Memories of a Receding Past: 32

Delhi - IIPA

The shift from Nagpur took me to the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA)in Delhi for a nine-month course in Public Administration. The course was called Advanced Professional Programme in Public Administration (APPPA). It was a prestigious programme run by a prestigious Institute.

Patterned on Royal Institute of Public Administration (RIPA) IIPA runs management courses for public sector managers, government servants, foreign nominees and so on. Its core intent was defined as “de-colonialising of the mindset ofadministration and making it more people oriented”. As a sequel, its responsibility is to enhance the frontiers of knowledge in public policy and governance through applied research and education as well as training of administrators to serve the people of India. Enhancing leadership and managerial qualities on the one hand and developing service orientation on the other are the thrust areas of the Institute.

APPPA was a course developed for middle level management of Government of India and of certain neighbouring countries. Its main components were classroom lectures, a village study culminating with a dissertation and a tour of some neighbouring countries for familiarization with their patterns of administration and administrative practices.

We were around thirty participants in the course from different organized services of the government of India, two Bangladeshis and a Malaysian. Among the Indian participants there was one other Service mate senior to me and a few batch mates whom I met after a gap of almost twenty years. Though the course meant for middle level officers i.e. deputy secretaries level, there was one participant who used to be Additional Secretary level and another who was a Joint Secretary. There was even a chief engineer of the Central Public Works Department. I later came to know that the Course had degenerated into a ploy for those who wanted to remain in Delhi after completion of their tenure regardless of whether they fulfilled the criteria for being inducted for the Course or not. It seems, there used to be pushes, pulls and manipulations to have oneself included in the Course – quite a sordid affair. It is better not to think or speak about it.

I got introduced to the subject of Sociology during this course and I found it immensely interesting. I read up some books and among them was one of MN Srinivas who, I found, was very interesting. Other lectures were routine and not very enlightening as most of us who had qualified in Humanities were aware of them. I recall one very interesting lecture by the representative of Singapore Government who spoke about the differences with Malaysia because of which the port of Singapore became a City State. The separation proved to be for the better for Singapore as, todayfor its size, it is economically and industrially very strong.  

For a village study I was a part of a batch of seven participants who were taken to Udaipur in Rajasthan and were given different subjects for studies in neighbouting villages. I was to study the Rural Indebtedness in a village. My probes pointed towards corruption among the revenue department officials and officials of banks located in the village or near about. The villagers found it too inconvenient to obtain loans from banks as at every step they had to shell out money to bribe either the revenue department officials for certifying the necessity for a loan or the officials of the banks for approving it. The banks were opened in rural areas to wean the villagers away from the usurious village money lenders. But despite the government’s efforts to kill the business of the village money lenders the villagers found him to be the best bet being a one-stop facility for obtaining loans. No clearances from the revenue officials were necessary for which the rural folk had to bribe the officials. Likewise, they did not have to bribe the bank officials to speedily disburse the loan. They did not mind the high interest rates of the money lenders. The rural branches of the banks, therefore, failed to live up to the purpose for which these were opened. The dissertation on the study fetched me, as they did for others for their respective dissertations, a degree of M.Phil recognized all over the country.

Towards the end of the Course we were taken on a familiarization tour of three neighbouring countries, viz. Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore. It was an interesting tour about which I have written separately. Here it would suffice if I pointed out the things which struck me to be useful or strange. For example Sri Lanka was not apparently keen on facilities of training in India or the expertise available. For training of their officials they would depute their officers to distant lands. For example, for acquiring expertise in rice cultivation they would send their officers to Japan when India next door seemingly had the necessary expertise in the shape of a Rice Research Institute. Similarly, I found many of their officers were deputed to UK for training on matters for which expertise was available in India. Either they did not have faith on Indian establishments or the local Indian mission did not sell the country’s wares, so to say, hard enough.

In Malaysia there were two pieces of interesting information that came our way. One was about monitoring of high value projects at the highest level in order to prevent time and cost overruns. The other was about road construction. We had found the roads of Malaysia excellent. The reason was that all the utilities that rendered their services through underground pipes and cables were told before a road is constructed that for next twenty years they would not be allowed to dig up the roads and hence they should do whatever was necessary within the given time frame. In our country we always find that roads are dug up soon after they are built by one utility or the other. 

When we visited Singapore in 1981 Singapore was still considered a cheap market.Its prime minister did not like this tag. He wanted his country to be a market for high-end goods. Over the years he has been successful in having it done and the country now boasts of a market that vies with Dubai as one of the world’s best markets. Even when we visited Singapore it was for us something out of this world. We, of course, were from a poor pseudo—socialist country and had not seen many of the mechanical or electronic gadgets that were being sold openly in its malls. In our country in those days these were not allowed to enter or had very high rate of duty imposed on them. The visit to Singapore, in this  respect, was an eye-opener. 

After nine months for the first time on completion of the training programme I was posted in the national headquarters in New Delhi which was till then known as the P&T Board. The next installment will be about that period of a little more than three years that I spent at this office.

Continued to Next Page


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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