Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Civil Service as a career . . . .An address to the Youth

I got this opportunity to address about 2000 meritorious students of all City Montessori Campuses of  Class 12th(ISC 2012 Batch) on 28th November , 2011  in Lucknow .The subject was career guidance , with special reference to the option of civil services as a career.One of my motivations was to inspire some of those bright youths , who have the character as well as the ideals to build the nation and serve the masses ,to join the civil services.
Two broad options before the youth of today are  to become an entrepreneur , or to go for a job .Entrepreneurship gives freedom  but involves uncertainties and insecurities .This is a whole , wide area , and I decided to speak about it at length in a separate session .
For those who want to go for a job , the two major  areas are the government / public sector on one hand , and the private sec tor / multinationals on the other hand.In India , in government sector , we have All India services and central services.The three All India services are IAS(Indian Administrative Service), IPS(Indian Police Service) and IFS(Indian Forest Service).The central services include IRS(Indian Revenue Service), IC&CES(Indian Customs and Central Excise Service), IFS(Indian Foreign Service), IRTS(Indian Railways Traffic Service)IPoS(Indian Postal Service),IA&AS(Indian Audit &Accounts Service) , etc.
At the state level , we have PCS(Provincial Civil Service) and PCS(J) (Provincial Civil Service Judicial).We also have PCS Allied Services like Transport , Taxation Service , etc.
At local level , we have municipal  services and Panchayat services.
It is very difficult to compare the services in the public /government sector with those in the private sector including those in the multi- nationals.In public domain , we also have non-profits , International agencies like the World Bank  and the UNO/UN agencies , Universities and professionals.All India services /central serviceslike  IAS/IPS/IRS have some unique edge over the private sector jobs.
1.There is a security of job under article311 of the Constitution of India .
2.Salaries have become competitive , especially after the Sixth Pay Commission .
3.These services enjoy status, prestige and recognition in the society .
4.These have administrative powers .They also have proximity to political power.
5.IAS offers tremendous variety of jobs like:
1)Governance , security against terrorism , Food security , Elections , Global climate change , Environment , Clean water and air .
2)Strategic thinking , policy analysis and policy formulation .
3)Developmental project preparation and implementation .
4)Education , health ,Poverty alleviation , HIV.
5)Protocol , representing state /country in national /international fora.
6)To serve the hungry,the poor,the sick , the illiterate.To bridge the gap between India and Bharat.To do this , "be the change you want to see' .To be the catalyst for social and economic change and to build the nation .
6.Civil services develop the personality and leadership at  a young age.You are the District Collector and Magistrate when you have the service of just four years.
7.You develop the ability to resolve difficult problems , to act under stress and to handle difficult situations.
8.Close touch with people brings cultural awareness.
9.After retirement , you get good pension , family pension and post retirement health benefits.
10.Political neutrality of civil servants preserves democracy .
11.All India services foster unity in the country .
12.ICS was constituted under Government of India act of 1858.The then  British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, speaking in the House of commons in 1935 said:"ICS is the steel frame on which the whole structure of government and of administration in India rests"It shows how important ICS was .Though not as strong , but still , IAS is quite strong frame of government structure even today .
In 2009 , size of IAS cadre in the country was 5159.Out of this two third are regular recruits and one third are promoted  from PCS and other state services. They occupy most of the top positions in the departments of Government of India, state governments , and at district level.
These are some of the strong positive sides of why the youth of today may opt for joining civil services .But the downsides are also there as below:
1.Nexus with political corruption .Erosion of ethics and values .
2.Discretion leads to nepotism, favouritism,partisanship,inequity and particularism.
3.Political intervention and administrative acquiescence, and at times connivance.
4.Politicisation , promoting the interests of political party in power in policy formulation and implementation .
5.Joining the culture of sycophancy, stifling creativity and individual objectivity .
6.Doing wrong , immoral and outright illegal things .
7.Frauds,violence and encounters.
8.Recuiting people on government jobs , not on merit but because they are your "own" people .
9.Alienation and demotivation .
10.Frequent transfers and insecurity of tenures.
11.Lack of professionalism .
12.Lack of transparency .
13.Lack of accountability.
14.Poor capacity building , incompetence and mediocrity.
15.Inefficient incentive system.
16.Systemic inconsistencies in promotion and empanelment.
17.Systemic inefficiencies ,delays and cost over-runs.
18.Dull , repetitive job with little scope for individual creativity and personality.
19.Posing in remote , small districts, where urban amenities are absent.
20.Jack of all trades , master of none.
Despite all these downsides , civil services continue to be front runner as a career .For example ,in 2010 examination 5.48 lacs persons applied .Out of these, 2.69 lacs appeared in the preliminary examination .Out of these,12491 qualified for the mains examination .Out of these ,2589 qualified for the personality test .Finally ,920 were selected in various civil services .717 were males and 203 were females .
What  course should one study before joining IAS ?In my views , you should study for a degree in any subject that you love .It may be arts , science , engineering , medicine, MBA , or any other degree .Nothing goes waste.
 You will become an IAS officer after six years or so ,when you will cross the age of 21 years.Till that time , you must plan how to achieve your dream of becoming an IAS officer.You must select the books you want to read for this purpose, and read them .You must decide which service to join.You must aim to get at least 60% marks in the examination.

Be an IAS officer of my dreams.Try to develop within you the following values:
1.Honesty and integrity
2.Efficiency and competence.
3.Positive outcome , result orientation .
5.Political neutrality
8.Idealism to build nation and society
How will UPSC ensure the seletion of such IAS officers?Some changes will be needed in the system of recruitment .The new system will call upon to measure the character , integrity and above mentioned values, and select the candidates on that basis as well, in modification of  present system .UPSC also  needs to measure the mission orientation of the candidates.
There is also a need to set up an academy in each state to inspire and train youth to be an IAS officer.
One important question will still remain .Is it possible to delink the performance of a civil servant from politics in a democracy ?I think , the answer to this question may come from some visionary  political leader like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel .Till that happens , we have no option but to work with the existing systems.

After I finished my talk , there were a number of questions by young boys and girls , indicating their keen interest in the civil services as a career option .Even if 5 of them become IAS officers of my dream , my address would be  most satisfying .


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Living and the process of Creative Destruction

                          Erwin Schrodinger, the famous Physicist wrote a book called"What is Life?"This book was published in 1944 , and was related to the physical aspect of the living cell. It had an unusual cross disciplinary sweep including  Biology,Mathematics,Quantum Mechanics and Philosophy.At the end of Preface , he quoted from Spinoza's Ethics,"There is nothing over which a free man ponders less than death:his wisdom is,to meditate not on death but on life"
"What constitutes living ?" is  a question entirely different from the one raised and answered by Schrodinger in his book .It becomes more subjective but useful when we seek to find answer to the question:"What constitutes  quality of life?
Robert N. Butler,M.D. , in his book "The Longevity Revolution"-'The benefits and challenges of living a long life' has given the following Quality-of-Life Indicators:
1.Physical Well-Being:Energy and Function ,Sexuality, Quality Health Care and Health, Freedom from Pain,Preservation of Senses(e.g. vision and hearing), Adequate Rest and Sleep and Mobility.
2.Financial and Material Well-Being :Financial Security and Independence, Income from a variety of Sources, Property , Employment, Social Mobility.
3.Personal Well-Being:Mental Health and Happiness, Self-esteem/Dignity, Identity, Continuing Growth/Reinvention of the self through life. Body Image/Appearance, Memory , Control Over One's Life/Independence, Morale, Freedom from Excessive Stress, Adaptiveness, Choice/Opportunity,Education, Love.
4.Social Well-Being:Having Family , Friendship,Neighborhood,Social Network, and Support System,Internet Access, Environmental Well-Being, Clean Air and Water, Public Order and Safety(Crime-Free)
5.Purposeful Well-Being:Contribution to others/Altruism,Philanthropy,Productive Aging or Engagement,Knowledge(Truth)
6Aesthetic Well-Being:Exposure to Theatre,Music,Arts, Humanities(Beauty),Leisure time,Learning
7.Joyfulness:Pleasures-Big and Small,Merriment-Exhilaration,Food-Recreation-Travel,Adventure-Excitement
8.Moral Well-Being: Clear Conscience(Goodness)
9.Spirituality:Beyond Self,Personal Beliefs,Serenity-Tranquility,Meditation
10.Enjoyment of One's Lifetime:Feeling that"it has been good to be alive"
11.Life Satisfaction:Reminiscence  and Life Review, Accomplishments,Full Life, Creativity,Serenity
12.Present-ness:Elementality,Simplicity, Freedom from Preoccupation with Past and Future
13.End of Life:Quality of Dying , Sense of Control , Quality of Care(Control of Pain and Suffering).
The above creates a very exhaustive list of Quality of Life indicators.How do we relate these to the real living, even in a general way?
In Indian Philosophy , Living gets manifested in three forms: Creation , Preservation , and Destruction .These are represented by Gods :Brahma , Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva).All the activities which constitute living, fall in one of the following classes.Creative activities , preservation activities , and destruction activities .All these are important .But in our day to day life , we often give more time and resources to the activities related to preservation .We give fewer resuorces and less time to creative and destruction activities.There is a need to restore the balance between Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva .
While Creation is regarded as a positive and desirable activity , destruction is perceived as negative and undesirable .This is a mis-conception .Destruction of evil , wasteful , dysfunctional , redundant , discouraging and inefficient is an extremely positive and essential part of life.Certain things  must be destroyed so that the new can take its place.
Joseph A. Schumpeter in his book "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy" has included a full chapter(Chapter VII) entitled"The Process of Creative Destruction".I quote him:"The opening up of new markets,foreign or domestic,and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation-if I may use that biological term-that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one,incessantly creating the new one.This process of Creative Destruction is essential fact about capitalism.It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in".Schumpeter also says that those revolutions are not strictly incessant;they occur in discrete rushes which are separated from each other by spans of comparative quiet.The process as a whole works incessantly however, in the sense that there always is either revolution or absorption of the results of revolution, both together forming  what are known as business cycles.
This raise questions about our appraisal /judgment of the performance of a system as well as a business strategy .  All performance appraisals as well as strategies have to be seen , analyzed and adopted in  the light of this perennial process of creative destruction.
I find the process of living inextricably related to this wider process of Creative Destruction , which Schumpeter has so beautifully pointed out .

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Technology in Energy Services

On 11.11.2011,I chaired a session on Technology in Energy Services in the annual convention  organised by Lucknow Management Association , an affiliate of AIMA(All India Management Association) , at  Lucknow.The  speakers on the panel were Sri  Alok Kumar IAS , Secretary Industrial Development , Government of UP , and Sri S. C. Srivastava, Professor of Electrical Engineering , IIT , Kanpur.
 Energy   has become essential for life.We have become used to  regular power supply round the clock .The demand for electricity is increasing , and is likely to increase faster over the next few years .We , therefore need the latest and the best technology in the world to fulfill our increasing demand  for electricity, in all the three areas  connected with electricity-generation , transmission and distribution .
We must aim at developing technologies which are cleaner , greener , more efficient and cheaper.Yet , it seems that whatever we may wish , we have no option but to accept that coal will remain the predominant source of power generation in our country for at least the next two decades.The  ash content in Indian coal is high , between 40% to 50%.We  need a technology which can result in reduced emissions of Carbon dioxide , Nitrogen Oxide,Sulphur Oxide and  particulates and a technology that reduces coal consumption, thereby reducing costs and improving thermal efficiency.These are  ultra super-critical technologies.
We also need to develop  technologies to economize energy consumption in all sectors .Whether these are  paper mills , or sugar mills , or other industries , we need to develop technologies which are energy efficient .We need energy efficient systems for supplying water for irrigation .We must encourage the use of LED over conventional or CFL bulbs , for domestic use.
We must  encourage the use of latest technology in metering of power so that theft of power can be minimized and consumers get correct bills for the power consumed .Prepaid smart cards  for power supply are to be encouraged .Technology improvements are also needed  in Grids and transmission areas.
Apart from Solar and Photovoltaic  and wind energy  sectors , we need to develop safe technologies to generate nuclear power on a large scale .In October201`0 , India drew up a plan to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63000 MW in 2032, from the present 4780MW. 
The audience was concerned about the mounting losses in public utilities related to power  .There were a number of questions and suggestions on use of tamper-proof meters as also a better use of information technology for consumer  billing , complaints redressing and citizen satisfaction .Some questions related to the higher damage rate of transformers . Issues related to power- cuts and outages, were also raised .
                     Three thing emerged  clearly :
1.The audience was aware of the technology based solutions and were ready to pay higher cost for better power supply.
2.They were also clear that governance issues needed to be addressed simultaneously .
3A big push  is urgently required from all the key stake holders. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Talk to the District Magistrates of Uttar Pradesh

On 13th October,2011,I had the opportunity to address an audience comprising Secretaries to the  State Government , Heads of departments , District Magistrates and representatives of Chambers of commerce and industry and the faculty members from Institute of Smart Governance , Hyderabad .The venue was Administrative Training Institute of UP , at Lucknow.The occasion  was the capacity building in e-governance and Launch of web portal Nivesh Mitra for helping the entrepreneurs.
Essentially, I  talked about three things.
1. There has to be good governance of e-governance .E-governance must be reliable, as a system.

2. If you want to look back on your life with satisfaction that you did something, then choose some e-gov projects and adopt them as your own child, and nurture them
3. Deficit in ethics cannot be filled by technology. Ethics is the foundation, technology is the super-structure

Here is the video:

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Classic Tale of Love and Mystery

I first read this book in 1980, and liked it then .I have read it  now after31 years , and rate it as a true Classic .Daphne Du Maurier  got it published in 1938 , when she was 31 years old .She tore up the initial fifteen thousand -word long draft, and wrote it a second time.
The most striking feature of the novel is its suspense and mystery , which Du Maurier has been able to maintain till the very end. Rebecca is the first wife of Maxim  De Winter , and is dead.Her story is revealed through the second wife of Maxim, who does not reveal her  own name in the book .No doubt , Rebecca is the real heroine.She is a powerful character.Even though dead , she lives through her house-keeper Mrs Danvers, who adores Rebecca and is fiercely loyal to her, even after Rebecca's death .So much so that when she learns about the real cause of death , she sets the beautiful mansion  called Manderley on fire and completely destroys it .
Rebecca was a complex personality. She was beautiful and magnetic.She had beauty , brains and breeding .But the marriage of Maxim and Rebecca was a failure , right from the start .She had a number of male friends and "lovers" in London and even around Manderley.She was not in love with anyone .Love-making was a game with her, as Mrs Danvers would later reveal .But she suffered from  Cancer too , and this secret she had kept even from her most loyal house-keeper also .Probably , before her death , she had only three or four more months to live .
Maxim's marriage with the narrator of the novel , who is young and nearly half his age, takes place , on the proposal of Maxim , one year after the death of Rebecca.Though he says he loves her , it is doubtful, as reflected by his conduct .Perhaps he needed a companion.She , on the other hand , loves him , and is ready to  blindly support him , even when she finds him involved in murder.She is timid , under-confident and over awed by the shadow of Rebecca , in the beginning , but slowly and steadily , overcomes all her fears and becomes confident .
The mystery whether the death of Rebecca would be proved murder or suicide , remains till the very end .
The book is very subversive about the idea of love .Neither Rebecca , nor Maxim seem to care for love .The burden of love is carried by the nameless, poor  , timid , narrator , the second wife of Maxim de Winter.
The book has poetry and imagery , mystery and suspense , and much more qualities that makes it truly classic . The book needs to be read , re-read , and re-examined by everyone.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS IS REAL . . . . . . . . . . .

‘The Inconvenient Truth’ and ‘Our Choice’ by Al Gore are the two books highly recommended to understand the urgency of global climate crisis.
There is universality of opinion among the world community of scientists that global climate crisis is real and it will come, unless we wake up to it. We may have dispute about the opinion but we must not have dispute about the fact. About two three years back there was flood like situation in Mumbai and scientists attributed it to Global Warming. Katrina hurricane became intense because of Global Warming. There are thousands of such instances to prove that global climate crisis is real and it is a fact we must not deny.
Some people feel that the problem is so massive that no one can do anything about it. So we move from denial to helplessness. This is not a right approach. There is no helplessness. It is for all of us to act in a way that we can cope with this crisis.
Combating climate crisis is a long term battle. It may even cross our life span, but this battle has to be fought as if it is not fought, there will be a deluge and the entire world will be swept away.
Why the climate crisis is an inconvenient truth?
The truth is that the globe is warming is inconvenient because it makes us think to change our life and behavior and even our thinking in a manner that is not convenient to us.
There is a long list of what all we can do as an individual, as community and as government to deal with this crisis.
We need energy but is it thermal power plants that we need or the solar or wind energy? The answer is obviously the latter. But solar energy is very expensive. The state of Uttar Pradesh has a target of becoming self sufficient in power supply by installing 25000 mega watts thermal power plants by the next five years. All thermal power means contributing to global warming.You may question :Is it a right decision?We get electricity through thermal power generation plants which have high emission of CO2 . In case if these thermal power plants are stopped, what will be life with only 12 hours of electricity supply? Very inconvenient. We want 24 hours of electricity supply till we are alive and we get the same but through thermal power plants. Uttar Pradesh does not have hydro or nuclear plants . Wind and solar energy are cosmetics. You cannot live with that. You can not supply this energy to all the sectors of economy- domestic consumers, industry and agriculture . Technologies in this regard are not sufficiently developed and in case thermal power plants are stopped, we will face lot of inconvenience. That is why Al Gore said it is an inconvenient truth. The point is that solar or wind energy if produced at commercial scale will be very costly . As government, world community or opinion makers we have to correct the market signals.What are the market signals?Tax those projects that have high CO2 emission. Thermal plants are those kind of projects.
Help overcoming political obstacles at international levels. Americans may consume hundred times more energy than the Indians do but they want to have equal parameters when it comes to taking steps about global warming. That is the politics about it.
These may be difficult issues but as they say, charity begins at home. One has to be an active ,agile partner in this political process that ultimately assumes global dimensions.
For example it is told that the rail is more energy efficient compared to aviation but will anyone who can afford air travel decide today that he/she will travel by train instead of air? It is inconvenient in many other ways also.
Take the case of paper mills. Paper mills are one of the most energy inefficient sectors in the world. Should these be closed? We use paper tissues usually now in place of hand-kerchiefs simply because of convenience. Do we know that paper industries are surviving more on tissues and packaging than on writing papers but if we devise a policy resulting into the closure of paper mills, it will be highly inconvenient –what about the workers employed in the mills? What about the capital invested and loans given by the financial institutions? And we decide to let the paper mills continue and devise those technologies which will consume less water and energy .But when will those technologies be devised and what will happen to the global warming till then? These are the questions that surface the inconvenient truth before us.
If Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt can initiate Chipko Andolan and create change in entire Uttarakhand, why not we?
At individual level, there are four most important things one can do, as follows: 1. We must save energy. Consume less of every thing , as everything that goes into building any material requires energy. Become a conservative society instead of consumptive society.We are extracting natural resources in order to make our life more and more comfortable and ultimately at the cost of our future generation.
2. Plant more trees but then each of these should be maintained and protected.
3. Use Public Transport.
4.Use less paper and create more paper less offices. Use more information technology but then the issue of E Waste will also need to be addressed.
We will have to make compromises on our comforts and costs . We will not leave this problem for our future generation to pay for it. That would be highly immoral. In that case, we will start hating ourselves. If we do not take proper measures there will emerge a situation in future where the temperature will be very high, floods will be very frequent and things will become so difficult that it will be as good as death.
I do not have solutions but I surely know that we will have to take certain inconveniences if we are serious about global warming, climate change.
How do we go about it? In a way all our material progress is contributing to global warming. It has to be a total paradigm shift in the model of progress. Sustainable development where there is no or limited scope of thermal generation. Alternatives are very few and inconvenient.
Wherever we are ,we must know that global warming is real and we must take small inconveniences in our daily life to ward off the dangers that global warming imposes upon us.