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Matter Of Ethics

T.C.A. Ranganathan

By Alexander K. Luke
Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 374, Rs. 795.00


Books can often be likened to cricket matches. A T20 game is light and frothy. The results come in a single setting. A test match is leisurely. You need to invest both time and energy, but at the end, more often than not, it is far more pleasurable as your sense of participation and involvement is far greater. Passport of Gujarat: Hazardous Journeys best resembles a leisurely test match. You require to read it carefully. And you should. It is about Ethics: practical ethics, in management of state owned commercial enterprises. Also in institutions like the Gujarat Housing Board, Fisheries, Labour Commissioner (and his fight to ensure minimum wage act implementation), Water Supply (everyone loves a good drought!) and revenue appeals, Riots and Tribal Development and others. Alexander Luke was a bureaucrat but more often called a ‘turn around’ specialist. He was associated with, and credited for the turnaround of a number of enterprises: Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Ltd (GACL) et al. As also, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, (The Dam!) comatose as it then was (in mid/late 90s) due to court cases and controversies regarding resettlement. The book is about these turn around stories and about why they could not have happened, unless the executive, the CEO, the doctor had not first imbued himself into ‘Ethical Behaviour’ in the truest sense. Fair play is playing fair with all stakeholders associated with the activity, not with one’s own self. Luke was successful but not as a bureaucrat. He could not be. He did not play fair to his self-interest, often rubbing seniors on the wrong side. He was not a good bureaucrat. So he never rose high in the hierarchy and yet each time, there was a distress call, he was sent in. And once in, secured fair play, efficiencies and stakeholder satisfaction. Perhaps a sinking ship is like having a stone when there are two birds available. Send an ethic mired person in. If the ship sinks…well it is an ill wind after all that blows no good! But if he succeeds in reviving it, well… ‘That is a relief’. So wait till the storm has passed and it’s all clear. In today’s India, there are so many good bureaucrats around. Always ready to oblige. Send one of them in. And that difficult chap out! But this ...

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