I write this blog on the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.
Having lived through days (in free India) when one had to queue up for hours/days/weeks/years for every necessity, like milk in the morning, wheat/rice and sugar every month, vegetable oil, soap, telephone, LPG,etc. when required, one can say that the country has come a long way as these things can now be had on demand. However, queues have not disappeared altogether. There are heart rending queues outside OPDs in government hospitals, for accommodation for travel by rail, for buses for local commute etc.
There are acute shortages in other spheres- of jobs, houses, water for drinking and other uses etc. In urban spaces, there are certain excesses too like slums and shanties built by the homeless, educated unemployed etc. In villages, life is still more difficult with no electricity in several, shortage of drinking water, schools, health care, roads etc.In short, India has developed but has to develop much further.
For the painfully slow developments of facilities and deprivation specially in rural areas, I hold two factors mainly responsible: First, the administrative machinery. And in this, I am not alone. Following is a quote from the editorial in today’s Times of India:
“Perhaps India’s biggest lacuna remains what it has always been: the poor quality of governance and and lack of reform in this area……….To deliver acche din, …. reforming and and streamlining governance must henceforth receive the highest priority…”
Such lamenting by various writers is almost an every day affair in newspapers and magazines. But the vested interests have managed to persuade the Government otherwise. Apart from being callously inefficient, the administrative machinery is apathetic, heartless and largely corrupt despite being well looked after by the government in terms of salaries and other facilities when compared to employees in other sectors. People get no response to their grievances and requests for long periods, almost indefinitely. A trend has now developed that aggrieved people tweet or write to the Minister concerned directly. A newspaper report recently said that a woman who had struggled unsuccessfully for years to get her savings bonds en-cashed,ultimately wrote to the Union Minister concerned and the Minister ordered needful to be delivered at her house within specified number of hours. This was duly complied with. So something that could be done within hours was not for years together by those comprising the administrative machinery which includes the senior officers. Senior officers in India usually remain arm-chair bound in their air conditioned offices and even when approached, they refer the matter routinely to their juniors unless some higher authority is interested. The Minister of Railways and the Foreign Minister are routinely solving people’s problems these days in response to tweets but, otherwise, the administrative machinery remains dormant as usual.
The Ministers and the Government need to see why something that was done within minutes or hours on their intervention could not be done for years in the normal course. Suitable punishments should be awarded and procedures amended if necessary. Good governance should mean automatic disposal of matters by officials responsible.
There should be adequate delegation to lower levels instead of having a top heavy administration. It is interesting to note that the Union Government at present has nearly 80 Secretary level officers as against almost half the number considered reasonable by the sixth Pay Commission.
The second factor which, I feel, leads to deprivation of people is the election of undeserving people as members of parliament, some thing for which people, i.e. the voters must share part of the blame. Of course, these undeserving people (not necessarily those having criminal cases against them)generally get elected because of the nomination by their parties whom voters are inclined to bring to power. These MPs manage to bring harm to their voters by being more interested in power and pelf rather than promoting the interests of their voters.