Citizens' Issues
Succession plans in India need a makeover

Indian industry has by and large put in place systems and procedures for ensuring smooth transition of stewardship at the top. This advantage is not available for the political parties which decide the direction of governance and the legislative and executive hierarchy of India
 

Two changes at the top in India Inc in recent years drew worldwide attention for the care with which the individuals in charge of the companies chose their successors. I am referring to the way in which Ratan Tata and NR Narayana Murthy handed over their batons to their successors. Remembered this while reading Ratan Tata’s following observation on Cyrus Mistry:
 

“I have watched him at close quarters, he possessed the ability to analyse businesses. I consider myself to be more of a numbers person than JRD was. I believe Cyrus is more of a numbers man than I am.”

 

Do “We, The People” who have adopted, enacted and given to ourselves a Constitution which is unique in several respects and is envied by other democracies, not deserve the same care and sense of belonging, expressed vividly by Tata, while filling the top constitutional positions that define the course the nation’s growth and survival path should take from time to time?

 

In fact, such care was taken by the people of India during the early 1950s which ensured Jawaharlal Nehru becoming prime minister, Dr Rajendra Prasad being elected as first president and various positions in the first Cabinet and slots at the top of several statutory bodies getting filled by individuals eminent in respective fields. But, looking back, one feels that the Constitution did not provide, and the incumbents did not foresee, the need for explicitly providing for smooth and appropriate succession plans for filling top positions in governance in India. Partly, this missing link could be attributed to the leeway the then leaders would have thought necessary to retain some freedom of choice in selection. Also, it is possible that the kind of developments in the fields of industry and technology, monetary expansion and globalization which have taken the country to the present day’s growth phase was unimaginable in the 1950s.

 

Read: Solutions for reviving India’s manufacturing sector lie in undoing government policies

 

These are not excuses which should allow the present leadership to shy away from realities. As mentioned at the beginning, Indian industry has by and large put in place systems and procedures for ensuring smooth transition of stewardship at the top. This can be attributed to the fact that there are “Business Models” available elsewhere in the world for them to “cut and paste”. This advantage is not available for the political parties which decide the direction of governance and the legislative and executive hierarchy of India (Indian judicial hierarchy did not suffer from this deficiency, though they too have problems of volumes and inadequate manpower to handle that) which had a growth path entirely different from that obtaining in other countries.

 

Put it bluntly, the Indian industry, trade unions and the intelligentsia gives an impression that they are comfortable with a ‘weak’ decision-making infrastructure in governance which can be influenced easily. The advantages are obvious:
 

  • Concessions ‘managed’ by India Inc in the current Budget are estimated at over  Rs5,73,000 crore which is 10% higher than the total fiscal deficit of the Central government and would be, perhaps, adequate to provide for meeting the entire pension liability of Central government, as on date (according to a 2008 estimate, the net present value of the pension liabilities of central government now being met on a Pay As You Go basis was Rs3,35,628 crore—6th Pay Commission Report,2008). If the Government of India had management experts who can bargain with India Inc on a level playing field, a substantial portion of this amount of Rs5,73,000 crore would have flowed to the country’s treasury.
  • Democratic process and professionalism are bad words in politics and for trade unions which are, by and large, managed by political parties. Beyond some media gimmicks and occasional “stoppage of work”, there are no serious efforts from the side of trade unions to study issues and fight for solutions. Democratization of and infusing professionalism in trade union leadership can bring sea changes in the wages, prices and income policies of the country. Political leadership will resist this as the present dispensation is easy to manage and workers form the captive human resource for election work.
  • The intelligentsia who claim to be the spokespersons of public opinion and fill the media space, pretend to be ignorant of all these, as they, like old time teachers, do not have to do much homework, if the status quo continues.

 

These are some stray issues, if debated and churned in a dispassionate manner, may take us to some changes in the approaches to governance, which could help us in viewing issues like poverty, healthcare, literacy, financial inclusion and generally economic development from a different perspective.

 

Other stories by MG Warrier

 

 (The writer is a former general manager of Reserve Bank of India.)

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Petrol prices may be cut by Re1, diesel set to go up

While petrol prices are being cut in step with falling international oil rates, diesel rate increase would be in line with the January decision to raise prices in small dozes every month till all of the Rs11 per litre losses are eliminated

Petrol price may be cut by about Re1 per litre while diesel price may be increased by 40-50 paisa a litre from 15th-16th March.

 

While petrol prices are being cut in step with falling international oil rates, diesel rate increase would be in line with the January decision to raise prices in small dozes every month till all of the Rs11 per litre losses are eliminated.

 

Sources said the revision in rates of petrol and diesel is likely to be announced as early as Friday.

 

The cut in petrol price will follow two rounds of hike in rates since February. Petrol price was hiked by Rs1.50 a litre on 16th February and then by Rs1.40 per litre from 2nd March. Both the increases were excluding local VAT.

 

Petrol in Delhi presently costs Rs70.74 a litre. Since last revision, international gasoline (petrol) prices have come down to about $120 per barrel from $131.00 a barrel at the last time last revision. Also, the rupee has marginally appreciated against the dollar to Rs54.11.

 

Diesel prices have been since January hiked by over Re1 per litre in two instalments and it currently costs Rs48.16 a litre. Despite the increases, oil firms lose Rs11.26 per litre on sale of the nation's most consumed fuel.

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RTI Judgement Series: More than one person can sign a single RTI application

The PIO's rejection was completely wrong since there is nothing in the law or the rules preventing more than one citizen from submitting an RTI application, ruled the CIC. This is the 56th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while pointing out that the Public Information Officer (PIO)’s rejection of an application since it was signed by seven other people has no basis in the law, asked the PIO of the regional officer of Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) at Ranchi, to give complete information to the appellant.

 

While giving this important judgement on 16 July 2010, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “...the PIO’s rejection has no basis in law. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) has not supported the PIO's contention but has justified denial of information claiming exemption under Section 8(1) (j) to deny information relating to those who had signed the RTI application.”

 

Bokaro resident Samir Kumar Haldar, on 4 February 2010, sought information from the regional officer of Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) at Ranchi, about provident fund accounts of labourers of Magadh Engineering Works. He sought the following information...

 

1. All the appellants, who are labourers in the Magadh Engineering Works (EPF Code: JH /10532), have EPF accounts in which their monthly payments are deposited. The names along with their father’s names and their account numbers are enclosed. Furnish the self-certified copies of the AR and 6 AR of the mentioned names from 1999 to 2008.

2. Detailed copy of the orders passed since 2005 till present, under the EPF 1952 scheme provision 7 A against the Magadh Engineering Works.

 

The PIO did not provide any information and instead rejected Haldar's application citing it as a joint application by the applicant and seven others. Haldar then filed his first appeal before the FAA.

 

In his order, the FAA said, “In the original application of Shri Haldar, the same is joined by seven other applicants but the address of communication which has been given is of Shri Haldar. Further, the copy of Form 3(R) and 6 (AR) has been sought in respect to all applications. Now, these returns contain the details of members like details of wages and details of PF contribution, which is personal information in respect of those members and is maintained by this office in its fiduciary capacity. Sending this information for all members on the postal address of one applicant will tantamount to disclosing these personal information to the individual on whose address the same is sent and thus would be violation of the provisions of Section 8(1) e) and (J) of the RTI Act 2005.”

 

“I do not think proper to disclose the information sought jointly and hence the request of Shri Haldar is rejected. However, the individuals are free to make an application individually to seek information under the RTI Act 2005,” the FAA said in his order on 25 May 2010.

 

Not satisfied with the reply of PIO and order of FAA, the applicant then approached the CIC with his second appeal.

 

During a hearing, the CIC pointed out that both the parties were not present. It said, the RTI application was filed on 4 February 2010 and the information should have been provided to the appellant before 6 March 2010. Instead a rejection was sent to the appellant on 30 March 2010 stating that since seven other people have sought the information the PIO was refusing to supply the information, the CIC noted.

 

Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, pointed out that the FAA had not taken cognizance of objections raised by the PIO that seven other people have signed the RTI application along with the appellant but upheld the refusal to give information by invoking Section 8(1)(j) since the appellant had sought details of wages and PF contributions.

 

“The PIO’s rejection was completely wrong since there is nothing in the law or the rules preventing more than one citizen from submitting the RTI application. Section 3 of the RTI Act states, ‘subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have Right to Information’. Hence the PIO's rejection has no basis in law,” the CIC said.

 

Mr Gandhi said, “It is correct that the details of an individual’s PF account cannot be given to anyone else, since it would be an intrusion on the privacy of an individual but since seven other people had signed the RTI application jointly with Haldar the information could have been provided. In case the FAA wanted to verify if the other seven people had no objection in giving the information he could have ordered the PIO to seek their concurrence under Section 11 of the RTI Act.”

 

The CIC while allowing the appeal asked the PIO to give complete information to Haldar before 5 August 2010.

 

Since the PIO failed to provide information within stipulated time under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act, the Commission issued a show-cause notice to him. The CIC said, the PIO would present himself before the Commission on 16 August 2010 along with his written submissions showing cause why penalty should not be imposed on him as mandated under Section 20(1) of the Act.

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2010/001429/8585

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_A_2010_001429_8585_M_37942.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2010/001429

 

 

Appellant                                            : Samir Kumar Haldar

                                                            Bokaro

 

Respondent                                                 : Public Information Officer

                                                            Employees Provident Fund Organization,

                                                            Regional Office, Bhagirathi Complex,

                                                            Near Circuit House, Karamtoli,

                                                            Ranchi (Jharkhand) – 834001

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