Man on a mission

Looking for energetic leadership

A NEWS ITEM IN FE  OF 05.08.08
Posted: 2008-08-05 00:19:47+05:30 IST
Updated: Aug 05, 2008 at 0019 hrs IST

Dear Mr Rahul Gandhi,   
I hope you do not mind my using this format of an open letter to write to you. I do so because I got the idea of this letter from your speech and the subsequent bedlam during the parliamentary debate on the civil nuclear agreement.
Your speech gave hope. Your opening statement that you spoke not as a member of a political party but as an Indian; your implicit message that ‘energy security’ was not about international agreements, individual egos and fine words but about the fundamentals of human well-being; your emphasis on the importance of reliable, clean and affordable energy for a life of dignity and quality—were hopeful signs that the debate would rise above partisan politics and be set against the backdrop of national interest.

But that was not to be. The ungainly sight of raving parliamentarians and wads of cash put paid to any such hope. It became clear (if such clarity were needed) that Indian politics had become too conflictual for a subject like energy security to be discussed with dispassion and reason in the halls of Parliament. It also became clear that there were many who shared your sentiment but who, either because of loyalty to the party whip or lack of opportunity, did not, or could not, make public their views. Omar Abdullah was their eloquent spokesman.
The trigger for this ‘letter’ was this clarity. It sparked the thought that one of perhaps several other initiatives required to accelerate the drive towards energy security was to find an ‘energy champion’—an individual of influence and public spirit; a person whose standing cuts across political groups; a leader whose vision stretches beyond the electoral cycle—and for that champion to create an ‘extra parliamentary forum’ through which to mobilise public opinion and forge a parliamentary consensus on the way ahead. I decided to write to you to be that champion; to pull together a group of like-minded individuals of renown, integrity and expertise from across the political spectrum (youthful), business, academics, bureaucracy and NGOs—the key stakeholders of our society; to make in effect energy security your single-point ‘a political’ priority. I realise, of course, that such a group cannot substitute for the executive or circumvent the legislature. But it can hold up a mirror to them and endeavour to ensure that energy security is not ensnared by… short-termism, vested interests and the electoral cycle. It can be the energy ombudsman of the country.
There are three reasons why I believe you should be the ‘champion’. First, your speech made clear that you regarded ‘energy security’ as a ‘people centred’ issue and not one for political gamesmanship. Second, you have decades ahead in public life. You can push for decisions today in the confident expectation that you will be around in public life well after most of your critics have left the scene. And that in time (and, possibly, from the vantage point of executive authority) you will be able to look back and declaim with satisfaction that your initiatives did indeed transform the lives of Kalawati and her children. And third, you are the legatee of a political lineage that no one can ignore. Whether in power or not, your voice will be heard.
I believe that the country cannot afford a repeat of the controversies that have surrounded the 123 agreement. We all know that it will take decades to reconfigure our vast and complex energy system. Plans that are approved today will take tangible shape years hence. The nuclear deal will make a meaningful contribution to our energy basket only sometime around 2020. We also know that energy security is our route to carbon abatement. Most of the measures related to energy security like energy efficiency, demand conservation, renewables, biofuels and nuclear are positives for climate change. We cannot, of course, accept limits on carbon emissions but at the same time we cannot allow our economy to get locked onto a high carbon pathway. For we know that global warming will impact our socio-economy disproportionately hard. It is because of these twin factors—the lengthy timescales involved in building a new energy supply infrastructure and the urgency to mitigate carbon emissions—that fractious politics must not be allowed to stymie further progress on energy security.
In suggesting that you be the champion of energy security and that you leverage the multiple skills of a body of experts, I am hopeful that you will dispel this reluctance to focus on the “how”. I am also hopeful that by asking the right questions and by coming up with bold and pragmatic answers, you will help bridge the gap between the rhetoric of intent and reality of action.
Your father triggered the telecom revolution. He envisioned the future when others were mired in the status quo. He pulled together the relevant experts and gave them the space to think and experiment. Had he been alive today he could have taken justifiable pride at the radical transformation that his early initiatives had wrought. The question that motivated me to write this letter was, “is it not possible that you might catalyse an equally radical and durable transformation of the energy system?”
The author is chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India. These are his personal views…


On reading the news item I posted my views on the website of FE as under : 
Posted by J S BROCA on 2008-08-11 19:30:20.439712+05:30
Dear Editor,This refers to Vikram S Mehta’s open letter to Rahul Gandhi (FE 05.08.08).Mr Mehta has spelt out lucidly and clearly the agenda for the energy “mission” as well as the “vision” document for the future energy security needs of our country highlighting the need for a reliable, clean and affordable form of energy.Will Rahul take the lead ? Definitely,he should and like Indira Gandhi’s famous 20 point programme, he should champion the need for and plan for and implement just One Point Energy Programme with the help of a forum of like minded persons and bodies .He has youth in his favour and his convincing performance during the vote of confidence episode has won him many admirers.Like his illustrious father Rajiv who drew a progress map for the country’s good and his uncle Sanjay who earned the sobriquet of “The Man Who Got Things Done” (during the infamous emergency days) it is hoped that Rahul can surely don the mantle of “Energy Champion” and become “The Man Who Implemented Energy Security Plans” THIS MISSION IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE !!
New Delhi


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1 Response to Man on a mission

  1. Hope Meller says:

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