The Indian challenge

On this Saturday morning, I suddenly remembered that India was playing Malaysia in the Asia Cup. I did not remember the date of the match. It has taken place yesterday in Malaysia. It was the semi-finals of the Asia Cup and India had beaten Malaysia 2-0. So far, so good. On an impulse, I clicked on this link from NDTV Sports. It was an update on the match as it progressed.

These lines caught my eye:

20:45 (IST) So goals from Raghunath and Mandeep help India beat Malaysia 2-0 and book a final against Korea on Sunday. With this win India also secure a spot in the FIH World Cup in 2014 in The Hague. Winning the Asia Cup is inconsequential now for India.

How can winning a tournament be less consequential than just qualifying for another tournament a year later? If you lose the finals, what is the message that India is sending to other contestants in the World Cup in 2014? Isn’t it very likely that they think that India qualified luckily or that India would not pose a consistent threat? How does this elementary logic escape us?

Our guys do not understand the importance of winning and winning  consistently to establish mental dominance. Isn’t this attitude a stumbling block for a nation that still (despite the disastrous last nine years) harbours the ambition of becoming a great power some time in the future?

Rebooting institutions

I came across this interesting and insightful (as usual) interview of Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi carried by MINT Asia. This particular observation caught my attention and made me reflect on it:

You will have to reboot institutions and institutional practices, although you have to be careful about using the word institutions in the Indian context. Politicians are using the word institutions as a way of displacing responsibility.

Somebody has to take decisions for these institutions to be rebooted—someone has to say very clearly that we don’t do business this way any more. So, in that sense, there is a role for the political leadership.
I am glad that he added this clarification because institution building is so nebulous and abstract for many. A lot of people talk about respecting and building institutions but never choose to go further. Institutions are not self-created. Humans  – with all their faults – have to do the job. Politicians in office have a greater responsibility. It is a hallmark of leadership to build and nurture institutions that outlive themselves and their successors and that function with a degree of autonomy and competence so that when politicians (or, rulers) are confused and are looking for direction, the institution provides the anchor, the continuity and the wisdom. Good institutions, thus, play a big role in good governance and in maintaining and enhancing social stability.
Here is a partial list of the tasks involved in good institution building :
(1) For example, if the Parliament is to enact good laws that stand the test of time and fairness, then Parliamentarians must be law-makers and not law breakers. They must be qualified (and not just in their educational attainments) to pass laws that they expect citizens to comply with. So, they should not be criminals.
(2) They should respect their status as members of the Parliament and attend sessions. They should prepare for debates as students are expected to do, for their assignments.
(3) They should appoint competent people for regulatory authorities. Regulatory institutions should be insulated from political influence.  Decisions of regulatory institutions should not be tampered with, by politicians. Aggrieved parties should be encouraged to approach the proper appellate channels rather than expect the executive to overrule regulatory authorities.
(4) Government should set an example in complying with regulatory authorities’ directives
(5) Government should not make the tenure of regulatory authorities an instrument to coerce them to make arbitrary decisions.
(6) The government should not litigate citizens and the courts till the last drop.
(7) Government must set an example in honouring Supreme Court judgements. Laws should not backdated to overrule or annual the judgements of the highest court of the land.
(8) The government must consult the Leader of the Opposition on key decisions, legislation and appointments even if there is no formal need for it.
(9) Regulatory institutions and the judiciary must set an example in transparency of conduct, fairness of rulings and in accountability as they expect the regulated, to do so.
(10) Processes of appointments to judiciary, to technocratic institutions and to regulatory authorities should be insulated from political processes and the criteria for selection should be as transparent, objective and clear to the public.
(11) The government should not voice opinions on what the regulatory authorities should be doing nor should the government pre-judge their actions and decisions.  Those are coercive behaviour.
(12) The government and politicians must respect the constitutional checks and balances and allow such agencies to do their jobs while responding to their criticisms/observations in a dignified manner as per procedures laid down.
In sum, respecting institutions’ decisions and processes are important aspects of nurturing them.
As I had mentioned earlier, this is only a  partial list.  There may be other important aspects of ‘institution building and nurturing’ that I have left out.  Readers are welcome to add.
Those who aspire for leadership positions should be questioned on their commitment to the above and they must subject themselves to scrutiny of their conduct in these aspects. This must be an acid test of those who aspire for leadership position at all levels of government – Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Mayors, Panchayat leaders, Chief justices, regulatory chiefs and heads of technocratic institutions (e.g, RBI), etc.

Quantum Indians

I  did not realise that it has been exactly three months since I wrote my last post on this blog. Amazing how time passes without us adding any value to ourselves or to the society. If we do not stop, pause and reflect, then, we will live up to poet Bharati’s words of being ‘vedikkai manithargal’ who live for the day and engage in several useless acts before withering away. I recall blogging on this poem before.

In any case, this blog is an outcome of a 50-minute video that I watched. First, it was a pleasant surprise to know that the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India has produced several wonderful videos. Check them out here. I must thank Mr. Rajiv Malhotra (author of ‘Being Different’ and ‘Breaking India’) for he had referred to this video, ‘Quantum Indians’ in a post in his discussion group.

This video talks of the contributions of Satyendranath Bose, Sir. C.V. Raman and Meghnad Saha to the world of physics. Watch it yourself and with your children, nieces and nephews.

My take-aways from watching this video:

(1) Mr. Bose’s passion for teaching Science in local languages. He thought it was silly that Indians have to learn a foreign language to learn Science.

(2) Sir C. V. Raman dedicated his Nobel Prize to the freedom fighters of India and how he felt sad about not having his country’s flag at the Nobel Investiture Ceremony

(3) His open-mindedness and long-range thinking in wanting to bring Jewish scientists who were fleeing Nazi Germany at that time, including Schroedinger. The establishment, as now, then was equal to the task of resisting him! They called these scientists mediocre and blocked his attempts!!

(4) His supreme self-confidence about his discovery being worthy of a Nobel Prize.

(5) The greatness of heart, spirit and ‘no mean’ ego  shown by Professor Henry Norris Russell, Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University when he went through a paper written by a Harvard University student (?) Henrietta Levitt based on Saha equation. This professor accepted that he was wrong and every one else was wrong. He could have easily hushed it up as the narrator says. Contrast this behaviour with the one Sir. C.V. Raman had in India at IISc (see (3) above).