OPED

Sardar statue to cost Rs. 2000 Crores

Prof. N.R. Dave
13-06-2013

Do we need a Ratan Tata to tell his Nano-host that the concern for human development index for Gujarat dictates that Rs. 2000 Crores has several alternative uses for improving quality of life of down-trodden and needy and for enhancing their dignity as human beings? 

Shall we furnish arithmetic of Rs. 2000  crores as equivalent  options in number of good and functioning primary schools, primary healthy centres and potable as well as reliable water supply system for each village in the State?

Sardar is the tallest of the tallest for all the time. Does he need artificial and physical height to be visible for being inspirational to the generations to come? Sardar Patel University, Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration, Sardar Smruti, Sardar Smarak are some of the institutes in the State  which need to be augmented, enriched and brought up to world class centres of excellence. It is childish to throw old toys in a dustbin and seek new toys for possessive and promotional vanity. 

In fact, there has not been any public debate on this momentous project. Politicians of all colours are understandably silent; some intellectuals are apprehensive of antagonizing the regime and others are simply indifferent. 

Erecting a statue is not an innovative idea.  There are thousands of them everywhere in cities, towns and villages.  Anybody who mooted this idea of the tallest Sardar needs to be credited for packaging the gimmick properly.  This was perhaps at a time when the Chief Minister, as reported in the media, commented that the bureaucrats were not coming up with any new idea or scheme.

In a country  more and more petty politicians with parochial loyalties are thrown up at the top post, imagine ---- states and UTs--- installing the tallest statues of  Gandhiji, Sardar, Buddha, Mahavir, Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Kanshiram, Mayawati etc  and vying with each other to escalate the height of statue higher than 182 metres.

It is not so much relevant as whose money you are spending; it is pertinent to ask whether you are doing enough to inspire the generations to come for inculcating grand values and rich legacy of such eminent persons. It is rather difficult, but then that is only thing worth doing. Long term vision needs long term total concerns.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

I am somehow feeling very foolish about the on-going media frenzy and public debate about BCCI chief N Srinivasan’s much demanded resignation. The unborn resignation is somewhat like a truant and overdue child birth that pains the expectant woman and possesses the nervous attention of her husband. The foolish thing is that my physical and electronic neighbourhood looks like a billion blood-vessel-bursting husbands panicking over an overrated soon-to-be born resignation.

Talking about my close companions, my educated and professionally successful friends – it is important to indicate that they are intelligent and practical – have declared that they will not watch any Indian cricket under the auspices of BCCI until the BCCI rot gets stemmed, starting with the process’ biggest milestone - Srinivasan’s resignation.

‘Srinivasan’s Resignation’ could be a nice Shakespearean tragi-comedy with some of the bard’s wit and wisdom woven into the narrative, but presently it does not qualify to become even a ‘Bhejafry 3’ hence I refuse to be its excited audience. I will continue to watch every game of cricket that attracts me.

Let me present here some arguments to establish that the importance of Srinivasan’s resignation is bogus and it makes us forget more urgent things.

Our Obsession with Symbolism. We Indians love symbols – and our love is beyond logic. A railway accident on India’s century old creaking and unmaintained tracks must get the sacrifice of the railway minister who has been in office for merely a couple of years! After a certain brutal rape, one in many hundreds over years, protesters demand the resignation of the police commissioner. Do not mistake me to be dismissive of the lost lives or the sufferings of the victims of inhumanity. But do try to understand that a sick society that we have become can only produce a new railway minister and a new police commissioner who are as imperfect as those who resigned. People talk about surgical treatment of governing bodies and I fully agree that the faulty ones need to be surgically removed, but let us be gripped with removing the source, not only the manifestation of cancer. Symbolism only satisfies a momentary surge of sentiments.

The Raktabija Phenomenon. This leads from the symbolism argument. In Sanskrit, rakta stands for blood and bija for seed. Raktabija was a demon who had the ability of producing thousands of clones as soon as a drop of his blood, upon being wounded by an enemy, touched the ground. Thus his sinful excesses were endlessly perpetuated, much beyond the control of gods as any attempt to kill him would result in the drops of his blood producing many more Raktabijas. In the mythology of Indian cricket, BCCI is that Raktabija, out of control of its key stakeholders - the Indian cricket lovers, the Indian government and ICC. I include the Indian government here because BCCI’s cricketers wear the national cap. Srinivasan is just a clone of a system which is unregulated and all powerful. If we get rid of one Srinivasan, what we get is a Dalmiya. We either get a crony of this camp or that camp. By all means, do get rid of Srinivasan on the ground of conflict of interest as BCCI chief cum IPL team owner or for having an unindicted match fixer as son in law, but don’t be a sucker to believe that he will be replaced by a well-meaning leader. The BCCI environment has been designed to accept power brokers, not cricketing leaders, as its chief. If you want to rid the world of BCCI the demon, killing its clones like Srinivasan may not even be a temporary solution.

The Mahakali Paradigm. Finally the Raktabija was killed by the Goddess Mahakali. Since every drop of Raktabija’s blood was capable of producing his clone, someone had to change the paradigm of battling him with a sword. As the story goes, Mahakali raised him high in the air and tore him into two, drinking every spout, every drop of his blood until the last drop. (Sorry for the gory details!) Not a drop reached the ground and no clone was produced. We need to change the rules of BCCI’s game. I suggest the following schema for a new, potentially honest and efficient BCCI.

Corporate avatar : BCCI to be reformatted as a limited liability company under the Indian company law. It will therefore have articles and memorandum of association, with ethical development and regulation of cricket and well-being of cricketers and their audience as its main motto. It will be registered with the Registrar of Companies and accordingly its charter documents will be open to public scrutiny and capable of being changed for the better.

Public participation : BCCI to have equity shareholding like any other public company. No single shareholder to be allowed to hold more than 5% equity, just like it is for banks in most countries. The President of India to hold 5% shares and the rest to be sold – through an IPO - to general public investors and other sporting bodies resulting in a company with widely held public ownership. The company should be listed on the national stock exchanges. 

Tax-paying entity : BCCI, like any other corporate entity, shall be liable to income tax, service tax, VAT and so on. BCCI accounts to be audited and published every quarter the way it happens for all listed companies. Provisions relating to internal audit and statutory audit to apply under the company law.

Board of directors : The BCCI board could consist of a suitable number, say 9 directors. The President of India, acting through the Ministry of Sports, to nominate one director, the rest to be appointed by shareholder vote as in any other public company. At least 4 directors to be retired cricketers who played for India. In order to promote non- partisan and ethical development of the game of cricket, active politicians, persons defending lawsuits for financial fraud or criminal offence, employees of a state government or Central Government shall be disqualified from becoming board directors. (I might sound a bit like Arvind Kejriwal, so be it!) 

Corporate management : BCCI shall be managed by a regular corporate structure of a CEO reporting to the board, various function heads and staff supported by proper qualifications and experience.

Disclosures and transparency : Indian listed companies are governed by disclosure norms under extensive regulatory framework such as Securities and Exchange Board of India and its regulations, the National /Bombay Stock Exchange and their listing agreements, the Income Tax Act and rules, the Companies Act and so on. This framework is strong enough to materially improve BCCI’s workings from their current levels.

ICICI Bank and home loan company HDFC come to my mind as successful and mostly clean behemoths having started as government supported but private in nature institutions and BCCI could learn from them to replicate their clean management, nurturing of world class talent and profitable but ethical functioning.

I can imagine several arguments that can be raised against the framework I am suggesting. Such arguments are welcome. Such debates are much better than debating a resignation. All I want is to convince my friends that we indeed need to reinvent the BCCI - body, mind and spirit. We will all feel a lot less clownish if we can move from pulling down Srinivasan to razing down BCCI to rebuild it for the modern times. It has long outlived its life as a 1930s cosy club of princelings and petty officers with spare time.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED