Wasted integrity

An IAS officer writes this wonderful open letter to the Prime Minister, stating the significance of action above achievement. It is action, and only action, that amounts to a great leader being remembered by history as a contributor to a nation's empowerment.

If not, then what use is it being a prime minister if, even after reaching the very top, you can’t do a damn in an hour of national crisis? Soon, all this will be forgotten and it will be back to business as usual. But then, history will judge you. If you have some conscience left, please do something. Don’t forget, “mind without heart, intelligence without conduct, cleverness without goodness are all tools, but only for mischief”. [Live Mint]

The PM is an exponent of a text-book life and glowing report cards. This is not to say that his integrity should be doubted or his honesty questioned. But when you are guided by a de-facto presence in your Cabinet, when you head a corrupt party of politicians with verified criminal records, when you can't stand up for the people of your country in times of dire need, when you represent an elite society that doesn't take up the cause of loss of so much blood until they themselves are touched by menaces like terrorism, there is little you can do but bear the majority of the blame. In this case, all of it.

It is in your hands, Mr. Prime Minister, to enforce measures and mechanisms to keep corruption and bureaucracy in check, to keep erring subordinates in control and to know when to get rid of them, to give a hard-hitting response to threats intending to destabilize a growing nation. So the fault is all yours if you don't rise to the occasion. An occasion that so desperately calls for effective activity from a position like yours.

Medals and honours are showcase material that must be deservingly publicized from the vicinity of your own home, sir. Once that door closes, you step out armed with only your focus on the next move you make and not stockpiled felicitations. "Stand up and deliver" should be the only mantra.

Keep the integrity, the honesty, the soft-spoken nature, the silence and the spongy heart for Page 3 appreciation and Congress sycophants, sir. Even Gandhiji would have shed the "Mahatma" tag so deservedly conferred upon him, if he would have failed to act on the challenges of today.

However, he didn't fail. Unfortunately, you just did.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 7:28:00 AM PST

You know, this coming from an IAS officer does not ring true at all. It is the babus who have tied up the whole country in the red tape of their empire.

Pakistan unleashed a proxy war 20 years back. We almost went to war over Kargil in 1998. In 2001, the same thing happened after the attack on Parliament. All that did not stop Pakistan. It should have been clear to anyone that Pakistan will keep playing this game overtly/covertly unless it is hit hard. The entire National Security apparatus is in the iron grip of babus, as I have highlighted in in my blog. Was any concrete step taken in the last decade to significantly upgrade India's conventional military capability to meet an eventuality that was cinevitable?

Politicians have no clue about the what is needed to meet defence requirememnts. Generalist Babus also don't, but they won't shed their control and let professional decisions be taken. So, after 10 years, we are no stronger than we were and do not have the kind o capabilities needed to inflict a near one-sided unacceptable damage on Pakistan.

The PM cannot take a decision based on bravado. If the capability to take a tough aggressive decision does not exist, the blame has to rest squarely on those who control and manipulate the national security apparatus. The kettle can't call a clean pot black.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 8:15:00 AM PST

I wouldnt tint my vision because of that biased letter by a frustrated IAS Officer. With all due respects to the Mahatma, lets go back to history. He couldnt stop a bigger carnage. It is called Partition of India-if you remember, it was due to sheer hunger of power that his followers had that the people-eating event took place. So, he too headed a corrupt group of politicians of all hues...does that make him any less powerful or of any less esteem?

We, in India are quick to react, quick to lay blames and quick to roll the heads which makes us a laughing stock in front of the world. That is what is happening post the Mumbai Siege.
Jay, If Dr. Manmohan SIngh represents Elite society, then who doesnt? He is a man of the masses. Mild mannered though he is, he is a man of action. Have we forgotten how he risked the government during the nuclear deal? Action does not mean histrionics like Nehru, action does not mean gestures like Advani. Of course we know that the system has failed, of course a calamity of such magnitude would not have happened if the country had been united. Now is the time to show that solidarity, that faith in the leadership. I have never, would never vote for congress as a matter of principle, but I would vote for Dr Singh anyday. And I have faith. Do you think, in today's date, we have any other capable leader except him? He is the last person to crave that foolish page 3 attention.
Excuse my taking so much of comment space.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 8:31:00 AM PST

I agree with Mampi - the system has failed, I also think that we are the system - all of us, politicians, the babus, the 9-5 worker, the businessman .... in short all the citizens of India. We have not taken action - from top to bottom. It frustrates me. Right now - we need action, swift decisive action - the man at the hot seat is the PM. Wish he takes it


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 8:25:00 PM PST

In my opinion he's as empowered as you or me.

  Indian Home Maker

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 9:01:00 PM PST

Trailblazer I totally agree with Mampi on this. M M Singh's the best we've got today.

Also, what happened was because WE refused to get involved and root out divisive, incompetent, corrupt politicians, and now, at a time like this we should all support him.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:35:00 PM PST

Ordinarily it only takes personal will from a man of his stature and position to prevent errors. But Dr. Singh chose to stay in the background and let the Party become the PM with decisions made completely after debates within the Congress Working Committee. The PM has only put his stamp onto those decisions.

He is a puppet, despite all the respect he naturally commands. He had the power to push the nuclear deal but the confidence vote ended up being a farce and the Congress has palpably used corrupt means to win the confidence vote.

I am not blaming him through my post. I'm just saying that his soft approach does not work for a position such as that. From a moral point of view, a person would resign. But he didn't, holding onto the post only for the sake of it.

He could've demanded a resignation from Shivraj Patil a long time back. He could've implemented systems to keep corruption in check because once you become the PM, you need to realize the amount of power you carry. Tell me one significant personally-driven achievement of his, barring the antics of sealing the nuclear deal. It took him 18 hours to respond to the Mumbai attacks.

Dr. Singh is at best a calm, decent socialite who cannot handle the mantle of this post. Your reply to me again suggests that you are an admirer of his decency and honesty. Well, even I am. But you cannot rally behind such qualities and sit back and watch what unfolds in India.

Regarding the Mahatma, he tried his best to stop the Partition. The religious divide failed him. The thread of unity had broken and he couldn't save it. And it pained him deeply. But Gandhi is a completely different entity, who never even considered himself a manager of power. He never wanted to take up any post in the government and had clearly said that. Gandhi's contributions were such that he did all he did and never wanted to reward himself with the post of the PM.

The PM, on the other hand, wants to keep hold of the post at any cost but doesn't seem to care enough to realize what the post means.

Off topic, please take as much space as you want for your comments. :-)


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:37:00 PM PST

Yes, the PM is the flagbearer of the intiatiation of all action.

All of us have failed and should hold our heads down in shame. I have written earlier on that. [Link]


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:39:00 PM PST

I disagree a little. Yes, he's as empowered as you or me. But, that is because he CHOSE to be as empowered as you or me from a position that offers much more power than mine does to me or yours does to you.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:40:00 PM PST

The PM has my whole-hearted support. :-)

I believe it's only because most of us supported him that he has got to where he is. But what after that?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:41:00 PM PST

I agree with your statements about an IAS officer writing this. But again, let's not generalize. The whole of the IAS may not be as corrupt as most of it is.


Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 6:51:00 AM PST

someone remarked the other day...

Dr.Singh is an intelligent man...so why....

there is no room in politics for intelligence...

By asking a few politicians to step down...the government feels that they have done their bit.


Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 7:27:00 AM PST

You know, this coming from an IAS officer does not ring true at all. It is the babus who have tied up the whole country in the red tape of their empire.

What Vinod said is essentially true but what he forgot in those lines was that the babus themselves are puppets-they are constrained and at the mercy of the ministers too.They just frame the policies but whether to implement them or not and how,when etc. is decided by the ministers..
And blaming the PM( this part for the IAS officer's letter as you ellaborated trailblazer) for the entire fiasco (as I chose to call it) is not right- you call him a puppet-if he is a puppet why blame him? He has to do what the high command tells him no? For everything good,it's what the party has told him to do and for anything wrong,just blame him? Aren't these double standards?
I am not saying that he is NOT at fault but laying the entire blame on him is not justice. After all he is going to act on the advise of several agencies.He can't just one day gear up and take a drastic step-thats why its said-'uneasy lies the head that wears the crown'


Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 8:54:00 AM PST

Yes. Intelligence also needs thrust for it to come into use.

What I said was that the PM CHOSE to be a puppet. If he had the strength, he would've outgrown loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhis and come into his own. But he CHOSE to stay in the background, allowing things to go out of control.

He has the power to outdo everything and everyone. But he didn't and we are bearing the cost. He has apologised for the Mumbai blasts, but what purpose will it serve if he doesn't once and for all wake up and realize the problems we face?

All I am saying, in a way to summarize all my previous replies, is that he is NOT an out-and-out leader. Someone we could do without. If this is what we got, we would rather have had Sonia Gandhi take the reins(although I've never supported this) and make her presence official and leave Dr.Singh to his ministerial portfolio.

Integrity and honesty are no excuses for inaction.


Friday, December 12, 2008 at 8:05:00 PM PST

Still all we have are talks by our leaders. All the action which have been taken is due to that of foreign pressure.
We really need some strategic thinking here and some bold steps.


Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 8:25:00 AM PST

I just have one thing to say when I read the headlines in the press and see the live coverage in the media on these terror attacks - we Mumbaikars and the nation as a whole have become numb to these atrocities... My heart goes out to the innocent victims of this senseless violence. In the largest democracy, we are so inept that we cannot elect politicians who are less regional and more Indian, who put the country and its people before their individual gain. How many times will we hearr, after every terror strike, that the Center and the State had prior information on the attacks but did NOTHING about it... it is a shameful that the terrorists who attacked our parliament and were caught and convicted to the death sentence by the highest court in the country are still alive just because the politicians want to appease a certain community. One can just hope and pray that good sense prevails and we wake up to realise that enough is enough!



Monday, December 15, 2008 at 5:04:00 AM PST

@Mashed Musings
You bet.