Monday, December 21, 2009

Coastal Andhra and poverty

It is normally believed that people of Coastal Andhra in Andhra Pradesh are better off than those in Telangana. I lived in Vishakhapatnam for four years and I know the condition. May be ten percent are rich and forty percent lead an average life. But the bulk of the people are landless labourers and those ill paid working for contractors. Adivasis have particularly tough life. People from Srikakulam and Vizayanagaram are poor. All industries are in Vishakhapatnam but those employed there are from East and West Godavari districts.

I stay near Income tax towers, which is quite close to shantinagar colony. There are more than hundred five story buildings—all residential—each building having ten to twenty-five flats and most of them occupied by IT workers, who are very well paid.

Every building has just one watchman, who is paid about Rs.3000/-per month and is on duty round the clock. The watchmen live with their families in a single small room provided by the building societies. Watchman’s wife works as maidservant and earns some money to meet both ends meet. The residents give left over food to them. Ninety percent of these watchmen are from Srikakulam and Vishakhapatnam. Who says coastal Andhra is developed?
It is very common to see girls below the age of ten are employed to look after babies of these buildings as most of the women are also employed. The girls employed are either the children of watchmen or are brought from the native towns of the residents.
Where is the labour department?

INDIANOIL-My last day

I am sharing with you the text of what I spoke during my farewell meet on the last working day in May 2003.

I joined IOC in Feb 1970 and after training worked in several locations, including Imphal, which was a difficult location.

Those were the days when many facilities were non-existent. Imphal Depot was road fed. But there was no TLF bay. 10 to 15 trucks were received every day. I was the only officer and had to climb each truck twice – once to see the levels on arrival – second time to check after the topping up. Though work was tough, there was a great social standing. Being a small state, I was in the list of invitees for Independence Day and Republic Day functions at CM’s residence. While in Warangal also there was good social standing. IOC officer had unrestricted access to Collector and SP.

I was always bad in boss management. I did not realise that, that was the most important factor.

I consider myself far ahead of my time. Many times the ideas that I give are rejected and even laughed at. But the same ideas get implemented after 5 to 6 years. For instance when the State Offices were formed I suggested that the depots should report to SOM instead of to DOs. I was rather ridiculed for such a suggestion. The then DGM and SOM said reporting of Depots to DMs was in the best interest of sales. This was implemented after 4 years. I am sure even now the best interests are served.

I worked with some good people. Among them, I can name Rath, V.K. Chowdary, Supriya Basu, Ghoshal. They were my reporting officers. I enjoyed working with them. Unfortunately, they happened to be in those posts for very short time. I also happened to work with some who were psychic. Among them were Ramdas, S. Ramamurthy and Appa Rao. However, these people atleast thought what they did was right. There are always two concepts of right. I must share with you what it was to work with someone like B.C. Rai. He was DM, B’lore and I was SO, Devanagere. In meetings he used to show his photograph and ask us “Do you know this handsome man?” If he rang up Region, he would tell the PA to BSM “your future BSM is speaking”.

Then there was Urs, who would take a knap and immediately on waking up target an officer and shout at him. This was management by terror.

We have come a long way. Today we have infrastructure in all locations, excellent facilities, Innumerable welfare measures and by & large well-meaning and highly qualified management. I am glad that I have seen this growth during my tenure before superannuation.

The only thing that I like to emphasise is that many more developments have to take place. As I see the main weakness today is in the field of time management. Excellent reports are prepared, excellent proposals are generated but unfortunately not within the time frame. All Oil Cos. have all facilities on par. We must steal a march over them by practicing good time management. I think I have a right to say these things because I am your elder. Senior most among you have more than two years to superannuate.

I would like to say a few more things. My personal interests are social history, literature, but not novel & fiction. I like poetry, drama & critical essays.

I find canvas of fiction/novel is too large and I tend to lose interest. However, before reading I check whether it is third person or first person narrative. I read only if the work is in the form of dialogues – interaction among the characters.

I love reading poetry – both Urdu & English. I love paintings and music though I do not understand both much. I cannot differentiate one raga from the other. All the same I enjoy listening.

I study religion, for me religion is not rituals. Religion is all about morals or dharma that is to say being good.

I must say people in IOC have all been good to me. I have enjoyed love & respect of all, particularly in this posting. This office has a large number of excellent officers & staff. They are also good human beings.

I must mention a few people I worked with directly--Prasad, Madhavi while I was in Operations for two years and Vijayasree & Ramesh in LPG.I thank them for their cooperation during the period. I have not worked with, but known all other youngsters like Prasannas, Vaheda, Satyanarayanas, Swamy, Laxmi, Sirisha, etc. We also had (I am saying “had” because it has not functioned for long) LMG with members Vasanth, Venkat, Rajkumar, Shankar Rao & Janaki. We met occasionally over drinks. I spent memorable time with them
I have known all in Operations group very closely. I have known Girish, Anand Rao, Sharif, Paul, and Brahmam for over 10 to 15 years. I now want to say a few words about a great man, who has been too good to me. He loves me, accepts me as I am and fights for me. He is the one who is responsible for my E Grade. He is Mr. Vasanth Kumar.

Read poetry take interest in fine arts. These provide relaxations leading to rejuvenation. Create or appreciate beautiful things. Think freely and independently. Live rightly and do not differentiate between man and man. Real happiness comes from making others happy.

It is said mankind are happy for having been happy. If you make a man happy today, you will make him happy 20 years hence by remembrance of it.

INDIANOIL-Vigilance in management

In the year 2003, before I retired, I wrote this article when vigilance week was being celebrated.

What do I understand by vigilance and corporate growth? The subject confused me. With a little knowledge of Internet that I had, to my surprise I found a number of sites on the subject. Every site talked about vigilant management. Not the vigilance as it is commonly understood. And the address of Mr.Vittal to IOC is also a site on the net, which tallies with common understanding of vigilance in management.

The correct understanding of vigilance in management is being vigilant, be it the management of finance, raw material, human resource, machinery and most importantly time. If this concept is accepted, vigilance is one important component of a manager. A manager without this component is no manager. If function of a manager were compared to human anatomy, which organ would you think would be vigilance? I leave this question unanswered.

Managers, who strictly observe vigilance in the commonly understood sense of the word, tend to violate the same, which the non-discerning eye does not notice. To give a commonplace example, touring. It is commonplace to see managers touring where touring is not really needed. We have examples of managers visiting each and every distributor, dealer all over the state, which is primarily a function of a field officer. To top it they complain they have no time for their family. This is where the vigilant time management is lacking. No one can manage time; one has to manage oneself within the time frame. Vigilance in time management (misnomer) requires one to audit one's time spent. Making a time chart can do this exercise. One has to keep an account of time spent against the time scheduled. This done for a week or so will give an insight into one's time management. The next step is to budget one's time. Please remember time is as important as finance. We all have seen how a schedule is observed more in breach. Call to mind any programme that you attended. There is always an agenda, earmarking time. To begin with the programme does not begin on time. Every one of us knows all rest. I go back in time to my college days. Sociology was one of my subjects of study and conflict of roles was an important topic. That was the time when a film by name Anuradha, with Balraj Sahni and Leela Naidu in the cast was released. This film dealt with the same subject of conflict of roles. A Doctor engrossed in his medical practice totally forgets his role as a husband. Of course as it happens in films the Doctor realizes his mismanagement of time which resulted in his wife's frustrations. We have several roles to play. A successful man is one who budgets his time for each role and keeps auditing it. Think of a man who rises to the top of the ladder of one role and is on the lowest rung in rest of the roles. That is lop-sided.

Talking of time it is not out of place to discuss how top level enjoy performing lower level functions. I have known a GM of our region personally allocating flats for officers. The function of manager administration was just to give the GM details of availability of vacant flats and the applications of the officers. GM had time to do this job! This type of management is considered involved management by the beneficiaries of the system. Innumerable examples of this type can be cited. These are the things that occupy the precious time of our top level.

Let us take finance. There are so many areas to be vigilant in finance. Vigilant does not mean maneuvering to bypass commonly understood vigilance. It is all about controllable expenditure. Many are telephone happy. There was a manager in Vizag Terminal who was very rarely found not on telephone. If you wanted to talk to him you would be just sitting before him, he being continuously on phone, making one call after another. We found it easier to communicate with him if we contacted him on intercom. What can be communicated in 2 minutes is explained in 10 minutes. Brevity results from clarity of thought. Communication is a skill every manager should possess. It is indirectly linked to management of finance. Travel is another most controllable aspect. I have already dealt with this. I also wonder how finance concurs expenditure on various parties, which are internal.

We have given precious space for ATM booths for ICICI bank in several ROs in Hyderabad at very nominal rent ranging between Rs.6000/- to Rs.10000/-. I am aware of the concept of allied selling, which is one of the major retail factors. My query in an SMC was how these ATMs are helpful to us. But, unfortunately our GM did not want any debate on the subject. I was almost made to feel my query was stupid. I had similar experience again during SMC on an earlier occasion. That time when the discussion was about handing over of Renigunta depot site back to Rlys, I suggested we do not pay the rental as the delay in handing over was because Rlys requested for infrastructure free of cost. This is where vigilant finance comes into picture.

We have today quite a few products of management schools. Good. We need them. But all that they are used for is statistics. Statistics is a base for any decision-making. It is not an end in itself. So much of statistical analysis is churned out. Various permutations and combinations are used. Looked at from all available angles. It remains a monument. The products of management schools should be used for achievements and not just for super power point presentations before dignitaries whose visits are quite common. I covered it in the earlier portion. Path is important but the function of the path is to lead to destination.

We Indians are very receptive to new ideas. We accept all modern management principles as long as we are in classrooms. Away from classrooms, in real work situations we do exactly opposite of what we appreciate in classrooms. If at least 10% of what is so laboriously learnt in management schools is put to practice it will make a difference.

In order to accept and practice modern concepts unlearning is the first step. And unlearning has to be at the top as well as the bottom levels of management hierarchy. Faster the top unlearns lesser is the need for lower levels to unlearn.

Let us wish ourselves good luck. I do not really believe in luck. I quote from the Quran -
“ Allah does not alter the state of a people until they themselves make a move to change it.” (13:11)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


According to PTI online news of 18.12.2009, “The Government is considering taxing most of the perquisites, including housing and conveyance at the hands of the employees during this fiscal.

According to official sources, the salaried class may have to bear an additional tax burden on their perquisites in the form of housing, conveyance, or monetary compensations in lieu of them, among other benefits”.
Whenever I go for some purchases at ‘more’ or ‘food world’, I find quite a few buyers make their payment through coupons. Both the malls are near Shantinagar colony where many residents are IT employees. I always wondered what kind of coupons they were. They carry a big ‘book’ of coupons and tear out some for purchases worth over thousand rupees. One day I asked a buyer with coupons and his reply was that the companies they were employed by gave them coupons as part of certain portion of their salary. He agreed when I said it was one way of avoiding Income Tax. What does the Government intend to do in such cases?

The other huge area is dividends. Shareholders do not pay tax on income from dividends. Just imagine the amount of money large shareholders make through dividends. If the government is serious about revenue collection they should make dividends taxable beyond a reasonable amount.

Friday, December 18, 2009

INDIANOIL-Servo Towers

Servo Towers

Family retention in Hyderabad was agreed to by management when I was transferred to Chennai in 1995. I had requested for the facility because my daughter got admission in an Engineering college in Hyderabad. So my wife and daughter shifted to Servo Towers, Indian Oil’s own residential building for officers, situated in Ameerpet, a locality of Hyderabad. On two sides of the building clearance between the structure and compound wall was about ten feet and on the other two sides it was still less. The flat given to my family was on first floor that is just above the car parking.

Boys and girls of the building started playing shuttle right below my flat. Cock would land in one of our balconies and the door bell would ring and one of the players would ask for the cock landed in one of our balconies. Initially my wife obliged. Some times she would leave her work, watching something interesting on TV, leaving stitching half way through or leaving half done ‘phulka’ to attend to the players’ demand. They almost turned her into their at-your-service person. She could take it no longer. She told them to keep a dozen shuttle cocks ( that was almost the number of times she was at their service each day) and collect them at the end of the day or the next morning. They did not like it nor did their parents.

They all complained to DGM. During one of my visits on leave, Somashekhar ( his two daughters, one an employee of Jet Airways and the other a college student were two of the many players) told me that DGM had decided to close my balconies with wire mesh.
I told him that it should be done for all the flats, and incase my flat was singled out for netting, DGM would face trouble. I told him to convey it to DGM.
Thus the trouble for my wife was over.

There were two other families staying on ‘retention’. Not the wives and children of the officers but their sisters. One flat was occupied by two sisters (they were operating a telephone booth and were self employed) of an officer, who was posted at Vijayawada and was there with his wife. An officer’s sister and brother-in-law occupied another flat, while the officer was in Vijayawada with his wife. His sister was a physician and brother in law a businessman. DGM bade dilwala tha ji!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SC wants caste system abolished

“Unfortunately, the centuries-old Indian Caste System still takes its toll from time to time. This case unfolds the worst kind of atrocities committed by the so-called upper caste (Kshatriya or Thakur) against the so-called lower caste — Harijan caste in a civilised country,” the top court observed.
“It is absolutely imperative to abolish the caste system as expeditiously as possible for the smooth functioning of rule of law and democracy in our country,” a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A.K. Patnaik said expressing anguish over occurrence of such crimes. While restoring the life sentence to six members of the Thakur community — Mathura Singh, Udai Bhan Singh, Dhirendra Singh, Munna, Ram Niwas Singh and Vijay Karan Singh — for the heinous crime, the Bench directed that the four surviving accused should surrender to the authorities immediately while cancelling their bail bonds.
“The accused belonging to Thakur caste butchered seven innocent persons belonging to the Harijan caste and to wipe out the evidence of their atrocities, after shooting they were thrown in the Ganges,” the court stated.
The above text is from Deccan Chronicle report on 6.12.2009.
I studied caste system as a student of Sociology. There are only four castes—brahmin, kshtrya, vaishya and shudra. Dalits are outside the fourfold hindu society. I do not use the term harijan. I agree with what Mayawatiji said about it. Dalits do not belong to any caste.
It is a very noble thought that caste system should be abolished. It would have been most welcome had the judges suggested ways of abolition.
What were the judgements of lower courts?

Another notable judgement.
Recognising the right of Muslim women beyond the iddat period under the Family Court Act of 1984 and other relevant legal provisions, the Supreme Court has held that a divorced Muslim wife would continue to get maintenance from her ex-husband if she doesn’t remarry. This was reported in the same news paper on 5.12.2009. As expected muslim clerics have raised concerns and I am also sure that a Rajiv will undo the judgement.
In one judgement SC asks for abolition of caste system but in this case does not even suggest enactment and implementation of uniform civil code, which to my knowledge is part of ‘directive principles of state policy’.