By Sarkaritel June 2, 2014 15:42


First 100 Days


By Shivaji Sarkar

India wants to see a Government with a difference. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has certainly set the tone at his second Cabinet meeting, where he asked the ministers to showcase it in 100 days through closer interaction and shared responsibilities.

These 100 days would bring in two more crucial statements through the presidential address to the joint session of Parliament and presentation of the Budget. That would help the people judge this Government, which has raised great expectations.

Everyone wants that Modi brings back those ‘acchhe din’ (good days), which he promises and the people had been dreaming of. The message of confidence through the invitation to the SAARC leaders has made people looking for more. Sustaining it is not an easy task. The loose governance of the past 10 years has burdened Modi with an array of problems in the attitude of the bureaucracy to look at issues, delivery and apathy for all that is for public good.

This has to be changed for the nation to take a stride. If he wants the economy to look up, he has to make the bureaucracy slog hard, contrary to empowering it as publicly stated. While the political leadership of the previous Government may be responsible in failing to deliver, the worst culprit was the bureaucracy. It indulged in politicking, harassed the people and their own staff, who raised saner issues, by “convincing” the political masters that “such people” had become “politically inconvenient”.

A large number of people, within and outside the Government, were humiliated and victimized by the ‘real rajas’ (kings). The then political masters in the belief that the officials were exhibiting their loyalty refused to even listen to the victims of bureaucratic highhandedness. This made the lower rung of the bureaucracy lethargic, not that they always wanted to, but they adopted the motto that no work is better than working and suffering. It has afflicted the entire Governmental process. Many of today’s large pending tasks thaw in decision-making and the lack of governance emanated from here.

It is crucial for every aspect of governance. The lower rung of bureaucracy is possibly more important than the few top heads coming from the elite “shahi” (royal) civil services, who mostly want to rule through snobbery, stiff-necked approach and reproaching their junior colleagues.

If decision-making has to be expedited for hosts of projects, this Government has to show that difference. Corruption brewed in the previous regime because none was prepared to listen to the aggrieved and humiliated people.

The common link for the suffering of giant Air India (AI) to tiny Indian Institute of Mass Communication rests here. The same persons who sank AI also sabotaged these small boats and those bosses, said to have made tons by fleecing these organizations, have gone scot free. The plea of the lower staff had gone unheard.

This needs to be corrected through creation of the listening posts within the Government as also meting out exemplary punishments to those, some of them former secretaries, who made the lower staff provide all that they were not entitled to from booze at official cost to air tickets for visiting their home towns, home theatres, sophisticated mobile phones, membership of elite clubs, official cars or taxis for their families and what not. These officials need not only to be publicly shamed but their pensions and other benefits should also be attached and made to pay for the thousands of crore of losses these organizations suffered.

What further should be probed is how they managed post-retirement monetarily hefty jobs for doing nothing. Whatever they have been paid must be realized from them with interest. The myth that the ‘shahi’ services could go scot free has to be busted. The country is suffering not so much for the apathy of the past political masters, as the misdeed of these “elite” officials.

Fixing these responsibilities has to be a primary task. It is not witch-hunting, as some would like it to be branded. It is the necessary cleansing process to ensure probity. It is a complex task but if the Government wants to deliver on the economic front, it has to create the mechanism to address it to bring the confidence back in those working in the Government and those who deal with it.

Such officials had made rules, many unwritten that complicated decision-making. It helped them fleece all even their own colleagues. While demonstrative action for restoration of faith in the Government, as was done through the 100-day agenda, is welcome, Modi knows he cannot remain content at that.

Many of these officials have a penchant for lying low before their masters and “chalk out” plans that they “understand” would please the boss. The foreign direct investment has been one such area. The ministry of industry’s FIPB officials and Planning Commission, during the past few years cleared many proposals, which were definitely not in the interest of the country. For instance, proposals of Holcim for takeover of two profit-making cement companies were cleared without going into the details. It has drained the country more in terms of repatriation and “technical fee” than the company had invested. The officials involved in such decisions need to be questioned on how they missed the finer points.

The FDI remains a concern even now. Such types of officials have not changed. The Government could be taken for a ride any time and while it might be keen on expediting decision-making, it should also remain wary of continuation of such subtle machinations.

Should the Government become a cynic? It mustn’t be. It has to create a mixed structure where the role of the elite services is continuously scrutinized. Additionally, it needs to redraft the policy to induct independent people in the Government, many may even be from the political wings, so that it helps the Government functions better. The ministers alone cannot monitor the bureaucracy. They need a second tier, may be parliamentary secretaries, for micro-managing the departments.

If the Government wants to function better it has to set up a dialogue mechanism, may be through the party or other means. The officials should be respected but not feared because they have the power to ruin careers. The first march to economy has to be addressed through these basic steps. If done, sky is the limit for the Government that has come with massive mandate. —INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel June 2, 2014 15:42

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