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Apr 08, 2012, 10.10 AM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

India needs a committed bureaucracy: DMRC's E Sreedharan

With no government functioning and everybody just playing politics, E Sreedharam the Principal Advisor at DMRC believes that politicians are not acting as statesmen and thus the country suffers.

India needs a committed bureaucracy: DMRC's E Sreedharan

With no government functioning and everybody just playing politics, E Sreedharam the Principal Advisor at DMRC believes that politicians are not acting as statesmen and thus the country suffers.

He thinks that policy decisions need to be taken by politicians and the bureaucrats have to implement it. But the bureaucracy is reluctant to do so for the fear of scandals and thus what we need is a very committed bureaucracy. He is doubtful that any bureaucrat today will stand up for the principle the way he had during the period of the setting up of the Delhi Metro.

 Below is the edited transcript of his interview on CNBC-TV18. Also watch the accompanying videos.

Q: Before you share with us about what you learnt along your journey at DMRC, at Konkan Railways, I want to talk to you about the current state of affairs in the country. This is with regards to this whole business of policy paralysis and lack of decision making. Are you afraid that this is going to impact India’s tryst with infrastructure development significantly?

A: Certainly, because there is really no government functioning today. Everybody is only playing politics. No real governance is taking place. Unfortunately our politicians are only politicians, they are not statesmen and naturally the country suffers.

The way we started in the early 90’s I thought we would have come up very fast, but during the last one or two years, things are not at all looking very bright.

Q: But do you blame the politicians? Do you blame the bureaucracy? Because if you talk to the politicians, they say what can we do? It is a center-state issue. If you talk to somebody at the center, they say the state government doesn’t play ball with us. If you talk to the bureaucrats, they say why should we sign on something that we may be held accountable for later. So, there is this immense sense of distrust between the political community and the bureaucracy, which is now impacting practically decision making in every aspect of governance in this country?

A: In a way you are right, but the policy decisions have to be taken by the politicians and the bureaucrats have to implement it. True, today an atmosphere has been created in the country where politicians don’t give policy decisions and even when decisions are given bureaucracy is reluctant to carry it out for fear of scandals and things like that. Anything they do, they feel that they will get into trouble. So, they are reluctant to carry out even what is required for the country.

If you look back the country way the country was being ruled about 50 years back - the ICS bureaucrats, they were really ruling the country, not the politicians. Politicians are only giving general guidelines – how we should proceed.

Q: So, do you believe we need a stronger bureaucracy today?

A: No, I don’t say that. I would say that, we want a very committed type of a bureaucracy.

Q: Do, you believe the situation today is far worse than it ever was? Do you believe the situation today is much worse than when you were trying to get the DMRC up and running?

A: I think so. When we wanted the DMRC to come up or the Metro to come up in Delhi, there was whole hearted support from every angle – the politicians, the bureaucrats. Today we find things are changing - even here in Delhi Metro itself, to get things done it has become so difficult today.

Q: Is it because of the multiplicity of decision making bodies, what is the problem exactly to your mind?

A: Multiplicity of decision making bodies was still there, it is not a new thing. It is the attitude now – attitude of the bureaucracy particularly.

Q: Are the bureaucrats running scared at this point in time? Do you believe that is the biggest problem?

A: Yes. They are terribly afraid. They don’t want to stick their neck out that is the real situation. Nobody wants to take a real decision. Otherwise why should things drag on?

Q: What could be the solution?  I want you to pick up from instances that you faced while you were trying to get the Delhi Metro up and running. I understand that there was a face off, when the politicians actually lobbied for the Germans, you insisted that it should be the Japanese. You stuck your neck out and said, no we need to tie up with the Japanese. How did you for instance go through with that, how did you stand your ground?

A: At that time things were very clear. We were getting Japanese aid, we appointed general consultants and we went through the normal very transparent process of selecting a consultant. In that process a consortium of Japanese came up for our selection. Nobody can just throw it out, simply because somebody wanted the Germans to come in.

So, I had to stand up and say we will not change the decision we have taken, we have selected the Japanese consultants and we will go ahead with that. Today I wonder whether the officials or the bureaucracy will stand up and take principle of this type – I wonder they will really do it.

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