She remembered that her husband left early morning telling that he had an urgent meeting near Mahabalipuram. She screamed at Sarala ”You bitch, get away from my sight for ever. You had the cheek to snatch my husband for your nefarious deed.Fie upon you, you will go to hell”. She fell down on the sofa covering her face with both hands and started wailing inconsolably.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A shocking revelation

It was a nice colony of about hundred apartments amidst the shaded trees with ample space for car parking, children’s play ground with swings and slide. It also boasted of a small Vinayaka temple in one corner. There were twenty fours security. The residents were friendly and mingled well. The camaraderie among the lady folks were more than among the gentlemen. The former except for a few young things who went to work had the entire afternoons at their disposal. They assembled in the children area, exchanged news and gossip and lamented about the irregular sweeper boys or the unfettered growth of weeds on the rear side of the houses. Water scarcity was no longer an issue thanks to the munificence of metro water. Although many of the apartments were in wives’ names, the colony association was an exclusive male preserve.Bhujanga Rao a long time owner resident has been serving as the president of the colony. A soft spoken lawyer with abundant common sense and a good knowledge of the Apartments Act, he was acceptable to everyone. Only the secretary and other office bearers changed once in two years. Rao had a great capacity to bring about compromises even on tricky issues of the colony that threatened to explode once in a while. He was sort of a father figure respected by all though they knew that he was a meek person before his wife.Mrs.Rao was a big built and tall woman, well educated and had a stentorian voice that commanded instant compliance. None of the lady folks dared to talk against her in her presence.
Things were going on smoothly in the colony till recently. What irked the female members was the new occupant of a first floor flat in one of the blocks. Mallika seemed a woman in her early forties but did not appear to be more than thirtyfive.She was very pretty and attractive. Tall and slim, there was always a twinkle in her eyes and pleasant smile in her face. It was a winsome appearance that made people turn their heads. The women did not take kindly to this. No one knew where she worked. The person who seemed her husband was rarely seen. She spoke freely with the men in the colony but kept the females at a distance. This irked them a lot .They were already unhappy after the revelation by the durwans that she had male visitors in the evenings who stayed over. They were convinced that she was a woman of easy virtue and that her presence could be a likely threat to the peace and happiness in their households.
Mrs Rao discussed that night with her husband and pleaded with him that the new occupant should be thrown out. But Bhujanga Rao told her that as long as she was no inconvenience to others, she cannot be evicted on mere suspicion and loose talk of watchmen. He taunted her saying that ladies seemed jealous of her good looks and that they lacked faith in their husbands.Mrs Rao informed her friends the next day what her husband had told her. She also added for good measure that she agreed entirely with him. She was absolutely confident of her husband and that she had no reason to worry as he was like Ram an eka patni vratan.It was up to them to ensure that their husbands did not stray away. Her friends who were not satisfied prodded their husbands to take up with the president. Somehow they were also reluctant to send the woman away for reasons best known to them. The woman continued going about her job unobtrusively.
Some months later Mrs Rao had gone to Coimbatore for a wedding in the family. Mr. Rao could not accompany her. It was during such time in the middle of one night an ambulance arrived at the colony with siren blaring and waking up all residents. It stopped opposite the block where Mallika lived. The men quickly took the stretcher to her first floor flat. The doors were partially closed and she was standing grim and quiet at the entrance. The ambulance driver told the anxious residents that someone has had a massive heart attack. The stretcher soon came out.Every one craned their necks to see who the victim was. They were all shocked to see the venerable Bhujanga Rao unconscious on the stretcher. The news spread like wild fire after the ambulance left. One could see a sense of utter dismay accompanied by a muffled glee amongst the faces of the ladies at the plight of Mrs. Rao.

Migration to cities: How to arrest the rapid urbanization?

By: K Parthasarathi2/24/2008 5:43:59 PM
With the liberalization in full swing and its impact on all sections of economy we are witness to the inexorable urbanization of the country. Our development programs have been geared towards economic growth and GDP growth with the belief that once GDP growth occurs there would be a spin off in all areas like employment, health, education and living conditions Our planners work for 9% growth while agriculture cannot grow faster than 2% at the most As a sequel either the villages get relatively poor and disadvantaged and/or large scale rural-urban migration continues. If this trend is not reversed quickly the rural income would become a small fraction of urban income. The urban population will grow beyond manageable levels with most living in slums.
The unemployed people and the seasonal workers who have no work all though the year move to big cities in search of employment. Those who are slightly better off move to cities for other reasons like greater educational opportunities, better health facilities and higher standards of living. Some are forced to leave the land where it is inadequate to support them or where the land is forcibly acquired by the government. It is expected that in a decade the urban areas would house, sixty percent of the country’s population and there would be corresponding reduction in rural population.
Name Population 1991census Populpulation 2001census
Gr. Mumbai 9.93 11.91
Delhi 7.27 9.82
Kolkata 4.40 4.58
Bangalore 2.66 4.29
Chennai 3.84 4.21
Ahmedabad 2.88 3.52
Hyderabad 2.96 3.45
Pune 1.57 2.54
Kanpur 1.87 2.53
Nasik 1.50 2.43
Patna 0.92 1.38
A look at the population figures as on 1991 and 2001 in some of the major cities would reveal the relentless and steady shift of people towards the urban centres. Between 2001 and 2007 there should have been further influx at a faster pace of rural population into the cities. While urbanization is an inevitable sequel to social and economic development, it is not without its adverse consequences. The fast paced urban population growth on the scales seen from the accompanying table has caused great strain on the capacity of urban or municipal corporations to provide even the basic utilities like housing, water, electricity and sewerage. This is bound to aggravate to unbearable levels. Unauthorized slums spring up in every available space with no municipal facilities whatsoever. Such an unplanned squatter settlements is a clear index to the unbearable living conditions in the villages than to any planned urban development. These immigrants are prepared to put up with much hardship in the cities than face hunger in the villages. What does this transformation to the complexion of cities indicate? Is it development of cities or degeneration of the rural areas? It is felt that as cities expand without matching infrastructure and job opportunities, the poverty of the rural side just gets urbanized. The location merely gets changed with nothing better in living conditions to the displaced people happening. The appalling living conditions like slums, lack of safe water, absence of sanitation, overcrowding with the attendant increase in crime, insecurity for women, sexual abuse and exposure to frequent epidemics and AIDs are the immediate outcome of this population shift. The rate of rural–urban migration is far in excess of the rates at which urban jobs for the unskilled are created and very much beyond the capacity of both industry and urban social services to absorb this surplus labour, mostly unskilled. Eventually this will give rise to the social and economic inequities besides urban decay and social unrest.
But then can the government forcibly stop the poor leaving the countryside for finding better lives though they end up on the platforms, bus shelters, shanty towns and inhabitable slums? How should the government prevent such outflow from villages and at the same time make their lives better.NREGs started with good intention is a feeble attempt and touches only the periphery of the problem. Firstly its coverage is minimal. There is no assurance of a lasting and steady job and there is no up gradation of their skills. There is no creation of lasting assets in the villages. NREG scheme is at best a temporary palliative even if the scheme were to be administered efficiently without the siphoning off the money in the middle man’s hands. To enlarge this scheme as is contemplated may be politically convenient but economically without sense and socially purposeless. It is a waste of scarce public resources that could be put to better uses.
Why are the cities engines of economic and employment growth while villages languish? It is because cities provide economic opportunities with the available infrastructure. Large manufacturing units are situated in or close to the cities considering the available infrastructure like power, roads, rail and ports. In every state there are about half a dozen big towns with two or three big cities. The industries cluster around these places with larger units nearer to metros. The jobs are not seasonal as in farming but all through the year. Ancillary industries grow and service industries also thrive side by side. Both skilled and unskilled labour find ready jobs.
The government also focuses its investment only around cities where there is a clamour for more to the utter neglect rural areas. Even the small resources spent on villages are lost in microeconomic interventions like NREGs to help individual villagers and not the macro economy of the village as a whole. While the government invests in the macro economy of cities it is at the microeconomic level in rural areas. Most of the employment in rural areas is agricultural or dependent on agriculture. This often tends to be seasonal and therefore unreliable. For the villagers to overcome poverty, villages should provide economic opportunities throughout the year other than in the agricultural areas also. A large percentage of the rural population should be able to make decent living thro non-agricultural occupations. The government strategy and investment should be directed towards this goal. Small scale industries that can be linked with agricultural operations spread over rural areas and smaller towns nearby may be the answer. Villagers from rural areas should find that it is possible to make a decent living without migrating to big cities. The false lure of the cities as an attractive place for better living should be removed by making living in villages better. The government as a long term measure should promote economic prospects and required infrastructure development in rural areas. It should also cover the creation of market for supporting the agricultural economic activities and also development of sustainable agricultural practices in the rural sector.NREGs are mere doles in nature providing to limited people small amounts for temporary earth work jobs done for short period. The planners should take note of this and allocate substantial resources for developing villages (not villagers individually thro doles).Sadly the strategy of government is centred only on GDP growth without carrying the rural population along. It is hoped corrective measures would be taken before it becomes late. The increase in growth of violent outfits in the impoverished rural areas is the direct outcome of such skewed policy of the government.
Any rural development programme can be successful only if the unfettered population growth is curbed. Indian population is burgeoning at feverish pace adding about 16 million each year. Most of the increase happens in the rural side. Whatever little economic improvement is made possible by the governments, they are eroded by the faster increase in number of mouths to feed. The scanty health services, the negligible primary education facilities, sparse housing are further strained keeping the poor always in poverty. India’s economic growth would be seriously hampered if the population growth is not checked. The available resources are spread thin leaving the poor unhappy. The poor think children are means to augment earning, while the increase in population would never lift them from poverty. Population control is the immediate imperative with two child norm and sterilization thro incentives and gentle persuasion. Rural poverty and high fertility are closely linked. One cannot be solved without tackling the other.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gratitude-a memory of the heart

by KParthasarathi Saturday, February 23, 2008
It was during 1940s Rangaswamy iyengar lived in Chennai very close to a temple not that he was religious or spiritually inclined. It happened that he chose to live with members of his own community. He owned several houses and chawls in the vicinity. Though a graduate, he did not take up any job but looked after the vast lands he owned in an adjacent village. He was considered a rich man. Though he had a large family of seven children, his kitchen served food daily for about thirty people. Besides children there were elderly cousins not well off living in the house. He also gave shelter to his wife’s young relative who had lost her husband early in life. She had two children...Every night around 8pm two poor boys would come to take their dinner. The boys would be different each day. They took turns. They brought their own stainless steel plate with them and were served the same food that others took even when the family members had not finished their dinner. This was known as vaara saappadu (weekly food).The members of the family knew these boys only by their faces. It seemed that the old man even paid for their school fees and gave them dresses during Deepavali.
Iyengar was a gullible man and not worldly wise. He was trusting by nature and was easily moved when he saw someone suffering. His clever ‘friends’ and relatives took advantage of his innocent nature by making him stand as surety for the loans they took but never intended to repay. More often than not, he would be compelled to liquidate such loans. Neither he learnt any lesson nor did his sons take up the issue strongly with him out of respect. The relatives were parasites living upon his income and salting away their own earnings. He married off his daughters in pomp and style. He lost many of his houses and lands for the loans others took. He lost his wife too. His sons were in ordinary jobs and were not well off. They were living as a joint family in the large house. Srinivasan the eldest of his sons was even struggling to run a decent household with his own large family. . It was then one kindly well wisher advised iyengar to partition whatever property was left amongst his sons keeping nothing for himself and allow them to live separately.
In the course of a decade the old man passed away .The eldest son was living in the house that was broken up into several small portions. His son a bright boy was looking for a job. Those days there was no IT or industrial boom. Jobs were difficult to come by. There were other children studying in different classes. It was a life of want and struggles.
One evening a chauffeur driven ambassador car halted before the house and a young man in his early thirties in full suit stepped out. He wavered a little before entering the house. He asked Srinivasan who was reclining in an easy chair whether this was Rangaswamy Iyengar’s house. He replied that it was, that the old man was no more and that he was his eldest son. Srinivasan could see a tear trickling down from the misty eyes of he young man and asked him who he was. The visitor bent down and touched the feet of Srinvasan and said “Mama, you may not remember me. I am Varadan who grew up eating my dinner in your house for years. Your dad paid my fees, bought me dresses and on one occasion even bought for my sister a mangalya sutra in gold for her wedding. I am what I am today because of his generosity. I can never forget the large hearted soul. For today and its blessings, I owe in no small measure to your dad.’
He then enquired about his mother and others in the family. When he learnt about Srinivasan’s circumstances, he asked his son to meet him in his office the next day. He redeemed the house from the pledge with the bank and gave his son a good job. He instituted some scholarships for poor children in the locality school in memory of Rangaswamy iyengar.
Good men and bad men differ radically. Bad men never appreciate kindness shown them, but wise men appreciate and are grateful. Wise men try to express their appreciation and gratitude by some return of kindness, not only to their benefactor, but to everyone else. -

Friday, February 22, 2008

Broken love

by KParthasarathi Friday, February 22, 2008
Nirmala ran away from her home in Andhra village with soaring ambition of becoming a film star. She was a very beautiful girl with a matching figure. Like many others she fell for false promises and used by cunning men but made no progress except for small bit roles through the agents. It was then she fell in love with Vishnu who used to hang around studios seeking the directors for roles. He had also come with hopes of becoming a super star. He was also very handsome but was a bit taller than average men. This went against him as he stood out as an odd man in a crowd. He also loved her very sincerely. They lived in a small portion sharing the joy of love and the poverty. It was a very difficult life they put up with happily with hopes of a bright future. They planned to marry in six months time after saving some small amount for marriage.
But destiny tore her away from him in a strange manner. When she was doing a side role in a film, she caught the eye of the young producer. He was struck by her beauty, her large black eyes and lissome figure. He promised her a heroine’s role and wished her to come to him. After much vacillation between her love for Vishnu and the picture of a rosy future, Nirmala ditched Vishnu to choose the latter. In a matter of two years, she became a much sought after heroine with several successful films to her credit. The young producer married her and asked her to stop acting. He agreed to her directing his films and looking after the production company. She used to feel sorry for Vishnu and even wept for ditching him. She had no idea where he had gone and what he was doing presently. Though she wanted to meet him and seek his pardon, she could not do this in her present position as the wife of a famous producer surrounded as she was with servants and driver.
As she was entering her production office one morning, she saw a crowd of men and women outside. She found out that they were all waiting there to attend an interview for being selected for various roles in their new venture. When she drew the curtains of the window she did not fail to see the tall figure with the familiar gait standing in the crowd. She rang up her husband and told him that she will do the selection of people for the various roles. He gladly agreed happy to be relieved of the bother and also for the training she would get. She ascertained what roles were up for selection and went about the job taking the female roles first. After lunch, she started with male roles. She did not call Vishnu till the end. Vishnu was not aware that Nirmala was here choosing. He was passing through very lean times and waiting patiently for a break. He was totally dejected after she deserted him without even a word and all their plans for a marriage vanished in thin air. Some one called him by name and asked him to go inside the room.
When he saw her he could not suppress exclaiming “Nirmala”.
She made a sign for silence putting her fingers on her mouth seeing him turn emotional.
She spoke to him in low voice “I can only say I am extremely sorry. I am in the wrong. But I am a married woman now. I have not forgotten the happy times with you and wish to make amends to the extent possible. I am offering you an important role next only to the hero. Doubts will be raised if I make you a hero straight away. I promise you will get your chance in my next film. Get married to a good girl and lead a happy life.”
She saw him remain silent but could see the hurt in his face. Meanwhile her assistant entered with some message. She dismissed Vishnu with the words “They will call you for screen testing at 10 am tomorrow”
The next day she was in her office earlier than her usual time. After 11am, she asked whether all the people selected yesterday had turned up. The assistant replied “Yes, Madam, all except the tall fellow.”
She was not surprised. Vishnu had too much self respect about him and must have felt humiliating to accept her offer. She wiped the tears from her eyes gently without being seen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

All that glitters are not gold

by KParthasarathi Thursday, February 21, 2008
The girl was to be seen by the chosen boy and his parents that afternoon. She was not a very pretty girl, short and skinny. They took her to a beautician for a bridal make up and had her hair style done attractively. Her mother adorned her with all shining jewelry and in costly silks. They had made a variety of sweets and snacks. The boy’s parents looked at the ornaments, the rich brocade and the lavish spread of eatables and were impressed. The boy too was taken in by the rich ambience all around. They conveyed their approval then and there. There was no discussion on girl’s attainments or abilities though luckily in this case she was talented.
Likewise we are often influenced in our decisions by the outward frills. A bad coffee given in an ornate silver mug is preferred to a good one in an ordinary steel cup. When given the choice to choose one from the tray, we are tempted to pick the glittering one though we know nothing of the content in both the cups. The little child always prefers in a sweet shop items that are covered in bright silver foils unconcerned about the contents inside. Cars are bought for the outward sleek appearance and flashy gadgets much like the jewels on the girl without going into its technical parameters. I have seen people preferring posh restaurants that serve the dishes in finest cutlery on well covered tables by waiters in uniforms even though the food served is of indifferent quality than the delicious stuff served in modest looking places. People are guided by appearances and do not mind paying more.
Similarly unprofessional employers are taken in by the gift of the gab, resourceful replies and the appearance of the candidates instead of assessing their true worth of in terms of intelligence, accomplishments and other personality traits. Even reputed companies have often to turn out within a year the unfit employees that passed muster initially. The more the wrapper is colourful, the chances of the product appealing to the buyer are more. The wrapper need not be a paper; it can be a certificate for a candidate from some reputed institutions. The advertising companies exploit this weakness in human nature to fall for the external attributes.
Not all the ochre robed men can be a worthy guru. But we see gullible men rushing to fall at the feet of fake god men who fasten themselves with all paraphernalia and hired disciples. With the herd mentality predominant in ourselves, we are apt to get fooled by the multitude waiting for the darshan.Truly great men avoid crowd and choose secluded places. It is only by rare chance and by divine grace that one comes across such saints with true spiritual knowledge and authentic personal experience. The pomp and worth of the individual are frequently in inverse proportion.
We frequently misjudge a person, place or thing by its appearance often failing to realize that trusting mere appearances is wrong. A glib talker or a handsome politician or one who makes liberal promises is more likely to be chosen in elections because of common perception that he would make a good leader, when in reality he might be very incapable and corrupt. When we choose people to rule the country we are guided by the outward show like the crowd turn out, his lineage and the trappings and not by the real worth and true character of the candidates for office. Smooth talk expressing concern for the people should not mislead us. Instead their past record of service, their simple living and a disdain for wealth should be the guiding factors. Too many promises and small concessions often camouflage the real intention.
We always see medical representatives dressed formally and well, as doctors have illogically more confidence in such people than on those dressed poorly. Apparel oft maketh the man is true in all human dealings though it is unsound logic. While there is nothing wrong for someone to look his best, we should remember that appearance alone should not be the primary basis on which one makes decision to buy or believe something or someone. Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream. Let us not confuse appearances with reality.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Crime and punishment

-by KParthasarathi Friday, February 15, 2008

I have a middle aged couple with five children from thirteen to two living in the opposite flat. The kids are boisterous, playful and often fight with each other. They keep coming to my flat often. One of the boys Ravi, a smart chap aged eight is my favourite. He had the notion that his parents were not uniform in their punishment for the mistakes committed by him and his siblings. He suspected that they were stricter in his case than with his younger brother and sister for the same transgression of the rules in the family. One of his younger sister also thought that two of the children were dealt with kid gloves while the rod was not spared in their case. As they grew older, they realized that the parents affection is same for all children and that there were no favourites.What was perceived as unfair and what they did not know then was that punishments were influenced by several factors like age, frequency of mistakes, cost, the parents’ own moods etc.
But this issue of disciplining children at home or for that matter even in the work place has some guidelines. It is always best to follow them. Let me explain what I have read on the subject.
If we touch the flame of a candle lit when the power goes off, it burns our finger. It is not that we were not aware that a flame burns the finger. We had a warning from our elders when we were young not to play with fire. The burn is immediate, not delayed and is consistent in burning the finger however many times we touched it. It has no favourites.It is impersonal and burns the fingers of anyone who touches it.
Discipline should be like the candle flame. Unless punishment is immediate, it would not be related to the violation of the rule. The parents cannot take cognizance of a mistake months later unless it is serious and remained unknown. Otherwise children would not know why they were being punished. The misdemeanour and punishment should be capable of correlation.
There should be clear Do’s and Don’ts and a warning that any disobedience would invite punishment. I have seen children being beaten by parents in anger and their crying and asking their parents at the same time why they were being beaten. They were not able to relate the punishment for any disobedience or lapse.
Ravi had told me that for the same mistake he had been let off once or twice. When the dad came to beat him, his mom hugged him protectively. He was not punished. Punishment in this case has not been consistent. It is like the constable issuing challan to someone for beating the signal some times and turning a blind eye many times.
Punishment should be impartial. It cannot be imposed on Ravi and his siblings let off for the same mistake. Justice should be blind to who committed the mistake. As our politicians often say, law should take its own course however high one may be. Punishment should be impartial without any bias.
Much of the law and order problems in the country would be very much less if only the law enforcing agencies follow these simple rules.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

India needs leaders to champion the poor mans causes

By: K Parthasarathi2/11/2008 4:45:52 PM

Unfortunate but true, we lack in adequate numbers the selfless and incorruptible leaders of the past who toiled with little expectation than the joy of being in the struggle. Leaders who could inspire love and respect and enlist innumerable volunteers by their personal example are rare
We often hear people lamenting that the prevailing system and environment in the country is not conducive to throwing up leaders of intellect, probity and social fervour like the innumerable great men who had emerged in the past when the country fought for its Independence. The freedom fighters then expected nothing in return for themselves save the liberation of their motherland. They were heroes and role models for the people who had a total faith in them. Such selfless motivation and passion for a cause as provided by very tall men like Mahatma and his contemporaries are missing today. It is not that we have no social causes to work for. Rather we have too many pressing for attention. Poverty eradication, compulsory education, basic health, availability of potable water and job opportunities for the rural poor rank very low in our priorities when you look at the allocation of our resources.
The benefits of the reforms undertaken are yet to manifest in these vital sectors. Not much is being done in these areas than what can actually be achieved by a judicious husbanding of the available resources. These issues are relegated to the backburner in the face of other urgent commitments with some on political considerations. No one with a passion and zeal of a Mahatma or a Lok Nayak is prepared to champion these causes and muster people to fight our own governments and the entrenched system for the well-being of the India’s poor millions.
We spend a lions share of our revenue receipts only on staff related costs of government servants and those who run the governments forming a very negligible percentage of the total population. Yet no one in the legislatures objects to this unethical and disproportionate appropriation by a small few of a sizable chunk of the resources of the country. The compulsory increases at regular intervals add to the burden in geometric progression. The bonanza based on the VI Pay Commission recommendations that the centre is expected to confer on its much pampered employees would have multiplier effect on state governments too with incalculable damage to the economy and the unorganized poor. But who cares? Still the governments both at the centre and states have their own electoral considerations. It is rank inequity that a small class of people lives off the revenues of the entire country.
Subsidies on various counts to the economically well off do form a large portion of governments expenditure. This is an oft-discussed subject and the aberrations are too well known to recount. Nevertheless the compulsions of the vote bank and the pressures from the states influence such decisions even though the rulers are aware of the genuine need for their curtailment. Unorganized sections of people very large in number with no social security whatsoever who form the majority suffer for their lack of organised power to coerce the government. The exemption of the agricultural income from income tax from the rich farmers on the tenuous plea that it is a state subject is another instance of succumbing to electoral calculations and robbing Peter to pay Paul.. . The hands of FM are tied by the powerful political lobby.
Wasteful and unproductive expenditure, inefficient bureaucracy, weak economic policies due to cross pulls, communal divide, and a coalition with no majority for a single party hampering quick decisions do considerable harm to the country. Are these not issues for the prospective and willing leaders to take up and fight for? There are enough opportunities even now for men to be heroic leaders for a cause. They can wage a relentless war on poverty, illiteracy and social inequities to provide a dignified life to the poor millions. Why then people are not forthcoming as they did in the past to join the freedom struggle? Could it be that the saps of human love and concern for others have run dry rendering them selfish and indifferent? It is not that the innate goodness of man is absent but is very much there lying dormant waiting only to be tapped.
Could it be that leaders of stature are not there to muster an unselfish band of people to plunge themselves in this mission. The present day politicians, except for a few who can be counted by fingers, work with a single point programme of becoming a legislator or a minister in the government. They are not propelled by any consideration of service or sacrifice. Their solicitude for the poor is only to build a vote base and nothing more. The same is true of many of those who have already attained these goals and enjoying the fruits of the offices they hold. There is an urgent need to create a climate where capable and honest men motivated solely by service to the society are drawn to the legislatures. This can happen only if we the voters ensure undesirable elements are kept out by suitable changes in the electoral law.
The people are again to be blamed for their misfortune. The electorate should choose only men of good character and integrity amongst the available irrespective of the political party when they cast their votes. Their choice should be based on the personal traits of the candidate and not for the political party. The neutral and unaffiliated voters can swing the results in favour of good candidates. The men whom they elect determine the nature of the government. Even minor attempts to prevent the entry of undesirable people in the legislatures are met with resistance from the very parties and men whom we have elected. The present structure is entrenched and will give no quarter for a change. The power to change rests with the people. For bringing out this power, we need bold men of Titanic stature like the leaders during freedom struggle.
Unfortunately good and honest men abjure politics filled as it is with hate, money power, casteism and corruption. Large number of people who do not see politics as a career or profession and who are educated and free from vices should enter the arena in large numbers. A band of leaders known for their integrity and with a common aim to cleanse the political system should come together from all parts of the country to lead and educate the people on the value of their franchise and how a wrong choice can do incalculable harm to their lives. There can be no place for dynastic politics in such a scheme.
Like Jaya Prakash Narayan who started a movement against the emergency and brought out boldly the power of the people to throw out an autocratic rule, the present endeavour should be to cleanse the politics of hate, mismanagement and corruption and vest the government in clean hands. The people who get elected to the legislatures would be men of integrity, character and service oriented. This movement should work for the removal of ills in the present electoral and party system that calls for huge spending of money. The vast money involved in the present elections inevitably gives rise to many undesirable practices. Possibly a change in the form of government may enable the choice of a right person fired by the ambition to serve the people and the country. The people can then find a man who is not working for the position .The choice can be for a Cincinnatus at the plough and not a demagogue striving for the position. Luckily the country has still many good, honest and capable men to guide its destiny given the right ambience.
The present value system should also undergo a sea change but seems very unlikely. There is a strong consumerist culture with no concern for the hapless poor. The government is in the vicious grip of the corporate class. The divide between the rich and poor is greater today than it was earlier. A certain amount of control on the unfettered freedom for the common good, till such time we become strong economically particularly the rural India, will not go amiss. Perhaps we can learn a lesson or two from China. It is better off than India on all vital parameters like control of population growth, GDP growth rate, Foreign Direct Investment, reduction of poverty, penetration of computers and infant mortality rate. The streak of strong rule could have been a facilitating factor there.
People here too would not grudge certain amount of abridgement of their unlimited rights for the country to become highly prosperous, if only they know their future is safe in honest and capable hands. For this to happen, competent men of rectitude should enter politics and flood the legislatures. Otherwise the growth will be slow, stunted and halting.
K Parthasarathi

Change the mode of appointment to Election Commission

By: K Parthasarathi2/11/2008 4:52:30 PM
People would lose the faith in the fairness and even handedness of the high office of Election Commission once appointments to it are perceived to be made with partisan ends.
The BJP has petitioned CEC on the matter of Mr.Navin Chawla’s appointment as election commissioner as per directions of SC to which it took up earlier. Its earlier representation to the President was forwarded to PM who in turn referred it to AG. He defended his appointment saying that Mr. Chawla did no wrong as EC ignoring the main charge by BJP of a likely bias due to his close association in the past with people who mattered in the Congress and hence his unsuitability for a position that called for strict neutrality. The ball is now in CEC’s court. There were news reports that the government was contemplating a move to make all the election commissioners equal thus depriving the primacy of position of CEC and his power to recommend removal of EC
. The ruling establishment had always desired a pliable and weak Election Commission that would not upset its programme in ever so many matters from the choice of convenient dates for elections to turning a Nelson eye to the aberrations of the ruling party (ies). The trend to weaken the institution came from Mr.Seshans days when it was perceived that EC did not perform as per the expectations of the ruling dispensation. The frequent confrontations with the Election Commission during his tenure witnessed the expansion of the Commission to a three-member body with the majority view prevailing in case of dissent. This was done primarily to curb his vast powers. This solution of bringing two more Commissioners did not also help matters as the governments soon found the election commission even with three members inconvenient to them during tenure of the Mr.Lyngdoh.
After the highly commendable work of EC in Bihar in setting right the electoral rolls by massive deletions of about 18 lakh names and additions of about 4 lakh names and ensuring a free and fair poll, there were rumours that an expansion of the commission to a five member panel instead of three member was being pressed by the Left before Bengal poll with a view to dilute the powers of EC.Luckily this did not happen
There are any number of constitutional authorities like the Chief justice of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner the Advocate Generals, and the Solicitor General who may in the course of discharging their official duties may not be necessarily reflecting or toeing the line of the establishment. Is increasing the number of such high offices any solution? Is finding someone from outside the line a desirable method? In fact the Supreme Court had come down heavily on the appointment of additional advocate Generals in the states. It held that the states cannot appoint more than one Advocate general under article 165 of the Constitution.
The reasoning given was that if more than one person is appointed to discharge the constitutional functions as also the statutory functions, different advocate generals may act differently resulting in a chaos. It went on to say that in the appointments to the constitutional posts such as Chief Justice of India, Attorney General, the constitution did not envisage their functions to be performed by more than one person. This logic was not observed when the amendment to appoint three members to oversee the functions of the Election Commission was carried out. It is hoped there would be no attempt to alter the present strength in future.
The appointment to Election Commission is made by the President on the basis of recommendation of the Prime Minister. There is no obligation to consult other parties or independent authorities while making such recommendation. This gives ample room for the ruling party to choose someone whose loyalty to it is assured. The controversy over selection of Navin Chawla who is perceived to be close to Congress gives room to the risk of ruling party packing the EC with its nominees. It was in this context that the recommendation of former CEC Mr.B.B. Tandon should be viewed. This issue of appointment by a neutral committee has been discussed in the past several times by committees but the recommendations have not been acted upon for obvious reasons.
The Committee on Electoral Reforms under the chairmanship of the Law Minister, Mr. Dinesh Goswami in 1990 had recommended “(a) the appointment of the CEC should be made by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition; (b) the consultation process should have a statutory backing; (c) the appointment of the other Election Commissioners should be made by the committee in consultation with the Chief Election Commissioner; (d) on expiry of the term of office, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners should be ineligible for any appointment under the Government, including the post of Governor.
Mr.Tandon in his personal capacity had rightly raised the old issue of achieving the neutrality of the election Commission by a review of the present mode of appointment of CEC and the two election commissioners. It is understood that he had sought the appointment of members of EC through a seven member committee headed by the Prime Minister on the lines of the NHRC chairperson and the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
Long time back Tarkkunde Committee (1975) had also recommended that the members of the Election Commission should be appointed by the President on the advice of a Committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition (or a Member of Parliament selected by the Opposition) in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India. The reasoning was that the choice should command the confidence of all sections of public opinion and an impression should not be created that the Election Commission is beholden to the Executive Despite all these recommendations the governments so far including NDA when it was in power had not shown interest in addressing this important issue.
The debate assumes significance in the context of the recent controversy over the choice of an Election Commissioner alleged to have close links with Congress men. The gravamen of the charge raised by NDA was that Mr. Chawla had close links with the leading family of Congress and that he could collect with ease donations from several Congress legislators from their MPLAD accounts and could also obtain lands at concession for his families’ private trusts using this proximity.
It is likely that Mr.Chawla would be CEC when the next general elections take place..Naturally the parties in opposition to Congress shudder at such a prospect of having a CEC who is partisan in their perception It is their genuine apprehension that such a person who was obliged to the Congress leader and many members of her party could not be an impartial referee. They plead that Mr.Chawla’s removal alone would strengthen the faith of the people in the continued impartiality, neutrality and credibility of the Election Commission.
To circumvent any possible decision by CEC in this matter by devious means like making him equal to other ECs or in any other manner would only make people lose faith in EC. It is hoped that the government would desist from such rash course and instead do two things:
1) to let CEC decide based on merits on the present case and make his recommendations to the President and
2) to review in right earnest the recommendations of the earlier committees and the former CEC in consultation with all parties and arrive at a consensus on the manner of appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and other two Election Commissioners.
It may be recollected that even for a minor peccadillo of praising the CM in a social function in a state, a senior police officer was ordered by the election commission to be shifted on the ground that he cannot be impartial in his actions. This action of Election Commission was presumably intended to demonstrate to the people that the officers overseeing the electoral work are both to be completely free from any prejudice and seen so. The objective being that the whole process should not only be fair but is also seen so and the outcome reflects the true will of the people.
We must bear in mind that the whole democratic set up stands on the tripod of fairness, transparency and total impartiality of the members of the Election Commission and its officers. There should be no doubt in the minds of the people about the fairness of the electoral process and the unbiased nature of the persons conducting the elections. Any weakening of the faith in this body would do irreparable damage to the democratic fabric of the country.
K Parthasarathi

Monday, February 11, 2008

The retribution

-by KParthasarathi Monday, February 11, 2008
Aswin was born to his rich parents nine years after their marriage. They had made innumerable visits to holy places and done the pujas ordained for begetting an offspring. The baby was however not good looking with a flat nose, wide nostrils, thick and unruly hair, and a slouching mouth. He had an unusually big and round mole on the chin. To the parents he was however a bundle of joy. The astrologers who were consulted spoke high of the favourable planetary positions and foresaw a great future and life of happiness and prosperity for the baby boy. A nanny was appointed to take care of the boy.He grew into a chubby boy, playful in disposition and well mannered. His birthdays were celebrated with pomp and gaiety. But the happiness did not last long.
One day when the nanny had taken the five year old boy to a nearby park, she met her friend from her village. For a few minutes when her attention from the boy was distracted by the conversation, somebody had taken away the boy. Nanny made a frantic search hither and thither in vain. The parents lodged a complaint with the police fearing someone had kidnapped the child for ransom. There was no call in the succeeding days making any demand. All efforts to trace the child did not yield results. The parents were totally shattered. Months and years went by with no trace of child. The mother fell sick unable to bear the loss and after brief illness passed away. The father became a recluse losing all interest in life. His brother and his wife with their three children moved in to take care of the man. They were not in good financial circumstances and this shift was a welcome change for them.Aswin’s father one day committed suicide after leaving a will with his lawyer that his brother would be the guardian of the missing child and efforts to trace the child should be continued. If the child remained untraced for fifteen more years fifty percent of the money would go to his brother and balance to charitable causes.
In a twist to the events, the police found a blind boy aged around nine or ten with a flat nose and a circular mole on his chin begging outside a temple in an adjacent state. They found out that the boy was abducted, blinded and his tongue cut partially by a group of beggars. He was forced to beg attracting passers-by by his guttural sounds. Such a pitiable condition evoked the sympathy of the pilgrims who gave alms generously. The boy’s uncle identified the boy and took him home, gave him a warm bath, new dresses and good food. The child appeared in a dazed condition, made no gesture or sign except thro the quivering eyelids. The uncle patted the boy affectionately and made him sleep in a comfortable bed.
His cousins were amused by his pathetic sight and mimicked him by blinking their eyes. The aunt, a wicked woman, had not taken kindly to the turn of events. Whenever the uncle was not at home, she ill treated the boy.Aswin was a butt of the practical jokes of his cousins who pinched and hit him hiding themselves away from his reach. They put all sorts of dirty things like pebble, wooden pieces and scraps of paper on his food plate. When the boy started crying the aunt would scold and beat him for his noisy behavior and take away the plate and the food without replacing it. He was made to sleep in the attic on hard floor. He became a victim of hatred and cruelty. Handicapped as he was, he could do nothing. The uncle knew the harsh treatment meted out but being timid and henpecked could do little.
One afternoon when his cousins and his uncle were away, Aswin managed to come out of the house. He wished to escape from the torture. He did not know the front or rear side. He started walking towards the swimming pool at the rear. There were no barricades. The boy knew no swimming. He continued to walk unaware of the danger before him. His aunt who saw him from balcony came rushing down on the first impulse of saving him. Suddenly she stopped when the thought of the fifty percent share of wealth occurred to her. She made no noise as the boy proceeded towards his watery grave. She saw the boy struggling before giving up and quietly retreated to the house. Little did she know that a pair of eyes of a kindly soul from a distant house was watching accidentally her wicked act through binoculars and that retribution was soon to follow.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Misfired plot

by KParthasarathi Saturday, February 09, 2008

Manjula had to discontinue her college studies as her father fell sick and could not work any more. She had two younger brothers. She started working in a small office. It was then a very rich neighbour in his early forties sought her hand. He had no dependents. He promised to take care of her family and their education in return. Her mother was dead against it though the father was in two minds.Manjula was just twenty and very charming in looks. She thought over the matter and decided to marry him for the sake of well being of her family. She won over her reluctant parents and married him. She was happy at the new found prosperity. Her husband was good and a loving one giving no room for any regret. She studied from home and became a graduate. Life was was happily moving along till a tragedy struck in three years in the form an air crash when her husband lost his life. All his wealth came to her.

She joined a Master’s course in computer applications to forget her grief and also equip herself. Soon she joined a big company as software analyst. She had her parents and siblings move into her house. Her brothers were progressing well in studies. There was no need to earn but she did not want to idle away at home doing nothing. The office atmosphere was a welcome diversion. Being intelligent she made a mark winning the appreciation of all. She never indulged in self pity and did not allow others to sympathize with her.

Ajith a colleague of hers cultivated her friendship assiduously. A suave and smooth talker, he ingratiated himself to her by his witty and pleasant disposition. He was a clever guy who knew her background and her wealth. He did not broach openly the subject of his amorous interest in her waiting to win her confidence completely. Being young and longing for male company, she soon fell for him without realizing his true qualities of greed and cunning. She married him soon and moved to his place. It was all hunky dory and sweet bliss initially for a few months till he started making demands on her for money for his trade in stocks. She gave the money initially without demur but soon realized he was squandering it. He was also an alcoholic. When she refused subsequently, his real nature manifested. He was under the impression she would be beholden to him and be submissive. He found to his chagrin she was made of sterner stuff. The rift widened over a period of time. He could not get a cent out of her. She did not agree to transfer her wealth in joint name. She continued her financial assistance to her parents. All these made him seethe in anger. He decided to finish her. As in films he took her on a picnic to a lonely spot and pushed her down a deep precipice. He put on an appearance of a grieving husband growing beard and showing disinterest in everything. Friends and relatives commiserated with him on his bereavement.

After a month when things became normal, he met her parents and assured them of his continued financial support. It was then he learnt that she had met a lawyer a few months earlier. Thinking that she would have transferred her wealth to him with a stipulation to pay some sum monthly sum to her parents, he approached the lawyer. To his great shock, the lawyer told him that she feared for her life when she met him and made a will bequeathing fifty percent of her wealth to her parents and the balance to charitable causes in the event of unnatural death. She left nothing for him. He continued that if he chose to trouble her parents, he was prepared for filing a case against him for causing her death. The wicked fellow made a hasty retreat unknowing that the police were already closing in on him.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Keep your heart unclogged

by KParthasarathi Friday, February 08, 2008
It is common knowledge that over a period of time our coronary arteries get clogged by fatty substances and platelets resulting in heart attacks in some cases. These need immediate surgery to bypass the blocked portion for prolonging one’s life. The clogging starts from early age and progressively increases over the years. These are mainly due to faulty eating habits and living style. Lack of physical exercises aggravates the problem. The cost of treating the malady is high if allowed to grow. Doctors advise regular exercise and proper eating habits as preventive steps.
I read an interesting article recently drawing a parallel to the spiritual blockages that occur again over a period by the mistakes not only in current life but also those of earlier years. These spiritual blockages, it is believed, occur when we break the laws of Dharma. The extent of blockages depends on the extent of our breaking the Dharmic laws. The effect of such transgressions occurs in a few cases in the current life itself or manifest in later lives as purva karma. It is also believed in Hindu religion that the intensity of the accumulated bad karma can be reduced or even avoided partially by accretion of the blessings of good and dharmic living in the present life. Just as a mango tree, produces sweet fruits, the good acts produce only good results. Like wise a poisonous weed produces poisonous seeds .Bad acts bring disconcerting results invariably immediately or delayed.
Two friends were walking along the road. One was an evil man and the other a good and virtuous one. A thorn pricked the good man and blood oozed out. His friend removed it and put a bandage. After a while the bad guy found an empty cigarette packet on the way and when he opened, five hundred rupee notes were stuffed in it. He sneered at his friend and told him “You boast you are a good man and yet you were pricked by a thorn. Look at me a bad fellow according to you and see what I got “The good man was haunted by doubt till it was resolved by a swami whom they met on their way. He said using his intuitive powers that the bad man was to have hit a treasure trove through his good deeds in the past lives but had to be content with five hundred rupees due to wicked living in the current life neutralizing the accumulated good deeds. The good man was to have been bitten by a cobra due to past karma but escaped with a prick of thorn by his good acts in the present life.
The moral is no man can escape the results of his actions. The good deeds yield good results and the bad actions give pain and suffering either immediately or after some time. Righteous actions keep the karmic arteries clean and unclogged without the effects of bad karmas. If we apply this reasoning we can understand how evil men appear to prosper in our midst and good men seem to suffer. It is our hands to keep our Dharmic heart clean and healthy without the intervention of cardiac specialists.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Big B sans his beard will be more charming

-by KParthasarathi Thursday, February 07, 2008

Big B is always in the news for right or wrong reasons. News papers carry screaming headlines about him. I see him on the TV all day long in some ad or the other. This set me thinking about the man and his ability even at his age to retain his iconic status when stars half his age silently fade into oblivion. But his French beard always bothered me.
Being fastidious about a clean shaven smooth face, I have never been comfortable with beards of whatever variety and even a day’s stubble. I have no quarrel with sardarjis, musalmans and bairaghis sporting their mandatory beards. But when I see Amitabh Bachan with his French beard of silver hairs on his haggard and drawn face day in and day out on the TV, I feel a sense of pity for that guy. He looks sick with this white beard. I used to wonder how differently and elegantly he would look without his goatee.
Unlike Abraham Lincoln who was urged by a little girl to grow whiskers I am sure Amitabh would not have been asked by anyone. It must have been his own fancy. He looked always charming in his clean shaven face in most of the films he had acted. Some grow a French beard to balance out the moustache they have .But then I do not remember big B sporting a moustache. Such facial hairstyles may be necessary in the case of plain looking Johnnies with a touch of effeminate and who can to their advantage go with some masculine aesthetic. But it is not for one like Amitabh with his tall and imposing manly presence and baritone voice.
I have nothing against beards so long as they are trimmed and well maintained though I detest matted beards, the long varieties and the unkempt straggly ones that I see during Kumbh mela and other religious occasions. Though B’s beard does not fall in that genre, it ‘does not add value’ to his colourful personality, to borrow Colonel’s words in relation to Dravid. I have this feeling that it shows him old and tired with a jaded look. I may not be the only one with the impression that while it is not increasing his popularity, it leaves a negative perception. To wear a silver white beard along with dyed hair or not is his personal choice where others have no say. He may be influenced by what the fashion designers and the advertisement gurus feel good for him.
Being a popular and much admired icon, I take the liberty like the little eleven year old girl who wrote to Abe, to urge him to discard this unnecessary facial style. At this age he need not exude an image to please the fairer sex though 98% of womenfolk according to surveys are not enamoured of bearded men.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Anger doesn’t win games

I had a colleague who was in charge of the works producing industrial items. It was a very big plant with around 3000 workers. He had long experience in the line, knew his job well, efficient in work and a no-nonsense man. The production and productivity went up steadily initially after he made some changes. There was however one chink in his armour.He had a very short temper and consequently was a poor listener. His managers and foremen were in dread of him. The daily morning meetings were one way traffic with his dominating the meeting. His subordinates were hesitant to bring up crucial problems fearing his reaction. They would defer trying to sort the issues amongst themselves. His deputies found a way out by including the problems in the daily report for discussions. My friend would yell why it was not brought up earlier and would not give a patient hearing. Very often what were minor problems assumed alarming proportions by the time they came up to his notice. Timely replacements, repairs, procurement of stores and spares or shut down for maintenance, stock outs or missing customer delivery schedule could have saved costly solutions. The works manager never listened let alone discussed personal problems of employees and waved them away. In a few of cases, he unreasonably sacked a few operatives without proper understanding of the problems. He succumbed to his basic emotion without trying to overcome it. He was not even aware that he had a serious problem. Within a couple of years, the top management became aware of the serious drawback in his style of management and its adverse impact on the production. The Chairman had a meeting with him on the subject.
It was then he came rushing to me being his close buddy and in a mood to listen patiently. I asked him whether he was really serious in exploring his problem and mending his ways if it is found he had a problem. He agreed. We had a long chat at my house that evening.
I asked him in his interactions with others and in his daily meetings whether the atmosphere was relaxed and calm where a real dialogue could take place and where people felt free to talk. He conceded it was not so and people were hesitant to contribute which made him angrier. He even got the impression that all of them had ganged up to remain inactive participants. His talks with his immediate deputies were not helpful as they never came out with real reasons.
I explained that anger was like any other basic human emotion like love, happiness, grief, depression and so long they are kept within limits they are in fact beneficial. In his case anger was not controlled and he had even failed to recognize he had a problem. I made him agree that he should admit this to himself whenever he got angry in future. This realization itself would act as a brake. He would then and there examine what words were spoken by others that made him angry. He should allow the other person to proceed to say what he wanted to say and ask others to react to the points raised as he always had his deputies with him in his rounds or meetings. He should remain calm and not give expression to his anger either in words or body language. When he felt he could discuss the issue without exploding, he could do so and if he found his anger surging while he was talking, the best thing would be to calm down. I told him that this would bring about magical change in the attitude of his people and he would win their confidence before long.
I had one more tip for him. He should start his daily meetings with a cup of tea and talk generally and pleasantly for a few five minutes before getting into brass stacks. The mood would be lightened for all and his people would look forward to the meetings daily.
To the credit of my colleague, he did practice what we had discussed initially with difficulty no doubt but soon found it easy. The morale became very high in six months reflecting in record productivity, and increased bottom lines and higher rewards to one and all.

“Anger is the most impotent of passions. It effects nothing it goes about, and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed”

Monday, February 4, 2008

Do you have a personal goal?

I have this habit of asking the youngsters who come to meet me frequently in the course of work what their goals were. I am not talking of young men from IITs or B schools who have clear idea of what they wish to achieve. I mean the many working in small positions with no degree from prestigious institutions. While most of these youngsters would make a sheepish grin, some would trot out some vague goals in general terms, like getting their sisters married, educate their younger siblings, give rest to ailing father or reclaim the mortgaged lands in the village and some such fair objectives. I never let them go easily and keep asking how they would accomplish these aims. With age and rank on my side, I would persist till I get them motivated. I would ask them whether their work is after their aptitude and their academic discipline, whether they derive any job satisfaction, whether they see a future in the organization and whether they joined by conscious choice. Many of them had no clear plans of what they wished to do and hoped they can decide as things unfold over a period of time. Drawn mostly from lower middle class families they were not in a position to pursue higher studies and were compelled to take up the first job that presented itself to supplement the family income after the education. The question about their goals looked to them a bit strange. I set apart thirty minutes, whenever the pressure was less for such an exercise. I knew in many cases it would not yield any results but I had seen how in a few cases the young men have transformed themselves. I have been witness to quite a few setting their goals in my presence and achieving them in a few years.
I tell the willing ears that goals should not be general like I want to become rich like Ambani, be happy in life, take up a big job or be like Tendulkar. It should be specific and have a road map. Without goals, and clear plans to reach them, one is like a ship that has set sail with no destination. I give them some guidelines.
I explain thatgoals are for everyone. One need not hold high position to set personal goals. Even the hawker who sells his wares on the platforms or the boys who distribute news papers can have their own goals. I also tell them that personal goals should be their own. It should not be decided by someone else though one should be open to ideas. It should be the outcome after careful deliberation of what one really wants. It is only then there would be total identification and commitment.
I stress that it should be achievable. The goal is after all a help to move where one wished to be. It should not be like wishing to be a billionaire in five years without a concrete plan to back it. Being unrealistic would defeat the person even before one sets his goals. Goal is no wishful thinking but something definite and tangible. It should be like acquiring a new skill like a computer course or a law degree in the evening hours. One has to organize his priorities. Yet another requirement is that goals should have specific target dates. If there is no time frame and goal is open ended, there would not be any focus or urgency. It ran the risk of dragging on and possibly not achieved at all. The feeling of accomplishment would also be missing when the goal is realized. If there is change in the personal or external circumstances, one can revise his goals. They are not unalterable...
Sadly many of us do not have goals.I have found many young men with no special qualifications have benefited from the advice. Some boys who were not even graduates became one in the first instance. They joined different courses. Some joined software insitutes, some joined law courses, and some started dairy business buying and selling milk, and some opened paint and hardware shops. One chap learnt publishing business, started getting orders for publishing and got the printing done in various presses. Eventually he had his own press with roaring business in printing calendars and diaries for many companies. All of them have come up in life and are well settled. They keep raising the bar every three years with fire still in their bellies to achieve more.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A rose amidst the thorns

Sakthivel always sat alone while all his class mates played boisterously during the lunch recess. A young boy of twelve, he was always found looking forlorn. He was good in studies and very well behaved. The teachers liked him. Even Arun his close friend had no clue for his strange behaviour When asked for the reason, he just kept mum. Arun and Sakthi used to walk back home after the school.Sakthi’s house was near and as soon as they neared the house, he used to run inside. Never once he had taken Arun inside his house. Arun had seen Sakthi’s dad and brothers on many occasions outside the house.Arun never took a liking for them somehow. He could not tell why he disliked them but he knew instinctively they were not good.
One day Arun saw Sakthi with a black eye and swollen jaw. It appeared that he must have cried a lot. He would not utter one word when asked. Arun gently persuaded him to confide promising him secrecy. It was then he learnt that Sakthi’s dad and brothers were evil men, had no steady jobs and earned money by wrong ways. They invariably drank in the nights. His mom used to get beaten daily. He hated them and wished to run away from them along with his mom
He was beaten that morning for being a witness to their torturing a man mercilessly. The poor man was wailing in pain and telling them that he did not know what they were asking him. One of the brothers saw Sakthi peeping through the window, dragged him and beat him up till his mom rescued him. Sakthi told that he had seen young boys kept in custody bound and blindfolded in an attic till they got money from the boys’ parents.Sakthi said he had no courage to die though he wished to and was afraid that he too may become a wicked person if he lived in that house. When he asked Arun whether people can survive if they fell from third floor, Arun scared him telling such people turned into ghosts.
Arun met his teacher during lunch recess and expressed his fears about Sakthi.The teacher called him when alone and gently ferreted out from the boy the happenings. The boy told him that he hated his father and brothers but was worried about his mom. His said the people in the neighbourhood despised them and would not talk to them. They thought even his mom and himself were bad like others in the family and he was terrified by the thought he would also be branded a wicked man when he grew older.
The wise teacher consoled him telling his fears were unfounded. He told him that everyone knew Vikarna the youngest of the wicked Kauravas was a good natured person not given to evil ways like his siblings. Likewise a beautiful rose blooms in all its beauty amidst the thorns. People do not reject a rose simply for the reason it is found amidst prickly thorns, rather they go in search for it. There is no way that he would be termed wicked. He promised the boy that he would try to resolve his problem.
The teacher met the correspondent of the school that night itself. It was a school conducted by a mission with hostel facilities where poor boys were admitted without payment. The teacher convinced him for admitting the boy in the hostel .He thought of telling his parents that Sakthi was a bright boy and the school wished to make him a topper. He felt Sakthi's dad and brothers would agree considering it a good riddance. The teacher was happy about the solution.
The next morning when the school was about to commence they discovered Sakthi's body on the rear side of the school. He had evidently jumped from the third floor in a state of depression. The teacher was badly shaken and Arun was full of remorse that he did not grasp the significance of Sakthi’s question the previous day. It is another matter that the wicked man and his sons were soon nabbed for abducting and keeping in illegal custody a young boy for ransom. While they did time in the jail, the woman was employed to help in the hostel.