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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

PLANETALK: Let there be light, let there be sense and let there be inspiring souls in HAL(L) of fame

                                                                   By Anantha Krishnan M
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is getting a 'new captain' in P.V. Deshmukh on November 1. Though it is a stop-gap arrangement, a cockpit-change in defence set-up usually rings in new hopes. And, today's change will be keenly watched by HAL's biggest customer, the Indian Air Force (IAF) – whose dream of controlling the company was grounded by Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurien Antony – at least for now. 
A good company often boasts of the might of its men rather than its machines. A good company takes care of its men first so that they keep the flag of passion closer to their hearts. A good company will also have coaches in place of commanders; mentors in place of managers and leaders who command self-respect, than demand it. “HAL must introduce a lot of inspiring leaders into its fold,” former President A P J Abdul Kalam had once said.
So what's ailing HAL? The answer is as straight as an arrow: Nothing! Then why are most projects running behind schedule? Why are its customers restless? Why are its men logging out? Why there's a sudden vacuum at the top management? Why there's no strong second line leadership? Why are the youngsters frustrated? Why is the ownership missing? Why? What? How? Can it? Will they? Why? Why? Why?
In fact, HAL is not ailing. The problem lies with the top. Their vision is blurred and they always look towards themselves. They chant the mantra of I, Me & Myself.  They have built walls around their body and sealed their souls so that the pulse of people don't reach them. They want power to plunder and not to prove. There might have been exceptions, then we are ruled by the majority.
Some say that HAL's former head A. Nayak, who retired on October 31, did what his predecessors could not do. “During 2010-11 period, he ensured that HAL rolled out 78 aircraft and helicopters – recording the highest annual production in the last 10 years,” his close aide claimed. Apparently, he was tossed up in the air by the Ministry of Defence for this stupendous achievement.
Good job, Mr Nayak! But why the delays in projects?  IJT, Hawk, LCA, ALH – the backlog list is bigger than a kerosene shop queue. If your achievements are tall, why did you choose to mute your wins? Why did you run away from the media? Why did you date darkness, when light was not in short supply? Why did you lose so many Directors during your tenure? Tears & triumphs! Well...
But, the workmen (employees on Scale) say that Nayak played a key role in getting revised pay scales and he deserves a standing ovation for this effort. After all, the workmen are the real heroes of HAL and they deserve every bit of support. “HAL's heart lies in the shop-floor and their (workmen) success stories have to be captured,” Kalam had told once. Today's shaky state of HAL, if at all, is not just Nayak's creation alone. Like his predecessors, he too did his bit. Just that he did it in his own style. The way he wanted.
I am not a journalist who wants to prescribe a corrective dose for HAL, because like many, I too firmly believe that HAL is not ailing! But, if 'Dr Antony' & his wise team of specialists in Delhi happen to read this piece or sense any turbulence, then it's time to wake from the slumber. May be then, HAL needs a shake-up.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Amen!
(Copyright@The New Indian Express. A near-similar-version of the above piece appeared in the Bangalore Edition of the paper today.) 

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