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Accountability is what India lacks the most

By S S Kumar
Last updated on: August 27, 2009 19:58 IST
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It may be overstating the obvious but things just cannot improve unless there is a sense of urgency to replace the most visible chalta hai attitude in India.

In the name of democracy - the greatest claimed wealth of two countries, the United States and India - what has received short shrift, is the concept of accountability.

Unless true accountability is established, nothing will change for the better.  This has to be accompanied by a constant review of the processes used and ways to improve the same continuously.

Since most user complaints pitch back to their dealings with the government, the spread of true accountability should start with the government ministries, departments and bodies. 

For this to happen, the notion of life long security associated with government jobs must go. If people do not perform or consistently under-perform, the government must take the bold step of sacking them or transferring them to jobs of lesser importance.

This move itself will work wonders in the government's day-to-day functioning. How come the trains ran absolutely on time during the period of emergency? Obviously, the fear of the big danda works!

Under the guise of democracy, one sees, the absolute abuse of the liberties granted under democracy.

Let us take the example of how the Delhi administration recently handled the auto strike.  It would be an understatement to say that traveling public was inconvenienced.

In most of the multinational companies (MNCs) in the US, (I have worked with some), whenever they bid for a major business opportunity, the top level team sits down and analyses all factors that could lead to their company losing the bid.

Then they look for counter measures to see how they can neutralise such disadvantages, and emerge winners. If the ultimate score is encouraging, they bid, else they decide not to bid.

Likewise, since the Delhi administration was aware of the planned auto strike several days in advance, they could have had an inter-ministerial meeting and analysed what all could go wrong.

They should have taken the following into consideration:

  •  Passengers most inconvenienced would be those arriving into Delhi at both domestic & international airports besides railway stations and the Interstate Bus Terminus (ISBT). Of course, most international passengers except foreigners have their own transport.
    Analyse how many flights arrive at a particular airport per day, and how many buses would be required to handle this incoming load, in a phased manner. The Delhi administration could have easily deputed those many buses to the airport to ferry passengers.  
  • The Delhi administration could have then arranged for mini-buses to ferry passengers from these better known destination points to more interior points.
  •  The Delhi administration could have invoked the Essential Services Act and declared the strike illegal.
  •  It could have marshalled all the taxis in the city to the airport or railway station and forced them to run under a pre-paid scheme, instead of letting them go loose and allow them to charge 5 to 6 times the normal rate. A government's functioning is judged by its ability to deliver results on the ground not by its pious intentions.
  •  I wish the Delhi administration could study the working of the red coloured Vajra AC buses in Bangalore that ply between the airport and select points with a decent frequency and at a reasonable charge.  The Karnataka government's foresight in this regard is commendable. Delhi, being the capital of India should have had this service much ahead of Karnataka.
  •  The Delhi government should have anticipated violence on such a day. How come it did not bring in the police and the army in strength to enforce discipline on the streets? Ideally, it should compensate all the honest auto drivers whose vehicles were damaged for not joining the strike since it is the duty of the government to provide security to its law abiding citizens.
  • Lastly, they need to look at the process itself. What caused the auto drivers to go on strike? Were their demands justified? Could we not have invited them over for discussions and identified the root causes and taken action proactively? It appears from their feedback that the police were harassing them by imposing fines which were disproportionate to the offence committed.

The second process that probably requires refinement is to analyse why the police tended to act as they did?  Is it lack of education, lack of existing standards reference manuals/ procedures or a weakness to show of their brute superiority?

When was the last time, their skill-sets and performance were audited by an external independent agency and feedback given to them on their performance to help them improve themselves?

Once the police force is recruited, what is the road map used by the Delhi Administration  to provide them with phased progressive training programs to continually improve their skill sets?      

Above all, what are the promotional avenues open to them to feel motivated about their work? If proper processes were in place, they could have been controlled much better.

Why does the traffic policeman in almost every major Indian city look like a caricature compared to his counterparts in leading capitals around the world? It is very obvious to any layman that he has received very little training to control the traffic, checkmate erring drivers or bring them to book. The bottom line of such inadequacy is that traffic is totally disorderly in most cities.

It was GE who first introduced to the world, the concept of process in every recurring activity and the importance of putting the right processes in place for a smooth operation to take place on a continuing basis.

It is unfortunate that the Delhi administration does not implement effective managerial practices that all successful global companies swear by.

When Rajiv Gandhi came into power, the first thing he did was to force all his cabinet colleagues to attend a crash course in effective management, at the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad, to learn something new. It is high time Sheila Dixit government took some lessons. 

Delhi has a number of leading management institutes. Is it too difficult for her to source expertise from these institutes to troubleshoot such unforeseen developments in future, instead of failing miserably every time?

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