The future of statehood in India

The future of statehood in India

This refers to Mahesh Rangarajan’s “How many states is too many?" (Mint, 23 December). We have seen that new carved out states such as Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are able to emerge economically and are better off today than they were when in their old form, that too despite huge Maoist disruptions for some of them. Still, while I agree with the writer’s suggestion that redrawing boundaries will enhance economic performance, assuming that all future new states will be able to replicate this feat would be expecting too much. What needs to be kept in mind while thinking about new states is that these demands are more political than economic. So, at the same time, the Centre needs to ensure that all new states are provided the best possible support.

— Bal Govind

In “AI board meets on turnaround plan" (Need to Know, Mint, 23 December), it is reported that Air India’s board has met recently and decided “to initiate a series of steps to cut costs and enhance savings". Coming as it does three years after the merger announcement, this is disappointing. Even bare details of the proposed measures haven’t been disclosed.

By its very nature, the merger of two ailing airlines necessarily means both management and labour voluntarily increasing their productivity, cutting needless flab and even accepting a pay cut. Not only has this not happened, but we recently witnessed the ugly spectacle of the staff insisting on their right to travel executive class when they should have gone out of the way to get more fare-paying passengers.

Altogether, the picture of the merger is a totally disappointing one and there is a limit to public patience. In fact, if Air India and Indian Airlines had been sold off three years ago, we would have received a much better price than what we would get if we attempt it today.

— S. Subramanyan

I read Harish Bhat’s views on CEOs with great interest (“CEOs: flashy or bland?", Mint, 22 December). It is a difficult issue he has taken up to write an essay on, since it’s easy to have an opinion on such seemingly soft aspects.

Still, this article uses the crutch of a few publications, tries to debunk their views on flimsy analyses (the author gives four examples of success, three of failure, and then generalizes on the basis of this sample), and then launches into a recipe for a good CEO. His three “discriminators" for a good CEO are flawed.

On the first discriminator, how does anyone decide when it is a good time for “admitting error and withdrawing from an apparently doomed to failure venture" to show “honest commitment to organization"? This is almost like saying that the best advice in investing is “to buy low and sell high", but no one really knows how to do that.

On the second discriminator of a “razor sharp strategic mind" that considers “all implications of their decision", the less said the better. Since we can never know all variables, it would have been better advocating a scenario planning approach that embraces what US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld once called the “unknown unknowns". Handling complexity needs a different approach than what management science 101 teaches us.

The third discriminator really pushes the analysis in the article by claiming that good CEOs have “long-term focus (that) requires resolute farsightedness and ability to withstand unrelenting short-term pressure". I wonder if the author reread his piece, because he would then have to choose between his first discriminator and his third one. For instance, if a CEO’s venture is failing, should he follow the first suggestion of admitting mistake and taking a U-turn—or should he show his resolute farsightedness and hold course?

Bhat may have done better by leaving the crutches of clichés, and we all would have been far richer with his knowledge if he had dug deeper into his own “real world" experiences.

— Rahul Balyan