‘The Flaws In Our Laws’ By Dr Bibek Debroy | Absurdities Of Indian Laws – Part II


By Somali K Chakrabarti

Continuing from my last post ‘The Flaws In Our Laws’ By Bibek Debroy | My Scribbling Of The Session – Part I, here I proceed to  jot down the next two anecdotes that were also the most interesting anecdotes of the session.


Identifying Surplus Government Posts


Anecdote 3 was about identifying redundant government posts to recommend their abolishment.

The story, as narrated to Dr Debroy by a retired senior civil officer goes as follows…

In 1973, an Administrative Reforms Commission was set up in Tamil Nadu to find posts in the system that appeared to be redundant. Two such posts identified were that of LBK, LBA. Nobody seemed to have a clue about what these abbreviations stood for, nor about the duties assigned to these posts.

Some facts unfurled when people who had retired from these positions and were drawing pensions were called upon to enquire about the posts.

In 1926, a Royal Commission on Agricultural Reform was set to improve the quality of agriculture in India . The Commission was set up under the Chairmanship of Lord Linlithgow, who later became the Viceroy of India and served from 1936 – 1943. It was decided by the Commission that agricultural productivity would be improved by improving the quality of Indian cattle by breeding Indian cows with foreign bulls. The system was as slow then as it is today, maybe much more slower. Nothing moved on the recommendations of the Royal Commissions.

Ten years on, in 1936 when it was announced that Lord Linlithgow would be the new Governor General, things suddenly stirred up in the system. The new Viceroy would certainly want to know what had happened to his recommendations.

In the government system, creating new positions is just as difficult as slashing jobs. So to get things moving, two job positions were created by invoking the name of Lord Linlithgow . The position LBK stood for Linlithgow’s Bull Keeper, who was assigned with the task of overseeing the import of bulls, while LBA’s (Linlithgow’s Bull Assistant’s) job was to ensure that cows were impregnated at the right time.Bull

As we were in splits of laughter, he added that though these posts were abolished in the early 1980s. Yet there was another post that still continued past the 1980s. Read more

‘The Flaws In Our Laws’ By Dr Bibek Debroy | Absurdities Of Indian Laws – Part I


By Somali K Chakrabarti

On rare occasions, it happens that a person can dig into a complex topic with remarkable ease and make perfect sense to a diverse group of listeners, while capturing their attention all along and making the subject exceptionally interesting.  Dr Bibek Debroy is certainly one of those people blessed with such rare ability. Fascinated by his knowledge on the vast array of subjects he tweets about, I had registered for the seminar arranged by MoneyLife Foundation, to hear Dr Debroy speak on the Flaws in Indian Laws.

I reached the Royal Bombay Yacht Club just 5 min before the start of the event. The building is just at a stone’s throw from the Gateway Of India and has an old world charm about it. With hardly any time in hand to appreciate the architecture, I rushed into the hall and yet found myself seated on a single vacant seat on the 2nd row.  And there I was, all set to listen to one of the most interesting sessions by the noted economist, columnist and author.

So the session began. Right from the word ‘go’, it was replete with anecdotes that held the audience in rapturous attention and we found ourselves intermittently bursting into peals of laughter at the absurdities existing in the Indian laws. I am recollecting here some of the numerous anecdotes shared, which I had managed to scribble down.



The Trigger For Initiating A Research Project For Legal Reforms.


The 1st anecdote was about an unexpected and a seemingly innocuous event that had provided the trigger for initiating a research project by the Government Of India for Legal Reforms.

The story goes back to the year 1993.

One day Dr Ashok Desai, then the Chief Economic Consultant to the Govt. of India,  invited Bibek Debroy for lunch to ask about his interest in heading the research project. He gave him the time between the start of lunch & dessert to make up his mind. The project was approved by none other than our ex PM Dr Manmohan Singh, who was then, the Finance Minister Of India.

Quite in line with the thesis of a book called ‘Accidental India’, written by Shankar Aiyar,  much of what happens in India, happens purely by accident rather than by design, the prompt for the project inadvertently came from Dr Ashok Rudra, a scholar, economist and professor at the University of Vishva Bharti. Read more

Reinventing Winning Ways | How To Reorient To A Process Driven Approach



Reinvention seems to be the buzzword of the season. With India’s Elections 2014 over, the need for reinvention has resurfaced with vigor. In light of the dismal performance in elections, some parties have dissolved different committees on grounds of non performance to rediscover winning ways. Questions have surfaced on whether political parties can reinvent themselves. Suggestions for restructuring the ministries to reduce multiplicity of government departments and bring about effective governance have been put forth for the new government by the specialists.

At this juncture, when people are expecting India to take on the path to economic recovery and international brokerages are betting high on India’s growth story, the time is apt for many institutions to start the process of reorganizing themselves. Needless to say the magnitude of efforts and change required will be humungous.

One of the essential elements in the process will be a shift from a reactive or inaction based approach to a ‘process based action oriented’ approach. That, in itself, is a challenging task as it requires a huge shift in the mindset at all levels – starting from the highest and percolating down the ranks; though a somewhat obvious statement, this is seldom spoken about. Nonetheless, a shift in mindset and approach is necessary to bring about even the small changes, or for that matter for plucking the ‘low hanging’ fruits.



The challenges are aplenty. In our society which places a premium on hierarchy and individual merit, following a process is not something that people eagerly look forward to. Read more

Narendra Modi – A Compelling Story Told



On 16th May 2014, India witnessed the spectacular victory of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 16th Lok Sabha elections, with Narendra Modi spearheaded to be the 15th PM of the country.  If that is a numerology coincidence, and 16 is indeed a lucky number for Narendra Modi, I would not know. There are numerous ongoing analysis of different factors to pinpoint what all made BJP such a grand success while UPA story went horribly wrong, and AAP, in spite of all the noise, failed to make any dent.

Of the various factors, the projected personality of the PM candidates, and how it was perceived by Indian citizens makes an interesting comparison. Read more

Inbuilt Apathy Towards Road Traffic Accidents In India



A few days back a young man from Kurukshetra, Dikshant Sharma had started a petition requesting Aamir Khan to take up the issue of Road Accidents in India on his show Satyamev Jayate.

After I signed the petition [i], I surfed for information on road traffic accidents and came to know the following facts:

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for young people in developing countries. India accounts for about 10% of road crash fatalities worldwide.

One person dies every five minutes on Indian roads. Going by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), this figure is expected to escalate to one death every three minutes by 2020 [ii]. In terms of absolute numbers more people die in road crashes in India than anywhere else in the world.

Every other day we read in the newspapers about road accidents. Unresponsive governance coupled with personal apathy makes the situation worse and many are left to die on the streets even when hospitals are close by.

Infographics - Road Traffic Accidents
Infographics – Road Traffic Accidents


The disconcerting question is why do these recurring incidents of traffic death remain as just statistics and do not stir up the authorities or people in general? Read more

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