Saturday, November 5, 2011


NOTE:- I think, I must mention here what led me to write this article. In the beginning of my career, I got 3 quick promotions in a span of a little over 5 years. I also got a lot of recognition for my efforts, my enthusiasm, my achievements and so on. Subsequently, while recognition came, no promotions did. This led me at first to apportioning blame on my bosses, particularly since my other role members appreciated my work and were bewildered at my being left out. I found that the fault lay with the system of depending on only one person for appraising an employee. Hence this article. It was written in 1984 - 85 and published in the January - March 1986 issue of "SYNERGY" , the house journal of Indianoil Management academy, an academy that was run by my employer. The concept outlined here, after a lot of work done on it by a whole lot of people, is these days, known as 360 degrees appraisal. In 1992, General Electric adopted it for the appraisal of its employees. When I was doing my M.B.A. at the M.S. University of Baroda in 2000 - 03, I had done a project on introduction of 360 degrees appraisal system in IPCL. The article is now being posted on my blog in order that all the work that I have done so far is available in one place.


Whereas the present performance appraisal system consisting of an appraisal - annually done of an employee's performance - by his superior may be adequate in the case of juniors, the same would need further elaboration in the case of Senior Executives or for a group of persons or for a department responsible for some function. What is outlined below is a kind of functional health survey in respect of an individual's working, a group's functioning, a department's functioning or a company's functioning or the functioning of a group of companies and so on.


Any senior executive deals with the following persons / groups of persons.
a) Superior / Superiors,
b) Subordinates,
c) Peers,
d) Subordinates of peers ( Occasionally ),
e) Agencies providing services / goods,
f) Customers ( Internal or External ), Clients, Departments for whom goods are produced or services are rendered.

The present system of appraisal by Superior amounts to appraisal by only one of the six persons / groups mentioned above. It is therefore quite likely that the appraisal may not be thorough in all its aspects.

What is proposed therefore is that the appraisal should be done by all the persons / groups mentioned above apart from self appraisal so as to get more objective and more broadbased overall appraisal of the performance of the individual.

The first question that would arise is whether it is feasible. It would become feasible if the frequency is once during the occupation of a particular position by the individual rather than making it annually. One would have to design the performance appraisal format in the form of a short questionnaire which would have to be different in all the six cases in view of the disparate expectations from the individual under appraisal, by each of the six above. However the present format would do for self-appraisal as well as appraisal by the superior.

The questionnaire would have to be administered by an interviewer ( preferably from an outside agency ), in order that time is not lost in filling it. Putting signature on the questionnaire would be optional for the interviewee. The interviewer would have to be well-versed in behavioural science, especially in interviewing techniques.

Information compiled from the above should be given in the form of a feedback to the individual under appraisal as a group average along with striking departures from the average in order that he gets a fairly accurate picture of his performance. He would be able to appreciate the gap between self-image and his image in others' minds.

The samples of questionnaires are given at Annexure 'A'. These questionnaires are only illustrative in nature and can be modified to suit specific cases. The functional Health Survey would help an individual to leadership, group membership and customer satisfying attributes.


In the case of a group or a department, its inter-action takes place with the following :-
a) Superior Group - Head Office in case of a branch, Corporate Office / Board of Directors in case of a head office, relevant ministry in case of a Public Sector Undertaking and so on.
b) Subordinate groups as a converse of the groups mentioned in a) above.
c) Peer groups - other branch offices or same department in other branch offices etc.
d) External Agencies through which the group or department functions and
e) The client groups for whom the goods are produced or to whom services are rendered.

At present, the performance of a group or a department is presented by itself and appraised by its superior group. This would amount to a self-appraisal and review by the superior. It is certainly better than a mere appraisal by the superior. It however falls short of the more broad-based appraisal that is proposed here.

I would lay particular stress on the appraisal by the client groups since after all, all the activities of the appraisee group are ultimately meant for serving the client groups. As an organization becomes bigger and more complex, this aspect is often forgotten, resulting in mass dissatisfaction and apathy.

An occasional functional health survey, say once in 2 or 3 years, would help the department to take corrective steps and improve upon its performance. It would also help the department to coalesce themselves more into the group ethic, become a more effective part of the bigger unit and satisfy its client groups to a greater extent.

It needs to be said that both in the case of the individual as well as the group, the functional health survey has to be carried out on a selective basis, both in terms of selection of the individuals / departments as well as in terms of its timing.

More emphasis has to be laid on the outcome of the findings of the functional health survey for proposing remedial actions, in monitoring their progress and whether a subsequent functional health survey shows effective improvement. If it is carried out on a routine basis for all individuals / departments, there is a risk of its degenerating into a cumbersome ritual.



1. How much does he function by the authority of his position ?
2. How much does he function by personal relationships ?
3. Does the appraiser feel that he is able to give his best under the appraisee i.e. his boss ?
4. Does he inspire confidence in you ?
5. Does he encourage you to carry out new ideas ? Does he give you suggestions, possible pitfalls in any ideas that you have ?
6. Does he give you an opportunity to implement new ideas ?
7.Is he rule / system bound / Or is he a law unto himself ? Or does he selectively use his discretion ? Is he approachable ?
8. Is he a good / active listener ?
9. Is he a good communicator ? Does he give clear instructions ?
10. Are his instructions effective ? Does he also tell you the underlying purpose ?
11. How does he face an abnormal situation ? Does he take charg ? Does he also inspire you to take charge in your own sphere?
12. Is he himself disciplined ? Is he punctual ? Does he follow the norms/rules formed by the organization ?
13. Does he take quick decisions ? Or does he make you to come a number of times for the same thing ?
14. Does he give you feedback on the work done by you ?
15. Does he have double standards ?
16. Does he pat you on the back for good work done by you ?
17. Does he reprimand you for any mistakes ? Does he ask you what you have learnt from your mistake ?
18. Is he impartial ?
19. Does he have a mind of his own ?
20. To what extent can he put his foot down on unreasonable demands ?
21. Is he honest enough (intellectually and emotionally) to own up his share of the blame in a mistake involving you ?
22. How much time does he have for your problem ?
23. Does he make compromises or does he always insist on his way of working ?
24. Does he lay down pririties for you to follow ?
25. Does he invite/encourage you to criticize him ?
26. Do you feel that you have been able to develop yourself during the period that you worked under him ? If so, mention specific areas.
27. What are his traits that you dislike ?
28. What are his best qualities?
29. Does he command your following ? Do you accerpt him as a leader ?
30. Does he delegate responsibility to you ? If so, does he also delegate requisite authority ?


1. Do you find the appraise co-operative ?
2. Does he fulfill your expectations from him ?
3. Are the goods/services offered by him/his department upto your requirement of quality/quantity/timing ?
4. When due to reasons beyond your control, your requirements from him/his department undergo a change, is he able to make consequent changes in his sphere to suit your requirements ?
5. Does he normally plan his work in consultation with you or does he come up at the last minute with some problem ?
6. Does he offer you help on his own in solving your foreseen/unforeseen problems ?
7. Is he able to anticipate your requirements ?
8. Does he keep you informed of his plans and any changes in the plans previously communicated ?
9. How would you rate him as a team member ?
10. Would you like to work as a team member under his leadership in an activity which is a mainstream activity for him ?
11. Would you like to include him as a team member under your leadership for some specific tasks ?
12. Do you consider that he has an adequate hold over his department ? Or do you have to approach a subordinate of his for getting your work done by his department ?
13. Does he insist that he and he alone should be approached for getting anything done in his department ? Or do your subordinates find his subordinates confident of making a commitment on behalf of their department on an issue not involving policy matters ?
14. How much rapport has he been able to buildup with your next in command so as to be able to handle situations in your absence ?


1. Are the goods produced / services rendered by the appraisee easily available to you ?
2. Is this availability timely ?
3. Is this in required quantities ?
4. Is this upto the standards of quality required by you ?
5. Are your dealings with the appraisee pleasant ?


1. How is the appraisee to deal with ? Does he fulfill his part of the contract / agreement ?
2. Is he flexible in case of your genuine difficulty ? Or does he insist on his pound of flesh irrespective of any problems that you may have ?
3. Is he approachable ?
4. Do you find any difficulty in settlement of your running account ?
5. Do you deal with him only on all issues Or are you able to deal with his subordinates ?
6. Does he often plead about being bound by rules ?
7. Does he leave a good taste in your mouth on completion of a deal ?
8.Would you like to deal with him again ?
9. Are your final dues settled quickly ?

Friday, October 21, 2011


NOTE:- This was wrtten in early part of A.D. 1970 and published in the April 1970 issue of my employer's house journal then known as GBJHP News.

A new method of improving the soil bearing capacity is being employed at Haldia. This is the sandwicking process about which many have heard and are consequently curious about it. What follows is an attempt at explaining it to the layman.

As you all know, every structure needs a foundation. These foundations are placed on the ground. When the ground is strong as in the case of rock, very heavy structures can be placed on it without any elaborate foundations; whereas when it consists of a weak soil, costly foundations have to be provided.

The soil at Haldia is very weak. It can not support a load of more than half to one kilogram per square centimetre in most places. In such soils, we usually provide pile foundations. Piles are made of concrete, wood, metal etc. Concrete is however the most popular material for piles. These piles are driven into the ground till they refuse to go anymore. Then on top of a number of liles, a concrete "cap" is cast. On the pile cap, the structure is built. The piles provide strong foundations and do not permit any appreciable settlement of the structure founded on them. They are however a costly business. Therefore, whenever we can avoid them, we naturally try to do so. While equipment foundations do not tolerate any settlement, our storage tanks can take a certain amount of settlement, though not as much as one metre which is the expected settlement of untreated soil at Haldia as per a recent soil survey. Thus we can avoid piling under storage tanks and sandwicking which takes care of most of this settlement in advance appears to be a good solution. We hope to save about Rs. three and a half crores by adopting sandwicking.

The process of sandwicking is as follows :-
First, a hole is made into the ground with the help of a small drilling rig similar to ones used for making small bore wells. The sandwick which is a long and narrow jute hosepipe (about 80 m.m. in diameter) is then inserted in this hole. Such sandwicks are placed at an interval of two and a half metres both ways under the tank foundations. the ground is then "loaded" with sand. A heap of sand of pre-determined height is made over the foundations. The weight of this sand is equal to 100 % to 150% of the maximum load of the tank. As you know water is heavier than oil. Therefore the tank carries its heaviest load when it is filled with water during testing for leaks etc. This is the condition taken into account while determining the height of the sand heap. The heap of sand is allowed to remain in place for a period varying from 12 to 17 weeks. This is called preloading. During this period, an interesting phenomenon takes place. The ground under the heap of sand begins to settle. How does this happen ?

The soil consists of a number of layers of different materials. Some layers are pervious i.e. they allow passage of water and some do not in other words, they are impervious. The sandwick penetrates through both pervious and impervious layers. All these layers contain water particles. Due to preloading the water is sqeezed out and the sandwick (made from specially selected coarse variety unlike the sand used for preloading which can be of even fine variety) provides a channel for carrying away the water particles from the soil by capillary action. As the water is squeezed out, the soil contracts in the same way as when a ROSSOGULLA is squeezed. If the sandwicking is not done, the tanks would keep on settling down for a long period of time, giving perpetual headaches to our maintenance people. By adopting this process, we are allowing the settlement in advance and in a short period. We are also avoiding another scourge of the maintenance staff. This is one of an uneven settlement, causing the tank to tilt sideways and spill some of its contents. The bearing capacity of the soil is improved uniformly under the tank and it can take greater loads than before.

In the case of tanks of smaller diameter, what we do is to drive the sandwicks and prepare tank pad consisting of earth or fine sand of about the same height as the expected settlement. On this the tank itself is is erected and gradually filled with water. This is called hydraulic preloading. Here also, the preload is kept for 12 to 17 weeks during which the settlement takes place. The settlement is measured by means of settlement stakes. The water is then gradually pumped out. In the case of sand preloading also, the sand is removed after 90 % of the full settlement has taken place. This sand is now taken to another tank foundation and used there for prelosding. To minimise the quantity of preloading sand, a ring like a fortress made up of sand bags is built around the peripherry of the tank foundation and sand is then filled in this fortress. The preloading sand heaps' slopes would have hindered work in adjoining areas. As you know Haldia site has difficult access to it and bringing a huge quantity of sand to the site would have posed more problems. Sandbag walls have helped to save about 20% of the preloading sand.

You would be interested to know that the sandwicking process has been developed by an Indian engineer and besides Haldia, it is also being used inthe salt lake area of Calcutta (Kolkata).

Sunday, October 9, 2011


This was written for my employer's house journal. It was published in September 1971 issue of GBJHP NEWS of the Refineries & Pipelines Division of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. The Editor's comments on this piece are given below.

EDITOR'S COMMENTS :- Shri R N Desai is the one for asking inconvenient questions. But he knows how to get away with them, with the magic that he weaves with his words around the swift stabs of his hard, cold facts. His views may be challenged by both "the Management" and "the Unions". So, let it be. The columns of GBJHP NEWS are open to all.


A question like this is bound to shake fellow Civil Engineers if not others as well. In these days of Science and Technology however, we have to constantly question ourselves whether what we have been traditionally doing continues to be right in a given set of circumstances.

I do not know the cost of other townships in the GBJHP family (GBJHP was an acronym used for Gauhati, Barauni, Jawaharnagar, Haldia refineries and Pipelines). Our own Haldia township is however estimated to cost Rs. 2.5 Crores for a total of 730 residential units of various types with the attendent facilities. This gives an average cost of Rs. 34200/- per unit.

Townships have been criticised as a drag on the public sector finances. a capital of Rs.2.5 Crores blocked in the townships involves us in interest charges of Rs.22.5 lakhs per year. Add to this the maintenance cost at the rate of 1 per cent of the capital. This amounts to another Rs.2.5 lakhs p.a. Add the salaries of the maintenance staff and overheads. The total recurring expenditure excluding depreciation, would exceed Rs. 27 lakhs.

Divide this amount by the number of employees accommodated to give you an expenditure of Rs. 3700/- p.a. or Rs. 310/- per month per employee. No doubt, the employees pay rent but the average rent could be taken to be only Rs. 30/- p.m. In other words, our Company subsidises us to the extent of Rs. 280/- p.m. in the matter of housing. Do we count this blessing when we recount our woes ?

My aim in writing this article, is however not to extol the munificence of the management. The point that arises is whether we can afford it. Must be, since we are still making profits ! But isn't there some way by which we can cut down on this expenditure apart from saving Rs. 2.5 Crores for productive invesiment elsewhere ?

The distinguished scientist-cum-industrialist -cum- lately turned government servant, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai has pointed out that every public sector enterprise must determine the mainstream of its activities and concentrate on it. Our mainstream of activities is obviously refining and selling oil. Should not every paisa available to us for investment be put in this mainstream ?

The question that comes up next is, how are we to house our employees ? The answer is simple. Let them live in their own houses ! It was already shown in an earlier article ( How not to lose Rs. 750/- p.m. ? published in March-April 1971 issue ) how advantageous it is for an individual to build his own residence. But where is the initial capital to come from ? Obviously, the employees barring a few, can not invest their money in building houses even if they have the necessary amount. The money must come from organizations whose mainstream of activities is to lend money. The LIC and the nationalized banks already have a scheme in this regard. For those of us who have put in more than six years of service, our Company has already decided to give 80 % of the cost of a house as a loan.

The instalments for the repayment of the loan would be heavy - on an average about Rs. 295/- p.m. and beyond the reach of most employees. But then can the Company not spend a part of the subsidy of Rs. 280/- p.m. that it is now spending on house rent allowances ? Say, Rs. 265/- p.m. could be paid as HRA which together with Rs. 30/- p.m. would make Rs. 295/- p.m. In any case, we have rules by which house rent allowance is paid to the employees who stay in their own houses.

What would be the Company's role in this scheme of things ? The Company would have to act as a catalyst. It would acquire the land, develop it, prepare a town plan, build roads,water, sewer and power lines, divide the land into plots and lease them out to the employees. Proportionate cost of these common services would be charged to the employees. It would initially run the municipal services and later hand over this function to a committee of employees. The Company would also build public buildings such as hospitals, schools, clubs, cinemas etc. out of welfare funds. A few quarters would have to be built for the small number of construction personnel coming to the site. These would later, be utilized for the small percentage of employees who are subject to transfers. Space would also have to be left in the township for later entrants who replace personnel retiring from service.

If we ponder further over this matter, it should be possible to make out a scheme that is mutually advantageous to the Company as well as the employees.To summarise, the advantages of adopting this scheme are as follows :-

1) The Company sticks to the mainstream of its activities. A capital of Rs. 2.5 Crores would be released for increasing the refinery capacity.

2) Recurring expenditure of Rs. 27 lakhs per year apart from depreciation could be reduced.

3) Every employee would be a house owner. He would have a stake in the refinery. He would become more responsible as he would have been exposed to a sort of entrepreneurship.

It would obviously not be possible to change the scheme of things already decided upon in the case of Haldia Refinery except for any further quarters that we may require for expansion. We could, however, give a thought to this matter for our future requirements and formulate a scheme as a sort of pilot project for the next refinery that comes up.

This is one small way in which we can put into practice democratic socialism that many are talking about !

The article ends here

The Editor in a footnote added as follows :-


The bare cost of building the refinery townships at Gauhati, Barauni and Jawaharnagar adds upto over Rs. 551 Lakhs plus. The breakdown of the total cost in respect of the three townships and the number of units that the said cost represents is given below :-

Gauhati - Rs. 150 Lakhs for 641 units

Barauni - Rs. 295 Lakhs for 1487 units

Jawaharnagar - Rs. 106 Lakhs for only 932 units the refinery has.

The cost of additional units and that representing additional related expenditure has not been included in the above figures.


As anticipated, a Letter to the Editor arrived and was published in the Nov.-Dec.1971 issue of the same journal. It is preceded by the Editor's comment on it.

Editor's Comment :- By many accounts, Shri R N Desai is the most - read writer of the GBJHP family. Here is some further testimony, but of a kind which may not be relished by the ever-growing tribe of Desai fans.





I was grossly amused to read Mr. Desai's seeming homily on building townships.... er... I mean not building them. On reading it, I was reminded of the story of Kalidasa, the ancient poet, who was one day found sitting pretty on the branch of a tree and merrily hacking away at it where it forked - apparently oblivious of his imminent peril. Unless of course, mr. desai is training his eyes on a cushy job in the Planning Commission, i do not know why he should deal such a heavy blow to his own tribe. An unfortunate band that finds its role shrinking in this bouncing Oil Industry - a Chairman from the clan notwithstanding. ( An allusion to the fact that our then Chairman Mr. Ramabrahmam was a civil engineer.)

Mr. Desai must have meant it as a joke. How else could he - a brilliant mind that he is - overlook these points. The township planned at Haldia at a total cost of Rs. 250 Lakhs is meant for 600 refinery personnel and 130 (approx.) from Marketing, Pipelines, Excise etc. Since people from the last named departments and about 100 from refinery will be holding prospect of frequent transfers, houses for them will have to be built by the Company. Now the division of capital expenditure on township is Rs. 207 Lakhs and Rs. 43 Lakhs for others.

The estimated expenditure of Rs. 207 Lakhs includes the cost of a hospital, a school, a club, a community centre and a guest house, totalling nearly Rs. 20 Lakhs. As the author suggests that these social amenities should be provided by the Company, I also excluded them from my computation. Hence for housing 600 personnel of the refinery, the Company is spending about Rs. 187 Lakhs. Since 100 persons out of that 600 will be transferred in and out, it leaves us with us with the housing problem of 500 only who can be given the benefit of Mr. Desai's revolutionary idea. Let us examine it in detail.

The unproductive expenditure on the houses and ancillaries construction for 500 stationary personnel at Haldia Township will be 5/6 x 187 = Rs. 152 Lakhs (say). The payback period of the refinery has been worked out to be 8 years. If this amount of Rs.152 Lakhs is to be paid back in 8 years, we will illustrate position after the 4th year to get an idea of the average yearly commitment of the Company on this score.

Position in the 5th year

1. Repayment instalment 152/8 = 19 Lakhs

2.Interest @ 9 % on half
the capital as the other
half has already been paid 152/2 x 0.09 = 7.86 Lakhs

3.Maintenance @ 1.5 %
including the
emoluments of the maintenance
personnel 152 x 0.015 = 2.28 Lakhs

4.Land rentals for 45 acres 0.81/29.95 Lakhs
Less return as rent @ Rs.30
per month per capita for 500
persons only 1.81/28.15 Lakhs

TOTAL ( say ) Rs. 28 Lakhs

Mr. Desai recommends in the name of democratic socialism that Company should subsidize @ Rs. 255 per month per capita. That works out to a yearly burden of 500 x 12 x 250 (say) = Rs. 15 Lakhs on which there is no return. Deducting this amount from the average yearly commitment as worked out earlier, we find that the Company is spending nearly Rs. 13 Lakhs on 500 employees for their accommodation for the first 8 years only. The commitment adds upto 104 Lakhs in 8 years' time. This amount of Rs. 13 Lakhs is equal to only one day's production of the refinery whose sale receipts for the first year is estimated to be Rs. 36 Crores. Now an expenditure of less than 0.5 % of the annual turnover on housing is negligible.

But the latent returns in the form of better industrial climate and higher productivity as a result of conducive environmental psychology is incomputable. Who can say that the sparkling and consistent performance of our boys at Baroda (reference is to our refinery at Jawaharnagar at Baroda or Vadodara in Gujarat) has not been due to the wonderful living conditions at their township. In one single year, they earned enough profit to pay back the initial cost of their township 5 times over. ( Figures in the Editor's footnote above indicate that the cost of Jawaharnagar township per residential unit was the lowest !)

Now back to calculations. After the 8th year, the Company is spending nothing, except may be the amount it would have earned as interest on the extra 104 Lakhs it has spent over preceding eight years towards employees' accommodation. from 9th year onwards the Company would be saving an amount of Rs. 6 Lakhs (15.00 - 9.00) by building its own township, expenditure on land rentals and maintenance expenses being offset by rent collected. That is by 25th year, she (it) would have wiped out the unproductive initial investment of Rs. 104 Lakhs and thence in comparison, mr. desai's idea would be a constant drain on the Company's resources, with added headaches in finding new plots of land, developing, leasing out to employees (and the attendent troubles) etc. once in nearly every 20 years. And finally mr. Desai props up his figures by a tangential reference to depreciation on which he does not dwell elaborately, leaving the reader to make his own guess. Here is the catch.

Only in his last article, he had shown us how we were losing Rs. 750 p.m. by not building a house. The burden of his article was the innocent assumption that a property in an urban area appreciates to 10 times its initial value in twenty years' time. That way the township in Haldia (which is destined to become a major port city) now being built at a cost of Rs. 2.5 Crores will be worth 25 crores in 20 years' time, a favourable element which i have kept out of my calculations.

Now, come Mr. Desai, "Heads I win and tails you lose" is too old a gimmick to carry even temporary conviction. Your facts are quite cold but unfortunatrly they are not hard enough.

Yours etc.
An Admirer
(Some Admirer - Ed.)


My response to the Admirer's letter to the Editor

Dear Sir.
I have read with interest the letter with the above caption from " An Admirer " (sic). The 'Admirer' appears to have shed a lot of tears on behalf of Civil Engineers. This would lead one to believe that he is one of that tribe. It seems however that the tears have been wasted.

The Civil Engineer was once likened to a donkey by a former chief of mine - himself a Civil Engineer. Donkeys, he used to say, are the beasts of burden and till the advent of mechanized transport, did a lot of carriage work for the Civil Engineer. A Civil Engineer's status, in the old days therefore, was measured by the number of donkeys working on his site. His main reson for the analogy however, was that the Civil Engineer, like the donkey, could be kicked by anyone - even by a housewife. And like the donkey, he remains insensitive to any kicking or flogging. To him, it is just one of the routines of life. He plods along his own way, come hail or high wind. If a donkey is a happy animal, a Civil Engineer is a happy human. He becomes either a crook or a philosopher. (Even in our Company, he either gets retrenched - with full benefits to be sure - or he becomes the Chairman. God, my former chief used to say, does not worry himself over only two species - the donkey and the Civil Engineer !

Some would agree with this statement on the assumption that the Civil Engineer would, like the brother-in-law of a king, make himself comfortable for himself, even if assigned to count sea - waves ! (Apparently he stopped all fishing and shipping in the area as it interfered with his royal duty of counting sea - waves. For any exceptions that he made, he charged personal levies. Our present day royal hangers-on have found any number of reasons for personal levies !) .

Frivolity apart, I do not agree that employment of Civil Engineers would decrease by adoption of the scheme suggested in ' SHOULD WE BUILD TOWNSHIPS '. It may even increase. How ? Well, it is a CIvil Engineer's secret ! When winds of change blow, it is wise to bend rather than get uprooted. The ingenious Civil Engineer will, I am sure, bend and find a way.

Coming to the statistics quoted by my admiring Confucius (or is it Confusius ?), he deducts the figure of Rs. 15 Lakhs p.a. from the recurring cost of Rs. 28 lakhs p.a. Actually, these costs are mutually exclusive, being comparative. If I take into account depreciation, the annual recurring costs would be 28 + 250/20= 28+12.17 = 40.17 Lakhs p.a. as against rs. 15 Lakhs p.a. in the form of house rent allowance to the employees, making my scheme even more attractive. There is thus no catch anywhere. Even if as statistically contended, the Company could make up the investment in 25 years' time, there are perpetual headaches in maintenance, allotments etc. which are much more troublesome than finding additional land space once in 20 years.

Thus the the contention that the total extra expenditure is only Rs. 104 Lakhs is not correct. The extra expenditure is Rs. 25.17 Lakhs per year which in 8 years' time, would, amount to Rs. 201.36 Lakhs. To wipe out this amount of Rs. 201.36 Lakhs, it would take infinite number of years ! The interest charges on this amount alone would be Rs. 18 Lakhs as against a house rent allowance of rs. 15 lakhs per year.

Finally, the ' Admirer ' is afraid of the Company is afraid of the company losing the increment in the value of the township over a period of years. To this, the question is - Will or can the Company sell the township ? Will or can the Company raise the rents ? No, it would not even if it could. And the value of a property is judged by these factors. However for the individual employee, the value would increase as he has no such limitations. Hasn't someone said about something being good for the goose not being necessarily so for the gander ?

---R N Desai
P.S. :- Isn't it a good thing for all concerned that the "Admirer" has refrained from saying whom or what he is admiring ?



It is 40 years since the above was written. Following my own advice, I had built a house then for myself on a 5000 Sq.Ft. plot costing a total of Rs. 42000/- (Forty two thousand only) at Vadodara in Gujarat. Today, I am told that it can be sold for Rs.1,50,00,000/- (One Crore and fifty Lakhs only) . The Company did not accept my scheme (of not building townships) due perhaps to the then existing mind set. I do not know what is the position in other Indian Oil townships but I am told that about 400 quarters are lying vacant in the Jawaharnagar township at Vadodara (Baroda) in Gujarat. They are not known to have been sold. A large number of employees have built their own houses and have an experience similar to mine. Many out of towners and even Non-Gujaratis among the employees have built or bought houses/flats here. In general, all over India, a house building spree is still on. Civil Engineers, once almost wholly dependent on the government/public sector for jobs, after a short period of glut, are today in great demand again in both public and private sector as judged by the rush for admissions to Civil Engineering discipline.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


NOTE :- This article was published perhaps in the inaugural issue of Haldia Refinery News or soon thereafter. It records the dreams of planners of those days. Maybe, now is the time to take a stock of the situation by interviewing the various stakeholders to find out if the dreams were fulfilled. I hope that someone would do it in a dispassionate manner for our future learnings.


SIXTH DECEMBER 1969 will carve out for itself a place in the annals of the socio-economic history of West Bengal, nay of India. On this memorable day, the foundation stone was laid by Hon. Dr. Triguna Sen, Minister of Petrleum,& Chemicals. Mines and Metals, Government of India at Haldia for the construction of a most complex refinery under the Indian Oil Corporation Limited.

Till recently, Haldia was a typical Indian village but now, it holds out a promise of great economic and industrial re-awakening to the people not only of West Bengal but also to the entire India. Haldia Refinery Project is a public sector oil refinery fully owned by the Government of India that is by the people of India.

The first refinery in the public sector was commissioned on !st January 1962 at Gauhati for processing 0.75 million tonnes of indigenous crude oil with Rumanian assistance. In 1964, the second refinery was built at Barauni in the state of Bihar for processing 2 million tonnes of crude oil from Assam oil fields with Soviet Union's assistance.. The third refinery was built at Jawaharnagar in Gujarat in 1966 for processing 3 million tonnes of Ankleshwar crude oil, again with Soviet assistance.

Haldia refinery is the fourth link in the chain of oil refineries owned and operated by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. When Haldia refinery goes on stream, we shall be processing 2.5 million tonnes of crude oil which will be imported from the Aghajhari oil fields of Iran. The initial capacity of 2.5 million tonnes per annum will be expanded to 3.5 million tonnes in the foreseeable future. Haldia Refinery will mainly produce Cooking gas, Naphtha, Petrol, Solvent Mineral Oil, Aviation fuel, Kerosene, High Speed Diesel, Jute Batching Oil, Lubricating Oil, Furnace Oil, Bitumen and various grades of Paraffin and Micro-crystalline Waxes.


When a villager will light a lamp in his humble hut, a housewife will burn a Janata stove to cook meals for the family, a doctor will drive a car to attend to a patient, a modern miss will bake a cake in her gas oven or a farmer will run his diesel pump to irrigate his fields - they all will remember the refiners of Haldia. We, at Haldia will be happy to contribute our mite to make the nation self-reliant. Like individuals, only a self-reliant nation can be strong and happy. Has not Cicero said ? " Most happy is he, who is self-reliant and who centres all his requirements on himself alone. " As stated elsewhere, we shall be procuring 70 % of the equipment required for the construction of the refinery, from indigenous sources. This sets a fine example for other projects. " Is example nothing ?" said Burke, " It is everything. Example is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other. " So we shall be helping the nation in our own humble way by trying to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.


This is not all. As the Hon. Minister for Petroleum & Chemicals, Mines and Metals said, " Haldia refinery when completed will certainly act as a harbinger of rapid development of the state (West Bengal) in all fields including agriculture and industry." The production of fuel oil as mentioned elsewhere, will be 1.53 lakh tonnes per year. This product will be utilised for producing nitrogenous fertilizers. The Government of India has already taken a decision and necessary initial steps to set up a big fertilizer complex adjacent to our refinery at Haldia with an annual production of 1.65 lakh tonnes of Urea, 3.6 lakh tonnes of nitrogenous phosphate and 60,000 tonnes of Soda Ash. There are other promising features as well. While on one hand, the refinery will produce certain specified products for consumption, on the other, it can provide feed stocks to Petrochemicals industries under the present day technology for manufacture of downstream items like man-made fibres, pesticides, dyestuffs, pharmaceuticals, plastics, synthetic rubber etc.

There is actually a two-way process. Whereas we shall be feeding our products to other industries, we shall require materials and other services from others for which ancillary industries in the public/private sector are expected to come up in this area. Thus with the advent of Haldia Refinery, a host of other industries will come up in Haldia Region. As is welknown, for a long time, west Bengal has been a one city state since all the industries had been centred in and around Calcutta. After independence, the Government of India have set up a number of heavy and other industries in the Durgapur-Asansol region with a view to relieve congestion in Calcutta. The Haldia complex will be the third industrial area in west Bengal. The difference between the Durgapur-Asansol belt and Haldia complex will be that the latter is served by a major port and is therefore expected to become a swinging metropolis on the lines of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in course of time. It will in fact, be better than the above metros since it is being planned de novo.


An effort on this scale naturally calls for certain sacrifices on our part. We are sure that the people from this area who will naturally have to bear the brunt of these sacrifices and who would ultimately stand to gain, would not mind a temporary dislocation in their normal way of life. In due course of time, everyone of us will be a co-partner in this effort of national reconstruction. The ultimate good that will come out of this temporary dislocation will far outweigh the disadvantages now being faced.

We are therefore proud that we are taking part in the regeneration of this area which had, inthe long bygone days, had been a flourishing trade centre served by a busy port known as TAMRALIPTA, the present day Tamluk.

Friday, September 30, 2011



Bangladesh came into existence as a fallout of the 1971 Indo-Pak war. I was at that time working on the construction of Haldia Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation located in the state of West Bengal. The armistice between the two sides took place on 16th December 1971. This article was written within 7-10 days of the armistice, for our house journal " Haldia Refinery News ". It was published in its January 1972 issue. It is a kind of calm stock-taking amid scenes of euphoria.


Joi Bangla ! Joi Hind ! Joy everywhere ! Except in the hearts of Yahya and his hai-hais.

(Gen. Yahya Khan was the Pakistani dictator then.)

Bangladesh is free and friendly. India and Indira can inhale freely. A sense of euphoria prevails all over which is quite natural.

Whether we succeed or fail; when a job is done, it is time to take a stock of the situation. When we fail, we ourselves may not be in a fit state of mind to analyse the causes of our failure. In any case, others would be too glad to do it for us. However in case of success, it is necessary for us to do so as an exercise in learning for the future. Why did we succeed ? We succeeded because :-

(a) We did not react to the events of 25th March in a huff.

(On that day, Pakistan ordered a military crackdown on the agitators for democracy in the then existing East Pakistan. Mr. Mujibur Rehman, the President of National Awami party had been elected and his party had the majority in the Pakistani Paliament. This was acceptable neither to the military nor the political establishment of West Pakistan who had till then been dominating the scene and had almost been treating East Pakistan as a colony. Simultaneously with the military action, Mr. Mujibur Rehman was arrested. He was then in the national capital located in West Pakistan for talks prior to the formation of the government. In view of the majority enjoyed by him, he was expected to become the Prime Minister of the whole of Pakistan. East Pakistan declared its secession from Pakistan and formation of a new country called Bangladesh. This is, in short, what happened on that fateful day. The military action resulted in an exodus of nearly a million refugees into the neighbouring states of India, a major chunk staying in refugee camps in the state of W. Bengal.)

(b) We fully realised our position vis-a-vis the Super-Powers (USA and USSR) and the international community at large.

(c) We created a proper climate in the country for taking a decisive action without allowing any undue pressures to develop. Such pressures could have forced the government into doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

(This had happened in the 1962 India-China showdown where we lost heavily).

(d) We created an international climate by means of publicity media and personal visits.

(e) We reinforced our flanks and built up a bulwark in the rear by entering into a peace treaty with one Super Power (USSR) and offering a hand of friendship to another Super Power (USA).

(f) We mobilised our defence forces and defence production.

(g) We planned our armed action in detail, in case of an attack.

(h) We showed utmost restraint, allowing the enemy to take a wrong step.

( They did this, as expected of the immature military hotheads then ruling Pakistan, by bombing our airfields facing West Pakistan.)

(i) When the time came, all the preparations made earlier, worked like clockwork. The valour of our armed forces and the Mukti Bahini (an irregular force of the nascent Bangladesh) and (most importantly), the massive support of the common people of Bangladesh gave us a magnificient victory.

As in this case, so also in our case, let us not react in a huff. Let us think over and chalk out a line of action, taking realities into account. Let us act in a determined, co-ordinated and tenacious way. Then, there is no reason why our Haldia Refinery cannot be built in time.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Haldia area is by now, welknown as an area where an industrial complex, served by a port, is coming up. Various organizations are now working in the area towards the fulfillment of this scheme. Co-ordination among them is therefore a must, if haphazard growth is to be avoided.

A master plan for Haldia has already been prepared. It has now to be translated into factories, roads, houses, shops and so on. It is here that a co-ordinated effort is called for. Each agency has its own problems. There are, however, many problems which are common to all or to many agencies. An individual agency can noy tackle these problems, by itself. While these problems will be described in detail subsequently,an attempt has been made to list some of them below :-

1. Lack of communications whether it is by rail, road or river or it is postal,telegraphic, telephonic or wireless. Presemt facilities could, at best, be termed as primitive.

2. Lack of construction materials and consequent high cost of projects.

3. Obstructions put by persons whose lands and houses are to be acquired.

4. Lack of entrepreneurs. Here is a paradox. Plenty of opportunities coupled with plenty of unemployment. Yet there are no entrepreneurs. This vicious circle has to be broken.

5. Need to get popular local support for the successful completion of the Haldia complex. Sudden intrusion of city folk in a rural area is apt to give the locals, a feeling of 'Colonization', with consequent feelings of alienation,jealousy and indifference, if not outright hatred.

6. Need to put up common urban facilities such as schools, hospitals,stadium, university, dairy, shopping centres, hotels, restaurants etc., so as to avoid duplication of the same by every agency.

It is perhaps with a view to achieve these aims that the West Bengal government has constituted the Haldia Development Board. To me, it appears, at first sight, to be a doubtful proposition. Such boards are known to assemble for their meetings and eatings and very often turn out to be mere debating societies. A quotation from the Greek Historian Thucydides, that was a favourite with the late President Kennedy and which is relevant here, refers to Peloponesian policy making bodies. It says " Each member of such bodies presses its own ends....which generally results in no action at all.....they devote more time to the pursuance of their own purposes than to the consideration of general welfare.....each supposes that no harm will come of his own neglect.......that it is the business of another to do this or that......and so on. As each separately entertains the same illusion, the common cause imperceptibly decays "

It is quite possible that each agency represented in the Haldia DevelopmentBoard may pursue its own narrow interests. each one may take shelter for its own defects behind the failure of another agency to do the task allotted to it. At worst, some agencies may even collaborate in non-fulfillment of their tasks by mutual blaming which they had agreed upon in advance.

Some might consider thse fears to be unfounded and hypothetical. Such things have, however happened in the past and are likely to be repeated till such time as responsible behaviour that goes hand in hand with democracy, gets firmly rooted in all of us.

What then, is the solution ? Should an overall body like a holding company or a development Authority vested with powers to co-ordinate the activities of various agencies be constituted ? No ! Such bodies would only put an additional obstacle in the path of whatever little or unco-ordinated steps that the various agencies might be taking. Such a body would want to vet every scheme that any pursue with consequent red tape in the jungle of which, the objective itself would get lost or delayed beyond use.

The answer lies in finding a man of adequate stature and vision to be able to carry out the objectives. Find such a man and build the complex around him. He would, I am sure, like to make Haldia his home.Do not fetter him with administrative responsibilities. Give him instead sufficient wire pulling abilities to see that each agency works towards the goal. "Management By Objectives" is getting to be a much used cliche. Therein however lies hope for the people tired of hair-splitting over methods and procedures. Alas ! The one man who could fill the bill is no more. I mean the late B.B.Ghosh.

By the way, the Haldia Development Board held its first meeting in Calcutta recently. Was it in answer to an artcle published in an earlier issue of this journal with the title " Is Haldia being built in Calcutta ? "

When ! Oh when ! will our neo-feudals get out of their Calcutta based mentality ? They do not seem to like getting out of it the Gandhian way. Perhaps they prefer being moved out the Mao way ! It should be remenbered however thatin today's circumstances, the "Mantra" of Mahatma or Mao is " Back to the villages ". Let us change ourselves in time, before time changes us.

The Haldia Development Board is now a fait accompli. It desrves a fair trial. Well, let us wait and see. In the meantime, it would only be fair for the Haldia Development to know that Haldians are watching them.


( This article was written in early 1970s )

Public Sector projects are usually locatedin undeveloped areas as one of the social aims of the public sector is to ensure balanced development of the entire country. This, indeed, throws up a lot of problems for the construction people.

Very often, the construction team finds the site, a good 80K.M. from the nearest railhead, the road communication consisting of only a fair weather road and little availability of basic construction materials. These are not the only handicaps that the construction people may face. Only a rudimentary postal service may exist. Telegraphs and Telephones, if present, may only function at the pace of life in the tranquil rural surroundings. Banks may be unheard of, shopping done only in weekly bazaars and good milk, contrary the belief of its surfeit in rural ares, simply not to be seen.

Thes problems are not new. Every project has faced them. Our own Haldia is no different from others, though we are rather unfortunate in this respect. The nearest railhead is at Mecheda, a distance of about 65 K.M. from Haldia. a new branch line of the S.E. Railway from Panskura to Durgachak has been laid but has not become operational. The Durgachak-Haldia section has yet to be completed. A National Highway is under construction but it has not been completed.

At present, there is a road from Panskura to Haldia which is not very suitable for heavy traffic. There is no regular river transport coming to Haldia itself. Though Calcutta is only about 60 K.M. away as the crow flies, the road distance is about 130 K.M. The railway distance would also be about the same. A short cut is possible by coming to Diamond Harbour, cross the river by ferry to Kukrahati and continuing the journey by road from Kukrahati to Haldia. In this way, the distance could be shortened to about 75K.M. This short cut is however suitable for passenger traffic only and that too in good weather.

Electricity has now come to haldia, but till very recentlythe nearest electrified place was Tamluk about 50 K.M. away. The State Bank has recently opened a branch but deals only in deposits. No credit facilities are yet available. There is not a single hardware shop in Haldia though one would imagine it to be the first thing to come up in a place where more than Rs. 200 crores are to be spent on construction.

For skilled labour, for cement, for asbestos sheets, for gravel, for timber, for sal ballies, for bamboo matting, even for nails or screws, there is no availability in Haldia itself. There is a tendency therefore, for each and every contractor, not to speak of the various project authorities, to run to Calcutta for arranging the supplies. Each man arranges his own transport and for want of a return trip load from Haldia,the transport companies charge from Rs. 250 to Rs. 300 per trip. Since almost everyone has family or relatives or friends in Calcutta, the tendency of depending on Calcutta gets a further boost.

To say that Haldia is being built in Calcutta would not be very wrong. Calcutta is no doubt, like a mother to Haldia, but if the child is to grow up, it is necessary to cut the placenta as early as possible.If Haldia is to be an alternative to Calcutta, it must learn to stand on its own legs.

All the facilities mentioned above, have to be set up here to form a proper infrastructure. We, of the Haldia Refinery Project, have established here, family and all., in Haldia and our roots have started going into the soil. The mental attachment to Calcutta in respect of the contractors and other agencies, has however, yet to be broken.

For this purpose, it is necessary to establish all the required facilities here. If an army marches on its stomache, a project marches on the availability of four 'M's i.e. men, materials, machines and money at its doorstep. It is the duty of all Haldians to make this availability, a fact, not only to quicken the p[ace but also to cut down the costs of construction.

How can this be achieved ? Demarcate areas for timber yards, cement godowns, hardware stores, steel yards, for shops of daily necessities and so on. Advertise for parties to set up these facilities. Allow a proper wholesalers' market to develop. Create conditions by which no one has to run to Calcutta except the specialised ahencies dealing in supplies.

Let the bank give credit facility to the contractors and other bentrepreneurs. Arrange ferrying of trucks and buses between Diamond Harbour and a point opposite on the Haldia coast I could cite a few more things that could and need to be done. The first and the major obstacle, however, is that all concerned with Haldia, have yet to become Haldians at heart. Once that mental block is cleared, the rest would be much easier to arrange.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


( This article was written after the December 1971 war for Haldia Refinery News, our company's house journal. it is now being posted on my blog )

With the victory of Bangladesh, we in India, too have witnessed the dawn of a national resurgence. Political stability, the firm establishment of democracy and a balancing phenomenon after the turbulence of the past five years, have buoyed up our spirits. As a nation, we have now come to the doorstep of self-reliance. We have our own place - and a fairly important one in the region. More and better things are bound to follow.

Democracy does not merely mean free and fair elections. Democracy also means opportunity for each and everyone and a system of checks and balances that does not allow any single section of the people, a permanent dominance over others. In a nation, there are not merely regional or communal groups. There are others such as the peasantry, the working class, the white collar workers, the bureaucracy, the military, the press, the trading class, the industrialists, the politicians, the professionals such as doctors, lawyers etc,, the intelligencia such as the educationists, the the artists, the authors, the students and so on. Each of these groups has its own interests and its own lobby. A mature democracy is one in which all these groups are evenly balanced and tend to speak with one voice and act in concert , when the overall national interests are involved, however divided, they may be or may appear to be, otherwise.

Thanks to the far sighted leadership of the early years, we have today most of the ingredients of a stable and mature democratic nation. The early years saw first the politicians' dominance as opposed to that of the bureaucracy. the neglect of the military was corrected after the Chinese invasion. The exploitation of the peasants by the landlord class was sought to be corrected by the enaction of land reform laws and of the working class by the labour laws. The press became bolder, the intelligencia free to think, the artists free to create and the professionals free to practise.

It is in the nature of things that repressed sections of society, when given the opportunity, would act more strongly than is warranted, just as a loaded spring on release, jumps up. The past five years' turbulence was a fairly good symptom of this phenomenon. The very fact that such a turbulence could occur is a sign of freedom and democracy. It is however in achieving a balance after such a turbulence that a nation shows its mettle as a matured nation.

We are now in the process of acheving that balance. We have, however, a long way to go. We have to raise the standard of living of the people, a thing more easily said than done. Equitable distrubution of the nation's wealth is a must. But the wealth has to be created first. National wealth does not mean gold or silver or currency notes. It means more production of goods and services - food, clothing, housing, the necessities, the comforts and eventhe luxuries.

If we want to create national wealth, productivity is of the utmost importance, economical production, an imperative. Side by side equitable distribution of the wealth being created, must go on, for, without equitable distribution, creation of wealth itself is impeded beyond a certain stage. On the other hand, distribution before adequate creation of wealth also stops further generation of wealth.

Just as exploitation of the labour by the employers must be prevented, the exploitation of the rest of the nation by the labour must be resisted, Labour, partiocularly, the urban labour, forms only one section of the nation as a whole and a minority section at that. They are, in fact, much better placed as compared to the the vast number of peasants, not to speak of the landless agricultural workers. The nation can not be held to ransom by any of the sections that make it, labour included. Productivity must be increased and only the economic gains of incresed productivity shared. The effort in the days after independence was to rouse the depressed sections of the societyy towards their rights. Now that this has been done, it is time to make them aware of their responsibilities as well.

There is now more important than ever, the need to restore the confidence of the masses in the "establishment". There is at present, a crisis of confidence. By our words and deeds, we have to restore the confidence. For this, first of all, it is necessary to do what we actually say, we shall do and to promise only that , which we are capable of doing. This sounds very simple but for a people with a long tradition of hypocrisy, it is not so easy to acheve. We have, however, got to achieve it. Now or never.

Secondly, we have to get rid of the evils bureaucracy, bossism and subjectivity. The people have a feeling that when one approaches a bureaucrat, one has to keep on giving endless petitions, bend on one's knees as a supplicant and perhaps grease a few palms before one can obtain, even the smallest of one's rights as a taxpayer. Let us not get into the question of the extent to which, this feeling is correct. Let us not, however, deal with the public in a bureaucratic manner, in however small a sphere i n which we deal with the public. We should not forget that they are our paying customers.

Next comes bossism. This is an evil that is one of the worst characteristics of the of the bygone feudal and princely era. It unfortunately persists. A strong man builds up a coterie of people around himm, most of them, self-seekers or the timid who bask in the security afforded by the despotic boss. This coterie has only to sing the praises of the boss and attend his basic and even petty interestss. In return, they are allowed to serve their own interests. For the boss, there is no reason, no logic. His only reason is, "Because I say so". The I is always in the capital.

For a leader in any walk of life, power is essential if he is to carry out the aims for which he stands. With him, power is a means. With the typical 'boss' however, power is a nend. He takes pride in his 'decisiveness'. This decisiveness is however based on steamrollering of any oppositionto his views. Bossism is the very negation of democracy and it must be rooted out not only in politics in all walks of life. Let us not permit bossism any more anywhere.

Subjectivity is another evil of the emotionally immature people. They tend to judge everything by their own standards. They simply can not imagine that some people could be unlike themselves or that certain situations can be tackled in ways other than what they are used to. If we are to go ahead, objectivity as taught by the Gita, is a must.

In this phenomenon of national resurgence, we have a definite role to play. The elimonation of the evils mentioned above, in our own sphere and a responsible democratic behaviour would be our contribution to the national resurgence.


NOTE :- This article was written over 35 years back. It is for the readers to opine whether it is workable, especially in today's cicumstances.

During the twenties, thirties and forties, Mahatma Gandhi prepared the human infrastructure in the country for taking over the rule when independence came. During the fifties and sixties, Nehru prepared the physical industrial infrastructure and induced a scientific temper in his countrymen who till then had been an obscurantist lot. Unfortunately, the industrial culture was not developed simultaneously, with its concommitant industrial infrastructure.

The fabian socialism with its heavy dependence on materialistic outlook created the condition of rising expectations as against limited resources and limited capabilities. The latter half of the sixties therefore saw an upheaval in the country which is continuing.

While not discarding socialism, we have to look at the rewards system in a slightly different angle. The rewards to a person are to be seen in the light of total happiness to a person. A man with a lot of money but with no job satisfaction or an unhappy family or sex life or with uncongenial social surroundings is not likely to be a happy man. A minister with a lot of pomp and prestige may, in a democracy, have only nominal power and freedom of movement. He just can not saunter out like an ordinary citizen in the evening to buy himself a paan (betel leaf). The glamorous film stars need able bodied escorts to take them around. They hardly have any privacy.

This is not to suggest that film stars or the ministers are an unhappy lot. May be their condition suits their temperaments. What we have to find therefore the temperament of each person engaged in any field and give rewards to him/her in such a manner as to increase his/ger total happiness rather than harping on monetary rewards alone. This is not to suggest that monetary rewards do not count or that money is not important. It only means that the marginal utility of money as a reward decreases after a stage and other factors become more important to a person. Once the role of money is devalued, it should be possible to lay the foundation of an egalitarian society.

Both communism and capitalism are trying to reach the goal of an egalitarian society. Communism is getting more liberal and the old fears of infiltration of other ideas or cultures are going away as witnessed by the introduction of the fiat car or the Pepsi Cola into the Soviet Union. On the other hand, moreand more statism is being resorted to in the free market economy countries as witnessed by the recent disclosure about C.I.A. operations within U.S.A. itself.

India and other similar uncommitted countries have an excellent opportunity of taking directly to plutocracy or anarchy as suggested by Marx. Skipping the intermediate steps of a two party democracy or a single party democracy professing socialism, we can take the road of plutocracy straight away After all, pursuit of happiness is the professed goal of the U.S. A.'s constitution. How much happiness has been achieved by them despite their wealth ? Communism has changed the face of Russia in material terms. Why then did Solzhenitsyn leave the country ? Something is obviously lacking there too.

Every system creates its own vested interests and very often, the original purpose of creating the system is lost sight of in pandering to the vested interests. it is extremely difficult to crush these vested interests. It can be done either by a continuing revolution as advocated by Mao-tse-tung or by so cleverly manipulating these vested interests that they destry each other. Another alternative is to create new vested interests which could help in furthering the original aims. In developing countries, where the scope for everyone exists on account of lack of saturation, this last alternative appears to be feasible.

It is important however to have a self regulating machinery which would oversee the whole process. It should ensure that the aims are not lost sight of and that the pawns do not become masters. This machinery should consist of faceless people who are at the top in various fields. They would constitute the ruling establishment. These persons, apart from having specialised knowledge and experience, should also have a general picture of other fields as well. It goes without saying that total happiness should be ensured for them.

Of course, these persons, even without help from others, would be capable of becoming totally happy. To the others, the rewards would be to a lesser degree. Persons who do this are found to become useless in the worldly sense and have to undergo considerable suffering at the hands of the society. They are therefore forced to become thinkers. Some of their work could be taken over by computers.

The rewards system would be in accordance with our Varnashram. Shudras had more physical work. They were comparatively speaking, recent converts to the human form from the animal one. They led more or less a physical life. Vaishyas produced greater wealth and enjoyed a greater part of it than others. Kshatriyas protected the people and to rouse the protective feeling in them, their ego was massaged. Brahmins, teachers and upholders of Dharma, led a spartan, meditative life, doing only as much physical work as necessary to provide a diversion and balance their exertions by physical exercise. Research and development work was done by them. Today's perception of the Brahmin is one of a conservative and outdatedness, which is largely true. The original Brahmin was a continuously evolving being.

I know that hackles will be raised when I say that our rewards should be based on an Indian model such as the Varnashram rather than an impoted model. The major difference in the old and new Varnashram will be that Varna will not depend on birth. It will depend on temperament - aptitude. Left to themselves, people will migrate to professions that they enjoy. The society's job is to create enough opportunities rather than the rationing culture fotered nowadays.

There is nothing better than our own indigenous ideology. What went wrong was that we harped too much on the rituals rather than the spirit and pandered too much to the vested interests created by the system. In the process, substance was forgotten. As a result, the baby had to be thrown out with the bathwater. Let us not repeat this mistake in every system that we create.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Futurology is a dangerous science. One who tries to study it, becomes a very unhappy person unless the society around, supports him. It appears that there is a belief that the more unhappy you make a man, the more the knowledge you get out of him. this is a false belief. After all, the future that he studies is not going to come all of a sudden. So if he studies it gradually, heavens are not going to fall, at least not immediately.

Unhappiness comes to him because of the "ARDHADAGDHA" (literally meaning half-burnt) people who pass on their own unhappy thoughts to him by the thought transmission process. These half-burnt people seek to create a communication gap because of their foolish notions. When such elements succeed, it is the start of the collapse of a civilization, as the really wise are unable to communicate their thoughts to the panic striken half-burnt people.

The really wise are those eho have lost their vitality through dissipation and have become wise after onset of inability to do anything. Their advice is not credible in view of their past. The other set of really wise are the young who simply act without being communicative. Often, they do not know why they are doing what they are doing. Then, there are those who pretend. Thinking themselves to be wiser, they try to fool others. The really wise are those who ignore all such people who take things at face value without reading too much into them.

It is through a maze of all such people that a futurologist has to pass. Finall, he comes to the conclusion that an ignorant stone age man came to. Live your life today, why bother about tomorrow ? In other words, the world will go on, with just a few changes here and there. If you get dark thoughts, it only means that you are getting older. If you want to regenerate yourself, think and act young. That is the only remedy. Leave futurology strictly alone. Take care of yourself and the future will take care of itself.

Some people want a return to the jungle life in the mistaken belief that they would have a better time. This is a mistake yhat has been made in the past by others. Where would they find themselves then ? In the zoo or in a circus where they are at the ring master's beck and call ? When brute power can not be opposed, the weak become intelligent and resort to trickery. Nature has its own way of administering justice and it does so ruthlessly albeit after giving a long rope to the power drunk.

In precisely the same way, when the once weak, become powerful, they too, for a time, behave exactly like those they loathed earlier. There is a scramble for power amongst them. Then either they have a hierarchical democracy or the so called peoples' democracy i.e. Communism. All sudden changes have their impacts which are never very savoury. This does not apply to politics alone for that is only one part of society. When either form of democracy takes over, a person or two or even a group of people isolate themselves from the mainstream (far from the madding crowd as it were) and start thinking independently rather than in the herd mental;ity way. They also slowly begin to gather strength. The society , in course of time, actually helps them to do it. According to the Kalakrama (cyclical nature of nature), the society needs a change, demolish the vested interests that inevitably crop up who resist the change. In this process, the power drunk themselves, consciously or unconsciously, work for their own downfall.

A mature system is one that persists with whatever it has in vogue making only such changes as are absolutely necessary and that too when its hand is forced. The maturity lies in making adaptations, modifications in a timely manner to suit the purpose for which the system is built. However when a drastic change is required, it does not stick to the outmoded system. Crisis situations require crisis solutions. As soon as the crisis is over, the system prevailing hitherto is automatically reverted to.

The important thing is to ponder over the energy problem. Energy comes from fossilized animals or fossilized vegetation. As this fossilization takes place over a very large span of time, it is necessary to leave sufficient space for them i.e. for forests. As this is not possible due to increased population, it is necessary to control population.

Of course, the oceans are there to provide at first the fossilized fuels and then hydrogen for fuel purposes. Once you start using up the oceans, the world topography would change as in the past. Mountains would come up where oceans existed and viceversa. The world would go on. There is no need to worry about energy resources. Failing everything, the Sun is always there. Difficulties would be faced by man during transition but it is futile to worry about them and make our present life miserable. prophets of doom have been active for the past 2000 years but that doom has yet to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The other day, during a discussion with my tee-aged son, I quoted an example from the ' Mahabharat ' to drive home a point. " It's all right, but that is all mythology " , he rebutted. Well, I was floored. I remembered a similar discussion that I had with my father in my younger days. I too had used the same argument and had floored him. A poetic justice.

But then, this set me to thinking. How could I explain to him ? Well, here goes an effort. It has been established now that the human brain is a complex electronic computer-cum-control room besides being a few other things. There is an electronic circuitry in the brain that helps us to see, hear, smell and so on.

A television set at helps it to catch a program from waves emitted by a television transmitter. How did the circuit in the human brain come to be formed ? We do not know as yet for certain. But we know for certain how the television circuit was evolved. Now, is it impossible to imagine that human brain can have the same circuit as the television in addition to the present circuit ? After all, by the same evolution by which the present circuit was evolved, the additional circuit could also be evolved. What would then happen is that a human being can switch on his own brain's T.V. set and witness a program being beamed.

It is this quality that Sanjay of the Mahabharat is said to have had. Perhaps, another person at the site of the battle had transmitter ability. This myth is a possible scientifically acceptable or at least understandable matter. Similarly, other myths may be explained in other ways if one gives thought to them. The probable reason why such qualities were lost is that miuse was made of them. Besides, nature has shown a better way, the present way.

Now that we have televisions, it is not necessary to have such a circuit in the brain. However when such prevalent gadgets are not available, the creatures on earth may, possibly possess the properties of such gadgets. Now-a-days only what is scientifically accepted is considered to be truth. Do we however pause to think that there is a fourth dimension - Time ? What is true today, may not be true tomorrow. When was it proved that the Earth moves round the Sun ? Long time ago. Have we been reviewing this ? may be, at a particular time in the evolution process, the reverse takes place. The Sun gives us energy today. May be, when it is exhausted some billion years hence, do the rest of the planets return the energy ?

We can check this by sending up rockets powered by solar batteries at intervals of time. So long as the rockets get burnt out, the Sun has excess energy. When it is able to land, the reverse has taken place. If so, that is the time when the dark ages descend. That perhaps explains Pralaya or the Deluge. During such ages, if a cave man tells his son that there used to be gadgets like Televisions, Aeroplanes, Space rockets and so on, he would smirk and say, " Oh ! Dad ! That is all Science ". May be such things happen at any one time in only parts of the earth but there may be a time when the entire planet is engulfed.

We should not, therefore, reject mythology as utterly outmoded and incorrect. That is not to plead for obscurantism either. All that I would say is that the present is important. Past and future, though not to be neglected, are less important. nothing is useless. What is animate today may be inanimate tomorrow and vice versa. Everything is useful. Evolution, change is the order of nature and those who aid this process, benefit in the long run. That is why it is important to create. If nature destroys it, we have rebuild. If Pralaya was to come, is it any reason not to build ? Construction is the job of the animate. It is for nature to destroy so that the inanimate get a chance to be recycled into the animate. Man can also aid in this process destroying obsolete things and building new things.

Importance given to certain persons and certain activities at a particular time is only for that time and that place, it being the need of the hour. They should not bother about the past or the future. They should enjoy whatever is available at any given time, not sparing any efforts to make themselves happy.

Call it religion, call it science, call it nature study, or even call it even Marxism. They are all the same. They all change. They all evolve. In the ultimate analysis, a philosopher is either a fool or a student or a senile. Wise men act regardless of the past or the future.


All of us are aware of the three dimensions viz. length, breadth and height. It has now been accepted that there is a fourth dimension which is Time. According to me, the fifth dimension is the energy level. A good balance of energy in various parts of the earth, whether in the active form such as heat, light, electricity, wind etc. or potential form such as trees, coal, petroleum or uranium etc., ensures that no sudden changes would occur. This is also a known fact as witnessed in phenomena such as earthquake, eruption of volcanoes etc. A detailed study of the extent of energy imbalance causing cataclysms, their complete mathematical analysis etc. is still to be done.

The sixth dimension would be planetary positions. The gravitational pull, interactions between planets, significant events on any particular planet affect events on the earth. Astrology is a rudimentary science in this direction. It takes into account planetary positions but does not take into account significant events on each of the planets which could affect its movement or trigger similar or other events on other planets. The reason why many astrological predictions go wrong is that they are based on empirical observations rather than any detailed analysis. A thorough and detailed scientific study has yet to be done. Why a particular prediction went wrong is never done. Monitors placed on various planets could give us more accurate account of events taking place on them.

The seventh dimension is the solar activity. Storms and flares in the Sun can affect events on the earth. At present, observation of these is done from the earth alone which means from one particular direction only. This has to be by monitoring stations placed on the various planets as well. Even then, this would still be only a remote sensing arrangement which means that time gap would affectt judgementt, A way has yet to be found by which solar activity can be monitored from the Sun itself. Perhaps such monitors already exist in the form of meteors but then, these were detached long back from their parent bodies.

The eighth dimension would be equipment of the human brain with getting automatic knowledge about such activities without using any monitoring devices. One problem in this matter is the time gap involved. The ninth dimension would be the ability to act in accordance wiyh the requirements of that particular time on the basis of thr information available. But the most important and the tenth dimension is to remain totally unaffected by thes phenomena and to carry on life, enjoying it fully, without any fears or apprehensions, without caring for life or death. This means strong will power, so strong that it makes the person very soft.


" Men get naughty at four zero forty " is a line that I have recited times without number, while conducting the Tombola. The truth behind this saying was however realized by me when travelling by the Rajdhani Express recently. When one travels by this elite train's air conditioned chair car, it is unusual for one to look at the scenery outside. The windows are fixed type and can not be opened. The window glasses are translucent and in any case, the blinds are drawn. One is therefore inclined to concentrate on the scenery inside.

Opposite to me sat a lady who was much too serene for my mood of the moment. It appeared that she had made peace with herself. God bless her. A man sitting behind her had a " Teach yourself Spanish " book. A few moments of chit-chat with him on the subject exhausted all my stock of conversation on the subject of Latin Languages. Discussion on Cricket with a few young and not so ma young men, perusal of a journal, exchange of a few inane remarks on the weather and the like and I was left to my own devices.

It was then that I noticed this adolescent girl Marilyn Monroeing her way to the toilet. What struck me about her was the fact that she was well rounded in all directions and had a gyratory motion. Adumpling of tender meat. I mentally named her Miss Dumpling. i was anxious to make her acquaitance. My inhibitions about being a family man prevented me from following my natural instincts, which except from a freudian angle, were entirely honourable. I was trying to kill my instincts therefore. Fortunately, an opportunity presented itself.

Miss Dumpling, a younger boy accompanying her and a couple of young men started playing cards. After a while, I sauntered over that side even though the game was over. On that first trip, my courage failed. On the next however, I asked her younger brother, for that is what the younger boy accompanying her was. The question was rhetoric, for I knew that he had. By that natural instinct with which the female of the species is endowed, she understood that the question was addressed to her. It was she who replied in the affirmative. I lingered. She sensed my wish and also my inhibition.

" Would you like to play ? ", she asked.

" Yes, what games do you play ? "

" Rummy "

Rummy would have been too slow a game for me at the given time. i offered to teach her a new game, whose name is variously given as graduates or eights or five cards. I call it blow for blow. The fun of the game lies in playing a similar card as the other person till at an opportune moment, you trip him up after having roused his expectations. a management game. Or rather a political game.

The same group except a young Sardarji who had till then been her beau for the journey, gathered to play. Sardarji was perhaps feeling jilted. Can't blame him. Might have felt the same way, had I been in his place. A South Indian young chap, a rival to the Sardarji, was wiser. He joined in. Probably thought my age would bar me. He was partly right, for Miss Dumpling called me uncle. He was largely wrong however for she picked on me as her chosen enemy. All the penalty cartds were given to me only. That is ironically, the way of showing her preference.

After a while, she excused herself to make herhair, she said. Wanted to make herself presentable. I took it as a compliment. she took just the right amount of time to make her absence felt. Came back with a hair do which made her look even more rounded. Would have made a good model for Leonardo da Vinci.

She rejoined the game. It seemed that she had decided to like me even more than before, during her reflection in the toilet. she wreaked even more vengence on me.

" Here you are, uncle " she would say venomously as she gave me the penalty cards. I would retaliate with samples like,

" Take this Miss Dumpling ( Yes to her face ).

" Two lovely cards for my Rajdhani niece "

" A gift from a doting uncle "

" Come on, Tai "

" Well, well Akka Raje " ( She was a Maharashtrian )

" Just you wait, my dear Eliza ".... ( A touch of Prof. Higgins )

.......and so on. The game was exhilirating and I was feeling younger than ever. Ayurvedic, Unani, or Allopathic systems have not yet invented a better aprodiasic or rejuvenator than the forbidden fruit.

Good old New Delhi came. My spirits werte buoyant. On the platform, I wished to bid her a fond farewell. She averted her eyes however. Her proper looking parents were with her. I understood. She was mod in the train. Had to be a good girl in front of her parents. Two faces of Eve ! Why blame her ? I am myself like that.

A hippie at heart, I am a square by force of habit. My hippie seilm hero, " Good bye, Miss Dumpling, phir kabhi milenge ". Just then, I saw my wife. The gay mood persisted nevertheless. I ran, swept her in a torrid embrace. She was delighted. Poor wives ! If they knew the mental mischief, husbands get into, in their absence !

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The queue was long and winding one. I was worrying whether I would ever get a ticket. Funny, how little things make you fret. Just when I had resigned myself to a long wait, the bus company's employees had a change of heart. They opened one more window for issuing tickets. alf the queue, the more alert half, defected. This brightened my chances of getting a ticket. I was happy. it takes as little to make you happy as it takes to make you fret.

I now started to pay attention to people in my queue. There was this bearded chap with flowing locks and terrylene Kurta-Pyjama of saffron colour. Wondered if his faith in God and interest in sex were as little or as much as mine. All the same, some in the queue seemed to venerate him.

Then, there was a family who like some celebrated political families had a representative in each camp. Father in my queue and mother in the other. Son was on the look out for the opening of the third window of the 'Trinetra' booking office of the bus company.In the meanwhile, he was shuttling between parents, giving the latest odds on the mother's making it to the father and vice versa.

Soon, I got on to the ticket window and then on the bus. The driver and the conductor arrived and the bus started. Hardly had it moved a few yards when it was stopped by a chivalrous passenger. A couple of ladies ran and caught hold of the bus. The younger one helped the bulk of the older one into the bus and then herself climbed in. The chivalry of the bus-stopping chivalrous passenger did not extend beyond stopping of the bus. He did not offer his seat. The ladies therefore stood. At the next stop, a seat near mine fell vacant and mama mia spread herself onto it.

I started observing the younger female who was standing close by. Large dark glasses covered her eyes but a sidelong glance revealed her foolishness. Such beautiful eyes ! Why did she need to hide them ? As if sensing my thought, she removed the darkies and put them in her compact. A stunning profile. A shapely burgeoning bosom that was almost an affront to my masculinity. My hands itched in revenge.

Instinct told her of my interest in her. She turned herself and all her charms towards me. Perhaps took me to be a fall guy. She gave me a concentrated look of male ego boosting admiration which would have encouraged a lessr male to scale the peaks of Himalayas just for her sake. However, all that she wanted was for me to offer her my seat. I returned her compliment by giving her my best feminine vanity boosting look, keeping the eyes rivetted at the proper places, making her feel like a Helen of Troy. No seat however. I was just not in a chivalrous mood, you see. She did not 'Touche'. She simply moved ahead, obviously in search of a more likely quarry. Wise girl ! I was sorry for her though and for the cessation of an interesting battle of the sexes that could have continued for some more time, to mutual benefit.

Before boredom could take hold of me, at the next stop, a coy little woman entered. She was shrinking her body from non-existing males around her. By this time, the passenger next to me had alighted and she compressed herself into a half seat out of the full seat next to mine. She had very delicate features and was dressed in even more delicate clothes. One feels afraid even to breathe hard in such company for fear of blowing the flmsy thing off.

For a while, I was carried away into shrinking in my seat. Soon however, my instincts took over. Such women always bring out the hunter in a male just as a veiled woman brings out a Peeping Tom in a man. I was remimded of an incident in my childhood.

It was a colonial type, split level bunglow that we lived in. My mother was very fond of good crockery. My father, with that air of an England-returned Brown Sahib, had bought a set of champagne glasses to please her. There seemed to be no other reason for that purchase, since the only use that we made of them was for eating ice cream, when grandma was away. Champagne, of course, was unthinkable in an orthodox household. These glasses were extremely delicate with artistic etching on them. Touching them was strictly forbidden. They used to be stored on the topmost shelf of the crockery case adorning our dining room.

One sunday afternoon, the rest of the family was enjoying a siesta and the servants had retired to their quarters. I was at a loose end. While passing through the dining room, my eyes fell on those champagne glasses. All my pent up desire sprang up to take full advantage of the opportunity. I leaned a dining chair agaist the crockery case, put a stool on it, climbed up and took one champagne glass. With great fury, I crushed it. Blood came out of my hand but I had a great sensual pleasure.

A similar urge arose in me in the bus. I do not know if the champagne glass relished what I did to it but I was sure, however, that this dainty dish, would, after an initial cry of anguish, hugely enjoy a similar crushing experience. And savour the memory ever after. Alas ! at forty and above, one gets content with only mental hunting. One is apt therefore, to leave shrinking females, however tantalizing they may be, to shrink in their corners instead of giving them what they are sub-consciously asking for !

The passengers standing in the aisle had alighted by this time. Now I got a clear view of a couple of manes belonging to foreigners. I was a little curious to know why they were riding this Janta bus. These two females however did not wear the standard hippy undress. They were sitting most unobtrusively and passively in a way similar to the way most of our peasants and Adiwasis do when travelling by any modern conveyance.

About one stop from the terminus, these people started getting down. I was shocked to see that one of them, whom I had taken for a female, was flat chested with a delicate beardless face from which an occasional hair peeped out. I strained my eyes and peered closely at 'her'. The see through shirt told the story. It was a boy or at least not a girl. If 'it' was a boy, it had a very high f.q. (feminine quotient). If a girl, it had a very high m.q. (masculinity quotient).

While I was wondering about them and mulling over various theories on what had brought them together, the conductor rudely shook me. The terminus had arrived and the bus was empty except for me. I marshalled my tired limbs garbed by an invigorated mind to my destination.