Sunday, September 03, 2006

Laloo to teach @ IIM Ahmedabad

Laloo Prasad Yadav one of the favorite in the Gustakhi Maaf series and also the one whom Shekhar Suman imitated very well is now having the last laugh. After making Bihar, the worst state of the country, he has just done the opposite for the Railways. Doing the impossible. Turning them profitable.

The story starts something like this. The son of a poor farmer from Phulwaria in Bihar’s district Gopalgunj is today being wooed and courted by schools of management and administration. On September 18, the Railway Minister is scheduled to lecture students at India’s top B school, IIM, Ahmedabad on the nuances of the railways ‘turnaround’. The turnaround story, in fact, has already been introduced as a case study as part of the institute’s curriculum. Very few case studies can really become part of the IIM A curriculum which is the best in the world according to all standards.

The Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy in Mussourie — training ground of India’s steely frame, the bureaucracy — is also reported to be wooing Lalu Prasad to come and deliver a lecture. He’s scheduled to speak at a Harvard University seminar in New Delhi next month. The HEC International Business School, Paris, wants to do a case study; GE boss Jeffrey Immelt has already done his salaams.

Laloo as usual believes that he will be able to make a mark even in this activity and he has full confidence on his abilities. What is making all the top B Schools and people like Jeffery Immelt doing salaaams to the man whom most of the country hates. To get the answer, one needs to go back to 2001 when an expert group headed by Rakesh Mohan ( former advisor to the finance minister at the time, Yashwant Sinha) declared: “Indian Railways is today on the verge of a financial crisis.” The report predicted that if the railways didn’t change track it was doomed to ‘fatal bankruptcy’. The same year, the railways defaulted on paying a dividend of Rs 1,823 crore; its fund balances were a mere Rs 359 crore and its operating ratio — that is, expenses divided by traffic earnings — stood at a whopping 98 per cent.

Fast forward to 2005-06: Fund balances had reached Rs 12,141 crore, operating ratio was down to 83.7 per cent and internal generation was a healthy Rs 13,612 crore — all this without hiking either passenger or freight rates.

The irony is obvious: A man who failed to make any discernible progress in Bihar in the seven years that he was chief minister (15 if you add Rabri Devi’s proxy tenure) has managed to achieve remarkable success in such a short while at Rail Bhawan.

Sudhir Kumar, his articulate officer on special duty, a Delhi School of Economics graduate who is often credited for the turnaround, has his own take: “It is the minister’s passion and integrity that is leading this change,” he says.

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