The curious case of Indian ATRs
November 25, 2009 Leave a comment
The Liberhan Commission’s report is finally out. After just 17 years and Rs 80 million in expenses, the report finally, atleast claims to, fix the blame on those responsible for the events that unfolded on 6th of December 1992.
While I would refrain from making any comments on the contents of the Report, which many believe to be a joke, the focus of my attention is on the ‘bigger joke’ the ATR – Action Taken Report – tabled by the Govt.
India and ATRs go a long way.
With the official lingo of Indian Governments clothed in heavy jargon, the abbreviation for ATR was not known to many for quite some time. Infact ATR itself was an unknown commodity till Deccan Air famously introduced in it’s inaugural flight which was grounded as soon as it took off owing to a fire in the engine.
Poetic justice one would say.
Indian ATRs can never take off.
Actually I think that the very idea of an ATR is antithetical to the foundation of Indian Governance. ATR expands to ‘Action Taken Report’.
If you deconstruct the phrase in the context of Indian Governance it is none too difficult to understand why it does not pass muster.
First the word ‘action’. In India we thrive on ‘inaction’. Before you think I am being harsh on the policy makers, let me clarify that the inaction is in the best interest of the Indian state.
One of the founding principles of Indian Constitution is to create and uphold the spirit of scientific temper. It naturally follows that the Indian political leaders have developed very strong scientific outlook with the result that the Newton’s third law of motion precludes them from taking any kind of action.
For the record, the 3rd law of motion tells us that : For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Now which right-thinking politician will initiate any action if he knows that will be an “equal and opposite reaction”.
I mean after all getting elected is no joke and it is not certain that there will be a next time. So why waste the precious opportunity of governance in mundane things such as ‘taking action’.
We proceed to the next word, ‘taken’.
If you are expecting me to be cheeky to suggest that everything about the Indian politician is already ‘taken’ by him or that the people have ‘taken him’ for granted, well I am in no mood to oblige.
After all this note is in the defense of the Indian politician not otherwise.
The word ‘taken’ refers to the past tense that is the time gone by. You tell me which self-respecting Indian politician would ever claim that everything that has to be done has been done.
Don’t we know that the premise of Indian election is “past failure” and not “guaranteed success”. That is to say they want to get elected not because they would succeed but the mere fact that the other guy failed. As an ‘equal opportunity employer’ it is expected that we give everyone a chance to try and……fail.
So ‘taken’ is obviously out of context in Indian politics.
Finally the part about ‘report’. In India we thrive on paperwork, no doubt. We perhaps have more reports than the famous libraries of the world and so one more report actually means nothing. But here is the catch. This report is no ordinary report but it purportedly has to cover the ‘action taken’ by the Government.
For a nation where report is a euphemism for a meaningless exercise, suddenly to box it into the corner of ‘reasoning and substance’ is to kill the spirit of reporting.
Yet another aspect about ‘Report’ is worth mentioning. The Report submission is a glorious opportunity for ‘ limelight’ with beaming photographs splashed across newspapers. And if the report has a fancy name to it, who knows, it may even grab the headlines. So all the ex-bureaucrats, out-of-public-memory politicians use it as a come-back opportunity to prominence. The reports are thick bound, glossy copies while the ATRs pale in insignificance.
I hope to have established a strong case as to why ATRs are not conducive in the Indian political context and have to be dumped for something else. If there are any legal barriers to dumping an ATR, I strongly believe that it has to be in the least renamed to reflect the realities of governance.
ATR should actually be now known for ‘Abstract Token Response’ because that is what the Indian Government has placed before the Parliament for the Liberhan Commission Report. I hope that this would become the norm saving the future governments of any embarrassment or compunction to act.
What’s your ATR on this ?