Thursday, November 17, 2016

An Article, "Modi's Inheritance


PG Kamath

To be a Prime Minister of a country like India is indeed more demanding than any other position  in the world. POTUS, of course has humongous global challenges; to monitor and influence the US political presence, diplomatic dominance, economic inducements and exert military coercion? However, the machinery, he inherits, is so well oiled that it can take on extremes of personalities from Nixon to Regan, and soon the world will see how even Trump would take to the White House like the white pigeons, which nibble on its North and South lawns?
Yes! To change the basic direction of US policies, would indeed invite obstinacy from well entrenched bureaucracy, however there are provisions in US, where  they can appoint any suitable person in the country to key positions in the government and overcome the bureaucratic resistance.  Even the secretaries (ministers) are taken from general public not necessarily  politicians, however they have to undergo senate confirmation.  The selection of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and media mogul Stephen Bannon as Chief Strategist; both with no experience in the Federal Government indicates that Trump means business.  Their inexperience in the government should be an asset to Trump, as they would be able to follow different policies and procedures and would be able to think out of the box.  Hence, he has already taken steps to mould the government to give new direction to his policies.  

China and Russia without doubt are authoritarian in more than one aspect, hence their heads of state can steer the country in the direction they choose and it would be illogical to compare their problems if any, with the gargantuan problems faced by the Indian PM.  The Japanese, though were in the habit of changing their prime minister with every season, have settled down under the dynamic Prime Minister Abe. However their people, bureaucrats, politicians not only love their country but also have great respect for their institutions. A case in point; it was unthinkable that the only country in the world that had been devastated by nuclear bombs would ever sign the nuclear deal with India; never mind the mandatory approval of the Diet ?  Japan signing the deal is a testimony to their maturity and understanding to pursue their national interest, in view of the looming threat from China. Again, to compare Japan with our putrefied politico-bureaucratic system is a sheer wastage of time and questioning the intellect of the readers? To make it difficult for Shinzo Abe to get the deal ratified in the Diet, our defence minister expresses doubt on our commitment to ‘No First Use’.  What an inopportune time to make such a statement? Oh God! Please educate our ministers and their likes! 

Now, what does the Indian Prime Minister inherit?  A bureaucracy, which has been the biggest stumbling block in the progress of the country?  As per the 1951 census of India, the country had 322 districts, which have been reorganised into 640 districts as on today. Each of the districts have been under a District Collector and a number of districts comprising  a Division have been under a Divisional Commissioner.  Right from the time of independence, the administration and governance was provided to the people of our country by District and Divisional Commissioners. Health care, primary and secondary education,  food distribution, water supply, sanitation, social forestry,  scientific farming, irrigation, agriculture, forest and agro based industries, housing, and a host of other schemes that the government had introduced from time to time were not delivered, causing serious deficit in governance. As on today 205 districts; nearly one third of the country is affected by terrorism, insurgency and left wing extremism? If one tours this area the main cause for such fissiparous trend is ‘bad governance’? Why no one is held accountable for dragging our country to such depths? The politicians have no direct role in the grass root administration and they are accountable to the people once in five years; however the bureaucrats, who are directly responsible to give a clean administration are neither accountable to the people nor to their superiors.  Their esprit de corps has ensured that they protect their breed from the politicians and ensure the non-performers also survive and continue to harm the country till they retire and thereafter?  To ensure that every non-performer is rewarded,  they have introduced ‘non-performance up-gradation’ in the 6th Pay Commission.  This unique and obnoxious provision enables that all inefficient and non performing bureaucrats keep getting the higher band of pay irrespective of their promotion?  Hence, the system has ensured that not even a shred of incentive is left for a bureaucrat to work?  

The Hong Kong based   Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (Perc) has been carrying out  survey of Asia’s best and the worst bureaucracies.  The survey is being conducted since 1997 and we all should be proud that India has maintained her position as the Worst Bureaucracy in Asia since 1997.  It is indeed a laudable achievement considering that in Asia we have many Least Developed Countries, Developing Countries and Developed Countries.  To maintain the position unchallenged for nearly two decades is no mean a feat?  We have soundly beaten even countries like Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam to bag the coveted award.  
Our bureaucracy has not reacted to this report as they have nothing to defend and they know the organisation actually need not have to carry out the research:  No one needs to prove an axiom?   It is unbelievable but true that the website of the organisation ( has been blanked from all servers in India?  If anyone can access it, please drop an email to me.

Sadly; most bureaucrats genuinely feel that they are the ones, who are progressing the country and harbour unfounded, undeserved and unjustified pride in themselves?  If indeed, the bureaucrats are the arbitrators of the nation, considering the elected representatives do not have time for governance, then the future of the country is in the hands of the Asia’s worst bureaucracy?  No doubt; we are unable to exploit our immense potential and get mired in quicksand of our own making?   Our Human Development Index, tolerance and inclusive index, social progress index, health and wellness index are abysmal.  Our infantile mortality, maternal mortality, open defecation, tragic state of our education, rampant social ills, exploitation of poor and the all pervasive corruption, makes us hang our head in shame? Has anyone questioned as to why we could not progress for seven decades as we could have? Have we ever held the bureaucracy responsible for the tragic state of the country?  The   sad state of the country is due to red tape, government controls, corruption, greed, avarice, lack of commitment, absence of patriotism, lack of concern for others and the ubiquitous incompetency and inefficiency.  It is also due to bad politicians and the worst bureaucrats and indifferent people with feudal mind set, who vote for their oppressors and tolerate the power brokers.  If not, how come a party led by fodder scam accused get maximum number of seats in Bihar assembly? How come an advocate spokesman of GOP, who misused his chamber as a brothel continue to be in Rajya Sabha? The same person in order to avoid income tax has seemingly bought 1250 laptops for 14 professionals he has employed in his office.  He has also bought solar panels for ₹25.16 Crores and the dealer has confessed in his statement to the IT Department that it was an inflated bill and he has returned ₹ 10 Crores as loan to his two sons.  He has further said in his defence that after a termite attack on his record – not surgical strikes; he has not been able to give supporting documents of his expenditure? If I have to talk of our political leaders then I would lose the focus of this article; hence I will stop.  

To take things forward; it is the first time, we are seeing some drastic steps being taken.  The demonetisation has really hit all the political parties and also their backers.  Lo and behold! Look at the virulence with which the opposition parties have attacked the government? They have suddenly taken the common man under their umbrage seemingly unable to see his plight? The truth is the unaccounted wealth of each of them individually and their parties have been hit by a tsunami? 

It was on 2 Mar 2016, Raga said in parliament “The Finance Minister announced a fair and lovely scheme, saying it was Modiji’s scheme, which would convert black money into white. In 2014, Modi had said “I will finish black money… I will jail anybody who has black money”. But under the fair and lovely scheme, nobody will go to jail, nobody will be arrested, nobody will be asked anything. Go to Arun Jaitleyji, pay tax and turn black money into white”.  Now, Raga; what problem do you have in demonetisation? What a down to earth leader you are; you stood in a queue for converting ₹ 4000/-?  You indeed ascribe very low intellect to our countrymen; don’t you?  I take it that with those 4000/- you went to Sarojani Market and bought some vegetables and had a delayed lunch at your house? I still do not want to take the credit out of your stunt as the people around you were provided with some form of amusement that added a little mirth in the boredom, while waiting in the queue.  In the same breath, the PM’s 96 year old mother also need not have gone to the bank to exchange her currency? Mr PM! Even your enemies do not doubt your nationalistic ardour and credentials? One of your personal secretary or your friends could have assisted her.  Raga has indeed lot to prove himself to the people of this country and you really don’t have to do it. I want to remind politicians of all hues, the games you play is being seen by the people and they are able to see thorough each one of you!  All of you are fooling yourself and people watch with amusement as they do it to the caged animals in the zoo! 

We have another muffler clad Chief Minister, who started his stint by a respiratory problem and has ensured the 17 million people who voted him overwhelmingly, have also have a respiratory problem? When will you start administering your State rather than keep on wearing the national mantle and comparing yourself with the Prime Minister? It is so irritating to hear your cheeky spokesmen yelling like school boys scoring brownie points on the national television. The CM himself has called the PM a coward and psychopath.  He lauded him for surgical strikes at the same time asking for proof?  Obviously he wanted the Army to disclose the detailed plans so that such strikes can be neutralised by Pakistani forces, in case there is a requirement of another strike? Either he is completely naïve or  he is working at the behest of ISI?  The buffoons of the left parties and jokers of the GOP, were also braying for proof.  How happy were the Pakistanis? Indian opposition was doing their work admirably? 

In contrast to the US President elect, the Indian PM inherits a system that is rotting from the roots to the leaves. He has the  worst bureaucracy to run the country. He has a system that is corrupt to the core, where the lower officials take bribe in giving government deliverables to the poor and the higher offices are headlong immersed in scams.  If some of the higher bureaucracy is not corrupt, they have professional egos and manipulate the decisions of ministers by granting favours, camouflaging truth and have their way, which is not necessarily in the interest of the nation. Look at the way the Defence Minister approved a mischievous letter of equivalence between the Armed Forces Officers and the civilian cadre?  Look at the sad state of OROP? Just look at the 7th Pay Commission tearing into the pride of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces are really not fighting for monetary emoluments they have put up with that for several pay commissions, where more than hundred anomalies have remained un-actioned.  The main issue is that it is hurting their pride and élan.  Please remember Prime Minister; a soldier without his pride is a weapon without its ammunition.

All the Prime Minister’ staff are almost entirely filled with serving or retired bureaucrats.  How can these tired old straight jacketed bureaucrats can fan new ideas? The NSA is a police officer, which was quite evident in PM’s Independent Day address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort, where he remembered the sacrifices of 33000 police personnel, who are defending the nation on land, sea and air.  You seem to have a new role in mind for the police and I am sure in times to come you would dismantle the armed forces and task the police under the NSA to defend the nation on land, sea and in air?  Since Independence; Mr Prime Minister, no armed forces personnel have ever died in the wars of 1947-48, 1962, 1965, 1971, Sri Lanka, Kargil, Op Parakram and innumerable Counter Terrorist and Counter Insurgency operations in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir? I have no doubts your NSA must have told you so? 

I still would like to appreciate the Prime Minister that in spite of inheriting the decrepit official machinery, how come he has been able to take ground breaking decisions? He has dissolved GOMs, Planning Commission, reduced foreign trip bonanzas to the bureaucrats and politicians, concentrated on infrastructures, science and technology such as research in cold fusion and gravitational wave, progressing electrification of the entire country, passing the real estate bill, jan dhan yojna, digital India, surgical strikes, swach Bharat, awas yojna, Atal pension yojana, make in India, sukannya samraddhi yojna, LPG subsidies pahal scheme, free gas connection to the poor under ujjwal yojna, new scheme for rehabilitation of bonded labour, digital locker,  smart city, suraksha bima yojana, gold monetisation scheme and the recent demonetisation scheme to name only a few! The  achievements have been done in Indian Government departments with the resources that we pejoratively call “Babus” – is nothing short of absolute miracle! says Desh Kapoor an acclaimed creative writer. Look at the resistance he had to face to move the rusted, dissonant, discordant, vintage and ill maintained official machinery? 

Mr Prime Minister! You still have to conduct a surgical strike on the Armed Forces. Neglecting the reorganisation of Defence Ministry would leave the country under a grave threat.  The Chief of Defence Forces should be made a reality and it is high time the Defence Minister and you, have an ‘one point military advice’. He should be a permanent member of Cabinet Committee on Security.  The reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence is long pending.  All you have to do is look at the GOM on National Security of 2001 headed by your mentor LK Advani and act.  Restoring the battered pride of the Armed forces is an onerous task, which you can only neglect at grave peril to the nation.

Please also ask your NSA, what advice he has to give you in solving the Jammu and Kashmir problem? How come he; an intelligence professional did not give you the advance of information of broth discontent brewing in the valley? How are you going to reign in the Hurriyat? I assure you, all these problems have answers and all you have to ask is to take real experts in to confidence and discuss with them.  Forget it in case you think the mandarins of Foreign Ministry and Home Ministry would give you solutions? Over a period, they have become one tracked and developed high levels of ego to ask advice from better informed experts. This problem also needs your immediate attention. 

Mr Prime Minister! Your inheritance from your parents is phenomenal.  You have a clear mind, innate sagacity and courage to walk the path alone, where others fear to tread.  Your opponents fear you, as  their daily is threatened? I still believe that you cannot be informed on all issues.  Your ministers range from mediocrity to intellectuals and let me assure you none of them are visionaries like you?  I also suggest you reorganise your PMO.  You need to take technocrats, economists, academicians, armed forces officers, strategists and philosophers. They should also act as your devil’s advocate.  Do not rely too much on bureaucrats; they are all set to play a ‘Sanjay Baru’ on you? If you do not believe me, just get hold of their personal diaries; their draft memoirs are in the making!

(The writer is veteran from Indian Army)

Lt Gen PG Kamath of the Madras Regiment is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington; and the National Defence College, New Delhi. He has served for over 21 years in operational areas, all over the Country, including Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. He commanded an Infantry Brigade in Punch (J&K) during Op Parakram; and commanded an Infantry Division in Kutch, Sir Creek area and Barmer. He has held prestigious Command and Staff appointments; and retired as Commandant Army War College, Mhow.