“The young officers are wanted…” This comment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Central Hall of Parliament in the programme ‘Vikas ke Liye Hum’ has brought attention to the age-old controversy of experience represented by seniority and enthusiasm and zeal represented by youth.
Mr.Modi stressed that officers in their late twenties should be appointed as District Magistrates or Deputy Commissioners who are fresh and have strength and stamina to do something big in their life. Same sentiments were echoed when he was speaking at the inaugural session of a national representatives’ seminar.
Aged officers are proving obstruction in the development task. Officers who are in their mid forties and early fifties have different priorities. They have tensions relating to family, education of their children and they want to have postings in the cities or metros. But now efficiency, productivity and development are being associated with youthfulness.
Mr.Narendra Modi immediately after occupying the Prime Minister’s seat, virtually sidelined all the senior leaders like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi by making them part of the newly-created and virtually powerless Marg Darshak Mandal of the BJP so that he could have “unfettered power” at the top.
In the western countries, particularly in America, youth is given more importance than experience, i.e. seniority because they are believed to be “action-oriented”.
In Asian countries, particularly in India, growing old and growing up are two different things. Biological clock is ticking up, no one can prevent growing old, but growing up is a psychological process, you can always grow up at any stage of life and became wiser and more mature with the age.
The debate of seniority / experience vs. merit / zeal has come to centre stage.
According to a recent report in Haryana, in five districts, DCs are above 50 years of age, in 13 districts DCs have an average age of fewer than 40 years and in one district i.e. Karnal, the constituency of Chief Minister, the DC, ADC and Superintendent of Police are 30 years of age.
It is a matter of study and exploration what was the age of senior officers like DC and so on during the Jat agitation (Rohtak district), Rampal violence (Hisar district) and Baba Ram Rahim violence (Panchkula district). Even a young state like Haryana is under the leadership of grown up CM as he is also above 60 years of age.
Age is just a number. Zeal and enthusiasm are not the prerogatives of the young.Efficiency and capacity to take decision and working with zeal are not restrained by age. Age and experience carry more weight in terms of status and respect because our society is thought oriented. Vision is given more importance over speed and action. But now the trend is changing, respect, status of grown up people and value of their experience is coming down not only in their home, but also at work places.
Innovation and new ideas are generally associated with youth. Technological changes are taking place at a very fast pace and when age is catching up, one finds it difficult to cope up. But technology is only a means.Its contribution to increasing the speed and the efficiency is enormous and obvious, but it cannot be substitute for experience and wisdom. To react at a particular place at very high speed is different from deciding where one wants to go. Right decision making is critical in every affair of life and this skill sharpens with experience and learning at the workplace. Youth has zeal and enthusiasm but wisdom and patience comes with age.
If grown up officers are posing threat to development and obstructing the smooth running of administration, then the finger should be pointed out at political leaders first, because they have no expiry date and no retiring age. The elixir of power makes them young, keeps them ever young. Modi himself and his right hand Amit Shah both are grown up and they are not in their prime of youth. Enthusiasm and commitment to do something extra ordinary is not necessarily the sign of young people. It is not matter of age, it depends more on attitude and mental makeup.
The writer, a noted economist, is a regular contributor to North India Kaleidoscope and is responsible for the views expressed in this article.