Advisers With Neither Inputs Nor Outputs

By TP Saran

Not to speak of results, let alone outcomes. In any case they will not be able to make the difference nor, in many cases, would those who have pushed for their recruitment. Such is the state of the union, as would be said elsewhere.

No wonder the Prime Minister speaks of semi- and quarter-intellectuals. It has long been a practice in the Westminster system of government that we have adopted to employ sundry advisers. Mainly for political reasons, some of which may be understandable. But until the recent capping on numbers that would be allowed per ministry, there seemed to be a free run. Of those who are still around, one may count on the fingers of one’s hands how many are really doing a useful job of what they have been assigned to do.

The notorious ‘scheme of duties’ for one such adviser was hurriedly cobbled up one morning when he was imposed upon a particular sector. Nice guy, but thoroughly useless. Not even one eighth intellectual, if we go by the current yardstick. Day in day out he would dutifully attend his especially arranged office – which even some senior substantive officers did not have – after parking his car in the officially allotted space, and at office closing time would as dutifully walk down to his car and drive out serenely. Collect his pay slip at the end of the month. Input during the past few years: Nil. Output? Nil. And he is still around. With neither input nor output.

Some ask: of the problems about which he is producing copious reports directly to the minister, what did he do to solve them when he was in the substantive post? The answer is again: nil, according to those in the know. Now imagine just one such unproductive adviser per sector. How much is the country losing?

In an earlier article, we had suggested that an audit of the work – though the word is rather strong – of all advisers. We do not know whether this has been done, but if we want to move forward and save on some totally unnecessary expenditures, this is one item where we could start.

Are there some advisers who are doing something useful, contributing new ideas? Or working at issues that are critical to the sector, and taking pains to document themselves and participating meaningfully in discussions held in the appropriate statutory structures? In other words, being part of the solution rather than part of the problem? If so, they must be identified and their roles acknowledged. Such advisers, who can be of real help to the country, must necessarily function within the established divisions under the respective heads. This is where their inputs can be openly discussed and weaved into the overall fabric of the sector concerned.

There is no other way for any adviser, especially if he has technical expertise, to function and a make positive contribution.

Another irritating practice is for someone who holds a substantive position, usually a seeker of publicity or unfair advantage, to kowtow to the political head and to put some wild if not weird ideas into the latter’s ears. And the absurdity is when the latter, instead of cross-checking with those who are the substantive holders of positions where their role is to actually advise after deliberations and weighing up, blindly listen to the sycophants.

The speciality of the latter is to ruffle feathers and make noise for themselves. And if the politician has been flattered, they feel that some of that overflows to them.

We have heard of an expression ‘cry, my beloved country.’ We cannot but cry too, alas.

* Published in print edition on 1 October 2010

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