Tarmak007 -- A bold blog on Indian defence: Kalam’s dream-HAL goes for a toss! Are the greedy babus putting Navratna giant to a slow death?

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Kalam’s dream-HAL goes for a toss! Are the greedy babus putting Navratna giant to a slow death?

HAL needs creative leaders. Creative leadership means exercising the vision to change the traditional role from the commander to the coach, manager to the mentor, from director to delegator and from who demands respect to one who facilitates self-respect. HAL must introduce a lot of inspiring leaders in the organisation. This will facilitate young engineers and designers to mingle with performers, seek their guidance and get inspired to excel in their tasks. __ Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (then President), New Delhi, December 2006.

Picture 2011! Five years after Dr Kalam spelt out his vision for HAL, things are panning out exactly opposite to what the great man thought. Youngsters are quitting in large numbers; nothing substantial when it comes to ongoing\new projects; mad scramble for vacant posts; little transparency in decision-making; many heading critical projects being charge-sheeted for ‘wrong-doing;’ morale of work-force on an all-time low; majority of employees in the dark with no pro-active communication channels available to air their views… the list is endless and not befitting to a Company that often boasts of being an aerospace giant in South Asia!

Sorry, Dr Kalam! Not sure whether the HAL you dreamt would take wing in the near future. Amidst all these man-made mess, the latest development making news is the power-struggle for the top-post. It can’t get murkier than this. It is this state of affairs that prompted Tarmak007 to launch the God Save HAL campaign -- an honest attempt to track truth. As it is. Just in case St Antony didn’t know, then this series could be an eye-opener for India’s defence minister!

Who will be the next Chairman? There are always two sides to a story, but when it comes to HAL one would find many sides. Some hard to believe, some tempting, some backed by facts and the rest all gas and no gyan. Last few months have been interesting for HAL-watchers as the media reports on a possible coup by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to push its man for the top job caught everybody’s imagination. While when one looks at the current affairs of the Company, may be that could have been the best choice. Simply, it would have put babus at bay and teach them a lesson or two on effective administration.

For the sake of discussion, let’s take the example of India’s Tejas programme: Until the PMT from IAF took charge at ADA, the pace of the programme wasn't healthy. What the babus didn’t know, the Men in Blue knew. They bridged the gap and the programme started to move at greater pace. Communication became stronger. HAL’s ‘interest’ in Tejas programme was on spotlight with DRDO chief Dr Saraswat mincing no words at different foras. IAF too made its stand clear by agreeing to IOC with many ifs and buts.

Back to chairman chase. Finally, Antony put an end to a possible embarrassment to HAL, by making a statement in Lok Sabha that IAF doesn’t have any interest in HAL's controls, apart from being its biggest customer. The IAF man who showed interest in HAL picked-up his promotion and moved out of the race. The babus rejoiced. But the mess continued.

The PESB – the sacred body on Earth mandated to pick the 16th chairman of HAL-- is now in a fix. The interviews have been postponed twice indicating the heat and dust the crucial posting is creating. Sources tell Tarmak007 that the selection of chairman HAL was scheduled on 15th June 2011 and then on 5th August 2011. Both were postponed and the new date is not yet notified. The vacancy falls on November 1, 2011 after the current man Nayak will end his infamous tenure on 31st October 2011. (Tried hard to put together some of his achievements, but even his close aides too couldn’t help. They came up with stuff like: Aero India 2011, Paris Air Show, LCH first flight, LCA IOC and so on. Sad, even my granny could have come out with better results, if she were given the mantle to run the show!).

Five external candidates were earlier short-listed by PESB and they included S.N. Misra, PCDA (Navy) Mumbai; S.S. Mohanty, PCDA (IAF) Bangalore; N.R. Myneni, CMD, MIDHANI, Hyderabad; S.K. Tripathi, CMD, MSTC, Mumbai and R.K. Tyagi, CMD, Pawan Hans, Delhi.

Now, it is confirmed by the PESB sources that the selection process is further delayed following an HAL official challenging the anomaly in the scrutiny process of PESB for short listing of candidates for interview, in the court of law. The Delhi High Court has given an order directing PESB to consider the candidature of Sudhir Kumar, Executive Director, Flight Safety, Bangalore, for the interview. A senior HR official tells Tarmak007 that this makes Sudhir Kumar the only candidate with proven background of aircraft and engine, manufacturing, overhaul experience. But, not sure whether PESB would buy this argument. And, other candidates too will have their share of points to defend their candidature.

So, will all these developments and delays play to the advantage of Nayak? Is he dreaming of an extension? Has he already made the first move? Who are the famous trio running HAL affairs? Why the media kept mum despite a virtual black-out? What are the options before Antony & Co? An insight into all these in the next part. Stay tuned!

(Next part: Wednesday, September 7, 2011)

(Are you working in HAL? Do you genuinely think that the Company is at crossroads? Want to stem the rot? Why not join Tarmak007's campaign by emailing your concerns about the Company to anantha.ak@gmail.com. Ensure that your inputs should be authentic and backed by facts. It's your turn now!)

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