Thursday, June 30, 2011

When Playing on Backfoot!

The game of Cricket, which British left unknowingly, later proved as the unifying catalyst in Indian sub-continent…it mushroomed because it possessed intrinsic healing qualities. Time changed, India also changed, so changed the aspirations of capital with its blind mandate of profit maximization. Cricket, for its salable attributes, easily picked by the cronies with slashing its beauty under the assortment of buzzword-innovation. Even a short glance on lexicon will enable you to know how the word “innovation” is being confused with the all sort of functional attainment.

Test Cricket took decades to shape in Britain and its colonies; one-day format was comparatively easily succeeded but it’s also came into light only after the first World Cup in 1975. But the by-product of neo-capitalist innovation-20/20 Cricket started making million dollars from the time of incubation with undermining even the inherent logic of capitalism. Anyway, this format of Cricket turned out to be transaction oriented…its instant effect enabled Cricketers to delink from their national side; we enjoyed our Cricket World Cup victory less than what anticipated and what we did in 1983. Moreover, India being the host nation of transaction Cricket lost its highly articulated minister Shashi Tharoor for his adventurous exposure to one among many suspicious deals. Why so much power of politics and capital suddenly chosen to chase cricket? Why players earned the entire careers riches in only one or two seasons?

These all happened with surplus investment capital from the backdoor with realizing the obscene profit ahead-public figures were offered sweat equities and addict spectators, a cocktail of unhygienic shadow of Cricket and lethal dances of cheerleaders. A second category of Cricket enthusiasts like me and millions others simply lost the appetite for this wonderful game. The most profound voice on Cricket history, Ramchandra Guha stopped writing on Cricket which personally I missing equally as the glory of Cricket itself. His categorization of Cricket in which he awarded lowest possible points to 20/20 formats seems completely materializing…even worse, the International Cricket Council {ICC} is completely under the influence of transaction Cricket. Though it’s hardly surprising, as its being headed by the same person who with little concern is also looking after on Indian Agriculture Ministry and almost he has equal indifference to the agrarian crisis as on alteration of Cricket’ essential rules.

Who are suffering from putting Cricket on Backfoot? Ofcourse all those who loves being the natural part of Cricket which only allows them to cheer with the men in whites for complete five days! Still most of us can remember the miraculous innings of V.V.S Laxmanand daring resistance of Rahul Dravid against Australia in Eden Garden/2001…similarly the memories of ongoing performance by both on Caribbean pitches will be remain vivid in our collective memory. Hardly, anyone will be like to memorize the struggling Laxman or vulnerable Dravid of 20/20 Cricket!

Embodiment of professional excellence and national expectations, Sachin Tendulkar; who has fan following in billions and from across the globe, too lost that momentum which he usually carry with the national cap. Values matters especially in a society like ours…I am quite sure, World Cricket would never had Don Bradman, Vivi Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram, Murlidharan or even Yuvraj Singh if they were entangled with 20/20 format during the formative years. Simply downsizing ploy against the real version of Cricket will be proved a dangerous exercise for the game itself. Afterall it will be as terrible as replacing the epic works of literature for a commonly standardized text message where frugality of words resonates the awkward foul play with languages.

I am reprising again here from the top that Cricket is a special unconscious legacy from British…two other important legacies-Railway and Armed forces were somehow the planned projects of colonizers. Cricket was shaped and popularized under the capitalism but its interaction in Indian sub-continent largely changed the elitist biases centered within it. Rest big changes came from Caribbean domination on Cricket which broke the myth that white alone can play sophisticated game of Cricket. If such popularization of Cricket with nationalistic aspirations given it a people-centric looks, I am afraid the India based IPL episode will be badly damage the flavor of Cricket and common men’s stake in this game. Private money can’t add sports spirit and ofcourse qualities in game…we can see that in country Cricket and other club sports in Europe…real spirits are no where!
Atul Kumar Thakur
June 30, 2011, Thursday, New Delhi

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Looking back on a Scion

Brick by Red Brick /Ravi Mathai and making of IIM Ahmedabad: T. T. Rammohan
Rupa Publication, 2011, Price- Rs 495
Mammoth task of institution building which was regarded by Nehru as “Making of India’s Modern Temple”, can be cited a superb maneuvering with the confluence of aspiration and caliber. Institutional development and heavy industrialization were the main planks of Nehruvian vision for the newly independent Indian…fortunately these ideas remained as much sacrosanct under the democratic India as would be the spread of theocracy in a theocratic state. Nehru and him men of Cabinet were quite aware about the potential change in labour pattern following the mushrooming of new industries, for coping those challenges, they started churning out home grown model of management education that finally shaped in the form of IIM Ahmedabad and later many more.

This book presents the lucid overview on the shaping and development of IIM Ahmedabad- T.T.Rammohan, Professor at IIMA and a long time columnist for Economic Times ushered the institutional corporate history writing to a new height. If he is indebted to Dwijendra Tripathi for his early remarkable works in Indian management and source of rich experiences, we should also express similar feelings to TTR for giving the management history a new lease in India. Otherwise, we have very few such works that could justify its utility-most of them afflicts with reprising exercise and ends in stark oblivion.

Our forefathers were visionary and Vikram Sarabhai was one among them with proven integrity…starting of book beautifully narrates his contribution as founding Director, IIMA from 1961-1964 and later his historic decision to replace his position by young Ravi Mathai. Ravi then, only 38 with merely a qualification of BA{Hons}from Oxford was a surprising choice…prior to new assignment of Director, IIMA; he had a decade of industry experience but little academic exposure at IIM Calcutta. But if experience was a handicap for Ravi Mathai, his articulate persona and elitist background were positive factors with him. He was son of John Mathai {Finance Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet} with a sophisticated schooling in elite-centric sprawling Doon School and later University education in Oxford. TTR gives ample chance for readers to make their own judgement on this point without making things perplexed.

Chapter-I {The Grand Design}of the book represents the very important issue of history, it thoroughly deals with the genesis and consolidation of India’s premier management institute. Management maven, TTR delved with the early crucial development s with a rationalist stand-either adverseness of Robbins Report or obstinate stand of Herbert Simon on IIMA, all covered with high resoluteness. Ravi Mathai was a maverick epochmaker with full commitment for nation making and enterprising creativity…his sublime quote, “The building of an educational institute is often an act of faith” proves his ethical stand on education and academic administration. Rich account of life and work of Kamla Chowdhry, Kasturbhai Lalbhai and Prakash Tandon are pleasantly rewarding for readers, so are the detailed delineation of UCLA recommendation and Humayun Kabir’s scintillating view on nationalistic mode of education.

Chapter-II {Laying the Foundation} literally justifies the title of this book by dwelling with the history of designs at IIMA-it gives account how the renowned French Architect Kahn had designed the IIMA with high passion and deep commitment. Chapter-III {The Master Builder Arrives} and chapter-IV {Erecting the Edifice} covers in length about his vision and its formulation for IIMA. He was a firm believer in teaching excellence and spotting the right talent-C.K.Prahlad was one of his finding. Ravi Mathai was the emblem of leadership qualities which he kept demonstrating throughout his life…accustomed to a Spartan life and also very kind hearted in core, proven he was a true scion for his mother nation.

Chapter-V {Towering over the Rest} and chapter-VI {Getting the Software Right} inquisite how Mathai led IIMA to the crest in his stint as Director and later as its very distinguished faculty. He was the propunder of Sustainable Business Model within the Indian management, on which many Indian companies later pitched for their business innovation. Chapter-VII {Light and Shadow} has too much contemporary relevance today under the canopy of autonomy debate on IIM. TTR has carefully revitalizes this debate with nailing the contentiousness of Bhargava-I&II Committee report on change of governance in IIMA. He sensed the back door privatization of IIMA board in the intent and uprightly denounces here with his pragmatic views on the essential role of government in the functioning of IIMs. Like his newspaper column, TTR is overtly against the blind privatization of educational institutions in this book…indeed that itself marks the tradition of integrity established by Ravi Mathai who never fallen to heed for unethical demand irrespective of its tantamount.

Chapter-VIII {At the Grassroots}, post retirement, like a true academician, Mathai opted teaching at IIMA and also involved himself with many grassroot educational/social initiatives in Gujrat, Rajastahn and even outside. He was one of the distinguished brains behind the formation of Indian Council of Social Science Research {ICSSR}. He had displayed excellence in the field of management…interestingly he was equally an accomplished handyman with avid pastime for gardening, driving and playing with pets. He had deep sense of urgency for nation’s socio-economic development that always engaged his for better contribution from his side. It was not without reason why he spent time in rural areas to know the India better…he entwined with the existing plights and succeeded to form new vision for management.

Lastly, chapter-ix {Style and Substance}, presents some of the personal details about him which hitherto been out of public glare…in the later part of life, he substantially focused on the rural projects-Jwaja project remained foremost among them. Sentimental writing of TTR gives true tribute to Ravi Mathai who outgrew personal aspiration for institution building and finally nation making at large. Hectic lifestyle and heavy smoking cut short his life and he passed away after a brave fight with malady on February 13, 1984 in London…it was a blow to the nation that remained hard to fill even after decades. As the final words of book says, Ravi Mathai shines brightly in the constellation of institution builders, likes of Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, JRD Tata, VKRV Rao and R.K.Talwar.

This book is essential for management aspirants with high goal in life and career and also for those who loves to read history in alternative narration. I am being categorical only because Ravi Mathai chased the excellence, so is doing T.T. Rammohan…this work strictly revolves around the story of excellence.
Atul Kumar Thakur
June 28, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi

An Activist Police

Amitabh Thakur {now only Amitabh} exudes courage and integrity-a mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur, who left the chance to join Indian Revenue Service/IRS in 1991 for a challenging career in Indian Police Service next year . Presently pursuing fellowship programme in management from IIM Lucknow, this UP Cadre IPS officer is also a co-author of book on entrepreneurship, The Fresh Brew…besides that he is also serving as President with National RTI Forum, which was founded by him with doubtless commitment for transparency in public life. Like a true activist police, he is quite sanguine about the glimmering Right to Information…both as administrator and an activist, he sees RTI as empowering tool for governance. Recently we had a substantial talk in Delhi which finally appearing here as interview…

Q: - You joined IPS in 1992, and then your choice was as transient as was the economy of India. With an IIT degree in hand, why you only aspired for IPS?
A: - It was a tough decision to go against the stream but my aspirations were strong…my first choice was to join IAS, which didn’t materialize, so I opted for my second dream-IPS. These two services give the proper opportunity to assimilate with peoples and to be proactive part of machinery.

Q: - You were never a camp follower and always defied the aegis of protection, likes of caste, religion or any other hide bound categorization-how you with fallouts?
A: - Until I joined IPS in 1992, I was largely unaware about the actual equation on which systemic function rests…later I came to know how even the battered parochial views could be thrive under the strength of cronyism and influence the entire machinery. A duty bound officer like me who runs without any sanctum faces many hurdles from opposite camps with vested interest to make the system vulnerable. During initial years of my service in eastern UP, I had to confront many such grim political pressures but outgrowing the intermittent adversities, I saved my integrity.

Q: - What’s your view on Police-peoples interface and overall reform in Policy system?
A: - I support maximum participation of peoples in maintaining law& order…there must be use of local wisdom and expertise in any form of governance. So, interface is essential…yes, Police reform is the need of hour. It should be start from introducing new human resource policy and adoption of technology from the basic to top level in Police system. That will be a moral boosting exercise.

Q: - How you stepped in RTI Movement despite serving in bureaucracy?
A: - It was little bit unusual but not completely as sizable number among government officials including those who are in police have positive thinking about RTI. A fair official has nothing to afraid from RTI which is a gateway of transparency and lastly an important factor for good governance. Remarkably, RTI has enhanced the honest official’s confidence and reputation which was impossible through any other means. After gathering the inside perspectives of administration and realizing hassle of official procedures, I decided to back this movement by joining a voluntary position of President, National RTI Forum, Lucknow.

Q: - Do you think CBI should be come under the RTI Act?
A: - Yes, it will make overarching effects in other areas too that may finally enhance the people’s perception for these offices of last resort. I don’t think it may be taken as facile opinion to introduce RTI at most of places, only excluding those falls under the strategic area.

Q: - RTI Activists are frequently under the attacks that to an extant diminishing the calibrated part of activism, how you first think as an activist and later Police?
A: - It’s indeed a big concern…as an activist; it seems me like cruelty against the evangelists of fair governance. As a Police, I think it should be deal as law & order problem…once law will take it course, such terrible incidents will be sure come down.

Q: - You spent around two decades as an IPS in UP, tell us the upshot of caste politics in state which initially spread under the pseudo cover of social justice?
A: - What happened in UP in last two decades in the name of caste is shocking and frustrating. Once the nerve of central politics has diminished to merely shadow of its past…law &order is lagging behind here in absence of professional work ethics and enormous political pressure. The most worrying thing is the caste being used as means of exploitation…natural merit has no place here before the status of natural birth in a categorized caste.
Q: - Enforcement of law is essence of Policing but the state of prison is an area which is completely bereft from it, what you will suggest for reform?
A: - Speedy trial and reformist treatment with prisoners will make the positive difference besides the jail inmates should be allowed to be productive inside the define territory. If someone wants to pursue education, let him/her allow to doing …it’s nice to see many such examples in Tihar jail and even in some of smaller jails. A change can take place in human, even after the conviction of crime…that must be taken as a welcome possibility by the prison authorities and also judiciary. For these behavioural changes, we don’t have to look outside; the inspiration of Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave are quite conducive for infusing humane touch with prisoners.

Q: - There is common apathy for the bottom level of Policing, which is the biggest dent on entire Police system…what’s your take on these serious flaws of governance?
A: - Lack of professional ethics is a big concern which creates such embarrassing practices and that must be checked by the standardized rules instead of sheer upper hand action from hierarchy. At any cost, lapidary approaches have to overtake the sordid practices…with addition of ethics; technology will bring a tectonic shift in Indian Policing. Having the great IT capacity, it’s not very hard to materialize in India…whereby acronyms POLICE will justify its real meaning for all.
Q: - I hope you will subsume many issues for the sake of fair governance in Policing and will also keep holding the baton of RTI…
A: - I have been striving for the betterment of Policing and will be keep doing so…RTI activism will be also progress and I am sure days ahead are going to be very participative and full of enthusiasm for a fair and transparent governance.
Atul Kumar Thakur
June 29, 2011, Wednesday, New Delhi