Category Archives: Articles-2015

June 2015

Will States do their BIT?

The Hindu Business Line, June 26, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

While launching the Make in India campaign, the Prime Minister had also unveiled ‘Team India’ — including the Prime Minister and chief ministers — to work in sync for development. This has become pivotal in economic decision making at the Centre, and its imprint can be seen in almost every policy. That said, since States are pursuing investment they are also competing in improving the ‘doing business’ indicators furiously. And many are engaging in economic paradiplomacy — CMs are travelling abroad to woo investors. However, attracting investment is also tied up with the Centre’s policies — international agreements, for protection measures through its exclusive power to do so.More…

Regulating dream realty

The Asian Age, June 14, 2015By Pradeep S Mehta

In spite of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development and comments of relevant stakeholders, including consumer organisations, industry associations, academia, experts, and the media, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013, was watered down by the government under pressure from the builder lobby. It did not go through in the last session of Parliament and a combined opposition has ensured that it be revisited so that it is fair to all parties, particularly the consumers. The bill is now before a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, which has invited comments from all stakeholders..More…

Make in ‘digital’ India

The Asian Age, June 01, 2015By Pradeep S Mehta

Snapdeal, Flipkart, Ola Cabs, Zomato and Hike are good for the economy as well as for consumers.. currently generating over 70,000 jobs. In the next five years, this could grow to a quarter million jobs.. which means more choices and lower prices In the midst of the debate on allowing foreign direct investment in retail and in e-commerce, it would be worthwhile recalling what Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, early this year said to a group of students at Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, “Yes, I would personally invest in India.” As it turns out, Ms Lagarde is not alone. Year on year investments in Indian tech startups are growing at exponential rates, and our startups have raised close to $3 billion, and that too in the last five years.More…

July 2015

Where’s the reforms momentum?

The Hindu Business Line, July 24, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

…Adoption of an overarching competition policy and reforms has resulted in significant benefits across jurisdictions…India should also move fast towards adoption of NCP. It is a non-legislative instrument and the government should not face any bottlenecks in its adoption. Only when NCP is adopted will the government be able to showcase the synergies which could be created.More…

Tackling trade associations’ anti-competitive practices

The Financial Express, July 23, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

Need to penalise members who benefit from such practices. Trade associations play the important role of mobilising voices of different players across sectors, which makes it easy for advocacy purposes as well as for negotiating issues of common interest to the members. However, in the process, associations often go beyond their legal mandate and end up being avenues for anti-competitive behaviour.More…

To renew the civil services

The Indian Express, July 22, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

Many young IAS officers often fall prey to the incompetency of the framework. Once inducted, postings and training seem to turn them into generalists rather than specialists…Civil servants should also be encouraged to move out and work for different sectors on a short-term basis to enrich their knowledge and enhance their motivation and efficiency. Therefore, lateral exit is as important as lateral entry. This has the potential to raise the civil services from its slump.More…

When nothing is resolved in court

The Hindu Business Line, July 09, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

India’s dispute resolution mechanisms are in bad shape, leading to abysmal contract enforcement. This must change. Conflict management is a complex art. Researchers have spent a lifetime identifying approaches and skills necessary to manage conflict resolution. Situations get further complicated in commercial disputes where high financial stakes are involved. To manage such situations, two draft legislations have recently been issued in public domain by the government. These are the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015; and the Public Contracts (Resolution of Disputes) Bill, 2015.More…

Base NPE on credible data

The Asian Age, July 09, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) was set up in 2011, with a mandate to rewrite and clean up the financial sector laws and to bring them in tune with current requirements. It drafted an Indian Financial Code, to regulate the financial sector, and submitted the draft Code to the government in March 2013…The FSLRC and Code gels well with the other reform initiatives the government has been working on…Consequently, the Code must be urgently adopted as, in the words of former PM Manmohan Singh, it is an idea whose time has come, and no power on earth must be allowed to stop it!.. More…

A financial idea whose time has come

The Hindu Business Line, August 07, 2015By Pradeep S. Mehta & Abhishek Kumar

There’s no comprehensive and systematic data on the education system in India, and where it exists the government does not seem too serious about it… HRD minister Smriti Irani said the ministry would favour its own surveys over those conducted by ASERMore…

August 2015

Roti, kapda, mobile aur makaan

The Asian Age, August 28, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

In 1974, a blockbuster movie was released highlighting the basic necessities of man, Roti Kapda aur Makaan. If the same movie was to be remade today, the title would have added another necessity as “roti, kapda, mobile aur makaan”. Needless to say, mobile phones have become a standard companion for people. Mobile phones, in a lot many ways, have made life easier. Now it is easier to contact people whenever and wherever you want, you can message friends, stay live on social networks, do shopping, call in cabs and click selfies and share them and what not. Not only that but the government has launched the JAM trinity to empower the poor in the country, where J stands for Jan Dhan (financial inclusion), A stands for Aadhaar (identity) and M for mobile telephony.More…

Restoring law and order in Parliament

The Hindu Business Line, August 21, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

“The monsoon session of the parliament was washed out due to flooding of the well of the house,” says the contemporary weekly hoarding of Nana Chudasama on Marine Drive in Mumbai. This hoarding, carrying thoughtful remarks on contemporary issues, is an icon of Mumbai broadly reflecting the public sentiment. This sentiment has been echoed by none else than the President. The President is empowered, under Article 86(2) of the Constitution, to send specific or general messages to either house of Parliament.More…

A new competition law enforcement paradigm

Financial Express, August 17, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

One of the biggest movie grosser of recent times, Baahubali, was produced in Telugu and dubbed in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi, and will perhaps be also done in French, Mandarin and Japanese. Fortunately, exhibition of dubbed Indian language versions was not prevented by powerful film and TV bodies, else Bahubali may not have broken records. In a first of its type, the film and TV trade bodies in Karnataka who were blocking dubbing of popular films and serials were hauled up by the Competition Commission of India in a complaint by a consumer group: Kannada Grahakara Koota. More…

A national competition policy for India?

The Asian Age, August 11, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

The power sector continues to remain in the news every other day because of the shortage that affects our economy hugely. Recently, business chambers, along with private sector power equipment companies, were howling that the government utilities are patronising BHEL for power plant orders without inviting tenders.More…

A financial idea whose time has come

The Hindu Business Line, August 07, 2015By Pradeep S Mehta

The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) was set up in 2011, with a mandate to rewrite and clean up the financial sector laws and to bring them in tune with current requirements. It drafted an Indian Financial Code, to regulate the financial sector, and submitted the draft Code to the government in March 2013…The FSLRC and Code gels well with the other reform initiatives the government has been working on…Consequently, the Code must be urgently adopted as, in the words of former PM Manmohan Singh, it is an idea whose time has come, and no power on earth must be allowed to stop it!.. More…

September 2015

Neutral Net: A gate-pass to the global society

The Asian Age, September 19, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

Noam Chomsky, a famous leftist American philosopher, once said: “The Internet could be a very positive step towards education, organisation and participation in a meaningful society.” This stands true in the current scenario, where the Internet has moulded the world into a global society, truncated distances and enabled thought sharing beyond boundaries. Also acting as an educational hub, the Internet has helped providing solutions in seconds, which earlier used to take hours of search in libraries. There is no denying that the Internet has now turned into what Bill Gates once referred as “town square for the global village.More…

India’s change of tack on climate issue

Business Line, September 17, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

A pull-back from the emission reduction commitments made in 2009 is likely. But we should have a sustainable plan.

With the submission deadline for the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) for the Paris Climate Summit drawing near, the spotlight is once again on New Delhi. India, which is hosting a meeting of like-minded developing countries on this subject, is the last major player which is yet to announce its INDC.More…

The mess that is food regulation

The Hindu Business Line, September 03, 2015
By Pradeep S Mehta

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has produced a volcanic blast in the Indian food processing industry.

In the process, it is not just Maggi or Nestle which has been singed; the law and the regulator, the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 (FSSA), and the FSSAI, have been scathed as well. This is especially after the Bombay High Court’s order questioning the lab test results and violation of the principles of natural justice by it, during the process. Both, consumer safety and investment climate are at stake; we need a convergent approach.. More…

October 2015


By Pradeep S Mehta and Kshitiz sharma

Indian civil society organisations are active in Sub Saharan Africa sharing their expertise and experience as models from a fellow developing country. This engagement is based on a tripod, firstly the development realities and issues faced by both the regions are quite similar, secondly, there is a larger strategic interest of the Indian government and Indian businesses to engage with Africa for natural resources and growing markets, and thirdly English speaking Anglophone countries in Africa enable easy operations for Indian CSOs. Use of ICT tools and cheaper international travel has also added to the growing cooperation among CSOs in the two regions.

India is seen as a progressive democracy and role model in Africa.MEA`s partnership with the Indian civil society to deliver foreign policy programmes through DPA is a refreshing model which will enhance India`s image. This approach will also help to simplify the foreign policy for domestic constituents who have become increasingly interested in it since Prime Minister Modi`s engagement with the international community.

A partnership approach between the governments and civil society in India and Africa can deliver high social impacts for the countries in Africa and establish India as a partner of choice. Synergising efforts with African civil society to strive for common goals will result in robust and forward looking partnership between India and Africa, the continent of hope.More…

The administrative route to growth

By Pradeep S Mehta

Urgent and transformative changes to the civil services are a must to enable successful economic reforms

All secretaries to the Government of India should have received ‘outstanding’ grading over their last five annual appraisals, by and large, otherwise they won’t be eligible to claim the coveted title. As one babu quipped, if all of them are ‘outstanding’, why is their performance so average as evident from the poor results in many cases? Granted, truly excellent officers have to work with average colleagues and an archaic system, and cannot really work as lone rangers.

This babu friend had unfortunately got ‘Very Good’ once and that meant his death knell in terms of his dream of becoming a hallowed secretary or even an additional secretary to the GoI. Usually, in civil services, promotions happen automatically. Some selection criterion does exist in the Central Government, but merit is not considered in its proper dimensions.

There are counter arguments to this — many say favouritism can allow sycophantic officers to go higher than the deserving ones. In the armed forces, it is said, promotions take place mainly on merit and officers get weeded out even before they retire. Efforts to bring in the same system in the civil services have not been successful and that is needed if economic and governance reforms have to succeed.

Perhaps the establishment is inured to the Peter Principle, that a person reaches his level of incompetence sooner or later.

Lacking a system

Consequently, we get an average administration which is good at pushing files. Many babus earn plaudits for not taking any decisions rather than for taking decisions because of the fear of vilification and/or punishment.

In my 30 years of public advocacy, I have come across a variety of babus to whom the Peter Principle applies without doubt, but the system protects them from being weeded out. And many of them, aided by a strong fraternity, end up in some sinecure post for five more years after retirement. This makes a mockery of the system and the nation has to bear the burden.

On the other hand, if one looks at the armed forces, a person can rise to the level of colonel or captain in the navy or group captain in the air force after 23 years of service. But that may be at the end of his career, unless he has successfully undergone training and promotion tests for going up. Unlike the forces to which people enter via specialised training centres, civil servants can be from any discipline but have to qualify through the UPSC exams. Thus we also find doctors, scientists, engineers, management graduates and social scientists who end up in the service that requires general skills and a good IQ.

Misplaced skills

The investment in specialised skills is lost to the society. Also, other aspirants to such an education also lose the opportunity since the seats are limited in good professional institutions.

Besides, the civil services have always opposed the lateral entry of good professionals in government. For example, in 1959, an industrial management pool was created to engage successful private sector executives in public enterprises. Many joined, sacrificing their compensation packages, and have risen up in the Government. But recruitment took place only for one year and the system was pulled back, ostensibly to protect the civil services.

Nearly 200 civil servants have been occupying posts in public enterprises since then. This is not to say that exceptional econocrats or even scientists have not held senior positions in the Government but they were exceptions. How does all this apply in Narendra Modi’s push for Make in India? Hugely. Unless civil service reforms are carried out, doing business in India will remain difficult in spite of tomes of studies and reports, and platitudes.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by Veerappa Moily had gone in depth into civil service reforms to make it more efficient, but the recommendations are yet to be implemented fully. Some simple steps have been taken but they have not been able to address the structural issues.

Need urgent reform

Recommendations have been made to mandate mid-career training as a promotion criterion. By and large, civil servants having worked for nearly 25 years are being sent, rather than phased out into 10, 15 and 20 years service.

Having interacted with many, one does not find any significant change in them or their attitudes after they have come back. Sometimes, one sees an officer working in a particular discipline being sent abroad for specialised training but coming back and spending the rest of his career in jobs where that training will never help.

The Second ARC had recommended many armed forces-like changes in the civil services. This included the establishment of a National Institute for Public Administration to run specialised degree courses for aspirants, but conceded that aspirants from other disciplines may also be admissible after doing a bridge course. Capacity building was also defined in depth and it was suggested that for every promotion a mandatory training was needed.

Most importantly, the Second ARC also recommended that officers be put into specific domains, based on their academic qualifications, experience and aptitude, so that “the most suitable for the post is selected”.

A similar practice was also followed under the ICS. The Second ARC had also suggested that there should be competition for senior positions, but that has translated into jockeying rather than being done through a logical process.

Among many sterling suggestions, the Second ARC had also recommended lateral entry for positions of additional secretary and above, which does not exist in the armed forces. Another critical suggestion was borrowing from the armed forces’ practice of weeding out officers after 20 years of service and suggesting that appointments should only be made for 20 years and their continuation would depend on their performance.

The writer is the secretary-general of CUTS International

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