Archive for March, 2015

The ‘IDIOTS’ guide to the US Economy …

Posted on March 28, 2015. Filed under: Searching for Success | Tags: , , , , |

It is raining and the little town looks totally deserted. Times are tough and everyone is in debt and lives on credit.

On this dismal dull day there is this rich tourist who comes to town. He enters the only hotel, lays a 100 Euro note on the reception counter and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs for his stay.

The hotel proprietor takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the piggery owner. This guy takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.

The supplier of feed and fuel takes the100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the town’s whore who in these hard times gives her “services” on credit.

The hooker runs to the hotel and pays off her debt with the 100 Euro note to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she was with her clients.

The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 Euro note back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment, the tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms and takes back his 100 Euro note saying that he did not like any of the rooms and so leaves town.

No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt and looks to the future with optimism.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States does business these days.

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The Taming of Prime Minister MODI … Srinivasa-Raghavan 

Posted on March 17, 2015. Filed under: Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities, Searching for Success | Tags: , , , |

It happens to all prime ministers. The bureaucracy first makes them; then it breaks them. When he stormed the Raisina Hill citadel of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) – and other allied services – last May, socially at least Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi was a rank outsider to Delhi. He was, as the ladies of Edwardian England would have said, “that awful man”.

For the aristocracy – landed, corporate, caste or in the case of New Delhi, bureaucratic – the awfulness arose from middle-class values, at whose centre lay scruple, propriety and moral conduct. For those who call the shots, these things are inconvenient.

Mr Modi, however, wasn’t from the middle class. He was, if anything, from much lower down. In any case, Delhi’s arbiters had already declared him persona non grata.
So Mr Modi was least bothered by the dos and don’ts of Delhi’s eyebrow-raising class. But, alas, that corner room in which he now sits in South Block has an unfortunate tendency. It moulds its occupier in ways that he or she has never agreed to be moulded.

It is, in many ways, like an anulom marriage, which happens when a person marries someone from a higher status, either in class or caste, more usually the latter. He or she then acquires the rights and graces of the caste or class into which she (or he) has been married into. In the West, they call it upward mobility.

This is what has happened to Mr Modi in the short time that he has been in office. By becoming prime minister, he has married the bureaucracy, till his defeat does them par
Be warned, Sir!

It is early days yet, but the signs are all there that he is getting captured by the ladies’ maids of the government. The bureaucracy is slowly but surely creating a new Modi persona.

Thus Mr Modi is allowed minor defiance and to smirk on TV, as long as he docilely obeys on the larger issues. It is a pleasure to watch the taming.

As always, the behavioural norms are being imposed by the same tongue-clucking, the same instilling of fear and the same classic words: “It is just not done.” Et inconveniens est.

So, without perhaps realising it, Narendra Modi is becoming a gentleman. Give him a few more months and he will become indistinguishable from the people he professes to despise.

To understand the ongoing transformation, it is necessary to understand that in Delhi only the power elite really counts for anything. This elite is very tiny and comprises officers of the rank of joint secretary and above in just four ministries – home, finance, external affairs and defence.

The other officers of similar rank matter, of course, but they are the lesser nobility. Politicians, even ministers, don’t matter at all.

The main job of the core elite is to either first try to wear the prime minister down, or if that doesn’t work, frighten the daylights out of him (or her). Few prime ministers realise what’s going on and how they are being had.

The weapon used for wearing down is called “process”. It consists of internally and logically inconsistent rules, which the bureaucracy has made to cover its ample backside. Nothing stymies prime ministers more than these rules. They become helpless like beached whales.

As for frightening the prime minister, three weapons are used. One is calculated leaks. The second is malicious whispering campaigns. The third, which no prime minister can ignore, is the use of slanted intelligence inputs.

The prime minister’s goose is properly cooked if all three begin to happen at the same time. What Mr Modi can do?

Mr Modi now needs to ask himself: if the Cabinet makes policy and the legislature the laws to give those policies legal sanction, who makes the rules for carrying out the two? The bureaucracy.

And this role is always used by it to subvert the legislative intent and policy purpose. It is called “file ko ghumana” (make the file go round and round in a web and welter of process for years).

A prime minister, therefore, needs to take on the bureaucracy not by transfers alone – those are essential and important – but by severely curtailing its power to make rules. Not one of them has done so till now. All have rued it.

How is this to be done? Simple: ask the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, which is not doing anything useful now, to vet the rules. Unleash Professors Panagariya and Debroy on the babus.

They will fight back viciously as always. But this is Mr Modi’s great chance to cut off their spinach, its power to make rules.

If he doesn’t, because they have started to frighten him, well, then as the Gabbar Singh said, “Jo dar gaya, woh mar gaya.”


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How Cariappa and Ayub become Chiefs while Others …

Posted on March 2, 2015. Filed under: From a Services Career | Tags: , , , |

Courtesy Hamid Hussein –

The issue of selection of first Indian C-in-C was raised in late 1946 during the interim government. It was then that the name of Nathu Singh was floated as first Indian C-in-C. The evidence is in a letter of then Defense Minister in the interim government, Sardar Baldev Singh. His letter to Nathu dated November 22, 1946 states, ‘You have been selected and earmarked to be first C-in-C of India’. Baldev Singh elaborated in this letter that this decision was reached ‘in consultation with other political parties including Muslim League and on recommendation of Auchinleck and had the approval of the Viceroy..

Thakur Nathu Singh Rathore was commissioned in 1/7 Rajput and commanded 9/7 Rajput as well as 1/7 Rajput).  Commander Hirak Nag, a friend of Nathu’s son, Ranvijay; was a naval aviator who often met Nathu at his home.  Nathu narrated to Nag stories of his early childhood.  He  learned that Nathu was from a high caste family which was not affluent and that he was orphaned at a young age. One day when he was playing with other children, the Raja of Dungarpur approached on horse back.  All the children fled baring Nathu who stood his ground. On being asked why he too had not run away, Nathu replied that he had done no wrong and had nothing to fear.. This so impressed the Rajaj that he became Nathu’s guardian. Even the Raja’s heirs continued to support Nathu who went on to study in Mayo College and was helped to start his military career.

At the time of partition in 1947, only a very small number of Indian officers were holding the rank of Brigadier. Major General V. K.Singh, who was writing his book, obtained Nathu’s private papers from Nathu’s son Vice Admiral Ranvijay and son-in law Colonel Guman Singh (who commanded his father-in-law’s battalion – 1/7 Rajput).

Nathu’s personality was such that he minced no words and at times could be quite unbearable. The political leadership especially Nehru was not very fond of him and some interactions between the two were far from congenial.

The story goes that Nehru had invited senior army officers immediately after independence to ascertain their views about retention of British officers.  Nathu categorically stated that Indian officers were capable of holding senior appointments in the armed forces. He went on to elaborate that ‘as for experience, if I may ask, Sir, what experience have you to hold the post of Prime Minister?’

Even his brother officers occasionally found Nathu unbearable.  Cariappa though a great admirer of Nathu found him ‘arrogant and loquacious’. In March 1948, Nathu was serving as GOC United Provinces area when General Rajendra Sinhji, the Army Commander, did not grade him ‘outstanding’, Nathu represented most strongly and made Rajendra Sinhji amend his report.

In 1951, Nathu wrote to Cariappa with allegations against the Adjutant General – Major General Hira Lal Atal.  Nathu felt that the rule of four year tenure for army commander was malafide and was to clear the path for his own promotion.  The Government sent Nathu a letter of displeasure for casting aspersions on the character of a brother officer.

Nathu was a bitter and angry man at the end. He felt that he had been cheated and should have been selected as army chief after Cariappa.  He also blamed Cariappa for not standing up for the interests of the armed forces.

Nathu had clashed with British officers throughout his career and he had a nationalist outlook. In the end he admitted the fair play and was lavish in his praise of the British.

Comparing British with Indian officers he observed, “If you take the best of them, we have never produced anyone quite like them.  I have not known a British officer who placed his own interests before his country and I have hardly known any Indian officer who did not”.

General Kodandera  Madappa Cariappa (Kipper) was appointed first Indian C-in-C on January 15, 1949 and retired after a four year tenure on January 14, 1953.

The three army commanders at the time of Cariappa’s retirement were Lieutenant General Rajendra Sinhji (2nd Royal Lancers – Gardner’s Horse), Lieutenant General Nathu Singh and Lieutenant General S. M. Shrinagesh (commissioned in 2/1 Madras Pioneers and on disbandment joined 4/19 Hyderabad Regiment – now 4 Kumaon). Rajendra Sinhji was selected as second army chief. He was a scion of the princely Jadeja family of Nawannagar, He was an outstanding officer and had the distinction of being the first Indian officer to win DSO. Even in 1949 he was a top contender for the C-in-C slot and many officers favored him.

About Pakistan. 

Ayub Khan had served as GOC 14th Division in East Pakistan and Adjutant General (AG). He was chosen as first Pakistani C-in-C. Iskandar Mirza (Governor General and President) was probably instrumental in selection of Ayub for the top slot.

Ayub’s appointment as first C-in-C has been criticized.  The criticism is in the context of  ‘tactical timidity’ during Second World War in 1944-45 noted by his commander Major General ‘Pete’ Rees, GOC 19th Division in Burma where Ayub was serving with First Assam Regiment which was under direct command of Rees.

On the CO being killed Ayub assumed command and was removed by Rees when Ayub suggested that the unit was not fit for the assigned task. Rees considered this as ‘tactical timidity’ and removed Ayub from command. Rees was a highly decorated officer with a DSO and bar and a Military Cross.

Ayub survived the bad report of Rees and later re-raised and commanded his parent battalion.  Some suggest that Ayub had the negative report removed from his file when he became C-in-C.

Different Shades of Officers. 

At the time of partition, senior officers of India and Pakistan were of different shades. One group was thoroughly Anglicized.  These officers were from traditional aristocracy as well as princely families, educated at British run schools, some even in England, fully comfortable in British company and scrupulously apolitical. Cariappa, Rajindra Sinhji, Srinagesh, Thimmaya and J N Chaudhri, in India and NAM Raza in Pakistan were representatives of this group.

The second group consisted of officers belonging to rural class that had flourished under British rule either from recruitment in the army or agriculture.  These officers were culturally conservative and not thoroughly Anglicized.  Nathu Singh in India and Ayub Khan are representatives of this group. Both groups were firmly attached to the established order and were not considered to harbor any revolutionary ideas.  The fear of a coup had not yet taken hold of the political leadership.

A very small number of officers were influenced by political consciousness of the turbulent times of 1945-47.  Some expressed nationalist views while others had contacts with politicians. Nathu Singh and J. S. Dhillon (later Lieutenant General) in India and Akbar Khan (1951 conspiracy case fame) in Pakistan were not hesitant to express their nationalistic views. These officers were thoroughly professional and had an excellent service record and therefore their nationalistic views did not hinder their promotion.

On the other hand, officers like B. M. Kaul were not well regarded professionally because of their direct contacts with politicians. Their brother officers accused them of using their political contacts to advance their careers and secure senior positions which they could not attain through professional competence.

Air Marshal Asghar Khan narrates an incident that happened on Pakistan’s Independence Day on August 14, 1947. Country’s founder and Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave a reception on that day to which about a dozen officers of the armed forces were also invited. Akbar then Lieutenant Colonel suggested to Asghar that they should talk to Jinnah. Akbar told Jinnah that officers hoped that in our new country ‘genius will be allowed to flower’ but he was disappointed that ‘higher posts in the armed forces had been given to British officers who still controlled our destiny’.

Jinnah pointing his finger reprimanded Akbar saying ‘Never forget that you are the servants of the state.  You do not make policy.  It is we, the people’s representatives, who decide how the country is to be run.  Your job is to obey the decisions of your civilian masters’.

Indian and Pakistani political leadership had to choose among the available lot of relatively small number of senior officers.  All these officers were average and each had strengths and weaknesses. Thus thoroughly apolitical officers for senior positions were preferred..It was in this context that Cariappa and Ayub were chosen as first native C-in-Cs in their respective countries.

The True Officer 

Always more than one officer is capable of assuming the highest position in the army.  This does not mean that those who don’t reach the highest post are less competent. A true professional officer will always perform to the best of his abilities at any position and work though his last post. Such officers are a rare commodity. Personal ambition is an essential element in the quest for excellence and soldiers are no exception. The fine line between personal and institutional interests is sometimes blurred and becomes the basis for different perspectives.

Refs. 1. Lt. General S. L. Menezes.  Fidelity and Honour 2. Major General V. K. Singh.  Leadership in the Indian Amy: Biographies of Twelve Soldiers. 3.  and M. Asghar Khan.  We’ve Learnt Nothing From History: Pakistan: Politics and Military Power (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2005),By Hamid Hussain                             

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