Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Manivannan, Mysore's man of the hour

With Mysore municipal commissioner Manivannan P joining Praja-Mysore, we can count on a spurt in the ‘hits’, and hopefully, action-oriented input on the fledging community site. I have had the benefit of a look-in on the communication between Mr Shastri, representing the Praja admin, and Mr Manivannan. Was struck by his observation that a ‘city grows as much as its citizens are ready for it; and it can grow only when it takes its citizens along with it’.

Found it so apt, in the context of what I experienced during a recent visit to New Delhi. Going there after 11 years proved to be a trip of re-discovery, not just of the place but also its people, even those I thought I knew. What with its flyovers and the Metro it is evident that Delhi aspires to become world class city. The question Mr manivannan’s growth mantra raises is: Are Delhi people ready for it? Aspiration needs to be backed up with a change in people’s mindset as world class citizens. A mindset-aspiration gap is an issue that needs to be addressed in Mysore as well. And the hope is Praja input/interaction would create necessary awareness conducive to the much needed change in the public mindset.

The second part of M-mantra – a city grows when it takes its citizens along – calls for an enlightened leadership. In Delhi I noticed the one thing people are uniformly proud of is the Metro rail; and the much talked about man in this context is Mr E Sreedharan.

Needless to add, the name that springs to mind when we talk of Mysore administration is Mr Manivannan P. Googling Manivannan I found the Hubli-Dharwad municipal corporation under Mr. M’s regime as commissioner had the distinction of being the only civic body in Karnataka to have secured ISO certification. A California blogger Nagesh Tavarageri, reproducing Shyam Sundar Vattam’s article in Deccan Herald. posts:

"It took nearly two years to overhaul ‘junk administration’ and make it numero uno in the State. Hard work, dedication and commitment among all sections of the administrative agency has paid rich dividends in the form of ISO-9001;2000 certification from TUV, a German agency."

To quote Mr Manivannan’s mail to Mr Shastri,

"a city government that isn’t responsive loses relevance. But in a democracy public institutions can’t be overlooked, and hence they become fetters in the path of development."

Expressing personal views on the basis of his administrative experience, Mr M says,

"an intelligent citizen is one who understands that the chains can’t be removed, but the need is to increase the speed of the government machinery."

As I see it, Manivannan is the best thing that has happened to Mysore in a long time. Whether it was by design or administrative convenience we now have an administrator with a proven track record. And he is open to ideas, public views and opinion. ‘Informed’ and ‘concerned’ citizens, on their part, would do well to give Mr M a chance. Confrontational activism that defined the NGO-administration relations so far won’t go.

Cross-posted from Praja-Mysore

1 comment:

narendra shenoy said...

Just adding my two cents worth - may not be worth even that - about the rarity of finding good people in government and what makes good people in government good.

Mr. Sreedharan whom you mentioned - I knew his son in college. His only son, mind you. They used to live in a huge and ornate bungalow in Mumbai, where Mr. Sreedharan was GM Western Railway.

Well, Mr. S did not get a job for his son who had a pretty rough career path compared to most of us. He's doing very well now, being a most sincere and capable person. And on his part, the son never let on that his dad was a big guy. He would always travel 2nd class with us, though he was railway royalty.

The net result of this was and is, I believe, that everyone - EVERYONE, politicians included - was terrified of Mr. S. Everything in the department ran exactly as Mr. S wanted it to. No one dared incurring the wrath of a man who was honest AND competent.

I'm sure Mr. Mannivannan must be just like that. There is so little accountability in government that even the highest in the hierarchy can do nothing to a subordinate who does not wish to work - which is most of them. It is only the sheer force of their personality that makes things happen.

If Mr. M has made things move in Hubli-Dharwad, then he must be one of those men. Mysore is lucky it has got someone like that. This loveliest of cities has been slowly going to seed. Hopefully the trend will now reverse