Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lecture on "Insurance Related Issues"

Lecture on "Insurance Related Issues" by Shri. K. Chandrahas, IRS, Insurance Ombudsman, Hyderabad at Sanskriti hall, PCDA Bangalore on 29th March 2010.

All you see is unadulterated hypocrisy

By Sudhansu Mohanty
Published in New Indian Express on 25 Mar 2010 11:59:00 PM IST

IT may be rather facetious to suggest but I’m quite tempted to say that nothing amuses me more than a ringside view and watch the world go around. It’s fun to observe the Indian circus — an endless game of twists and turns, blows and counter-blows — as the protagonists hold centrestage and amuse and bemuse the bystanders.
It is so well-scripted and choreographed that often in one such moment of trance one may be forgiven for living in a surreal world of magic realism that any fiction writer would dare capture and conjure in his novel. This, the hypocrisy of being — the charade of our everyday existence — that passes off as bravura and grandstanding.
Look around you and all you see is pure and unadulterated hypocrisy. It is everywhere — omnipresent, omnipotent, even omniscient. Be it the brouhaha over padma awards or the tragi-comedy called SPS Rathore with his Nehruvian smile or the Sukna land scam and many such others, the underlying impression is the same: all these are false accusations with the fourth estate the favourite punching bag for carrying out a scurrilous media trial that’s no better than a trial in a kangaroo court! Their argument: An accusation doesn’t make anyone a criminal till proven so only after decades of judicial foot-dragging. Till such time the party must go on. And, of course, honour be showered!
That’s the India, Hamara Bharat Mahaan we live in. Where hypocrisy rules like a potentate — untrammeled, unflustered, and unquestioned. A senior IAS couple caught with wads of currency notes running into a few crores at home. Another IAS officer raided and found with wealth far beyond legitimate earning. A chief justice of a high court stopped in his track to elevation to the Supreme Court bench upon intense clamour of legal luminaries. Yet every such public servant in the dock keeps protesting his spiel of honesty. Swap the protestations of honesty with protestation of efficiency and see where it takes people up the totem pole: often to the gubernatorial office as a post-retirement sinecure.
It is as if today’s India is run on this high-octane fuel of hypocrisy, chicanery and claptrap. Nothing else matters except the ability to network. If you are a highly networked individual (HNI) your ascent up the greasy pole is assured. This is not only for the public servants. This holds good also for the corporate honchos, business magnets, technologists and everyone in society who aspires for instant gratification and nirvana: sanskritization and upward social mobility in a closed class- and caste-laden social order. People in position are respected, even feted — this regardless of their feet bogged in clay and their hands in the till.
Make no mistake — this cocktail is headier than any potent combine of the spirits. Take the issue of networking. Close to two decades ago I worked with a senior officer whose only claim to fame was to show the path of how not to work in government; he was indeed the apotheosis of this craft. He did no work, didn’t have the inclination to, but somehow “managed” to sail through. To be fair to him though he was an excellent networker who hosted lavish parties and managed to get invited to parties thrown by the powers-that-be. I wasn’t surprised in the least when he went up and up the slithery path to occupy enviable posts in the government of India.
To be honest, he is not in a minority, let alone minuscule. Not long ago there was this gentleman — dumb, asinine, and inarticulate — who understood little of what was going on in the ministry he headed. To call him a half-wit would be an offence to the genuine nitwits; he was a no-wit, or, at best a “quarter-wit”. In all fairness he kept long hours in the office slouching over files trying to unravel the mystery wrapped in sundry unwieldy, nettlesome cases that were simply beyond his humble cranium’s comprehension. But that didn’t come in his way — pre- and post-retirement — and he too like other highly-networked blessed angels landed himself in successive gilded sinecures. This is what networking does for you. It makes leaders out of monkeys. There is a plenitude of such impulses doing the beat in all fields. How else do you explain the rapist Rathore being made the DGP of a state after the molestation case had been filed? Or, how else an intellectually dishonest Pachauri (who artfully flaunts himself as a Nobel laureate and acts as a consultant to financial institutions like Deutsche Bank and Pegasus, an investment firm) be flaunted as India’s answer to solving global climate change?
If you still have any doubts about the goings-on, look at the padma awards that kick up shindig year after year for a few days (mercifully!) shortly after its announcement on Republic Day eve — to be quickly forgotten thereafter. It is largely a game of spoils — with much lobbying and jockeying that is endemic to the system — showered to reward newly “discovered” merits lying hitherto unrecognised till the high and mighty are benefacted and feel obligated to confer the spoil.
Of course, the high and mighty too often award to themselves honours, forgetting (did you say?), Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad’s vintage words: “We cannot attach to our achkans the awards that is our job to confer on others”, but whoever today cares about these obsolete moralities.
This issue of immorality, nepotism, and venality is not confined to the government functioning alone. It is very democratic and equitable, it is everywhere. Satyam is certainly not the last case we have heard about from Indian Inc. We have struck such levels of moral depravity that MBA schools are today asking students to take a variant of Hippocrates oath to maintain moral rectitude in professional career, not realising that it is a vain, vapid ask.
Morality has to be appropriated from within, not taught or imposed from without. We modern-day Nostradamus are purblind, and we refuse to see the writing in the wall.
Morality and law are not exactly strangers to each other. Nor are they antithetical. While morality preaches, law imposes. Sadly both are major failures — one for lack of takers, the other for lack of will. The endgame is the same: upward social mobility where get-rich-by-any-means is the mantra and the open sesame to entry into this cloistered world that is a strange amalgam of feudal values, socialist preaching and capitalist Epicureanism, and where sunlight is not the best disinfectant simply because it is shut out.
This is the hypocrisy we live, breathe, and eat that no noonday iridescent will be able to lift. There is no light of any affirmative action on steroids. Because today it’s the being and everything-ness! Stranger still: we manage to survive amid this conundrum of being and times of glib hypocrisy, even without scalding India’s soul. And this is not a radical fringe statement. Pray, did I go wrong somewhere? Touché!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Loneliness of the honest mandarin

By Sudhansu Mohanty 12 Mar 2010 01:05:00 AM IST

       In the wake of myriad scams, probes, malfeasances, and involvement of exalted worthies in the sleazy world where Mammon is the veritable God, much light has been thrown on the bumbledom that babudom is. What though is often missed is the existence of a clutch of honest mandarins who — a microscopic minority — are as inured to the allurements blandished about much as the scandalous ilk are in love with.

       Theirs is a lonely world, a world made lonelier by the quotidian struggle they have to carry out to prove their points of view, the inevitable clash with the majority syndrome they love to loathe, and their endeavour to stay sane that’s indeed surreal. In moments of introspective unwinding they tend to question their raison d’etre: “Why am I different from most others?” The question gnaws and assails them, intrudes their sub-conscious and sneaks up in the most private recesses of mind and time: sleep and consciousness.

       A few generations past, the sight of the dishonest and corrupt, branded and leading a shadowy life, was not infrequent. Society’s accusing finger pointed inexorably at the corrupt, and the obloquy was enough chastisement, not to forget that his colleagues considered him a pariah. But it was when the honest lived with head held high and was respected in the society, and the corrupt literally scampered for cover.

       From days when most were honest we have hurtled to a time when honest bureaucrats are a rare species leading inconsequential lives — alienated, morose, and at peace with none. They are looked upon as no-one’s men who lead lonesome lives at life’s edge.

       The honest consciously stays off the cutthroat, acquisitive, possessive world. His salary he deems as just reward; his internal moral compass abhors harbouring thoughts of filthy lucre. This abhorrence is so firmly embedded in his psyche that his entire outlook is hooked to this abstraction. Consequently, anything he performs in life is coloured by this trickle-down catechism.

       To say this is not mere speaking in Mammon’s argot. It is far more sweeping and embraces the society’s way. While sleaze enriches and brings honour and respectability to the wiseass, it goes far beyond: it sets the pattern of life, acts as a catalyst for social change and, over time, promotes normative thinking. The ACR (or APAR today), that annual totem of one’s merit, written after placing his achievements under the microscope, could at best be lacklustre, if not outrageous, and this can take no one nowhere: not a good posting, not a deputation, not a foreign assignment and not a foreign training. He is stuck in his routine, pen-pushing, as he watches his colleagues — the highly-networked ones — move about places. Promotions, if he achieves without hiccups, he only can thank his stars. For it is a marvel if he comes out of the bureaucratic juggernaut unscathed and with his scruples intact.

       Socially, he is a recluse, who shuns talking shop and sharing the bureaucratic titbits with colleagues whose passion for the job knows no official bound. He’s little nothing to share, he is at a loss to keep his end up with gossipy, syrupy low-downs that every august denizen relishes, the sort that provide the grist for the prying mill. He has no love for the cavalier way a file was held up by his all-knowing colleague to extract the flesh due, nor can he put newer, brighter ideas into the latter’s febrile mind. In his naive, nascent mandarin years he would have argued his heart out, passionately, but as he grows in years and matures, he prefers taciturnity to gauntlet-picking. The febrile lot finds little solace levelling with him. He can’t provide the answers, often couldn’t care to, for he is averse to such ingenuities and would love to extirpate it in the bud if he could; is lackadaisically slow to warm to their passions, their life’s passions that is; demented to life’s saucy offerings, and clearly lacking the guts that such ingenuities so sedulously demand. Yet, when roused from his self-imposed reticence, he could demolish their worldviews and extant societal norms and goings-on, even storm out in the most tremendous huff. Quick to realise, the majority isolate and ostracise him.

       Our honest mandarin’s cup of alienation is complete. The facade of equanimity so deftly cultivated from his training days is no insurance against his feeling lost. All around him he sees every value he cherished since childhood crumbling, if not already crumbled. Personal enrichment at the cost of fairness, doubletalk to provide a veneer of logic, networking to self-aggrandise, gnaws his heart. If he lets the bully out, he’s sunk. His eyes now large pools of suffering, he consciously slithers into his shell.As a social animal he finds it an anathema. And a torture. How much and for how long can he be bound up in his own world and hermetically seal himself from the society? He knows he is an oddball in the majority’s eye, but his mind refuses to join the mainstream, for they are only a few, just a few, of his ilk left, and they too like him, lead quiet, unobtrusive lives, beyond the mainstream’s pale: an endangered species. He suffers alone and with him, his family. No amount of abstractions he tries to imbue his family with can hold the majority society at bay. The high visibility of his next-door neighbour’s living does not help matters. He tends to question his modus vivendi, at times — in moments of unmitigated blues — even his principles’ rationale.

       The heebie-jeebies pass and he pulls over, turbo-charged — unrepentant, determined, unyielding — to battle a new day, refusing to cop out, going hard for the sake of his principles, his raison d’etre in this ghoulish world that he refuses to monkey for himself. Bonjour!

(The writer is controller of defence accounts, Bangalore. The views expressed are personal)
© Copyright 2008 ExpressBuzz
(Published in The New Indian Express dated: March 12th 2010)