Friday, 31 July 2015

Short term lateral exit for civil service

It is really intriguing to know that despite the falling standards of governance in India, more and more young men and women aspire to become civil servants  by joining IAS and other  civil services.In 2014,9.45  lacs candidates applied for the examination,6.80 lacs downloaded their admit cards for appearing in the test,4.51 lac candidates took the preliminary  examination in 2137 centres in 59 cities of India.(This was 1.27 lacs more than 2013 when 3.24 had appeared in the civil services preliminary examination)(Indian Express, New Delhi , August 24,2014).Only 0.15% got finally selected.This  makes India's Civil services Examination as  the most competitive in the world.
                                           After serving my  full term in  the IAS , I have  the opportunity to work outside the civil service.It has struck me  more than once that the civil servants  need to  be  given incentive to  move out and work for different sectors, outside the civil service , on a short term basis.Why?
           Civil servants at policy making levels  do  not have exposure to the ground realities of all the  sectors of governance.For example,  if a law  or a rule is proposed to be drafted for education, it is helpful if the education secretary and education director have a first hand experience of running a big educational  institution  in private sector for at least  two to three years.Such a lateral exposure  is likely to  give them an insight into the real life difficulties which an entrepreneur  running a private enterprise  may face.Similar is the situation for a secretary or director in the industrial development department .Different regulatory departments of the government frame rules or issue government orders , which are difficult to implement , and discourage entrepreneurs from making investments.Such a lateral tenure in the private sector can  train or prepare such civil servants for  a better understanding of the ground realities  and develop a positive attitude before formulating or proposing a policy related to  a particular sector.This can even renew their spirit  and make them aware of the inherent efficiencies of the private sector.
                          This is however not a panacea for all the ills of governance .The whole idea of lateral exit into the private sector has the risk of shifting loyalties of civil servants to the employer in the private sector , who may use the civil servants  to create policies suiting him, once the civil servants complete the period of lateral exit and return to the government .
                           The security offered to civil servants  by the constitution of India,along withe fact that promotions and postings  are not  linked to  competence and merit, except  in a very limited way.This makes them complacent and unwilling to go out of their comfort zone.That is why it is important to  encourage them to go out on lateral exit  for  a short tenure.If sufficient incentives are not given , this  valuable idea will remain only on paper.
                In 2007,guidelines were issued permitting civil servants to take up assignments for up to seven years with permitted organisations. The organisations included constitutional bodies, statutory bodies,international agencies  such as the United Nations and the World bank,NGOs,societies and autonomous bodies not controlled by the government. Further,  before 2007, an officer who went on deputation with an Indian body was not allowed to draw more than what the government paid him.But the 2007 guidelines say,"While serving in  constitutional , statutory,multilateral,or bilateral organisations,or international financial organisations,the officer shall be eligible to draw pay and allowances as per the scheme of the borrowing organisation"But such  a policy has only resulted in civil servants trying   for posts only in international bodies like the UNO,the World Bank,etc.The civil servants do not get experience of the ground realities faced by the private sector, especially the difficulties being faced by the small or middle level entrepreneurs.There is a need to introduce some qualifying service in such enterprises for promotions at different levels.



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan  won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam in 1998.I presumed that it was his best work .But it is not so .Atonement,Saturday and On Chesil Beach  are his three novels , which are far superior to Amsterdam .I really wonder what   made the jury of Booker Prize   to select this book for  the Award.
                         A 108 page novel  reads like a  long story of betrayals.Two friends  Clive and Vernon  poison each other in the end in Amsterdam in the most theatrical way .Garmony , the Foreign Secretary ,  finally loses his post.These three were the ex-lovers of  a woman   named  Molly .
                         I found the book shallow  and a waste of time . .It lowered my esteem for Ian McEwan and also for the jury of  Booker Prize .

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ceremony by Leslie Silko

Tayo , the protagonist  suffers from estrangement and alienation , on his return from captivity to his native land Laguna Pueblo reservation in  America .He was released from the mental ward at the Veterans' Hospital in Los Angeles, having been a prisoner of the Japanese during the World War II.The search  for comfort and resolution of alienation  takes him to the past ,traditions and beliefs  of  Native  Indians in  America.He questions those beliefs and witchcraft and ancient stories and folklore.This search  itself becomes a ceremony which cures him of his despair.
              This is the first book  by Leslie Marmon Silko  , read by me .She took me into her world Laguna Pueblo Reservation , a world full of stories.
                        "  He was tired of fighting .If there was no one left to trust, then he had no more reason to live.(page 122).Nothing was ever lost as long as the love remained(page 220)."
    Ceremonies have always been changing."At one time , the ceremonies  as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then .But after the white people came,elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies.I have made changes in the rituals.The people mistrust this greatly , but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong."(page126).But ceremonies need to be completed .                Was there some way to stop?It all depends how far you are willing to go.(page 230).Without friends , he didn't have a chance of completing the ceremony.(page 241).In an alien place , you doubt the ceremony.Ceremonies and stories are related.All stories fit together.The world as it always was , has no boundaries.(page 246).

."You don't have anything if you don't have the stories".The story behind each word must be told , and this demanded great patience and love.A world  is made of stories.We should feel stories happening to us.Some part of a story we have together, and some part we have alone.
 It takes a long time to tell  people the story.They ask questions about the location and the time of the day,the direction she had come from and the color of her eyes.
                   I enjoyed  reading this beautiful book.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Changing a system while being a part of it

Can a person change the "system" from within, being a part of the "system"? Many idealistic young men and women  attempt to do it.They join  the civil services with a view to change the "system" which includes not only the civil services but also the political system as also the lager society.My answer is that they cannot change the system while being a part of the very system .Why?
                 The reason is that civil servants are required to obey the  service conduct rules.These conduct rules  put several   severe  restrictions on what they can say or do in public  , and what  they cannot.Any violation of conduct rules can be punished , with suspension .These conduct rules and their alleged violations  make the civil servants quite vulnerable , and drastically reduces their capacity to  take up  fights with vested interests.
                      Further , it also raises several ethical issues including the accountability of civil servants to the government of the day.Many decisions of the government may be morally indefensible but may not be illegal.Such decisions have to be implemented by the civil servants.Under the existing scheme of things , the government is accountable to the legislature, and not the civil servants per se.
                   The moral is that if someone wants to change the  "system",he or she  needs to do it by coming out of the government .And then   he or she may  try to change the mindset of the public which  accepts and creates this 'system'.Otherwise , such attempts at change  are likely to fail.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Joy of Books :Confessions of a Llifelong Reader by Eric Burns

Any book ,which inspires me to read  more  books, is a book worth reading .The Joy of Books :Confessions of a Lifelong Reader by Eric Burns is one such book.Eric Burns  is a former TV journalist  with NBC  News.This book was published in 1995  when there were no e-books and no Kindle.But still , it makes a strong plea for printed , literary books.
               The Joy of Books is about history of books as well as a history of reading .It makes a case in favour of  printed books  over TV or Movies.It gives an insight that books" raise possibilities",It also narrates many instances of book burning and censorship,and the psychology of people behind such attitudes.
            The author points out  the relationship between a writer and reader as also between a reader and another reader.We read books for the pure joy of reading .The author also compares how our experience is different when we  read a book for the second or third time.It is a short book of 182 pages , and is worthy of your time .