Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi?judicial bodies
General Studies 3
Science and Technology? developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
ISRO and its achievements
ISRO has led the Indian achievements in Indian roadmap of research and development from independence. This has resulted in huge benefits for India in diverse fields and has also given rich foreign exchange earnings through commercial ventures. This establishes the fact that a government organisation can excel irrespective of its regular rules and binds.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an exceptional case of rarely an agency of the government of India associated with the development of cutting-edge technology and global standards in execution.
In fact, by launching 104 satellites from a single rocket, it has now set the global standard in a field (or more accurately space) in which only a few nations even dare to dabble.
But what is it about ISRO that makes it stand for excellence when a plethora of government agencies suffer from severe challenges in terms of capacity and execution?
What makes ISRO tick could help show us the way to create other high-performing government organisations.
First, ISRO is fortunate that it reports to the Prime Minister and his office rather than a line ministry. This has been critical to its success.
In line ministries, ministers and bureaucrats have a tendency to micromanage their turf, and this includes autonomous bodies, agencies and enterprises.
More often than not, there will be a senior official along with a set of junior officials who have direct charge of supervising the affairs of an agency.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) works differently given that its remit cuts across all government departments. Its officials would certainly not have the time or the mindspace to supervise the affairs of a single institution.
ISRO, therefore, has a real autonomy that most other government agencies do not.
The geographical location of the organisation also matters in terms of creating an appropriate ecosystem to nurture excellence.
A number of critical government-run organisations and enterprises are either headquartered in Delhi (because it’s the seat of the Union Government) or are in places that have had some political salience to the ruling dispensation at the time they were set up. Neither scenario may be optimal from the point of view of an agency.
Being located in Delhi will leave it particularly vulnerable to the diktats of the parent ministry and the slow-moving, cautious culture of an omnipresent bureaucracy. And a politically salient location outside Delhi may not have the ecosystem to feed knowledge creation and build capabilities.
ISRO, headquartered in Bengaluru, is distant from Delhi and immune from the capital’s drawbacks. More importantly, it is located in the appropriate geography in what is India’s science and technology hub.
It has the right ecosystem to attract talent and build its knowledge capabilities more than most government agencies do.
Needless to say, human capital is critical to the success of an organisation. Unlike many government agencies which are staffed by generalists, ISRO is staffed by specialists right from its technocratic top management.
ISRO is also more agnostic than most government agencies about cooperating with and working with the best in the private sector.
The building blocks of many of ISRO’s successes come from outside the government system.
Learning the right lessons
From ISRO’s example is crucial for India.
The conventional view is that the government is poor in project execution and if one looks at the state of infrastructure or of the quality of public services that is not an unreasonable conclusion to reach.
What ISRO shows is that it is possible, indeed feasible, for the government to build high-performing organisations/agencies.
This is not an argument for a big government. Instead, it is an argument for building top quality institutions in a limited number of areas where the government’s role cannot be substituted by the private sector.
Cutting-edge research and development in spheres where there may not be ready profits is one area the government should focus on building ISRO-like institutions.
Defence could be one such. A completely reformed Defence Research and Development Organisation based out of Pune or Bengaluru (not Delhi) which reports to the PMO and which actively collaborates with the private sector would be worth considering.
Or a central vaccine agency, based in Ahmedabad or Pune, which focusses on solutions to under-researched diseases.
Of course, not every government organisation will be engaged in cutting-edge technology breakthroughs nor can every organisation report to the Prime Minister.
Still, independence from line ministries is important for a high performing organisation.
The trouble is that it is not easy to change the nature of institutions by tinkering with them. There is a path dependency in the way institutions evolve.
The creation of high performing government bodies requires starting from scratch and focussing on a few basics: real autonomy from ministries, right geographical location/appropriate ecosystem, a team of specialists, partnership with the private sector and operating only in spheres where there is no alternative to government. The creation of a handful of such agencies could have a transformative effect
Connecting the dots
Inspite of Indians heading the best global ventures abroad we have been unable to establish big ticket ventures within India. Critically analyse the reasons behind the same. How does an organisation like ISRO stand apart? What are the exceptions?
General Studies 2
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora their structure, mandate.
General Studies 3
Role of external state and non?state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
ISIS, Taliban and regional issues
With ISIS gaining ground in Asia and spreading east towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, China and its ally Russia have taken initiative to bring Taliban to talking table. This has revived the debate of good and bad terror.
India and Afghanistan took a hard line at the six-nation talks in Moscow on Wednesday, opposing the dominant view from Russia, China and Pakistan to involve the Taliban in reconciliation efforts.
Recently a conference organized by Russia in Moscow included Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran along with Afghanistan and India.
Under pressure from Kabul and New Delhi, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran have now agreed to maintain the red lines when it comes to talking with the Taliban.
But Russia, China and Iran — each of them is already negotiating with the Taliban — did not commit to ending their talks with the Pakistan-backed group.
India has long opposed any segmentation within the Taliban, because it considers the group a proxy of Pakistan, through which Islamabad wants to control Afghanistan.
Other countries do not disagree with India’s contentions, but their concerns about the Islamic State (IS) are different from those of New Delhi.These countries see the IS as their biggest terrorist target.
A report submitted to the UNSC Sanctions Committee last month said that the IS was recruiting fighters from the restive Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
Russia has made it known that it views the IS’s growing footprint in Afghanistan as a greater threat as it expands into Central Asia, which Moscow considers a part of its strategic backyard.
A narrative that is gaining ground, much to India’s discomfiture, is that the global community must concede more to the Taliban so that the bigger enemy, IS can be eliminated.
India clearly has stated that Reconciliation efforts must be driven by the Afghanistan government and could only be facilitated by “friends and well wishers of Afghanistan,” indicating that the previous round of QCG (Quadrilateral Cooperation Group) hosted by Pakistan was not acceptable.
Referring to Pakistan’s stand on “good/bad Taliban” echoed by officials in Moscow, and the talks between China and Taliban officials last year,
“The key challenge to the process remains a policy selectivity by some to distinguish between good and bad terrorists, even though terrorism is a common threat that confronts the whole region, where if one of us doesn’t stand firm against it, others’ counter-terrorism efforts will not bear the results we all seek.”
Another point of contention that emerged was over the composition of the talks hosted by Russia.
Afghanistan made a strong pitch for the United States to be included as one of its most important partners. It said it was a necessary part of all processes to “end war and usher in sustainable peace in Afghanistan”.
The fight against terrorism can never be fought by might alone. It has to a united fight which brings all likeminded parties together with no difference of good and bad terror. Especially with the growing threat of ISIS it is important for bipartisan report.
Connecting the dots:
Critically discuss the role of multilateral organisations in curbing terrorism in light growing threat of ISIS and some state sponsored terror groups.