Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stop talking, start doing

Ratan Tata is a reticent man. He is 74 and retires this month as chairman after guiding his group to be the country’s number one, $ 100 billion, in revenues. He commands respect not only from his 450,000 employees but from the entire global business community. He is courteous and complains rarely. But earlier this month he spoke out in anguish. “Government inaction is driving investment away from the country,” he said, and this was forcing groups like the Tatas to seek opportunities abroad where you don’t have “a seven or eight year wait to get clearance for a steel plant.” The finance minister, P. Chidambaram, echoed this view, reminding us that over 100 mega projects had been stuck for years because of a lack of approvals. Clearly, this failure of the government is greatly responsible for bringing India’s economy to its knees. 

Not only CEOs but ordinary Indians have been voicing the same complaint for years. Why should it take 12 years to build a road or 10 years to get justice in our country? Our public debate is filled with talk of corruption, about the right to information, of democratic answerability but almost no one speaks about the need for quick decision making or enhancing the capacity of our weak, soft, and ‘flailing’ state. No amount of CAG’s disclosures or ranting about the Lokpal will improve the state’s ability to act or strengthen our crumbling institutions. Is our obsession with accountability and transparency making us forget that the state was, in fact, created for collective action?

Accountability is, of course, important. Over the past decade, campaigns by activists supported by intellectuals have brought significant gains, such as the Right to Information Act. The pressure exerted by Anna Hazare’s movement backed by the media have raised awareness of corruption in high places and even helped in the arrest of powerful people. We are rightly proud of these achievements which have strengthened our democracy. But these laudable steps have not significantly improved services of the state to the citizen. Cases are still stuck in the courts; roads are built at a snail’s pace; police will delay registering an FIR unless influence or money is exchanged; it takes 117 approvals and 7-10 years to build a power plant. The list goes on.

Oddly enough, the push for democratic accountability may have weakened our already feeble state. The average official, always faint hearted and timid, is now even more afraid of putting his pen to paper. This is the other side of our fight against corruption. The modern democratic state has to balance the ability to deliver services on time with accountability to the people. Other democracies have also faced this problem of balance but they have found a way to cope by reforming their institutions. All institutions, in fact, must aim for a balance between accountability and action. A company could not survive if the CEO spent the whole day listening to shareholders. A school would not be effective if its principal spent his time only listening to parents. Already scorned as a “nation of talkers and not doers”, India needs to shift its focus to action.

There is a great deal to be hopeful about India’s future. It is stable, open, and amazingly tolerant. Its economic reforms have put it on a promising path of rapid growth. It is breeding outstanding companies which are more innovative than most in Asia. Its middle class is growing rapidly and its poor will benefit from a more effective welfare system based on cash transfers. But India’s soft underbelly is a soft, weak state, whose institutions of governance—the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the police--are in desperate need of reform. This is one of the reasons why its economy has hit a wall as it approaches the $ 2 trillion GDP mark.

Ratan Tata and P. Chidambaram have focused on one symptom of the disease—paralysis in decision making at the centre. But even the solution--the recently formed cabinet committee on investment—invites scepticism. The issue is not ideological—a big versus a small state. India needs to achieve an effective balance between our government’s ability to act and be accountable to the people. 


Sangeeta Kundap said...

the question is how to change the mindset of the people? In corporate sector it may be achievable as every one is accounted for some responsibility. At State and Central Government Level how it can be achieved?

Sangeeta Kundap said...

the question is how to change the mindset of the people? In corporate sector it may be achievable as every one is accounted for some responsibility. At State and Central Government Level how it can be achieved?

sksharma said...

Things are realy not that easy. Serving the people and the Nation is nobody's aim. When greed and selfish motives only are the driving force then things do not improve as suggessted. A chrismatic Leader is needed to steer India and its people for their betterment. And that void is difficult to be filled in near future.

Pramodh said...


I just finished reading your new book and I think it is phenomenal.

Pramodh said...


I just finished reading your new book and I think it is phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Das, for sharing your insights and enriching and enlightening us by your thoughtful writing. I also greatly enjoyed your 1993 piece in HBR, Local Memoirs of a Global Manager. There you write: “…each blade of grass has its spot on earth from where it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from where he draws his faith, together with his life.”
On further reflection, your powerful words quoted above give us some insight into the corruption problem facing India. I submit that India’s corruption problem is cultural and civilizational while Indian elite and media treat it a political problem. I have done further work in the area of correlation between (a) rate of GDP growth in mid-term (spanning even decades) and level of corruption, human development, quality of institutions and even innovation; and (b) level of GDP per capita today to all these variables. And we find that if the country now is set to a resolute, unwavering path to economic development the correlation for the former is not significant; but very strong for the letter. So a country now committed to right economic path (China, for example) can still have superior growth rate for decades despite the other shortcomings. India is devoting too much political capital to solving the corruption problem which may take decades if not a century to resolve. As you very well know from your P&G days how difficult it is to change cultures, especially country cultures. Instead, as you are correctly pointing out, India should “manage” the corruption issue, and focus like a laser beam on the balanced economic development. People quickly learn to work around the known corruption; it is the increasing rate of it needs to be wrested.
I would be also grateful, if time permits, to your thoughts on my piece on Global Regional Trade Alliances, in particular the concept of possible Japan-India trade alliance. You will find it at:

Mahi Kashyap said...

I just love reading Books, Comics, Poems and Articles with updated stuff. I read some of your articles all are just awesome and highlights the reality of the World. If one goes through your articles he/she must definitely like your stuff and would be inspired like me. Honestly I became a big fan of you. Thanks for creating such a beautiful mirror to see this world.

Lavanya Sethi said...

This one is really an awesome & outstanding site. I went through it many times and like its theme. Its quite simple and fascinating. The stuff in the Blog is very genuine and could be seen on very rare places. Keep writting.....

Anonymous said...

Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
It's the little changes which will make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!
Visit my web-site - real online slots

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, it's my first pay a quick visit at this web site, and article is really fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these articles.
Also visit my weblog ... play free games for real cash

Anonymous said...

I think this is among the most significant
info for me. And i'm glad reading your article. But want to remark on some general things, The site style is wonderful, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers
My page slot games to download

Anonymous said...

A fascinating discussion is worth comment.
I do think that you need to write more about this issue, it might not be
a taboo subject but usually people do not speak about these issues.
To the next! Kind regards!!
Also see my site: online usa casino

Anonymous said...

I am actually delighted to read this web site
posts which includes lots of valuable facts, thanks for providing these kinds of information.
Look into my web-site : top money making affiliate programs

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another excellent post. Where else may just anybody get that
kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I'm on the search for such information.

Also visit my web-site :: "Dutch treat"

Anonymous said...

I read this article fully on the topic of the comparison
of hottest and preceding technologies, it's remarkable article.

Feel free to visit my web blog: Miscrits Locations

Anonymous said...

Helpful info. Lucky me I found your website by chance, and I am surprised why this accident didn't came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

Here is my site: making money from

Anonymous said...

I have recently started a web site, the info you provide on this website has helped me tremendously.
Thank you for all of your time & work.

Also visit my homepage complete offers for cash

Josh Green Rock said...

I just finished reading your new book and I think it is phenomenal.
Miami Bail Bonds

Anonymous said...

This piece of writing will assist the internet viewers for building up new webpage or even a weblog from start to end.

my web blog Manga games

Anonymous said...

Hi my family member! I wish to say that this article is amazing,
great written and include approximately all important infos.

I'd like to peer extra posts like this .

Look at my page :: 1.6 aimbot

Anonymous said...

Hi Dear, are you genuinely visiting this site regularly, if so then you will without doubt obtain nice knowledge.

Visit my website Miscrits Of

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.

It will always be exciting to read through articles from other writers and practice a little
something from other web sites.

Also visit my weblog ... psn card generator

Anonymous said...

An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a little homework on this.
And he actually bought me breakfast due to the fact that I discovered it for him.
.. lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!
! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.

Also visit my web blog - social marketing

Anonymous said...

Hey I am so delighted I found your blog page, I really found you by accident, while I
was looking on Aol for something else, Anyhow I am
here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a marvelous post
and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design),
I don't have time to read through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the awesome job.

Also visit my web blog - hack de castleville

Anonymous said...

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video
to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just
posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something
enlightening to read?

Here is my site; wallhack

BackpackUnion said...

I am sure that I will read some of the topics here.
My website: home page

poly islam said...

This blog site is pretty good! How was it made . I view something genuinely interesting about your site so I saved to my bookmarks . You can visit my website action bailbonds

srjwebsolutions said...

We are leading responsive website designing and development company in Noida.
We are offering mobile friendly responsive website designing, website development, e-commerce website, seo service and sem services in Noida.

Responsive Website Designing Company in Noida
Website Designing Company in Noida
SEO Services in Noida
SMO Services in Noida

EG MEDI said... is online medical store pharmacy in laxmi nagar Delhi. You can Order prescription/OTC medicines online.
Cash on Delivery available. Free Home Delivery

Online Pharmacy in Delhi
Buy Online medicine in Delhi
Online Pharmacy in laxmi nagar
Buy Online medicine in laxmi nagar
Onine Medical Store in Delhi
Online Medical store in laxmi nagar
Online medicine store in delhi
online medicine store in laxmi nagar
Purchase Medicine Online
Online Pharmacy India
Online Medical Store

ANIL GUPTA said...

We are specialized in Mechanised cleaning of Underground and Overhead Water Tanks of all sizes. Door Step services across Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad.

Water tank cleaning services in Noida
Water tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Water tank cleaning services in Delhi

Drain cleaning services in Noida

Drain cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Drain cleaning services in Delhi
Pipeline Cleaning Service in Noida

Pipeline cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Pipeline cleaning services in Delhi

Tank cleaning services in Noida

Tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Tank cleaning services in Delhi

Exide Battery said...

Battery Mantra Buy Car and Inverter battery online in India. BatteryMantra is Noida based India's No. 1 online battery store offering you genuine batteries of all the well-known battery brands at best prices.

Online Inverter Battery Store
Online Car Battery Store
Buy Inverter battery Dealer Noida
Buy battery online Noida
Online Inverter Battery Store
Buy car battery Noida