Kartavya,Adhikaar And Skill. A Worthy recipient of Skill India Scheme?

Lalu Bumperwale - How the Govt. can encourage the right entrepreneur

My car was rear-ended by a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) on NH24 on the way from Ghaziabad to Delhi earlier this year. The enormous bull-bar in front of the SUV, which I doubt is permissible under law, got under and behind the rear bumper of my car and the two cars got entangled. I could not move my car with the bar still under the rear bumper. It took several minutes of a tussle to disentangle the cars.

The car radio had an FM station running Prime Minister Modi’s speech about the Skill-India mission and the MUDRA scheme of the government. He also talked at length about how people in India think less about their Kartavya (Responsibilities) and more about their Adhikaar (Rights).

Two traffic police officers who were nearby arrived on the scene, probably because the incident was causing a traffic jam. One of the officers encouraged me to let go of the incident “Ab kya kar sakte hain”. The officers actively participated in the effort to disentangle the cars, so I doubt that they lacked a positive attitude. Government administrators in India love to lump all the causes of their failures into this one word – ‘Attitude’. The officers, I believe, were probably not trained on what procedures to follow and how to determine liabilities, or not properly incentivized to take the appropriate actions. The landmark paper by Steven Kerr The folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B, which also explains why the mighty American forces failed in Vietnam, is taught in almost every administration program in the U.S., and can explain a good chunk of government administration failures in India.

I had an important matter to attend to, and decided not to pursue to claim damages, despite the foregone conclusion that a car that hits from behind is almost always held responsible; a few years ago I had an opportunity to discuss with a police officer in Washington D.C. about how law enforcement officers determine who is at fault in an accident, and later discovered that the same rules exist in India.

A few days after the incident, I drove the car around with my father to find a repair shop. A local mechanic inspected and offered a makeshift solution to put a screw through the bumper and into the body of the car to hold it in place.  When I asked him if he can repair the bumper, he recommended “Lalu Bumperwale”, a shop near the old bus station in Ghaziabad.

The car radio had an FM station running Prime Minister Modi’s speech about the Skill-India mission and the MUDRA scheme of the government. He also talked at length about how people in India think less about their Kartavya (Responsibilities) and more about their Adhikaar (Rights).

A few minutes later, I had my car parked beside a signboard that read “Lalu Motors Bumper Repair”. I was promptly approached by the owner of the shop; he seemed to know his Kartavya of customer service. This was within a couple of months after the demonetization announcement when business was dry, so his swiftness might have been out of desperation, but let’s give him the benefit of doubt and ascribe his actions to his commitment to Kartavya.

He inspected the rear as well as the front bumper and told us that they both needed repair. The front bumper had been damaged earlier. A price of about Rs. 1,100 ($17) was agreed upon and the repair work started immediately. The workshop was connected to the front of the shop by a narrow passage. I followed the two repairmen who removed the bumpers from the car and took them to the workshop.

The current government is being guided, or rather misguided, by the same-old bureaucrats who cannot think beyond their self-defined Kartavya of central planning and government control, and its various schemes are further entrapping India in the fatal conceit.

A blow torch, plastic strips, a diesel power-generator, two tattered car seats for the repairmen to sit on, and car bumpers of various sizes stacked in a room. The skills of the two repairmen are noteworthy. Using just plastic strips, a blowtorch, and bare hands, they replicated the entire structure under the bumper that was ripped apart in the traffic incident. The bumpers were then kept aside for a while for the plastic to harden and the car was ready to go in about forty-five minutes. Just about when my father paid Lalu Bumperwale his Adhikaar (Rs. 1,100), one of the repairmen grabbed a cloth and started cleaning the bumpers and the car. He didn’t need to clean the car. Neither did I ask, nor did I expect him to. He did it nevertheless. Even the repairman somehow knew his Kartavya.


As I drove the car back, a few questions arose in my mind. Does the top bureaucrat, in charge of the Skill-India scheme, who might have passed a geography exam thirty years ago to become an IAS officer, and who, unlike the repairmen, needs the President of India’s approval before he can lose his job, know his Kartavya? Or more relevantly, can he know his Kartavya? Can he possibly know that there is a demand in Ghaziabad of skills needed to repair bumpers of cars, a niche carved out by Lalu Bumperwale? And even if he somehow does come to know, can he institute a system to impart skills and knowledge required to set up a bumper repair shop; where to buy a blow torch, where to get plastic strips of the required grade, how to train and incentivize the repairmen, how to calibrate the blowtorch so that it does not over-melt the plastic? Do the employees of the nationalized banks, whose salaries go up even when the bank’s bottom line is taking a severe hit, have any incentive to lend Rs.1,00,000 ($1700) to Lalu Bumperwale, who can potentially expand, employ more people and pay back his loan. Or would they prefer to lend Rs.10,000 to ten people trained under the Skill-India scheme instead, to provide bureaucrats with the numbers they can quote for their “performance-based” promotion? Does the bureaucrat, who decided that the government needs to charge more tax on gasoline to finance the Skill-India mission, know that he has now left car owners with less money to spend on bumper repairs?

It seems to me that these questions are not intuitive to the bureaucrats that Prime Minister Modi so heavily relies upon. The current government is being guided, or rather misguided, by the same-old bureaucrats who cannot think beyond their self-defined Kartavya of central planning and government control, and its various schemes are further entrapping India in the fatal conceit.

I would recommend you to read the following articles to understand how the various governments in India, including the current government, have deviated from their true Kartavya. The article Republic of Ghaziabad – Part I explains in layman’s terms how governments impede economic progress. The article Breaking One Shackle Of The Fatal Conceit explains with the help of an analogy, how the government of India is making the same mistakes that have kept India trapped in poverty for seventy years.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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