Saturday, January 26, 2013


Musings on Republic Day
Spinning Yarns

Disclaimer: This yarn is a spoof. Please read this post only if you have a sense of humour. So first convince yourself that you have a sense of humour and only then read the post, take it with a pinch of salt, and have a laugh.

Many years ago, when I was “greenhorn Subbie” in the Navy, we had a senior who possessed a delightful sense of humour.

He would keep us regaled with his amusing observations and witty comments, sometimes laced with delicious incisive barbs and sharp satiric wit.

This witty raconteur was a true seadog and whenever he spoke everyone listened with rapt attention.

Once during our customary make-and-mend elbow bending in the wardroom he asked us: “How many commands are there in the navy?”

“Three,” we all answered in unison, referring to the Western, Eastern and Southern Naval Commands, which were the sentinels of the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean respectively, the waters around the three seaboards surrounding the Indian peninsula.

“You’re wrong,” he said, “you have forgotten the most important naval command – the Northern Naval Command.”

“The Northern Naval Command?” we asked in surprise.

“Yes. The Northern Naval Command at Delhi. You will understand what I am saying when you grow senior in service,” he said and he suddenly downed his glass of beer down-the-hatch and walked off.

Later when I was posted to Delhi, I understood what he had said.

Indeed there seemed to be more “brass” in landlocked Delhi than on the high seas or on the sea shores.

There were a large number of “landlubber sailors” who spent most of the naval career pushing files in Delhi rather than sailing on the high seas.

These officers did go for sea tenures but they just did the minimum specified sea-time required for promotion and soon were back at their desks in Delhi.

Careerwise, these Delhi-Centric “sailors” did much better than the true-blue sailors slogging it out at sea or on the seashores. If you were in Delhi you were in the “know of things” and it was easier for you to “work” the system and get yourself promoted.

For all you know, if this Delhi Centric trend continues, a day may come when the number of Admirals sitting in Delhi may outnumber the number of Admirals posted all over in the rest of India.

I realized that the power centre of the Navy was in Delhi and sailors at sea did not matter much.

As I said, if you were in Delhi you were in the “know of things”.

To me, it seemed to be a “Delhi Centric” Navy. 

The fact that the navy is associated with the sea was almost forgotten by these “Delhi Centric Sailors” since the blue sea was a long way off almost two thousand kilometres away from Delhi.

Soon I realized that this Delhi-Centrism applied not only the Navy but almost everything seemed to be “Delhi Centric”.

Yes, India is an increasingly Delhi-Centric Country even now.

Look at the electronic media, for example. Just switch on any mainstream news channel on your TV and you will see how Delhi Centric the coverage is.

Delhi gets top priority in each and everything – sports, modernisation, even welfare schemes like Aadhaar Based Cash Transfer starts from Delhi, whereas most of the intended beneficiaries may be located in remote areas of the hinterland.

This Delhi Centric thinking seems to be the reason for many of our shortcomings and deficiencies.

Let us take the example of ex-servicemen.

Whereas most of our soldiers come from rural areas, all facilities are concentrated in Delhi.

Retired Soldiers (ex servicemen) are entitled to many benefits.

However most of these benefits remain on paper and cannot be availed of by the intended beneficiaries.

This is because most ex servicemen live in villages and towns in the moffusil areas and they have no access to the various facilities created for ex-servicemen like CSD Canteens, ECHS Hospitals, Social Amenities, Housing Schemes, Welfare Programs, Re-employment, Rehabilitation etc.

But if you live in Delhi you have the best of CSD Canteens and Top Class Medical Facilities at the most modern Military Hospitals at your disposal. Since the decision making is centralized in Delhi obviously the administration will be Delhi Centric.

If you live in Delhi you can avail of various Social Amenities, Ex Servicemen’s Housing Schemes and other welfare facilities since most of these are concentrated in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR)

Even while serving, it is better to be in Delhi because you can get many things done through the “Delhi Network”.

Let me give you one more example of Delhi-Centrism.

I am of an academic bent of mind.

Long back, more than 30 years ago, when I was posted in Delhi, I became a life member of an academic institution called the United Service Institution of India (USI).

USI, located in Delhi, had an excellent library which I fully made use of since I was an avid reader. I also attended many lectures, seminars and academic events organised by USI in Delhi.

After that I was never posted to Delhi again and my only connection with this august institution is the quarterly USI journal they send me by post.

The USI organises a number of academic events, lectures, seminars and has excellent facilities for study, research and recreation, but despite being a life member, I am deprived of the same since you can enjoy these events and facilities only if you live in Delhi.

Service officers, serving and retired, live all over India.

So I wrote to the USI a number of times asking them to open regional centres and organise events in other places too.

I got no reply and the USI continues to be purely Delhi Centric.

It looks like living in Delhi makes you swollen headed too – your thinking becomes so Delhi Centric that you care a damn about the rest of India.

Delhi has the best social infrastructure and excellent transport facilities like the Metro, the Best Airport and the best Railway connectivity. But the same cannot be said of most other cities of India.

Seeing the advantages of staying in Delhi vis-à-vis other places, I wish I had settled down in Delhi NCR after my retirement as many of my friends and colleagues have.

This lopsided Delhi Centric approach is having ramifications in other areas like politics too.

Centralizing and focussing on Delhi and neglecting other parts of the country has caused a sense of alienation which has led to the rise of many regional and local political parties and this splintering may not augur well for the unity of the nation as a whole in the long run. Maybe this Delhi Centric mindset is a result of years of feudal administrative system and colonial rule which were exercised from the seat of power in Delhi.

The increasing disparity due to Delhi Centrism is causing migration towards the relatively prosperous Delhi from impoverished rural areas and leading to increasing urbanization of India, which may not be a good thing in the long run. 

Delhi is the capital of India and it can be understood that a capital must get priority, but the imbalance and disparity is too much and the gap is increasing day by day. This inequity causes alienation. To alleviate this problem, the rest of the country must be developed too.

What is the solution?

I remember a bureaucrat who used to keep saying: “I will not entertain any Delhi-Centric Proposals.”

He belonged to a Southern State and was quite unhappy at being sent to Delhi, unlike most others.

[Luckily I had taken to him a project proposal which did not pertain to Delhi (in fact it was in his home state) and he recommended it with alacrity]

I think that’s the answer to correct the imbalance – NO MORE DELHI CENTRIC PROPOSALS  (at least for the time being till the other underdeveloped parts of the country develop to a reasonable level)

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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