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India needs a “Managers Army” to work side by side with our capable “Administrators”


It is sad to start by referring to the British who ruled India for 200-odd years but it is unavoidable. It is they who devised an Administrative and Control System for India to serve the purpose of “Rulers”.

They left this System behind as a Legacy and the greatest sadness is that India continued with this System, totally unsuited for an Independent Nation where officials were required to “serve” the people, not “rule” them.

In 2022, India will be 75 years old as an Independent Nation. India@75. So much has happened in India in these 73 years. So much development, growth, entrepreneurship, civil society, judiciary, managerial skills, etc. and, Nobel Laureates honoured by the world. But, not as yet, an “Indian” system of managing our country.

The British ruled many nations and used their model of administration very successfully, from their point of view, their perspective. Other countries adopted their own systems after getting independence. But, we continued with the civil service system left behind by the British.

The best minds were recruited through an exam and interview system to administer the country. They underwent training in institutions designed for this and we developed a cadre of administrators of quality.

Now, there is a difference between “Administrators” and “Managers”. The former are excellent at framing the answer to the question “What” is to be done. What is the objective. What course to follow. The “Managers” are trained to answer the question “How is it to be done”. This is what Managers learn to be in the public sector, the private sector and the armed services.

India has outstanding “Managers”. They are sought after by the world. They lead the largest corporates. They lead Peace – keeping forces. They lead the global talent race. The Generals, Admirals and Air Marshall are great examples. The Indian-Americans are another.

But they are not involved in running the administrative system in the country.

Indira Gandhi, who was a Socialist by politics and belief, turned in the early 70s to Managers when she realized that the Economy of India needed a different brand of leadership. Vasant Rajadhyaksha, Chairman, Hindustan Liver; Lovraj Kumar from Shell; Mantosh Sondhi from Bokaro Steel; V. Krishnamurthy from BHEL; D.V. Kapur from NTPC. These are some of the names from the public and private sectors who were inducted as heads of key Ministries.

Why? Why on earth did she do that?

She was not an “Industry” Person. She was not a “Pro-Private Sector” person. And, yet, she made a change, a big change.

Is it time, as India@75 approaches, to consider another big change? To Induct planners, managers, finance experts, into the administration?

The world is more complex. More challenging. Would it be helpful to have a mix of capabilities and talents to cope and bring out the best of India?

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©2020 by Tarun Das and Ishan Roy.