Sunday, 16 October 2011

I'll Never Do It Again

Does INDIA stand for I'll Never Do It Again ?? I cringed and held my head in shame as I listened to this podcast - this series is one of my personal favourites and represents some of the best of the BBC. It ends with a quote from a guy who did something Indians were very proud about - run the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games . But he says,  "I'll be very happy to ignore India. There are plenty of other places where they pay their bills ". Listen to the podcast if you can - it is only some 5 minutes or so.

Is India one of the most difficult places in the world to do business ? In a recent World Bank survey, India came in at a staggering 134th out of 183 countries in the ranking of the places easiest to do business in. It is easy to dismiss such rankings, as indeed the podcast, as biased and taken out of context. For after all, doesn't  India have a vibrant and surging economy. Surely it can't be a bad place to do business and still be growing like it is. Alas the sad fact is that it is growing like it is despite the fact that it is one of the difficult places to do business in.

Take the instance of the Commonwealth Games contractors which is the subject mater of the above podcast. There has been allegations of corruption over the Games. So what do we do - jail the head of the organising committee without a trial and stop all payments to all contractors associated with the games. And let this meander along for years. It is appalling conduct. Every contractor is not corrupt. Just freezing all payments is no different from piracy. And we are supposed to be a country where there is rule of law. Try taking the government to court. You may get a judgement after you are dead. India ranks second last in the list of countries where you can enforce a contract - bested only by East Timor. 

For a start, we have to abolish the Indian Standard Time. Every decision cannot take years. Government cannot take years to allow an investment or set a policy. Courts cannot grant a stay for years to some aggrieved party. They cannot take years to enforce a contract. Contractors cannot take years to finish a job. We cannot accept being late in completing anything as a national characteristic. 

Unfortunately, given the spate of corruption scandals that have infected the country, all decision making has come to a standstill. Nobody is deciding anything for fear of being labelled as corrupt . You see, you cannot be accused of corruption if you never decide anything. There are no penalties for absolute inaction.

This is an awful state of affairs crying out for leadership, with a capital L. A leader who can stand tall and do the right thing.A leader with a clean conscience, who can motor ahead and act without fear. Being terrified and standing still is downright cowardice. But alas, such a leader is not visible even on the distant horizon.

I cringe and cringe when I see "I'll Never Do it Again" as an acronym for India. But I am afraid, there is an element of truth in it.


sulo` said...

Awwwww... what a post.... :( Thats jus the Indian politics in black and blue... What you are saying is 100% right, but you know what I think, this has been the case ever since I was born... may be few years even before that.... n even now that is the case... I think though we as citizens n countrymen want the right things to happen... somewhere all of us together are failing... I mean when I grew up civic was just a subject and there was no more additional importance given by the educational system.. or even in all our houses... I think the essence of good leadership comes to the fore when you have a set of well meaning people working for a collective cause...

I mean, I always found ppl unhappy with dmk/admk over the years, and still they keep voting for either of them.... most of them do not have any higher cause, they just vote with a frenzied attitude... or because of some silly biased sentiment... they do not look at the coin neutrally... If we are really unhappy with the leaders, we must let them know that by opting for things like 49 o n such... when I, an uninterested person in this field, actually take care and analyse the pros and cons and vote... shouldnt the passionate ones look at the societal welfare and vote? Ironically, they don't.

If every educated, unbiased adult decides to bring in a change in his/her home, I think a lot of children would first reflect this change... perhaps, the nation would then follow... :)

Appu said...

We should(will) withstand all this with a strong will of heart as only Indians can withstand!

gils said...

enga vote thala rameshukkay..baass neenga electionla nillunga..ungala pM aakama vidamaatom

Sandhya Sriram said...

I Second Gils Thalai. Ungala Sevai Nattuku Thevai :-)


Coming to the post, There were many of these things that were happening in the past as well. India was a country ruled by corrupt politicians making money but now the cancer has multiplied by many many proportions and with advanced medical diagnosis (A more aggressive Press, RTI, educated and more aware population), we now suddenly realize how untreatable it is and now live with a feeling of despair.

Somewhat digressing from the topic, I somehow feel the country lacks leadership. This is not about any ideaology that we need an uncorrupt leader or whatever. this is purely in a business context. whatever the country is - corrupt, split, driven by political and commercial aspirations, it requires a leader who can hold the reins together and run it in a fashion that it doesnt topple. the country is just falling apart, in many many ways and there is no will or muscle at the top to influence it whatsover. cant see a very promising pipeline either. If the theory of darwinism is true, we have to evolve to be a fit to these circumstances. but i dread to define what "fittest" would mean.

A very thought provoking post as ever - u have made up for your absence last sunday :-)


That is why Gils Says - Thala- u must take over :-)

Hassan said...

Sad but true..maybe a 'L'ee Kuan Yew is needed here to sort these out, but from where is the question when normally politics in India is the last in mind for the educated class..

Vishal said...

Tend to quitely agree with Appu (zeno)... we shall withstand, that is true but is that it? Shall we ever learn to do things the right way? Big question mark, Ramesh!

This is one topic where pages will end but thoughts will keep hitting the conscience like trace of bullets. Everything seems hunky-dory and by default, everyone seems happy with whatever growth comes on the way by howsoever manner. Howsoever with a capital H. Politicians, corporates, bureaucrats, sadhus, gurus, babus, babas, behanjis... everyone! Even the biggest of disgusting revelations are pushed under the carpet. Media is threatened to speak the evils about few puppets of nonchalant govt. CBI is intervened in its proceedings and last but not the least justice is delayed till the end of life. I cringe, my head spins and my conscience screams!

@ Appu - till when can (should) we withstand like this?

Ramesh said...

@sulo - Yes, there are a lot of ills, but I restricted in my post to how we have become so business unfriendly. That is actually easy to fix - the government has to get to largely get out of the way and the judiciary has to speeden up contract dispute resolution process. Not a big ask.

@Appu - Sometimes our resilience is our biggest weakness as we come to tolerate anything.

@gils- OMG. Naan romba saadarana aasaami saar.

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Its leadership all the way. Despite all their pluses and minuses, we have had strong leaders in the past , but at the moment there is a real crisis of leadership

@Hassan - Yes a Lee type of leader must emerge, but it is not such an impossible ask. When we last faced a massive crisis, arose PV Narasimha Rao - a most unlikely leader. He is not credited enough for the India story, but if he had not politically paved the way for liberalisation, we would be yelling Inquilab Zindabad even now on empty stomachs.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Actually I sometimes wish we were not growing and facing economic crisis - at least then we will do the right things. We badly need a great leader.

Deepa said...

Well, the leader would have to come from the masses. A lot needs to change in the mindset of the masses before its capable of sending forth a leader.

sulo said...

spot on, but do u think its not a big ask? I think its a 'fair' ask, but I am not really sure it will happen, yet again cos of the leaders who rule..

Prats said...

Very true....Indians have mastered the art of killing time and spoiling other people with the aspect of it... You know thats why I support the citizen's charter demand on Anna Hazare.

Tarun said...

This is really a sorry state from business and investors point of view; on the one hand, we have been basking on the 'India Growth Story' and positioning India (along with other BRIC nations) as the world's future growth engine given crisis situation in the US and Europe. On the other hand, the story and growth itself is being pulled back due to rampant corruption that's making it tough for businesses to operate. Even the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare seems to be hurting business / investors’ sentiment in the short-to-mid term (though there might be long-term benefits) due to the government being extra cautious in making much needed policy reforms that's good for business. This is getting reflected in dismal performance of the Indian stock market as FIIs flee for many reasons, one being ineffective policy making. With regard to corruption, I think there's a lot we can learn from the Greek episode - the corrupt government chosen by corrupt citizens led to the fall of a nation. We can't eradicate corruption overnight; it has to be dealt at both macro and micro level. We as citizens need to first weed out corruption from our daily life by taking small but consistent steps such as not paying in cash w/o bill for any product / service we purchase. At the same time, we need a very strong leadership that can withstand the pulls from different direction. Perhaps, we need a different order of leaders - some of the bright guys opting for a great career in private sector need to consider entering politics or public administration.

Appu said...

@Vishal, thanks a ton :) But no fun in agreement :) :) It is hard to predict when how and where the tipping point/breaking point of our resilince will occur? But i am sure and confident that it will happen. Cause that is how the humanity evolves...
@Ramesh Yep, have to agree with P.V Rao is not given due credit. Caravan in his profile of Manmohan does covers this and highlights how P.V Rao was so instrumental in bringing the change.

For those who havent seen it a long one and as twitterati was telling it is ironical to have such a long profile on a man who hardly speaks :)

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Yes the leader has to emerge, but she can come from the unlikeliest of places.

@sulo - Don't think its an unfair ask - as a nation we have tackled a bigger crisis in 1991 (when you were in nappies :)) with far greater fortitude and courage.

@Prats - Very true

@Tarun - As a nation we need some humility and must stop crowing about achievement and get down to action. I believe the crucial variable is leadership. If we had a Ataturk or Deng Xiaoping or even a younger Vajpayee today, it will be a different story.

@zeno - Thanks for the link. For a moment I thought the Caravan magazine of old was still alive :)

J said...

My comment seems to have disappeared :( I think the issue is that unless competent people are willing to get into politics, there is no hope for democracy.

Ramesh said...

@J - Wihtout a doubt if competent people don't come into public life, there is no hope. But there are tons of competent people in bureaucracy and in politics. Even now India has extremely effective ministers. Its just that the leadership is old and tired - after all it is the same man who is PM now who authored the miracle in 1991.

sulo said...

Awwww.... i miss my nappy days, but am sure my mom wouldnt want to time travel and do it all ovr again :D

Anonymous said...

How sa, how true! Well said!

Leadership has totally become invisible here. But this menace of politics has entangled so many people , I shudder to think how we are going to survive in future.

We should have CEOs for each state and each district running like BUs. They should own up their P&L, public welfare, growth etc and be reviewed every month on their performance.

In a way, I think we were better off under some able Kings who protected their people and also made land slide progress in economic growth of their kingdoms.

You are so right, it makes me cringe too to hear this acronym to the sacred word :(

Ramesh said...

@hema - That's exactly how China runs its goverment - each province, city, village, etc is run like a SBU. It has its faults, but there's something to be said for that system.

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