Leadership Demystified

Kanan Jaswal's Blog on Leadership

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Indian politician as a leader

In India ‘identity politics’ is the brand of politics most practised. Collecting people following a particular religion or its branch or belonging to one particular caste or sub-caste and championing their cause to the neglect of everything else is the easiest and, therefore, the most preferred route to political leadership. This leader knows that his (in some cases it is ‘her’ but mostly it is ‘his’) job is secure so long as he delivers the promised goodies to his followers or at least keeps them in a heightened state of expectancy that the goodies are just round the corner and could be delivered to them any day. Alternatively, he has to keep them engaged and united behind him fighting some real or imagined affront to their group or community.

Such politicians do not undertake the trouble of defining their vision but this does not handicap them in any way because for them the continued allegiance of their followers in itself is the objective worth pursuing and gives them their value. They are entirely driven by their supporters and so can not lead them in the real sense of the term. Is it any wonder then that once in power all they can think of is making money, loads and loads of it, by whatever means? Money is the biggest magnet or adhesive and keeps their flock not only together but also increasing in number, and, thereby, in importance. And that in a democracy is a truly desirable goal.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Choosing between India and China

Last evening I attended in New Delhi a discussion on ‘India and the West : The Future Geopolitical Landscape’. There, a member of an international think-tank, who had been a part of the George W. Bush White House team, said that whereas China was far ahead of India in hard infrastructure like airports, all-season motorable roads, network of railway, modern ports, bridges, and power plants, India’s lead lay in soft infrastructure like democratic form of government, freedom of the individual and of the press, independent judiciary and a well-established system of jurisprudence. He further said and I quote with my strong agreement and approval, “In ten years’ time, given the 8 to 9% annual growth, India can build for itself a great hard infrastructure. But China, even with the best will in the world, will take many more decades to develop a soft infrastructure comparable to India’s. And a nation’s prosperity is built on both hard and soft infrastructures.”

I can almost hear my Indian readers' howls of protest, after all haven’t we all at different times condemned our so-called soft infrastructure for all our ills? But we should try to see it from the perspective of an impartial foreigner, who knows both the countries rather well. But I don't want to give the impression that I would like to leave this soft infrastructure as it is. No, I shall have it amended, improved, strengthened, made more effective and real. I shall also have this country giving itself a very strong and dependable hard infrastructure. And why not? Because I am sworn to work for my country’s well-being and prosperity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are judges above the law?

Howsoever corrupt or incompetent, the Supreme and High Court judges can't be dismissed, they can only be impeached by Parliament. And the process is so difficult that no judge has ever been impeached in independent India's 62 years though we have had more than our share of corrupt and incompetent judges. Talking only of the former chief justices of the Supreme Court - (1) One, who got less than a month in the top position, transferred all cases against the Jain Shuddha Vanaspati, accused of mixing imported tallow with hydrogenated vegetable oil, to his own court and granted acquittal in almost all cases. (2) There was this person who imposed a fine of only US$470 million on Union Carbide and freed the company of all civil and criminal liabilities in the Bhopal gas genocide, the 25th anniversary of which is falling this night. In the USA, the fine would have been no less than US$10 billion, ruining Union Carbide completely. As a reward, our man was appointed a judge on the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands. (3) Another had two of his children living with him in his official residence and practising as lawyers at the Supreme Court. Need I say that both of them had roaring practice? Making hay while the sun (father, in this case) shines? (4) Yet another was hell bent on ordering sealing of commercial establishments in non-conforming areas of Delhi, thousands of shops etc. were thus sealed. It was just a happy coincidence that his two sons were in the construction business and were building malls and other shopping complexes in Delhi to which many of the shopkeepers, who had their shops sealed, had to relocate. A point to note - his sons gave out their father's official residence as their business address.

There is, therefore, a very strong case for setting up a National Judicial Commission to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts and discipline and dismiss them, if need be. It could be a five member Commission with the prime minister, leader of the Opposition, chief justice of India, chief vigilance commissioner and an eminent jurist on it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The government alone can’t defeat terrorism!

More than the USA, more than the UK or the other countries in the west, it is India which is a victim of international terrorism and the home-grown variety of it. The central and various state governments are alive to the challenge posed by terrorism to the idea of India and they are now getting their act together in combating it. But whereas the governments, even with the best will in the world, can not be present every where and at all times, the people of India are. They only have to take upon themselves to be the eyes and the ears of the government in reporting to it any unclaimed baggage and vehicles, unusual movements of individuals and groups, and also anything way out of the ordinary. An alert citizenry is the best defence against terrorism and each one of us, not terrorists ourselves, have to play our role here effectively. We also have to prevent any particular group of the society or any particular religious community from being branded as perpetrators of terrorism.

Any one can feel left out, discriminated against, even oppressed, and they could be right or wrong in it, but it is the job of others to open a line of communication to them and remove all misunderstandings after discussion. The idea is not to pamper the dis-affected but to talk to them, understand their unmet aspirations, and together with them decide upon a course to redress their legitimate grievances.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How would I solve the problem of Naxalism?

I would take the following steps one by one :

i) Through an ordinance, declare all sales of agricultural land in the past ten years by the Scheduled tribals to non-tribals void and restore the land to the tribal owners. The state would compensate the non-tribal buyers by giving them the price they had paid with interest compounded, say, at 7% p.a. Also ban such sales in future.

ii) Amend the Forest Produce laws, with retrospective effect, to legalise the tribals’ picking up of minor forest products and withdraw all legal cases instituted against them in the past in this matter, just as the Jharkhand government has done recently.

iii) After these goodwill gestures, offer three to six months’ cease-fire to the Maoists and on their agreeing, invite them for unconditional and comprehensive talks.

iv) Make very clear to them that the state is willing to address itself to all their legitimate concerns and demands with honesty, transparency, and alacrity.

v) During the cease-fire, build rural roads, establish primary health centres and primary schools in the areas controlled by the Maoists and entrust their safety and security to them. Do this all in the full glare of the media, print and electronic.

vi) Make it clear to the Maoists that while the government would be more than willing to concede their legitimate demands, a revival of violence by them would be met with full force at the state’s command.

vii) In the unfortunate event of replying to the Maoists’ violence, take all precautions to avoid, at least minimise, collateral damage to the non-combatants and the crops and other property. As far as it is possible, let the media accompany the state forces on their operations against the Maoists to pre-empt any accusations of the human rights’ violation.

viii) Do everything possible to invite the Maoists and their supporters to take part in the democratic process, to stand for election and on succeeding, form democratic and Constitutional governments.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I am grateful to India's political leaders, let's see why

It is difficult to be grateful to the kind of political leadership we in India are having, particularly when we spend a significant part of our waking hours to criticising it for nearly all the problems and miseries faced by us. But just because it is difficult it should not deter me from at least making an attempt to find out a few things to be grateful for.

The first thing I am grateful to the political leaders for is ensuring that we Indians have the freedom of speech; we are free to question, criticise and even condemn any one to our heart's content. It may not have a desirable effect on the object of our attention but at the end of the exercise we do feel happy.

Then I am grateful for the freedom to choose our representatives every five years or sometimes even sooner. I know that democracy does not just mean the right to exercise our franchise but the very idea that we can unseat a government that did not deliver empowers us, it is altogether a different matter that the replacement may prove to be worse.

Next comes responsiveness, though many a time delayed and defective, to the public concerns. Left to themselves the political leadership may like to ignore the public but it is not doing that is a cause of a minor celebration.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recover India’s stolen wealth from safe havens abroad

There are reasonable estimates that the funds Indian citizens have illegally stashed away in safe havens abroad, mostly in the Swiss banks, amount to a staggering US$1.41 trillion (about Rs.69 lac crore), which is one and a half times the country’s present gross domestic product. This is our money for which Indians have toiled for years but now it is out of our reach and is available only to the most corrupt, crooks and criminals, making those traitors to the nation and their generations to come obscenely super-rich. To some who would hold that the above figure is too high and unrealistic, I would only say that has a hitherto-unknown Pune-based swindler not been found last year to have more than US$8 billion (about Rs.39000 crore) in a single Swiss bank account? And he most certainly is not the biggest fish in India’s huge pond of corruption and criminality. The other group of beneficiaries, of course, of these funds of crime are the ‘venerable’ Swiss banks. These banks take a Cosa Nostra’s omerta-like oath of silence whenever there is a demand for disclosing the ownership or size of the funds involved.

But then it depends on how a demand is made on them to shed the cloak of secrecy. The Union Bank of Switzerland, the established leader among Swiss banks, has been recently reported to have, under pressure from the U.S. government, closed about 19000 accounts held with it by U.S. citizens without the required disclosure to the U.S. income tax authorities. UBS would now mail cheques to the account holders representing their account balances. The account holders could then either deposit the cheques into their accounts, creating an obvious accounting trail, or simply destroy the cheques and forfeit the amounts for good. Either way, they would be big losers.

As we all know the ruling cliques in India, for obvious reasons, would never create any pressure or even make a demand on the Swiss banks to reveal the details of all deposit accounts held with them by Indian passport holders, also of those in which Indian citizens have any beneficial interests. Pressure, in fact, first has to be applied on the so-called rulers of India to put pressure, in turn, on the Swiss banks and their home government. The Indian government must be made to use all legitimate means at its command and all international forums to create such a loud hue and cry on the subject that the Swiss government is compelled to get its banks to comply. India is supposedly having a strategic alliance with the United States, let the Indian government prevail over the U.S. to cooperate with it in its efforts to recover and retrieve India’s own funds, something of paramount strategic importance to the Indian state. Switzerland is a client state of the U.S. and has to listen to the latter most attentively.

For the last sixty one years whoever could, has looted India and the governments of the day have been a silent spectator, if not a ready accomplice. The crooked among politicians, businessmen, government officials in all branches of Indian state and professionals, mining and smuggling mafiosi, kidnappers and contract killers, false gurus and religious charlatans and many other denizens of the underworld have milked the country dry; they have also put substantial part of their loot out of the harm’s way, by squirreling it away mostly in Swiss banks but also in other safe havens like Cayman Island, Austria, Luxembourg, Jersey (U.K.), Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. The time has now come for not only to putting a stop to this but also to reversing this by recovering the country’s stolen funds by prising open secret deposit accounts with Swiss and other international banks. And all of us, who are not corrupt and who are not afraid to do the right thing in the interest of the country, have to understand and appreciate this and raise our collective voice so that even our ‘deaf’ government is forced to listen to it.

Finally, to carry out this great adventure and reach its desired objective the country would need a team of persons who have commitment, intelligence, guts and, above all, unimpeachable integrity, just like the famous “Untouchables”, who relentlessly pursued and finally nailed Al Capone, the biggest and the cruellest mafia don in the U.S. history. Everyone in India has to look inside and decide for ourselves whether we have in us what it tales to be such an “Untouchable”. Long live this “Untouchability”, because it carries in it the only hope India can have.