September 21, 2017

Speaking at 12th National Quality Conclave, in New Delhi

…..pending my ability to understand the new responsibility, but since this was Adil Bhai’s programme and related to quality, I thought I would still come in for a little time to share my views with all of you. Also, it’s the first day of Navratri, and we had Pujas at home. So, I had the Coal Secretary sitting there to finalize some important decisions before he goes abroad tonight, and my wife and I wanting to do our Navratri Puja, so in between all of that I am sorry I could not be with you on time.

I extend warm greetings to all of you and to the people of India on this auspicious occasion of Navratri. It’s a new beginning, beginnings of good times for you, your families and for the nation. And I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that going forward, together, we will all work for a much greater quality-conscious society, a much greater consciousness amongst all stakeholders in this country about the importance of quality in whatever work each one us may be doing.

The Quality Council of India over the last few years has played an important role in terms of helping generate good systems, establishing processes, procedures in different areas of government. In our own Ministry of Coal, we engage the Quality Council of India to see how we can ensure quality of coal is assured. And I am sure, most of you would be aware that over the last 3 years, quality of coal has improved significantly in terms of better grading, more accurate grading, in terms of crushing the coal to desired levels, so you don’t get boulders. And in all of these I think the Quality Council has also played a role in helping us devise the mechanisms, both to monitor the quality and hold people accountable for that.

Having said that, I think it’s time we as a nation start getting quality ingrained in us in terms of our day-to-day activities. And, I will explain what I mean in probably a few simple examples. A very logical simple example that may sound very silly to many of you here, but I have often had this problem when I have been making arrangements for any of my party programmes or government programmes. Now if were to look at those two chairs, right in front of me, those two chairs have a different height.

It’s a small example, ladies and gentlemen, but I am trying to show what a quality-conscious culture in a nation should be like. Or if you want to look at the stage, how we are going to place these 5 boards, 4 boards on the stage – the name boards. I suspect nobody would have touched and played around with those boards, but whether when they were placed, there was a consciousness about the quality of it. And these types of examples you will find galore, even in a small engagement like this room that we are sitting in. And it happens all the time in our lives.

I think somehow over the years, the fact that a painting is proper level or on a wall it’s central, has somehow not found resonance in our day-to-day thinking, in our day-to-day working. If a carpenter was to make a cupboard and it was to be 1 mm misaligned, he would find it very funny if somebody was to ask him why is it not accurate.

And all of this relates to two very specific problems that we have inherited over years and years, and both of which Quality Council of India is trying to address, is trying to work on. One is the skill development of our people, the quality of skill development, whether we have really taken the development of vocations and trades as seriously as it should be. And, second, of course, is the culture of quality that is ingrained in each one of us, our aspirations for quality,  what we demand in terms of quality, are we willing to accept second-best, are we willing to go for out-dated technologies?

And that ladies and gentlemen is today the question that is grappling, I think, all of us in this room, is grappling business and industry and I think it’s grappling government also. How can we inculcate the quality culture in every individual? I was reviewing the cleanliness on the railway stations, and one of the things that somebody mentioned to me was that, typically, they keep the station very clean, but at the end of it when the garbage is moved out of the station, it’s just put onto the track.

And, by the way, when any of this garbage or any of the excretion from the toilet facilities go on the track, it is not only about cleanliness, it is about the uric acid and other things affecting and corroding the track, and then correspondingly affecting maintenance and safety features. Now, some of you may think I am raising very stupid and simple points, but this is the quality thinking, this is the thinking that we all need to change in our day-to-day working. A simple spelling mistake in a sheet or a comma misplaced, I am sure all of you are aware that while drafting a law if a comma is misplaced, it can actually turn the law 180 degrees.

I in my earlier tenure as Power Minister had a situation of a tender, which had gone to court, where the complainant in court against the government company claimed that it was a typographical error and, therefore, he should be allowed a higher price, without going into the merits or demerits of that case. Now, that typographical error would have meant an additional cost of Rs 600 or 500 crores, probably, to the government. So, obviously, the government officials are not going to except that per se you cannot say it’s a typing error and demand Rs 500-600 crore more. So, they did not accept that. The company is claiming that we have a right to it, because it was a typographical error. Of course, in this case, it was not, but I am still assuming let us say it was.

So, the only way out is that one goes to court. By going to court, a Rs 6000 crores investment, and a project with national dimensions would have got delayed. And it’s a project, which is not an ordinary project. It would impact the availability of power for a large section of India, almost most of South India for years and years to come. But, because of this so-called typographical error, if it was going to result in a Rs 600-500 loss to the government, obviously, it’s not going to be acceptable. And, if that was not to be acceptable, and the private party feels that they have genuinely aggrieved, it goes to court. You all know that court means different levels of judicial, irrespective of who won or lost in the first place, they would go to court at a higher level.

And the project in the meantime is stuck, Rs 6000 crores investment is stuck, power to all of South India would get affected in the next few months or couple of years – a small typing error. Because we take errors so easily in our ….. I remember when I first went in for ISO certification in my factory many years ago, the trainer who used to come, he had given us a sentence, I think most of you are related to quality would know that much better than me – ‘Write what you do and do what you write.’

I think that was the fundamental comment he made to us when we went in for ISO certificate. I said but if we doing something wrong, should we not set it right. He said no, exactly what you are doing was write it down, and what is written you have to follow. And unless you do that, you will never be able to correct what you are doing wrong, till that time it will all be theoretical. Once it’s on paper and you have written down that I place these name cards but don’t care about its alignment, there is no need to bother. You can place them anywhere, then it will come to somebody’s head that, no, we have to specify that it will be 3 inches away from the edge of the table. And if the hotel management is here, they will have to know that this cloth cannot be left floating around. It should be either curved in, or pinned to the top. Ideally, of course, it has covered, I think, yeah, it has covered the whole thing, it’s more a design element.

It’s just the small things, but that’s our culture. Sadly, that’s our culture. We are not conscious of the small things. I have had a personal bad experience where I have got a very fancy guy who’s been my tailor from my father’s time for these jackets and all, and four times he has brought jackets for my testing and Kurta Pyjamas, which has now become my dress, which was not the case 7-8 years ago, where I would come dressed like anyone of you. Four times he has come, once I think the owner came and then three times with his tailor. And can you believe they can’t get a jacket or Kurta like that.

I mean I once remember the bottom of the Kurta, it was literally waving. I said look, you are a tailor? How can you have a waving bottom of the Kurta? How can you have all the …. coming out all the time when you are wearing it, how can you have buttons, can you believe, buttons misaligned? So, you have a sudden bulge, the ladies will understand it probably better.

Now that’s small things, but it has large dimensions. It is then when our product goes abroad, they don’t want to take an Indian product. So, it has a ramification on exports. We can blame all the export woes on labour problems in the textile sector as much as we want, but I suspect, our labour laws are far more liberal than what they are in Europe or many other parts of the world. We could do better. There is no denying that there is always scope for all of us to do better in every area. But are we really doing a root cause analysis to understand, what is it that is truly impacting this country’s competitive edge, this country’s ability to serve the world.

And ultimately, it will all come down to quality. How conscious as a nation are we going to be about what we do in our life from beginning to end resonates with quality. I mean, since I mentioned to you कि मैं अभी नवरात्रि की पूजा करके आया हूँ| I will tell you, हम मंदिर को सजाते हैं, when we are decorating a temple, we are very quality conscious, there we will not make any mistake. So, if I put a flower even slightly wrong, I am in trouble. Navratri is every 6 months, so at least for the next 6 months I am in trouble.

That’s the seriousness what we take to our work. And then, let’s say a Quality Council official going to check if the certification of a skill development centre is good or bad or right or wrong, giving marks or whatever is the system. When that one person, if he makes a mistake in his work, ladies and gentlemen, just imagine, one inspector of the Quality Council of India makes a mistake in certifying a skill development programme, let’s say for drivers. That mistake means that all the drivers who will come out of that skill development centre will probably accentuate that mistake. As each one of them comes out and drives a car or a school bus, the mistake further translates to a risk to the safety of our young children or whoever travels with them. And then I don’t want to even suggest what could go wrong.

And some of you may remember, there was that Kamal Haasan movie, what was that? Where he is a father, grandfather and son or whatever, anybody remembers that movie where the third generation, the grandfather is a freedom fighter and the grandson is a RTO inspector? Hindustani? That was the movie! Hindustani! It is very easy to connect everything to Hindi movies actually. But remember, one can say negligence, one can call it corruption, but ultimately, all of it was the quality of testing of that driver causing a loss of so many lives.

So, in every walk of life – today, I got little delayed Zainul Bhai for two reasons. One was, of course, the Navratri Puja at home, I was just mentioning before you came and the other was the Coal Secretary and I were finalizing a cabinet note. And it’s gone 4 times up and down, I think my officials must be sick and tired of my working, but sadly for them I had to read from top to bottom the 4th time over. But unless we take that seriousness in each one of our work, we will not pick out that one little element, which gets left out and may not realise what impact it will have 30 years later and then you could possibly have a CAG who reads that more carefully than we did and come out with a note against me which could impact a whole election.

I am only trying to express how a small thing can have national, international dimensions. It’s the quality of the work that we do in each one of our respective lives. And in that sense, the Quality Council, particularly, and all the professionals related to quality have great significance in the work that you are doing, because you are just the beginning of a whole chain of events, and that chain could expand to really large dimensions.

Can you imagine ISRO making a mistake on quality? Can you imagine Boeing or Airbus making a mistake on quality? And we have had those occasions. Ultimately, when there is a train accident and the deeper you go into the detail and we are now going to strengthen that investigation process, so that we literally do an investigation like an aircraft investigation, where they are able to do it without even the aircraft or all the parts being available.

I don’t know if any of you has watched that investigation, there is some television serial, which shows the investigation of aircraft crashes. It’s remarkable. The extent of detail to which they go, but why do they do it? Because they want to set it right, do a root cause analysis and set it right for the future. Can we as a nation imbibe that culture that we will not rest till we bring perfection in each one of our works. It’s an aspirational goal, but truly that should be the aspiration of at least all the youngsters in this room who are yet to get into the groove into things of चलता है or जाने दो and चलेगा approach.

Till we change that as a nation, adjustment की psychology से जब तक हम निकलते नहीं है, manage हो जायेगा, यह हमारे दिमाग से जब तक निकलता नहीं है, pass करवा लेंगे| These are the words which have to get out of our dictionary.

And I have no doubt in my mind that truly when this movement starts across the country and we all become the flag bearers of this movement of quality, when each one of us becomes a brand ambassador to take quality into our organisations, into our friend circle in whatever our parties are. And I have yet to come across a party, we have Diwali coming up soon, where anybody would ever discuss quality. But I don’t know, can we someday Aadil Bhai have a Pakwada of 15 day period where every conversation across the country, we try to move towards quality consciousness. Just think about it!

And once we ingrain that in our teachers, look at what an impact it could have on the next generation of students that come out of our schools and colleges. When we put that into our government officials, think of the impact it can have towards good governance. Of course, we also need to put that into the politicians. Well, we are reaching towards our goal. The last few months and years we have had some good successes, so I think the quality must be improving.

But, truly, it has to become a national movement. We all have to get engaged in that, I mean, even the media personal who are here. I am sorry, with no offence meant to anybody, fortunately, in this room; they are all sitting down, which is a real remarkable feature of this conference. Otherwise, you go in any programme, first you are struggling between audience and media that we can’t see the stage हटो, साइड में हटो, बैठो, all of that. Try giving a bite to the media, when I go out and you can see it in a few minutes from now. You are trying to say something, but there will be people talking all across the place. They don’t care whether you have started talking, whether there should be silence, so that it can be recorded well.

Frankly, it will be the same whether your mike is a little further away or on my mouth. But, it’s just the consciousness. Did we ever try to train the person who is holding the camera or the mike? Literally, did we ever try to train him or any and everybody could just start that work and that’s the end of the chapter.

When we look at journalists, are they being trained to verify facts, to become more accurate in their reporting, or is it always going to be just sensational, 24×7 reporting? I mean, I am just letting my mind wander. I don’t know what these young boys and girls here are engaged in, but reflect on whatever you are doing. Will you accept second-best when you go and get a service? आप की साड़ी में फॉल ठीक से नहीं लगी है तो आप ले लोगे क्या फुल दाम पर? तो फिर हम जब अपना काम करते हैं तो हमारे ऊपर दायित्व नहीं बनता है कि हमको भी वही क्वालिटी स्टैण्डर्ड दूसरे को देना है?

That’s ladies and gentlemen my humble submission to all of you. Let us, as a nation, resolve that this will be a nation where quality will have the highest priority over everything else. Can we learn from the examples of countries like Japan where there is zero tolerance to bad quality? Can we not just benchmark ourselves to another less perfect peer? But look at the best-in-class in the world, should we be satisfied that we have only a .2% failure rate in something or should we aspire for 6 Sigma or whatever else, I am not a technical person so pardon me, if I say anything wrong. But, truly, the aspiration of the nation has to change.

So, I leave it to all of you to deliberate on it. I leave to all of you to reflect what could be the path towards making this country truly aspirational in its goal for the highest levels of quality in every walk of life, in everything that we do, can that become the hallmark, can that become the defining feature of Make in India, can that become the defining feature of serve in India, can that become the defining feature of the job and role that each one of us does in our life – 24×7, quality, our mantra, our motto.

Thank you very much.



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