Incompetent advisors have landed governance in a mess

The tragedy of our nation is that competence and integrity are seldom the criterion for appointments to position of power which, undoubtedly, matter the most in determining the direction of governance, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey

The dilemma before those in power is whom to listen to and whose advice to ignore. This skill distinguishes a good ruler from a bad one. There are several instances of uneducated, inexperienced rulers succeeding in providing just governance to their people, winning laurels and attaining the ranks of the Greats, only because they had the foresight of choosing the right advisers. When any leader commences his rule, the first thing that is observed by the public is- who are the people whom the head of the government has chosen to advise him ? The same is true for democratically ruled countries . Undoubtedly, no one expects that the Leader, elected by the people ,has to be proficient in the art of governance or that he should be highly professional . Neither is it expected that he should be an economist of repute or business tycoon to lead the country quickly ,towards prosperity. The people expect that the Leader ,elected by the people to rule them, should be a person of integrity who has the skill of choosing the right people for the right job ,in the hierarchy of governance.
Most people who failed to govern their country or state or kingdom properly were those who failed in this basic task of choosing the right people for the right job. This aspect is visible in every sphere of our lives. It is not only true for running governments but for running other institutions like schools, hospitals, universities, organisations and even community institutions etc. Whenever mistakes were committed in choosing the head of any institution or a person in a leadership role, that institution soon downslides and loses its status and purpose. We have been witnessing this kind of crisis of incompetent minions and corrupt people being deliberately chosen ,on various pretexts, to head important positions where they could make or mar the lives of millions of people .

The deleterious consequences of such actions of choosing incompetent ,unprincipled people to head important public positions has cost our nation dearly, but this practice goes on abated even today. For instance, for decades so called left oriented people were allowed to ruin many of our institutions, now the right oriented ones are destroying the landscape. Moreover , it is not that only the institutions they headed or are heading today are the ones which suffered, but consequently health, education and development of our nation has suffered. The abysmal situation which we are confronting today has been in the making for the past several decades. Every one occupying decision making positions focused only on consolidating their power bases at the perilous cost of overall national interest. The kind of decline that our institutions have suffered is unprecedented. Today experts/consultants are trying to analyse the situation through various lenses, leading to distorted conclusions and ill founded remedies.

Whenever governments fail to govern properly, and mess up things further, commentators and analysts start blaming the advisors and those surrounding the leaders, conveniently glossing over the truth that these are the Chosen ones, handpicked by the political bosses themselves! Why didn’t they carefully analyse and examine the past performance of those that were short listed ? Why did they not ensure that only people with competence and integrity were chosen and that no other extraneous consideration played any role in the selection process? Naturally ,even after assiduous care ,some mistakes may occur but they will be few and will not cause as much damage to the system.

The tragedy of our nation is that competence and integrity are seldom the criterion for appointments to position of power which, undoubtedly , matter the most in determining the direction of governance. If we look at how decisions to select people to man the positions of power are made , it will become evident that in most cases , barring a few exceptions , factors like obedience, pliability, prior acquaintance, comfort level , caste , religion, regional biases, membership of particular organisations play a major role in making such decisions.The wages of cowardice are immense and there is no apprenticeship of integrity. They are chosen because they will never talk to power.
History of almost all nations is a testimony to the fact that only those rulers made a mark who could identify competent , honest and independent minded people as their advisors . As our history also exemplifies , Akbar , a thirteen year old illiterate boy became Akbar the Great, only because of his navratnas who were the most competent in the realm – Raja Birbal, Tansen, Abul Fazal, Faizi, Raja Man Singh, Raja Todar Mal, Mullah Do Piazza, Fakir Aziao-Din, Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana. There are examples galore in our history books to prove this point . Despite all the available evidence and well meaning advice given to mend their ways , why have our elected rulers failed to comprehend this simple rule of improving governance, is incomprehensible. For decades, the same mistakes are being made and repeated with exactly the same results , i.e. poor governance and continued suffering of abject populace . The time has come for people at the top to realise their mistakes and take corrective actions, without any further delay. We, the people, as well as our leaders have retarded the growth of the nation ,with the condemnable choices we have made. Our leaders must make the right choices now. The bottom line is , if any government fails to govern , do not blame the advisors, blame the person who choose those advisors.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)

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