With reference to Shyamal Majumdar’s piece, “Public sector chiefs deserve better” (September 22), institutions are made up of people; the successful ones have talented and efficient people providing leadership at the top. This is equally applicable to organisations in private and public sectors irrespective of their age or size. Recent experiences in India offer enough evidence.
Since the 1950s, India has recognised the prominent role of the public sector in economic development. Success stories of public sector undertakings (PSU) in India conflicted with the commercial interests of the private sector in India and abroad. The 1970s and subsequent decades saw moves by the rich and the powerful, lobbying against PSUs and achieving success by weakening their institutional structure.
There was no better way of weakening PSUs than by making their top managements spineless. Top positions in PSUs and even regulatory bodies such as the Reserve Bank of India became pre-retirement transit homes for senior bureaucrats. In the banking sector, with the exception of SBI, no public sector bank was allowed to retain its identity.
The occasional emergence of one Vinod Rai here or a Raghuram Rajan there, asserting their rightful positions, were deftly handled by vested interests with the help of an obliging media and a subservient political leadership. This explains the short-term tenures of individuals in top positions at PSUs. The interests of the organisations they preside over is normally not a priority in their selection.
M G Warrier Mumbai
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