Re Brijendra Kumar Syngal’s article, “Technology sans frontiers”, Mint, 3 July, the point about PSUs concerns not only “corporate organization effectiveness” and being the epitome of capitalism. They have contributed to atomic energy, space, defence, etc., and have led to India having indigenous programmes in almost everything without it being affected by technology control regimes prevalent over the last 50 years or so. This has led to India holding the prime position that it does. Ironically, the number of IIT engineers who contributed to this process as percentage of total engineers cumulatively employed by the public sector has been dismal! There are more of them in advertising agencies than there were in the entire atomic energy establishment!
Tamal Bandyopadhyay deserves thanks for revealing in his article, “Making cohabitation feasible at work”, Mint, 2 July, the government decision to sanction an additional executive director (ED) for bigger public sector banks. This shows an unsatisfactory aspect in the allocation of assignments among the top hierarchy—CMD and ED— that would not have otherwise come to the knowledge of the public.
Making a chamber for the additional director should not pose any problem for the bank if it keeps in mind the principle of viewing office space as a scarce and valuable commodity and its top executives are not given to wallowing in space.
Allocation of work geographically or functionwise should be left to the individual management style of the bank. Trying to force uniformity is retrograde; it will kill initiative and innovation. The CMD has before him not only the experience of his bank but also that of similarly placed banks in the public or private sector. In normal circumstances, he can get help from his board, but the way these are constituted now, lacking professionals and being packed with political appointees, this is difficult.
Political appointees are more interested in interceding on behalf of defaulting clients than bringing their expertise to issues coming up before them at the board level. In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of the CMD to ensure that his colleagues, the EDs, are optimally utilized. Regulators and the ministry, by virtue of their positions, can monitor this aspect. But it is essentially the responsibility of the CMD to ensure that his colleagues are given work commensurate with their status and experience.
What causes serious concern is the fact (revealed in the article) of passing the buck between the CMD, the EDs and the general manager (GM) and the tendency to run down one another. This is not an edifying situation for public sector banks. This is an aspect that is likely to be clearly visible at the board level and cannot be missed by the government nominee on the board. Parliament and its committees also can look into this aspect, but the question is whether that institution has the time for a detailed debate on the subject.
In arriving at the number of EDs needed by a bank, the human resource aspect should also be kept in view. GMs doing well should have a better chance of promotion to the level of ED and, later, to the post of CMD so that they have time to show their mettle at the top. In the past, there has been scarcity of senior personnel for manning the top posts. Future and more rapid growth of the PS banks may accelerate this problem.
The need now is for the government to recast the role of the ED. When we ask for greater autonomy for the banks, it would seem to be an anachronism if they expect the government to do this job-description work for the bank. It is exclusively a management function and the buck should stop with the CMD.
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