Why not Independent Directors in time?

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India is today proud to have many public sector companies that have high quality managements and can give any private companies in the same industry segment a run for their money. The NTPC, BHEL, ONGC, IOC, BPCL and GAIL are some such examples, having excelled in their businesses despite being hamstrung by government interference and influence in their decision making. The Central Government’s apathy and casual approach towards these companies are once again visible, this time on the critical issue of composition of the board of directors which presides over the efficient management and future of any company.

The role of Independent Directors on the board of a public sector undertaking (PSU) assumes even greater significance in view of the Government’s interference in the functioning of these companies. Independent Directors can act as a counter influence and balancing factor in the interest of the company. But it is an irony that the role of the Search Committee which recommends the names of Independent Directors for public sector companies itself is under a cloud. The recent appointment of some Independent Directors with questionable credentials has raised a big question mark on the process of selection by the Search Committee. At the same time, major PSUs waiting to launch their IPOs and FPOs are waiting for appointment of Independent Directors. The role of the Department of Public Enterprises is also

debatable. PSUs urgently need fresh capital to face increasing competition, a tough business environment and a tight liquidity scenario. Disinvestment is one way which not only ensures an inflow of capital but also brings in more efficiency and transparency. But PSUs like the BHEL, ONGC and RINL are unable to raise capital through IPOs/FPOs because they are short of Independent Directors and are thus not eligible to tap the capital market under the guidelines mandated by market regulator SEBI. It is indeed intriguing that the Government fails to appoint Independent Directors in time even when they are appointed for a fixed tenure and thus the Government knows well in advance when a particular Director will retire.

The Government needs to pull up its socks. Independent Directors should not only be appointed as soon as a vacancy is created but those who make the cut should be of impeccable credibility and track record. With this issue, Bureaucracy Today is introducing a new column for the aspiring bureaucrats. Senior bureaucrats will share their experiences, explain how they cleared the UPSC exams and will give insights into how the candidates who have cleared the mains should handle the interview. We hope aspiring bureaucrats will get invaluable guidance through this column.

Suhaib Ilyasi

The plaguing negativism in Indian bureaucracy

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The plaguing negativism in Indian bureaucracy Is India developing on the pretext of being a conformist nation denying to break through the established standards of conduct?Are we a nation which is dreaded of taking bold decisions? At least this is what is visible if we look at the current state of affairs as far as the bureaucracy is concerned.The aftermath of this phenomenon may not be strikingly visible today but it will have its effects on the surface after two years from now. Public sector Chairmen and Managing Directors seem to be vary of taking bold decisions on important business deals thus hampering the growth of their undertakings and lack a go-getters attitude which is necessary for all the PSUs to take that leap to expand their business offshore. Bureaucrats are dithering to move files with key financial implications
and are dreading a future quandary which may put their career growth at stake. The caution continues with ministers as well. It is true that those guilty of jumping the formidable line for personal gains should be taken to task but it is equally unfair to paint every bureaucrat with the same brush. The result of which is that hardly any bureaucrat is audacious enough to resolve the stalemate in any of the key matters. Suhel Seth in his column rightly points out, “It is not about the deed. It is always about the intent.” Even the self-proclaimed crusaders against corruption are not untouched by controversies over their personal gains. Kiran Bedi has been rightly pointed out as one such example by many in the media and governance.

However, the negativism among fellow bureaucrats is something that the newly appointed Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Pulok Chatterji, has to deal with. While former Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar was known for his fire-brand capability of taking decisions under tight circumstances, it is to be seen how his successor, AK Seth,manages the billet and the task of encouraging bureaucrats to emerge from the current hysteria. In this context, we should note a contrast in Karnataka where former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa was saving his face by protecting some of his shady Cabinet Ministers but a bureaucrat was dutifully obeying the Supreme Court orders of a ban on mining activity in Bellary. Deputy Commissioner Amlan Aditya Biswas, IAS, seized trucks carrying 9,000 metric tonnes of iron ore to the “(in)famous” Reddy brothers’ corporation. Even when the people in power were trying to bamboozle his tenure in Bellary Biswas’s courage made the apex court put a ban on his transfer or posting to another district. Meet this month’s Bureaucrat of the month for his courage and dutifulness, a trait every young bureaucrat must take a cue from.