Monday, 2 July 2012

India, sans accountability of the elite class – our bureaucrats

A mail going around in my circle commented upon the Lokpal recommended by Anna Hazare as not being accountable to anyone. While not going into this issue, the thought that came to my mind was whether we really have accountability in our country.

The most recent instance of a true farce has been our President accepting the mercy petition and commuting the death sentence of a man (Tidke) who had died five years ago! And the ridiculous argument given was that the file was moved only 2-3 years ago? But why was the file only moved 2-3 years ago? Obviously the plea had been filed, at the very latest, in 2007. So who was responsible for the delay of the intervening period? And if the pardon was accorded only now, what was the new development which took place which allowed a decision to be FINALLY taken –unless of course it was the Supreme Court looking into these delays. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/India/Death-by-waiting-India-s-mercy-plea-debate/Article1-833887.aspx) And the rationale in according the decision very obviously was NOT the petitioner’s behaviour till date. The president’s office has also clarified that all the cases had been examined by the Home Minister and that they were fully satisfied that the government had tendered its advice properly. (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3570321.ece).  But the moot question is – who is responsible for the entire situation which has resulted in the country’s highest office becoming a laughing stock? I have not read in the newspapers of any action being initiated against anyone.
We have another infamous case of the appointment of Mr. Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. While I have commented in detail on this case in an earlier post (http://sahaas.blogspot.in/2011/03/does-probity-of-pm-and-others-allow.html) , which officials of the State and Central Government were hauled up for both the delay and the blunder? No one!!

Then let’s look at the ‘demise’ of Air India, due to sheer mismanagement and wrong decisions. It has been run by bureaucrats for several decades – but who has heard of any probe into the causes of the failure or of any bureaucrat being questioned in this matter?
And there is the case of construction being permitted in Noida Extension and then stopped by the court. Who is bothered about the sufferings of the general public who have booked flats there? And which officials were involved in the granting of permission in the first place – have they been penalized in any manner? Such cases are innumerable - one can just go on and on.

The administration of the States rests with the IAS. But look at the way they turn a blind eye to the most obvious – the pitiable condition of departments they manage – the roads, the encroachment of pavements, the illegal colonies to name only a few. When we have the tragic case of Mahi, or of elephants being hit on the highway, the names of the private individuals involved surfaces immediately, but in matters of officialdom, all is shrouded in a veil of secrecy.
Like in all other matters, we have good bureaucrats and bad ones – why as a country have we given up our rights to have this class too in the dock, just like any other government employee, for cases of malafides, poor decisions, procrastinations, crass negligence, turning a blind eye to wrongs and last, but not the least, an inability to administer and run efficient departments and organisations - forget they being examples for others to emulate?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Air India - Human fuel needed to be airborne

Air India's pilots, engineers, cabin crew, ground staff etc. have not been paid salaries for several months. And these are the human beings that are the most essential components of the airline to keep aeroplanes flying. The woes of the staff came to my knowledge recently when I was travelling; one of the airhostesses narrated the plight. I wondered if the salaries of CMD and directors of Air India were also stopped! It would be very unlikely as senior bureaucrats would have been hurt. It is sensational to learn from the Minister of Civil Aviation that the government made a mistake by merging erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines (Indian) and the post merger actions by the government and the airlines had many gaps in making the merger a success. For the mistakes of bureaucrats and politicians and some others involved in the decision making, the consequences are passed onto the employees of the airlines who are expected to quietly accept them.

I watched a discussion on TV yesterday (Who killed Air India on The Buck Stops Here) and was stunned to hear the views of Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and of some others in the panel. The Minister said that the government and management were responsible for the wrong decisions leading to the failure and that, though the Dharmadikari report was submitted in January, they will still take a few months to START discussing it. Despite this, he feels it is the Unions and employees who have to realise that they have a stake in Air India’s survival. He says he empathises with them but also that he expects them to continue to be  - silent sufferers? The panellists like Manish Tiwari, a Congress MP and R P Rudy, BJP (ex Civil Aviation Minister) said many things in a similar vein and that the government has walked the extra mile and it is the pilots who need to ask themselves the questions. I have nothing to do with Air India but I definitely have HUGE issues with such remarks. Those who were pontificating against the pilots – have they looked at the issues consequent upon one single action – not getting salary regularly, on time. As a retired salaried person I can well understand the difficulties faced if there are delays of even a few days in getting the salary. What do they expect the Air India staff to do – go around with a begging bowl to their friends, relatives and neighbours?

I wonder for how many days, salary was not paid to the administrative staff of the civil aviation ministry, the Minister of Civil Aviation himself, the CMD and other members of the Board of Air India etc.?  And here also count in the perquisites since that comprises their major remuneration. So let’s try an exercise – for six months do not pay the top brass in the Ministry and the board of Air India their salary and perks – and so during this period, no medical facilities unless they are paid for, no conveyance facility but you still have to reach office on your own, no telephone or mobile, and most important of all no house to stay in – after all the landlord would have evicted you because rent has not been paid. Let their children face the embarrassment of frequent reminders for fees in front of their classmates. And let loaners come knocking at the doors since EMI is delayed. And additionally let them get a permanent bad credit history. And then, with something like a level playing field so that we can see true empathy, let them air their views in such open debates.

And look at the justifications – that just because the ground staff and Air hostesses did not go on strike despite not getting paid, it was wrong for the pilots to go on strike. I wonder what point was being made – that just because some victims of child abuse or some rape victims do not speak out, it is wrong for any child or rape victim to speak out or to lodge a complaint. How ridiculous can you get?

There was a comment that the pilots are well qualified and if they were so dissatisfied they could easily look for another job. Maybe that is why the pilots spoke out, the airhostesses and ground staff could not muster the courage. And just because the politicians and bureaucrats who took the wrong decisions are “not qualified”,they are apparently entitled to remain in their seats, get their salary and perks and their promotions, without being accountable to anyone.

Courts have held “no work, no pay”. Why not “No pay, no work”? But obviously such expectations are only one sided?

So very many wrong decisions were taken – a very small one being that of changing the name to “Indian” and repainting this on the Aircraft without looking at the cost and its impact on payload,  (please see an earlier post of August 2011 Air India on ventilator ).

And the Minister was quite righteous while saying that Air India needs to be closed down and that the merger decision was a mistake. But this mistake was not made by the pilots or the ground staff, yet he feels that what he says is only correct. This decision was taken by the politicians and bureaucracy – let’s hear how many bureaucrats and politicians are being punished for this – how many of them, past to current, have lost their jobs, their pensions and their reputation? Or, as is usual, have the politicians and bureaucrats got accolades and plum postings and it is the hapless victims of these wrong decisions who, the present politicians and bureaucrats feel, can justifiably be further punished?