Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why we should love Politics

A very thought provoking essay on significance of politics and how it is part and parcel of our daily lives. It brings forth very elegantly the distance that we have to run for not only accepting politics as a necessary function in society but also constructively engage so that we make it the right process for the progress of our country.

The author at the beginning makes case for the fact that anyone who detests politics is actually a hypocrite and the remaining article then substantiates that point by thoughts from different political philosophers taking very relevant examples from our times.

Friday, January 30, 2009

American laws strangulating Freedom of its citizens?

A very insightful piece on how over regulation in the name of protection of Freedom of people in America is actually curbing the same thing which it is required to protect. Its a case of the fence eating the crops.

This quote from Tocqueville in that article makes so much sense

"freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. . . . Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to sacrifice their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated."

This also explains clearly, how in our society, by curbing the freedoms of our children by burdening them with too many books, exams, parental expectations, tuitions etc, we tend to nip their creativity in the budding stage itself.

Once that job is done by parents and school alike, in the later stage of their lives, people don't mind even when their freedoms are curbed by government in rampant ways.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Participating in a talk on Climate Change

Dear Reader,
I am getting a chance to speak on the theme 'Youth India on Climate Change' along with experts from the field. Though i am not an expert by any stretch of imagination on this important field, I would target to cover the importance of ecoliteracy and the ways in which we can bring about sensitization of youngsters in this direction, through means which appeal to them.
I guess there is phenomenal scope for bringing environmental aspects into the curriculum of children from primary school level itself so that they start thinking about these vital aspects from the right stage and make much larger impact through their lifetime.

It would be great if you can make it for the discussion.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nature's Healing Touch

Going for an outing is always a joy.
This weekend, I along with my wife and three friends, went for an outing to a place near Satara in Maharashtra.
Despite the fact that the long weekend made several families to rush out of the commotion of the city, we managed to figure out a place which was kind of away from the popular view.

Nature has an impeccable quality to just lay all thoughts to nought. Mountains, lakes, birds, clear sky, infite number of trees just lie there. As if they all wait for us to 'learn' from them on what is not going right in our lives. Nature it seems is a silent physician. It heals the mind by just being there. It seems to have the answer to all our questions yet maintains the humility of a lamb.

I remember the calm surface of lake with gurgling sound elegantly surrounded by majestic mountains. The gradually changing tint of the sky around sunset to a stage where it is
completely dark and the sky gets all studded by beautiful stars. It whispers- 'Let each person absorb all this the way it appeals to him/her'. No one can escape its grace, its 'naturalness', its depth, its power, its mystery...

The serenity of the place invited us to visit it another day during morning hours when it had new gifts to offer in the form of cows coming in from nowhere with lovely chime of bells dangling around their necks grazing the pasture with an absence of urgency which is at complete contrast to the commotion of city life.

We visited a vast plateau, an old temple perched on a dilapitated fortress on top of a hill, met a farmer who showed us his farms of sugarcane, tomatoes, strawberry etc.

I know lives can't be lead by staying by the side of a lake, sharing stories with friends on a hill top, climbing trees and watching meditatively at the setting sun, but still these moments remind us about the mundaneness which we so easily accept as part of our city lives.

Amongst several lessons which I learn from such trips and interactions with friends, the one which I hold dearest is to regularly sever oneself from the outer life and dive in search of something which is more constant.

To me, Nature with its qualities seems to be the external manifestation of that Inner Oasis.
I thank my friends (Kapil, Abhishek and Shilpa) for this lovely opportunity.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Steve Job's letter on his health to Apple employees

Lately Steve Jobs has been in news on account of his ailing health.

He wrote a letter to his employees in Apple to allay their apprehensions.

When a leader is a center of gravity in any organization, to the extent where people join the organization because of his/her leadership, rumours about life threatening diseases can have serious implications in terms of people getting disturbed and at times even taking important career decisions on that basis.

Its a nice example of how transparency of communication from the top can matter to the morale of the organization. Of course, for this to work, people must be used to transparency in other important times as well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Corporate Political Responsibility ?

A dear friend of mine shared this campaign which was initiated in Accenture on behest of his brother making a strong effort to use the organization communication platform to promote citizenship amongst employees.

As much as we talk about turbulent times in economic terms, there are countries in the world which are seething from politically turbulent times and that too for years. In India we don't see it as a regular affair thanks to having a democratic base (irrespective of the quality of the people representatives) and our values which are rooted in peace and amity (generally speaking). But having said that, our democracy leaves much to be desired. To me it appears like an ugly distortion of the strong political ideology.

I think this initiative from Accenture is a big message which promotes its employee base to go out and vote by actually making it part of their CSR agenda. A very active way of promoting something which our country is acutely in need of.

These are signals of making politics more palatable for the educated class. It is a small step in terms of magnitude of effort actually needed for change to be realized, but a huge step in terms of symbolism of India Inc taking the problem of our weak democracy as part of its CSR agenda. It actually is Citizen Political Responsibility being promoted the CSR route.:)

It appears like an initiative to ward off politically turbulent times.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

State kills a Hero: Assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of Sunday Leader was killed by two gunmen early this year.

In this posthumous editorial, he predicts his death giving a vivid account of the atrocities of the State in Sri Lanka against free press and individual liberty.

As can be understood from the editorial, the person sensed the risk to his life but didn't give up in the face of terror which was ironically sponsored by State.

At the end of this touching editorial, he mentions:

An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

This poem has such vital lessons for all.

Lasantha died a hero's death for the sake of values that he cherished, which were not just dear to him but also values which are central to the growth of a free society.

Thousand tributes to him.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Contextual nature of Leadership

Leadership is always contextual. Some of examples that I noticed from the Indian context which help me understand this concept better. Giving publicly known examples helps as these are instances when the entire nation or perhaps the world witnessed the events.

Situation 1.0 : When the terrorists attacked Mumbaikars on 26/11
Leadership: Commissioners of Police took charge under the direction of CM
Leadership traits called for: Experience of head on fights with armed criminals, strategic minds, very quick decision making, courageous, dare devils

Situation 1.1: When the terrorists overpowered the police leaders,
Leadership: The next rung of security experts were called upon- That was leadership from NSG commando troop
Qualities sought: Expertise in heavy armed warfare on lines of military attacks, fearless dare devils, tireless, people who work under complete command and control structures

Situation 1.2: When the nation started raising alarm over the abysmal performance of the then Home Minister- Shivraj Patil
Leadership: Replaced by P Chidambaram
Qualities sought: Past experience, proven track record, good public image, always a Man of Action under crisis and very high responsibility on a sustained level.

Situation 2.0: Satyam debacle
Leadership: Board replaced by new leadership comprising of Kiran Karnik, Deepak Parekh, C Achutanand
Qualities: Impeccable track record, great public image, experience of leading under crisis, Solid Finance knowhow

In each of the above cases, leadership of a certain nature was expected from the context. We can't substitute any of the above leaders with a situation different from what they were assigned to. All these individuals stand for certain qualities and these qualities are demands of the situation at hand.

Yet interestingly certain qualities run through all of them:
  • Courage
  • People of action
  • Sharp thinking minds
  • Positive attitude
  • Great work ethics
  • Past track record
  • Karmayogis- people whose lives revolve around their work or who are identified by the work they do

Internal Security Forces in India

Quite interesting, concise and condense piece of information on Indian Internal Security Forces.

(Click on the image to expand)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The fault Dear Brutus.....

People might argue after reading about Gautam Goswami, that dirty politics around him vitiated him but how does one explain the fall of a person like Ramalinga Raju ?

If the environment is a major factor in making a person weak, our inner constitution plays a very very important role as well.

I recollect

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.............

Gautam Goswami former DM Patna passes away: Several lessons in a single lifetime

Gautam Goswami is no more.

Some of the people are able to condense many of the values and lessons of lives in a short span.

Gautam Goswami chose to get into IAS after his medicine degree. Considering that he belongs to the batch of 1991, his age must have been around 24 yrs at that time. Which means that he managed to enter the prestigious circle at a fairly young age.Thats an indicator of his intellect and also passion for public service.

He must have entered with high ideals and proved this credentials through his efforts in managing Lok Sabha elections in Patna during his stint as DM in 1999 and after that did good job for Bihar Flood victims which led him to get recognition from one of most reputed magazines of the world- The Times.

After some time, he was accused of being part of a scam in the same event which brought him those laurels. From a ground of high morals, high recognition, valour etc he falls to the dark pit of corrupt practice and was convicted. I wonder what would have instigated a person of his potential to get into those activities?

19 months from the time of his conviction, he got to understand that he was suffering from fatal disease of cancer. And now he is no more.

His life span tells us about perseverance, public service, courage, excellence at work and despite all that being pathetically prone to human weaknesses of greed. What is the nature of our mind after all in that case? I got a similar feeling the other day when I read about a former IITian turned bureaucrat being involved in corruption.

For media it must be piece of information and probably it might be followed by some reference in magazines here and there. But such pieces of information are worth diving deeper as they have hints to very critical psychological and spiritual questions related to human motivations.

From a more reflective standpoint, I wonder what his thoughts must have been after facing the insult of conviction in the same gallows which he used to visit at one point as the DM. What must have been his thinking about his acts when at his death bed, he might have faced the same question 'How much land does a man need'?

Apparently he was writing a book while lodged in jail. It may have some deep insights for people who probably lose their values and morals as they are required to work in a system which stinks off corruption from its core.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Trends that excite me..

Some of the positive trends that I noticed in the year 2008 which captured my interest and which I would like to look forward in the year 2009 to understand their impact better:

  1. People across professional and academic strata taking interest in social activities (though i don't have any official estimate)- Would the corporates continue to volunteer for the sector in larger numbers? Will we be ready to explore other possibilities of synergy between the corporate and the social sector?
  2. Increasing trend of students to go in for the entrepreneur's route. Can we anticipate more ventures in the line of social entrepreneurship? Here's one of them
  3. PPP or Public Private Partnership is seeing an increasing level of acceptance amongst government ministries. Which implies that if you have the right person out there in the position of power, then a good idea might have a chance of getting scaled up by joining hands with the government
  4. Emergence of new political parties with more educated people in them- Loksatta, Professionals Party, Jaago Party- will these parties gain momentum as they move along? Would they be able to make any dent on the existing political setup? Should I align myself with any of them? Loksatta shows good promise, clarity of ideas and strong research foundation.
  5. Increase in awareness amongst youth about the vacuum in spirit of citizenship after the terrorist attack in Mumbai in the month of November- Lots of people started talking about doing something in the lines of improving the state of political affairs. One of the eminent persons of the city whom I met recently, stated that "these are positive sparks but they need to convert into flames and keep burning after that". Will they be able to acquire the knowhow on public administration that they lack today, would they be able to rise above their individual differences, understand the need of the hour, figure out the areas of complementing each other and actually sustain the promise with which they have come to the fore?
  6. Increasing number of debates and contests in colleges on topics related to Politics. Will the youth start taking interest in politics more than what they ever have done? Will the voter turnout for the Lok Sabha and State Elections reflect that in any respect?
  7. Newspapers are waking up to understand their own powers to bring about awakening amongst the educated population. TOI launched Lead India in 2007. Teach India movement followed it in 2008. Very strong messages were sent out all across. What vision did they had when they started it? Did they achieve it? What next in 2009?
  8. Increasing use of Facebook and other social platforms for connecting with people- So far no major political movement/ citizen group or institution in India has been able to use it effectively. Will 2009 be any different?
  9. Steady increase in popularity of RTI (Right to Information) as an instrument to bring about accountability in the government. Will this tool make the government truly answerable. The success of this tool will depend upon the intellect of the user though...

Haaaaaah ! Quite a few of them... There are action items for me as well amongst many of these.

Looking forward to 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

Can you see what best your subordinate can do?

Felt really proud to read about A R Rehman's commendable musical performance for the movie " Slumdog Millionaire" and the acknowledgement of the same by Wall Street Journal. He states at one point--

It's very difficult to get a director who understands what you're capable of," said Mr. Rahman. "Danny Boyle was definitely good luck for me. He could get what I was trying to do, and in my own little way I could get what he wanted. So if I can get another director like that I would definitely love to work in Hollywood."

I feel that this trait to understand what one's subordinate is capable of is central not just to the management concept of employee satisfaction but also to the overall capacity of organizations. If it matters for a music composer of the phenomenal calibre of Rehman, it should surely matter for any employee, student, bureaucrats or simply anyone who is working under the directions of someone. Its a supreme quality that people should acquire as they are made to be responsible for the growth of people working them. Thats one of the important litmus tests of them deserving to be in that position of authority.

Why was Einstein considered to be a laggard during his college days? Why do really capable bureaucrats end up in becoming victimized by the corrupt setup?

Probably the answer lies in that statement by Rehman