Transparency in Transfers – an Utopian Dream?

Posted on:31-10-14


‘Can I meet with you?’ said the cheery voice on the inter-com. Read more »

The Wealth and Family Hellfare Department

Posted on:24-10-14


 After my brief tenure of twenty eight days in the Department of Personnel, where I was totally at sea as I could not remember people’s castes, I was transferred to the Department of Health and Family Welfare as a Deputy Secretary. My heart sank as I saw my little room. There was  construction going on upstairs and the contractor had not received his payment in time. That meant that he had been at the job for two years. He had just cast the ceiling of the next floor and generously cured it with water.

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Whispers Turning Louder

Posted on:17-10-14


 It is easy to presume that my transfer out of the Food and Civil Supplies Department was due to my uncivil behaviour in not accommodating my Minister’s reasonable request for a few transfers of his choice. However, that was not the case; moving me into the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms to handle the responsibility of postings and transfers of senior government officers was as random a decision as any other in the government.

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A Swachch Transfer Abhiyan – solving the ultimate sanitation problem

Posted on:10-10-14

I had concluded my blog of two weeks back by wondering how we could get ministers and bureaucrats to focus on performing ‘thick accountability’ tasks of service delivery better. From Lant Pritchett’s musings, it is clear that public servants in India are more interested in either (a) political meddling in the administration and (b) routinisation of critical discretionary tasks. Let us focus on the political meddling part, something that ministers, MLAs, Ministers and their collaborators love to do. Read more »

The Dirty Truth about Sanitation

Posted on:04-10-14


Unless you have a blocked nose, I strongly suggest that you do not drive from Bhubaneshwar the capital of Orissa, to Kandamahal, a remote tribal district, particularly in the evenings. At twilight, when you begin to wind into the interior, you are greeted with the sight of the behinds of the entire population squatting on the roadside, faces turned away and shitting. We quickly wound up the windows and switched on the air-conditioning, but nothing could stop the stench of human excrement. Read more »

Eliminating the dysfunctionality business

Posted on:27-09-14

A couple of days ago, there was a huge downpour in Bangalore as the North-east monsoon hit the city. In a few hours the city was flooded and the traffic – bad as it is on usual days – was in a state of complete gridlock. Bangalore is perched on a plateau nearly a kilometer above sea level; so water can quickly flow away to low lying areas around it. But then, dysfunctionality entrepreneurs had ensured a good business model for themselves, through bad city planning over decades. The city had nearly three hundred lakes, big and small, that enabled it to slow down and absorb sudden water flows. However, over the years, these were filled up to provide land for expansion; only about eighty lakes remain now. Paving over of footpaths, the blocking of storm-water drains with garbage, encroachment into public land and the narrowing of streams leading from lake to lake has ensured rain water has no place to flow in Bangalore, except on the streets. Read more »

Profiting from the dysfunctionality business

Posted on:19-09-14

A couple of blogs back I had recalled the travails of attempting to bring in new methods for waste treatment, through the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation, which I happened to lead in the past. Though the worth of composting and vermicomposting was beyond question, there were several impediments to promoting garbage segregation and supply of tasty rotting organic material to the millions of hungry earthworms employed by us. What was worse, the Bangalore City Municipal Corporation, a shareholder of the Compost Development Corporation, was not interesting in investing more in the latter’s vermicomposting facility, even though it had a lot to gain. It was not even interested in buying the Corporation’s vermi-compost for its gardens and parks, preferring instead to buy dubious products from private suppliers, which when tested, was found to contain inert, burnt coconut husk. Read more »

The Fifty Second Blog

Posted on:12-09-14

For a notorious procrastinator, this must be some kind of a record. I cannot believe that I have diligently written this blog, every week for a year. It also speaks of the iron hand in an ill-concealed velvet glove, which is firmly in charge of Accountability Initiative. On every Friday, I get those phone calls reminding me of dire consequences in case I do not submit the blog before the clock chimes four in the afternoon. That has prompted me to write blogs in the middle of the night – when traveling in other time zones or otherwise - or often, in Airport lounges. Read more »

Garbage; and my unlikely collaborators

Posted on:05-09-14

I resume my garbage story, after digressing to discuss the future of the Planning Commission. It would be raffish to comment that it was probably not a digression, but let us not be too unkind to the Planning Commission. Garbage is garbage, planning is planning. You can plan for garbage but planning is not garbage. Read more »

A Planning Commission or a Scheming Commission?

Posted on:30-08-14

To say that there is no need for centralized planning because we have a liberalized economy, is about as wrong as one can get. A liberalized economy requires planning too, but of a different kind. Read more »