1 - Blend Grievance Redressal into RTI
2- Use ICT and E-governance to Cut Red Tapism
3- Link Outlays to Outcomes
4- Devolve Funds, Functions and Functionaries to Local Institutions
5- Speed up Unique Universal Identity
6- Combine Banks with Credit Societies to Reach Unbanked in Rural Sector
7- Enable Professional Inputs into Policy Making
8- Involve Citizens into Governance
9- Integrate Silos – allow Execution of Gram Sabha Plans and Construction of Rural Roads under NREGS for Asset Creation
10 -Merge NIC and DARPG to Form National Informatics Cadre under Planning Commission for Speeding up Governance Reforms
|We have already seen the transformation that ICT has brought about in the country - first in the IT industry and then spreading to other places, first in banking where we do not even think about the fact that you can go and get money anywhere anytime.— Kiran Karnik,
Grievance redressal should be merged with the Right to Information so as to provide a client-friendly, responsive and responsible government
There is enough evidence to show that government’s capacity to deliver has declined over the years due to rising indiscipline and a growing belief widely shared among the political and bureaucratic elite that state is an arena where public office is to be used for private ends. Weak governance, manifesting itself in poor service delivery, excessive regulation, and uncoordinated and wasteful public expenditure, is one of the key factors impinging on development and social indicators.
As a consequence of its colonial heritage as well as the hierarchical social system administrative accountability in India was always internal and upwards, and the civil service’s accountability to the public had been very limited. With politicisation and declining discipline, internal accountability stands seriously eroded today, while accountability via legislative review and the legal system has not been sufficiently effective. But strengthening internal administrative accountability is rarely sufficient, because internal controls are often ineffective—especially when the social ethos tolerate collusion between supervisors and subordinates.
Even our financial procedures are based on the British system, which were designed when we were spending hundreds and thousands. Now that we are spending millions and billions and trillions, we need new financial procedures but we have not given any thought to this. A case in point is that of how the poorest paid worker in government - the Anganwadi worker - gets her salary. The Anganwadi worker who gets only Rs 1,500 per month gets her salary only when the majority MPs pass the budget, President of India signs the budget and then majority of the MLAs of that State pass the budget and the Governor signs the budget. Therefore, when all these people every year sign the budget then only the Aanganwadi worker can get her salary. If it is an ongoing scheme, we don’t have to bother the MPs and the Governors and the President of India and she will keep on getting her salary. It is suggested that the expenditure budget be passed once for five years and the revenue budget which is taxation etc., could be every year. This is the pattern followed in Singapore and it can be a good way to improve our financial structure.
Governance relates to the management of all such processes that, in any society, define the environment which permits and enables individuals to raise their capacity levels, on one hand, and provide opportunities to realise their potential and enlarge the set of available choices, on the other.
|The starting point might be retooling governmental procedures and processes, to become more citizen-centric with faster responses, speed of actions, and more efficient working.
Merge Grievance Redressal into RTI
Good governance can be defined as comprising three aspects, namely delivery, accountability and transparency. Though after the RTI Act, decentralisation and civil society action have improved transparency and accountability of public expenditure, there is still a lot of leakage and corruption. It was suggested that grievance redressal should be merged with the right to information so as to provide a client-friendly, responsive and responsible government. Also, there was still an uphill task regarding proactive disclosure.
“We need to institutionalise a fusion of the Right to Information and grievance redressal, says Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh, Former Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj. “What we are looking for is a client-friendly, responsive and responsible government. That is what institutions like the Delhi Public Grievances Commission enables government to become.”
Citizens across the country are using the RTI very regularly, often in fact to address public grievances. They are using it to find answers to questions like how can I access my ration card, how can I ensure that my passport comes to me on time and so on and so forth. Most studies on the RTI have also begun to tell us that by virtue of being able to use this law, there has been some movement in the direction of ensuring that services are delivered well. But if one looks at the nitty-gritty of how the RTI is being implemented, we still come up against some very significant hurdles. Firstly, you can only access information if you put in an application although the Right to Information law very clearly states in accordance with Section 4 that all government departments should proactively disclose information.
Second, government data is vast, complicated and not easy for anyone to figure out. The real challenge is to ensure that that information is put out in a manner that is relevant and usable so that a citizen can then pick up this information and start asking questions to the government which links to the entire accountability story.
‘Outward accountability’, therefore, is essential for greater responsiveness to the needs of the public and thus to improve service quality. Departments such as the Police and Revenue, which have more dealings with the people, should be assessed once in three years by an independent Commission, consisting of professionals such as journalists, retired judges, academicians, activists, NGOs, and even retired government servants. These should look at their policies and performance, and suggest constructive steps for their improvement. At present the systems of inspection are elaborate but often preclude the possibility of a ‘fresh look’ as they are totally governmental and rigid. On the other extreme, they are outsourced to friendlies. For example most of india’s e-governance success stories are in government-funded third party evaluations only.
Use ICT and E-governance to Cut Red Tapism
ICT can play a significant role in building accountable and democratic governance institutions. What is required is strategic application of knowledge and innovative use of available technology to provide governance services to all sections of the society. And this will require visionary leadership and concerted efforts by national governments and the civil society. And the focus of e-governance has to be on those who have been mostly marginalised of benefits of good governance.
As Canon India’s Senior Vice-President, Alok Bharadwaj says, “the starting point might be retooling their own (government’s) procedures and processes, etc., to become more citizen-centric, faster responses, speed of actions, more efficient working and anything that you do which creates economic activity or anything that is a part of economic activity we can improve on it using technology.”
Politics holds up Manmohan, the Reformer
Law of averages seems to have caught up with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as scams and inflation rise to a crescendo in UPA-II and politics impede reforms
It was a coincident that catapulted him into the centre stage of Indian politics in June 1991. P V Narasimha Rao, then Prime Minister of the country, was looking for a Finance Minister who could pull India out of the economic bankruptcy his predecessor Chandrasekhar had bequeathed him. His first choice was I G Patel, then Director of London School of Economics. After Patel declined his offer, it fell into the lap of Manmohan Singh who was hitherto known as a technocrat – had served as RBI Governor, Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Advisor of the Prime Minister and Chairman of the University Grants Commission. He was known for his academic approach towards issues and was yet to taste the rough and tumble of politics.
Under Rao’s tutelage, Singh opened up equity markets, introduced SEBI Act, set up National Stock Exchange, streamlined procedures for FDI approvals and increased FDI cap from 40 to 51 percent. His five-year tenure mainly laid the foundation for second-generation reforms, dismantling of license raj and brought into effect a paradigm shift from the Nehruvian model of development, the governments in the past had followed religiously, to liberalisation. At the same time, it put the Indian economy firmly back on rails clocking the highest rate of industrial growth from 1993 to 1996. Moreover, it greatly added to the global reputation of Singh as an economist.
In 2004, when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi declined the prime ministership and put the soft-spoken-to-a-fault, intellectual and unassuming Singh into the top executive saddle, it was a surprise for most. Singh was yet to win a direct election, considered the best yardstick to measure popularity of a politician. In fact, he had surprisingly lost the first election the Congress made him fight for the Lok Sabha from South Delhi constituency in 1999. He is the first Prime Minister who has always been a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Most Indians– the economists and otherwise - expected him to take off from where he had left on economic reforms in 1996. However, due to pressure from Left parties and within the Congress he could not pursue them any further. The Congress believed that no employment benefits had accrued to the common man from the reforms. For this reason, he even had to abandon the disinvestment policy his predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government laid so much emphasis on.
Yet his first tenure as Prime Minister was fairly successful. The introduction of Right to Information Act (RTI) has proved to be a catalyst for ushering transparency in governance. The enactment of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), formulation of JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) to focus on subjects like water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management, improvement of slums and construction of houses for poor in the cities, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the key components of which provided for appointment of rudimentary Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in each village of the country, preparation of district health plans and extension of comprehensive health care as basic to family planning and push to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) coupled with cooked mid-day meal scheme were some of the things UPA-I achieved under him.
His regime also put the implementation of Mission Mode Projects under National e-Governance Plan on a fast trajectory by putting over a dozen services including income tax returns, passport, investor complaints, registeration for service tax payers, pension payments orders, land records, vehicle registration and daily court orders on internet.
The appointment of Mani Shankar Aiyar as the first Panchayati Raj Minister of India was an expression of thrust he attached to decentralisation of governance. Aiyar went about his job with missionary zeal egging on the states to devolve functions, functionaries and funds to the Panchayati Raj institutions and achieve inter and intra connectivity. The central initiative on online transfer of funds for daily wagers under the MGNREGS has become a benchmark for introduction of ICT to ensure transparency and accountability into government functioning.
The UPA-I launched Bharat Nirman, a programme, which gives thrust to infrastructure in telecom, housing, drinking water, power, road and irrigation sectors. Singh’s stamp was all too obvious on 15-point programme for minorities and Domestic Violence Act, his government put in place in its first avatar. The government also formed second administrative reforms commission under the present Law Minister Veerappa Moily.
Singh started his second term as Prime Minister by making Right to Education (RTE), a fundamental right and providing bank credits to small farmers at low rate of interest. His government has also kickstarted the Unique Identification project. His government was able to push women reservation bill through the Rajya Sabha. Though the unbridled nature of Indian economy and India’s relatively less dependence on exports has largely been responsible for offsetting impact of global meltdown on New Delhi, Singh’s government also made a contribution to it by designing stimulus fiscal packages for public sector companies to expand disposable income and generate demand.
Manmohan Singh government soon plans to launch Rajiv Awas Yojana, an ambitious scheme that will create a formal space for slum dwellers within our cities. It is still struggling to put together some sort of food security for common man, its main constituent. The latest is that an expert committee headed by C Rangarajan, Chairman of PM’s Economic Advisory Council, has not found Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council’s proposal to supply subsidized food grains to 75% of the population ‘feasible’ on the grounds that the government does not have enough stocks to provide guaranteed food grains to ‘general households’. The committee has instead suggested that legal entitlement be granted only to the “priority households” which comprise just 45% of rural and 28% urban households.
The second half of 2010 threatens to undo whatever advantages Singh had in his first tenure and at the beginning of his second term. The plethora of corruption cases – including CWG and 2G spectrum – has clouded his reputation and put a question mark on governance. Though his friends like Nobel laureate Amartya Sen still vouch for his ‘irreproachable’, integrity the fact that former Communications Minister and the alleged kingpin of the 2G spectrum scam A Raja flagrantly disregarded his communication on the allocation of licenses, and the divergent voices emanating from his council of ministers every now and then shows up his discomfort in reining in politicians.
The labour, banking and pension reforms and the liberalization he campaigned so vociferously for first as the RBI Governor and then as the Finance Minister, to say the least, are in slow motion. In fact the reform process is where it was in 2005. The government has deferred by a year the launch of the Direct Taxes Code and looks set to miss its April 2011 deadline for introducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) because states are asserting themselves and taking advantage of an indecisive centre. Petrol prices were decontrolled, but the promised decontrol of diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene prices is still pending.
It is clear that Singh has not been able to follow up on his argument for deregulation due to a number of reasons. For one, he had seemingly little choice in selecting his cabinet. More so in UPA-II. Left to himself, he probably would not have chosen tainted politicians like A Raja as his ministerial colleagues (Radia tapes bear testimony). Secondly, the distinction of powers between 10 Janpath (Sonia Gandhi) and 7 Race Course Road is yet to be arrived at. It is obvious that the Prime Minister is not very good at deflecting political flak. He would rather govern and leave politics for Sonia Gandhi and others in the Congress. It is also apparent that the PM has not got the required political backing to pursue economic reforms. The introduction of comprehensive legal reforms in banking sector during his three-year stint as RBI Governor (1982-85) and his espousal of free trade economy as then Prime Minister late P V Narasimha Rao withheld fire from N D Tiwari, Arjun Singh and others were two examples of what he can achieve when he gets political support for implementing his bold ideas on economy.
It is high time that Singh, the academic who dared to end permit raj and gave free rein to entrepreneurs in the 90s, is allowed to resurface, govern and do what he did as the RBI governor and the Finance Minister.
The role played by ICT could be wide-ranging: in delivery and standards of governance services, to how people access such services, and the participation of people in the governance sphere. “We are already seeing how the new digital approaches, the new digital technologies are beginning to transform things which are in the core of governance services. We have already seen the transformation this has brought about in industry, first in the IT industry and then in many ways thanks to the IT industry how that is spreading to other places, first in banking where we do not even think about the fact that you can go and get money anywhere anytime,” says Kiran Karnik, former President, NASSCOM.
The key challenges with electronic governance are not technology or internet issues but organisational issues like redefining rules and procedures, information transparency, legal issues, infrastructure, skill and awareness, access to right information, interdepartmental collaboration and the tendency to resist the change in work culture. ICT does bring about a disruptive change especially if one is changing a system that has been set in its ways for years. The change can also be traumatic for some. One only has to look back at the resistance faced for computerisation of banks and today there is not a single bank that has not implemented core-banking solutions. The question is: Are we doing enough to manage change?
Government Process Re?engineering is a necessary condition for the realisation of the benefits of e?governance. While deployment of IT solutions increases the efficiency of operations, it will not necessarily deliver the best results unless the processes are reconfigured. Process re?engineering ensures that the processes are redesigned to make them most effective and deliver the maximum value to the government, its employees and the citizens.
Bibek Debroy, Distinguished Fellow, Skoch Development Foundation and noted economist, feels we need to look at the bigger picture. “Technology is a very powerful tool to eliminate poverty, to reduce asymmetry of information, but behind all of that the fundamental systems of administration, the fundamental systems of governance and the fundamental systems of administrative delivery needs to change if we are going to tap this potential.”
The government’s e-governance initiatives are likely to be successful only if they are integrally linked to a better citizen interface, more government ownership of the deliverables of such initiatives, increased accountability and transparency, and better relations between the public and the private sector.
The other reasons for slow initiation of ICT into governance are overemphasis on the means at the expanse of end use, exclusion of a section of general public from ICT education and lack of convergence.
But, Department of Posts is trying hard to grapple with these systematic lacunae and has introduced a Track and Trace system, which helps the customer keep an online track of his consignment, and a public grievance system to redress complaints.
|Any system which starts out with a poor system of accounting and auditing tends to run the risk of being abused and this happens in certain parts and then the whole system is blamed. So, we need qualified personnel to assist and also need to have a system of accounting and audit.
“The customer should know that if he has sent a consignment then where exactly is the consignment and whether it has been delivered or not. We have also set up a public grievance system on our network. But people are still wanting to write letters to us and do not respond through the ICT system. We have tried to include people and geographies, and automated procedures and operations,” says Suneeta Trivedi, Chief General Manager, Business Development & Marketing Directorate, Department of Posts, stressing on convergence of systems and applications.
Link Outlays to Outcomes
The Government of India transfers millions of rupees (this amount does not include subsidies, such as on food, kerosene, and fertilisers) annually to the states, but very little of it is linked with performance and good delivery. Often incentives work in the other direction. For instance, Finance Commission (FC) gives gap-filling grants so that revenue deficit of the states at the end of the period of five years becomes zero. Thus, if a State has been irresponsible and has ended up with a huge revenue deficit, it is likely to get a larger gap-filling grant. In other words, FC rewards profligacy.
The concept of good governance needs to be translated into a quantifiable annual index on the basis of certain agreed indicators such as infant mortality rate, extent of immunisation, literacy rate for women, sex ratio, feeding programmes for children, availability of safe drinking water supply, electrification of rural households, rural and urban unemployment, percentage of girls married below 18 years, percentage of villages not connected by all weather roads, number of class I government officials prosecuted and convicted for corruption, and so on. Some universally accepted criteria for good budgetary practices may also be included in the index. Once these figures are publicised states may get into a competitive mode towards improving their score.
Central allocations to states should be linked to outcomes. N C Saxena, Distinguished Fellow, Skoch Development Foundation and Member, National Advisory Council tells us that he made a number of presentations to the Finance Commission on this point, that “why don’t you link part of your devolution, as you know Finance Commission gives thousands of billions of rupees every year to the States, why don’t we say that part of this money would be linked to governance, with outcomes and I suggested how to have a composite governance index. Since this was a new concept they were a bit conservative. They said okay to begin with we will try only for two things, if States reduce IMR and states improve forest cover we will give 50 billion for these schemes. So, a beginning has been made but I think we need to link government of India’s devolution through Planning Commission, through the ministries, with performance and only then performance would be incentivised.”
“The effectiveness of centrally-funded urban development schemes will only improve if the Centre is not just seen as a sponsor, but as one that incentivises the urban local bodies to do the right thing and also penalises State Governments that prevent or block such practices,” says Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Chairperson, ICRIER.
Sudha Pillai, Member-Secretary, Planning Commission says, “When I see the huge plethora of Centrally Sponsored Schemes I find that there are very detailed guidelines and then there is one paragraph on accounting and auditing. So, any system which starts out with a poor system of accounting and auditing tends to run the risk of being abused and this happens in certain parts and then the whole system is blamed. So, we need qualified personnel to assist, you need to have a system of accounting and audit, then you also need to have an office, a place where people can actually meet and work.”
|A customer should know that if he has sent a consignment then where exactly is the consignment and whether it has been delivered or not. We have tried to include people and geographies, and automated procedures and operations.
Chief General Manager,
Business Development & Marketing Directorate, Department of Posts
Devolve Funds, Functions and Functionaries to Local Institutions
The decentralization of funds, functions and functionaries to local bodies has been unsatisfactory and there are capacity constraints at the level of panchayats and urban local bodies. We need to engage with municipalities, panchayats, state legislatures and the Parliament to build knowledge on the democratic functioning of institutions and undertake policy advocacy for people-centric reforms.
“Development can take place if we take just 10-15 subjects listed in the 11th Schedule and say that with respect to these all functions, all finances pertaining to those functions, and all functionaries pertaining to those finances and functions shall be devolved to the local level. All we need to do is to ensure that the panchayat bureaucracy is responsive to the elected panchayat leaders who, in turn, are responsible to the Gram Sabha,” says Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Minister for Panchayati Raj.
There are applications like Plan Plus that NIC has developed for Ministry of Panchayati Raj, which is actually going down to the panchayat level specifically in the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) districts where there is a participatory plan that is being moved up the hierarchy and then the funds are being tracked. We have to make it more widely deployed, we have to make sure that every panchayat and urban local body has it.
“First of all, we need to have a deep understanding of what actually the situation is on the ground. And two, deliver the entire package in toto, don’t hold back, don’t think that if giving something is enough, no, that won’t work, and the third is that do not have this impulse to centralise. Have the impulse to decentralise,” emphasizes Pillai.
Speed up Unique Universal Identity
After a lot of discussion and debate, the UID project is now moving forward. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) intends to issue IDs to 600 million citizens in four years. India will be the first country to implement a biometric-based unique ID system for its residents on such a large scale. The project estimated to cost around Rs 300 billion will eventually cover the entire population of the country. The unique 16-digit number can be accessed and verified online from anywhere in the country.
For leveraging the power of the UID number, various agencies will have to embed the UID number into their databases. This will enable cross linkages across systems and processes. This is of a tremendous advantage because various databases will then be able to talk to each other; today, their systems have no cross linkages and they are unable to figure out how many times a person figures in their database? So, this will have a cleansing effect on all existing databases. The result is that enrolling agencies will be able to clean their databases and further streamline operations.
One fundamental change that we are going to see with Aadhar coming in is that we would shift from supply side governance hopefully to a demand side governance, which would emanate from participatory planning, electronically tagging and tracking of every rupee that is being spent on the social sector.
“We believe that UID will be the foundation on which all that this country aspires to do can be attempted and certainly I believe that we should be playing a bit role in promoting equality, growth, social justice, governance reforms and institutional regeneration,” says A P Singh, Deputy Director General, UIDAI.
When Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi said ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’ he certainly would not have known of Rahul Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty
But a major part of the counsel for the budding leaders from the father of the nation has come true, may be not in the same order, in the case of son of late Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. RG as Rahul Gandhi is known in his close circles was ignored, laughed at and ridiculed in first few years of his entry into politics. In fact, one still comes across incidents where opponents of the Congress and the Gandhi family call him a greenhorn. But these are few and far between.
A large majority of personalities in Indian polity have come to accept, albeit grudgingly, that he means business and is on the right course to connect with the marginalized aam aadmi. Congressmen who were initially not sure of his capability to handle the media and surrounded him like sardines for protection feel that Rahul has finally matured into a leader who understands people’s pulse. His thrust on financial inclusion of disadvantaged sections and youth into the mainstream is making sense to a majority finally.
Be it resignation of A Raja from Telecommunication ministry on 2G spectrum, replacement of scam-tainted Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan with central minister Prithviraj Chavan, removal of CWG Organizing Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi from the post of Secretary of Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), proposed changes in Land acquisition Act, Rahul’s stamp is more than obvious.
The Amethi MP was the one who set the ball rolling on central package for Bundelkhand region. He was the force behind Environment Ministry’s decision to cancel Vedanta’s bauxite mining project on Niyamgiri hills in Orissa. He picked up the gauntlet Shiv Sena threw at him on the issue of migration of people from Bihar to Mumbai. He brought his mother and UPA chairperson around on Indo-US nuclear deal. She initially shared some of the reservations left parties had on the deal. And he pushed for MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) for financial inclusion of poor and deprived in villages.
In fact almost all flagship programmes of the UPA – be it MGNREGA, NRHM (National Rural Health Mission), RTI (Right to Information Act), Right to Education Act, forest rights to tribals and many other social sector schemes devised for aam aadmi – carry Congress icon’s signature.
Rahul Gandhi has been on the same page with Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) when it comes to land rights for tribal, social security and safety net for disadvantaged groups, food security, right to education and transparency and accountability.
His targets are predominantly dalits, tribal and students who have either felt left out or become cynical about India’s politics. His attempt apparently is to explore Bharat and integrate it with India. Suddenly the opposition groups, which drew on caste and creed to seek relevance, are looking increasingly threatened by his development rhetoric.
But the transformation has not happened overnight. Rahul Gandhi has taken over six years to mature into a serious politician whose intent is to introduce the poor, downtrodden, deprived, marginalized and the youth into the mainstream. In fact, a major part of his makeover has happened in last two and half years since he set out on a ‘discovery of India’ drive, talked of equality justice and social justice and launched a programme for time-bound democratization of Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and National Students Union of India (NSUI).
For the first three years after his entry, leave aside opposition leaders, even politicians within Congress had doubts on his capability. They feared his tentativeness, inexperience and naiveté would be exposed sooner rather than later. Many of them forecast a replication of Rajiv Gandhi’s story in off-the-record conversations. They any day preferred a charismatic, natural and more expressive Priyanka Vadra. The journalists hurried up to write him off after Mayawati’s elephant trampled all including the Congress in Uttar Pradesh state elections in 2007.
This was the time he decided to change his approach from a Para-dropped prince to a dynast who believes in democratizing his organization and is on a learning curve. Unlike his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru who discovered India during his stint in Ahmednagar jail between 1942 to 1946, he decided to explore the country through what a Congressman terms ‘Gaon-gaon paon-paon’ (roughly meaning on foot to villages) journey. He followed what Mahatma Gandhi prescribed for apprentice politicians – know rural (read real) India. He decided to stay with poor, tribals, share their meals, hear their travails away from media glare and travel in local trains.
Though Congress’ media department touted the beginning of his ‘discover India’ drive from Orissa in March 2008, it had actually begun in Bundelkhand where he not only squatted with poor in protest against state apathy but also traveled with them in a bus to District Magistrate (DM’s) office to demand jobs under MGNREGA. He visited the region in January 2008 after there was a spate of farmer suicides due to a severe drought.
Rahul’s camping in Bundelkhand rattled Mayawati to a great extent and triggered a fierce row of allegations and counter-allegations between the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Mayawati interpreted the Congress General Secretary’s demand for trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh – into UP, Harit Pradesh and Poorvanchal (Bundelkhand) – as a design for central rule. The Congress scion’s allegation that the district administration did not provide jobs to indebted farmers under NAREGA struck a chord and probably inspired him to travel to Kalahandi, another poverty-ridden place.
During his tour of 13 districts in Orissa, he first time emphasized on bridging the gap between the two Indias. “One part of India is going ahead, while the other part is lagging behind,” he said emphasizing, “that part of India has to be taken forward.”
He heard a group of tribals in a specially built hut at Ijurpa village in Lanjigarh on proposed bauxite mining project of Vedanta. He promised them to take up their problems with the Congress president. The Amethi MP reminded the tribals of their special bond with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (Rajiv made that famous statement on how only 14 paisa out of a rupee reaches the tribals in Kalahandi). He also shared a community lunch with the tribals.
His next trip was to tribal districts Hubli, Chamarajnagar, Dharwar, Bijapur, Raichur, Mysore and Mangalore in Karnataka. Again the focus was tribals and socially underprivileged sections of the society. He had ragi roti and honey in the house of a tribal in a hamlet called Muthugadagadde in Chamarajnagar. He emphasized on making English mandatory in all schools and promised to fight for dalits’ cause. More importantly he stressed on protecting the forests, clearly a carry-forward from the Orissa visit.
Rahul Gandhi’s next stop was tribal pockets in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Though Raman Singh government did not allow him to spend night at house of a tribal in naxal-infected Dantewara district for security reasons, he had enough opportunities to experience tribal culture and food. Again his idea was to understand the ‘sentiments of forgotten India’ and ‘create a fair deal for create a fair deal for the people who are displaced by industrialization.’
In July 2008, he visited districts in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra where farmers committed suicide due to failure of cotton crop. He stressed that improvement in the farmers’ lot was a precondition of convergence of two diverse Indias. He met Kalawati and Sasikala, two women he quoted during his speech in defence of Indo-US nuclear deal in the Parliament.
In between these forays into hinterlands, RG continued to interact with young congress workers and students in different parts of the country. The IYC has already had elections in Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and few other states. The elections are being conducted under FAME, an NGO headed by former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh. In November 2008, he personally interviewed 40 youth for the IYC. His tours to tribal lands, interaction with Dalits and youth not only unnerved left the opposition flustered. Their anxiousness came on the fore when the then BJP chief Rajnath Singh called him a ‘bachcha’. L K Advani, BJP Prime Ministerial candidate followed up Rajnath when he exhorted his party workers in Gujarat to ‘ignore’ Rahul.
What has greatly helped Rahul Gandhi build credibility among farmers, tribals and dalits and emerge as a champion of underprivileged sections of the society is that UPA government has done his bidding on almost every other issue. First Manmohan Singh regime obliged him by sanctioning a hefty package for the perennially famine-hit Bundelkhand last year. The package is meant to promote drought resistant arid horticulture and animal husbandry activities. Then it canceled Vedanta project on the ground that it could adversely affect local Adivasi community and the wildlife and biodiversity on and around Niyamgiri hills. In August this year, he joined farmers in Aligarh who were agitating against acquisition of their land by State government. The UPA is all set to amend the land acquisition act as desired by him.
That his target is unambiguously the common man is borne by the fact that in July last year he launched a programme called ‘Aam Aadmi Ka Sipahi’ in Assam. Under the programme, Youth Congress workers are supposed to enlighten people about the various welfare schemes of the UPA government and act as an interface between the common man and the political class. Their thrust would particularly be on MNREGA and RTI.
In September this year, Rahul Gandhi once again hammered on the sipahi syndrome after the government rejected Vedanta project when he told tribals in Kalahandi, “Kalahandi ka, aur adivasiyon ka Delhi mein ek sipahi hai; uska naam Rahul Gandhi Hai” (For Kalahandi and the tribals, there is a soldier in New Delhi; His name is Rahul Gandhi).” Rahul has even ferried British Foreign Minister David Miliband and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to Amethi and Raebareli to help them have a close look at real India and ‘social development’.
In October this year, he made an attempt to understand the matrix behind migration within the country by traveling in a general compartment from Gorakhpur to Mumbai. His decision to go it alone in Bihar assembly elections and woo back minorities and poor in the State who moved to Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party, has added to RJD supremo’s discomfiture. This is what provoked the former Railway Minister to say that Rahul was a babua, a kid and a novice who knows nothing.
Since Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi are unanimous on inclusion of disadvantaged and deprived into the mainstream and have always placed development over politics, the outcome of Bihar elections is not so much a comment on the young parliamentarian. It is rather a rejection of castiest politics by the state electorate. It is a vote for inclusive development.
Be it social, financial or digital inclusion, the Gandhi scion is clearly in sync with the times. The idioms he is using belong to the 21st century.
Bihar:Back from the Brink
Nitish Kumar will need to do much more
because the state is still placed at the bottom of the pyramid on all almost all human development indices be it healthcare, education, poverty or malnutrition
1998: Driving down from Patna to Madhepura sometime in the winter of 1998, we discover quite a few things. The infrastructure is non-existent – we drive on dusty pavement to avoid potholes masquerading as road and observe the destitute and distressed faces that stare at us – the city-bred - with awe from outside.
2005-09: Nitish Kumar decides to focus on empowerment of women and extremely backward classes, the two sections, which have been pushed backwards as criminals rule supreme and castes of Lalu Prasad and Ramvilas Paswan gain political clout.
His government draws up an agricultural action plan whereby the state promotes seed replacement, optimal use of fertilisers and penetration of rural credit for allied agricultural activity. This pays rich dividends as the state aggregates higher agricultural output (12.3 percent) during 2004-08 despite devastating floods in the Kosi region. This is higher than Punjab (1.9), Uttar Pradesh (4.7), Gujarat (7.3) and even the national average (4.5 percent).
All these factors have led to higher economic growth in the state in last few years. Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) says the state GDP grew at 11.44 percent in 2008-09. The growth in teledensity (has almost risen by five times from 6.7 percent in 2006-07 to 33 percent in December 2009) points towards substantial improvement in the telecom sector. Bihar becomes the first state to set up a call centre for facilitation of RTI (Right to Information) queries.
What is more is that Nitish makes a genuine effort to empower gender, mainstream poor, cut red tapism and amend old practices, which increased interface between common men and the government and led to growth of corruption. E-shakti, an e muster roll-cum-job biometric card introduced to labourers to check corruption in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in October last year, is an example of it.
2010: During a tour of villages in Nalanda and Patna districts to film ‘financial inclusion’, a team from Skoch Media becomes witness to how ‘e-shakti’ and ‘Jeevika’ - Bihar Rural Livelihood Programme - which micro-finances self-help groups, have transformed lives in rural Bihar. The team interacts with several people who have benefitted from works initiated under the two schemes. It visits Centre for Development Orientation & Training (C-DOT), which provides loans for small businesses like farming, dairy activity and shops. C-DOT has enrolled 17,000 women members out of which 12,000 have been given loans to the tune of Rs 140 mn for setting up small businesses.
2011: But the real challenge for Nitish Kumar will unroll now. He will have to turn his attention to growth of agriculture and agriculture-led industries.
Combine Banks with Credit Societies to Reach Unbanked in Rural Sector
A major cause of the huge economic disparity in the country is that only about 11 per cent of our population has access to banking. The rest are largely dependent on either moneylenders or Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), which, more often than not, charge monumental rates of interest. Despite advisories from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to open no frill accounts, hassle-free credit to poor and appointment of business correspondents in the village, the banking in rural regions of the country has shrunk over the years as the banks have closed down more branches in villages than opened new ones.
P Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, quotes several figures to prove how the reverse of financial inclusion has seeped in India over the years.
C Rangarajan, Chairman of Economic Advisory Council to Prime Minister, advises the banks to make use of existing credit societies in villages to access the unbanked farming community. “The credit societies have the reach and the banks have funds. Combine the two and you can solve the problem.” Rangarajn also finds the business correspondent model viable and counsels the banks to make use of it to access the rural sector.
Another appalling fact is that though the banks have opened no frill accounts, they are dithering on making hassle-free credit available to the villagers. The MFIs on the other hand have doled out multiple consumption loans to villagers in Andhra Pradesh and other states pushing the poor into a vicious cycle of indebtedness.
The MFIs on the other hand complain of being stifled due to controls introduced by states like Andhra Pradesh. Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic Advisor, Department of Economic Affairs and Shankar Acharya, Member, Board of Governors ICRIER are concerned about tightening norms on the third tier of financial institutions like the MFIs. “While regulatory measures are needed, these should not kill the very institutions that they are seeking to regulate. Some cases of misuse should not lead to death of a sector that is taking the message of financial inclusion to the hinterlands,” Basu said in a panel discussion organized by Skoch on Growth and Finance recently.
Enable Professional Inputs into Policy Making
We need to look at having a professional cabinet, or at the least enable professional inputs into policy making. There are strong arguments for more of a project management approach to policy development where policy is designed to address specified outcomes and which is closely linked to implementation and related systems development.
We need to achieve a pro-active, responsive, accountable, sustainable and efficient administration for the country at all levels of the government. Among other things, we need to examine areas like organisational structure of the Central government, ethics in governance, refurbishing of personnel administration, strengthening of financial management systems, crisis management and public order.
In any system, the quality of public servants is critical in determining outcomes. We have well-established procedures for initial recruitment of civil servants in India. However, there is growing concern that our civil services and administration in general have become wooden, inflexible, self-perpetuating, and inward-looking. While the bureaucracy responds to crisis situations with efficacy, colossal tardiness and failure to deal with ‘normal’ situations is evident in most cases. Effective horizontal delegation and a clear system of accountability at every level should be at the heart of administrative reforms.
|We believe that UID will be the foundation on which all that this country aspires to do can be attempted and certainly I believe that we should be playing a bit role in promoting equality, growth, social justice, governance reforms and institutional regeneration.
—A P Singh,
Deputy Director General,
At the same time, we also need to recognise the complex challenges of modern administration in critical sectors like policing, justice delivery, education, healthcare, transportation, land management, infrastructure, skill promotion, employment generation, and urban management. All these are intricate issues, which need domain expertise, long experience in the sector, and deep insights.
Processes of civil service recruitment, periodic training, promotion and posting strategies and career management have to be reformed urgently. We need to foster excellence in the public system, and attract continuously the best talent and expertise. The barrier between government and the rest of the economy and society must be lowered, allowing free movement based on competence and leadership qualities.
In addition, reform efforts require identification of and partnership with reform-minded politicians and bureaucrat champions. Internalisation by departments and agencies will aid in the sustainability of reforms.
Involve Citizens into Governance
Listening to the voice of citizens not just during periodic elections but also on an ongoing basis is the starting point of participation of citizens in governance. Such listening could be done through public hearings, surveys, referenda etc. where citizens can give their suggestions with regard to their problems as well as the possible solutions. Citizens are in the best position to articulate their needs and suggest the appropriate solutions, which is why there is often need to complement local knowledge and skills with governmental expertise.
The objective of citizens’ participation is to ensure that government organisations work for the constituencies, which they are meant to serve. For this to happen, government servants should be accountable not only to their superiors but also to citizens. It is only when this is realised by government agencies that citizens can voice their grievances with assurance that due attention is given to them. For example, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) created a campaign called the Customers’ Meets campaign, which “compelled senior managers to leave the comfort and security of their offices to interact directly with citizens in neighbourhoods throughout the city.” The campaign not only provided valuable customer feedback to the Metro Water Management, but also sparked pressure from citizens for further reform by raising expectations.
Steps such as setting up of well equipped information-cum-facilitation centres, public hearings by government officials on specified days preferably at the doorstep of the citizens including greater use of the tools of information technology to cut down queues and increase convenience for citizens would serve to meet the requirements for this type of engagement between the government and the citizens. But the last two types of citizens’ participation would require creation of institutional mechanisms perhaps backed by law or government resolutions for encouraging citizens’ participation in governance. Examples of such mechanisms ranging from the Gram Sabha to the representation of local residents/stakeholders in the management committees of local schools and hospitals, etc., have been mentioned earlier. Nagaland’s “communitisation” initiative for empowering local communities to manage services like education, electricity and water supply is a significant home grown experiment that effectively involves citizens in governance.
Integrate Silos for Asset Creation
Another major lacuna with governance in India is that each department is a kind of island. They work in silos not quite knowing what the other is up to. Though it is obvious that the MGNREGA can very well be used to create assets for the SSA, Bharat Nirman or the PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana), there has been no attempt to link them up. Why can PMGSY roads not be laid under the MGNREGA or school improvement projects under the SSA be taken up under the scheme? Or why can we not use MGNREGA workers for building PWD roads? Once the contractors know that they will have access to the MGNREGA workers, they will quote lower prices. To enable this, an integrated application will also be called for.
|The credit societies have the reach and the banks have funds. Combine the two and you can solve the problem
Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to Prime Minister
To sum up, not only will the integration cut down duplication of cost and effort but will also teach higher skills to the rural daily wagers. Besides, their coordination and collaboration will certainly lead to better outcomes. “Unlocking and connecting these silos can enable greater coordination and integration across agencies – and in turn deliver more efficient, effective, and seamless services to citizens,” argues Bibek Debroy, Distinguished Fellow, Skoch Foundation.
Merge NIC and DARPG to Form National Informatics Cadre for Speeding up Governance Reforms
The Planning Commission’s exhaustive agenda for improving governance includes improved people’s participation, effective decentralization of governance, involvement of civil society, especially voluntary organizations and the crucial right to information. The agenda also includes civil service reforms aimed at improving transparency, accountability, efficiency, fair play and honesty, procedural reforms for public-government interface to get rid of the system of unnecessary rules, procedural regulations and controls, reform of revenue system and mobilization of resources and judicial reforms with a view to hastening the process of delivery of justice.
To make governance meaningful and effective, the Commission has underlined systematic and professional programme/project formulation, synergy and co-ordination between different government departments and agencies, rationalization of centrally sponsored schemes using zero-based budgeting and more effective monitoring and evaluation.
It is no secret that Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG) has failed to improve standards of gainful employment and better access to public services and build a modern, world-class civil service to improve governance. The admission comes from none other but Union Law Minister and head of second Administrative Reforms Commission, M Veerappa Moily: “Several countries have changed. UK has changed, France has changed. US has changed. Sorry to say but we are very slow in changing.... Every time I meet (the PM), he will ask what happened to the recommendations (of the Administrative Reforms Committee).” The department has either failed to abolish The official Secrets Act 1923, which prohibits flow of information from the government to ordinary people or sections 123 and 124 of Indian Evidence Act of 1872 which imposes restriction on making available official information as evidence or even amend MPLADS scheme as recommended by the second commission.
It would be a good idea to merge the DARPG with NIC and place it under Planning Commission so that there is one system for planning as well as monitoring outcomes and there is synergy right from the Gram Sabha to the highest level in the central government.
Development is an outcome of efficient institutions rather than the other way around. Focus therefore must be shifted from maximising the quantity of development funding to maximising of development outcomes and effectiveness of public service delivery. Despite good achievement on the growth front, India faces significant challenges and needs to take some difficult political decisions. Concerted policy action is needed to lift the 250 million poor, who are increasingly concentrated in the poorer states, out of poverty. This requires not so much additional resources, as better policies and sound delivery mechanisms. Unless teachers attend schools and teach, doctors attend health centres and provide health care, and subsidies reach the poor, mere increase in the social sector expenditure would only result in further leakages
While the country is preoccupied with 2G spectrum and the role of former Information Technology Minister A Raja into it, the lackluster performance of his deputy and actual spearhead of Department of Information Technology, Sachin Pilot, seems to have escaped the scrutiny. Much was expected of the young minister but officers in his own Ministry have found him wanting on several accounts. They, in fact, were surprised when his name did not appear in the list of Ministers who were recently shuffled around by the Prime Minister.
“He understands technology but his knowledge on how to use it to solve basic problems of the country needs honing. He lacks sense of urgency, the first prerequisite to be an IT minister,” sources in the Ministry said. The officers backed the transfer of National Informatics Centre to the Planning Commission saying that the DIT had failed to give a direction to the Centre or suggest value additions. It is felt that Pilot is eminently suitable to play primarily a regulatory role.
Panchayat Soochna Kendras, a flagship programme of the UPA – announced by President of India with so much fanfare - is still languishing as his ministry is fighting a pitched battle with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to impose will of Common Service Centres on Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) depriving the representative bodies of electronic rights to delivery of governance. What can be more harmful to Panchayati Raj than this?
Rather than e-Governance delivery, Pilot’s focus seems to be more on intellectual areas of IT Act, patent protection and promotion of industry. State Wide Area Network (SWAN), the government-subsidised telecommunication project, which was to facilitate exchange of data and other types of information between government offices in 29 States and 6 Union Territories and support National e-Governance Plan by June last year, appears to be barely functional and has been called ‘graveyard of obsolete technology promoted by vested interest’.
Kapil Sibal, the successor of Raja, will not only have to make sure that the alleged wrongs committed in allocation of 2G licenses are set right and there is transparency in the functioning of the Ministry but will also need to push and nudge his deputy for a better performance.
One weakness in our governance is the incapacity to institutionalize the best practices from our own country and elsewhere. A conscious effort not only to identify and document best practices but also build policy and create new structures and institutions to allow mass replication needs to be made. The communications revolution sweeping across India offers us a great opportunity to innovate and replicate. Many models of improved use of technology for better governance are now available to us. To sum up, convergence of many services at the citizen’s doorstep, with greater citizen power and local control are critical for the future.
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