Note : (1) The basic idea of this article was taken from a paper presented by the Author as a suggestion at the public hearing conducted by the Indian Public Administrative Reforms Committee in Bhubaneswar on 12-Apr-2007.
Note : (2) The views opinions and suggestions expressed in this article are entirely personal, without any mala fide intention to anyone. The readers may have their own. This is the Author’s genuine attempt to stimulate the mental and intellectual faculty to think in these lines.
What we understand by Administration by the Government is the effective and efficient implementation of its policies by its officers or authorised agents to reach the intended mass. In a welfare state the following are the areas of important services :
1.Basic : Food, Clothes and Shelter,
2.Primary : Drinking Water, Electricity/Energy, Irrigation, Land reforms, Education, Justice, Distribution, Communication, Transportation, Services, etc..
3.Developmental : Trade, Commerce, Higher Education, Science and Technology, Research and Development, National Resources, National Security, International Relations, Diplomatic Policies, etc.
We will confine ourselves to the delivery of services of day-to-day governance or administration. Let’s see the Dictionary meanings of Administration :
1 : performance of executive duties : MANAGEMENT,
2 : the act or process of administering
3 : the execution of public affairs as distinguished from policy-making,
4 : a : a body of persons who administer, b : a group constituting the political executive in a presidential government, c : a governmental agency or board.
Let’s see the Dictionary meanings of Reform/Reforms
1 : a : to put or change into an improved form or condition b : to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses,
2 : to put an end to (an evil) by enforcing or introducing a better method or course of action,
1 a : to make or set right : AMEND, correct an error, b : COUNTERACT, NEUTRALISE, correct a harmful tendency, c : to alter or adjust so as to bring to some standard or required condition,
2 a : to punish (as a child) with a view to reforming or improving b : to point out usually for amendment the errors or faults of any system or process.
Our points of discussion are the delivery of services and administrative reforms. In all the above mentioned services. All the discussions can be generalised to local, state or national levels. I have chosen some specific areas where the reforms are most needed :
Electoral Process, Judiciary System, Capital Punishment, Euthanasia (Mercy killing), Reservation and Minority, Education, Electricity, Industry, Telecommunication, Road Transport, Banks, Grievances Redressal, Consumer Court, etc.
Let me give a brief account of the background of all the lapses in administration. It all started with the Britishers who came to India over five hundred years ago and ruled for about 350 years till we got independence in 1947. That time there were two broad classes- the British rulers and the ruled natives. Even after the independence we have the similar situation- the rulers and the ruled. The relation hardly changed. The native rulers never considered themselves as the servants of the people, but the masters of them. And on the other hand the general mass thought the rulers as aliens – who deserve retaliation. The government agencies or the officers are concerned about their right rather than their duties. In fact they are immune to the ordinary punishment system which made the officers more arrogant.
During the course of alien rule and transition of power we inherited several bad things like, arrogance, divide and rule policy, conspiracy, oppression, official manipulation, etc. Similarly we ignored to learn good qualities from them like, discipline, punctuality, administrative capabilities, civilised manners, etc. Thus the division got more emphasised – the administrators think the public as untouchables, and the public think the administrators as predators. In this backdrop the basic nature of service got faded. The administrators aim now is to gratify these officers or agents. After over 61 years of independence we are not in any better state of affairs. So it needs reforms, or correction – for the better.
Select cases :
Now let’s take up a few important cases of specific nature, as following :
Electoral Reforms :
Democracy is the rule of majority, but it has become a rule by a handful of powerful manipulators. They use coercive methods of money power, muscle power, criminal power, and political/diplomatic power to get voted to office. For example : recently a noted inter-national criminal has applied from jail, for inclusion of his name in the voter list so that he’ll contest the UP elections. In all probability he’ll get it, because he has all the above mentioned powers. But general public like us have filed papers half a dozen times during the last eight years for the same just to be refused the legitimate right to vote, even though we are the permanent residents. Being in jail is sufficient reason that a prima facie case exists. These candidates should be debarred from electoral process. Secondly a minimum of literacy, say STD 10 or +2 should be mandatory for contesting an election.
Judicial System :
1.This is mainly based on a “witness system” and we all know how they are manipulated by the powerful. In one of the famous automobile hit and run cases the family of accused said that they have distributed lakhs (hundred thousand) of rupees to the victims’ family out of compassion and humanitarian grounds, so that they wouldn’t testify against the accused. And rightly, the amount is worth more than several times the lives of hapless victims and their kin. Government can never protect them nor compensate their suffering even if the accused are convicted. So even if in the field of justice the powerful have their say.
2.Another example, one judge has reportedly said that he knows that the accused is guilty but in the absence of witness he can’t do anything. Now the question arises as to how the judge is so sure of the truth – and this was established later when the case was reopened on media’s interference – by his sheer knowledge, experience, faith, commitment, judgement, behaviour of the advocates and pleaders. If all these satisfy him, then why not the system ?
3.Thirdly, the legal community doesn’t like the cases to be decided quickly, because, there will be no work for them. So it’s in their interest that the legal process keep lingering.
Capital Punishment :
Recently a bench in the Supreme Court opined that the corrupt officials should be hanged in the public view. I support this on principle but of course with two variations. There should be more convictions and more capital punishments, but the executions should not be in public, and the method of execution should be painless and clinical, like by administering morphine or overdose of anaesthesia (silent execution).
Jail Reforms :
1.Now criminals are safe, enjoy life and operate crime comfortably from the jail through cell phones. Today every critical area like banks, hospitals, diplomatic area ban mobile phones, but not jails on the grounds of human rights. Now the question is where are the HRC when the crime was committed ? One has to understand that they are criminals and not humans. Cell phone operators cancel operation on the ground of use by another, but they allow criminals the service and that too in jail. This should be immediately stopped.
2.Secondly, almost every bail getter restarts its criminal activities. Those who are not likely to restart are actually those who are not likely to get bail in the first place. On the other hand, all the under trials and accused who have already undergone the same amount of term if they are convicted for the crime they are accused for should be released. This will help in de-crowding the jails.
This is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. I advocate and support this. But invariably there shall be abuse of it, and the administration must find out an efficient method to execute it. By this the human suffering shall be less. As a general observation, any rules and regulations shall be abused and manipulated by the powerful to their benefit and the others will be harassed by the procedural tangles and hardly get the benefit. That applies to economical, social, judicial, and in fact all situations in our life.
Unnecessary procedural tangles :
We all know that these are meant to prevent the fraudulent persons getting through the system. But in reality, it is the unscrupulous people who get through the system easily whereas the bona fide people can’t get past the red-tapism. For example, we routinely come across stories like when an influential group personnel telephones half a dozen of passport officers, the next morning those officers deliver him at his residence with as many passports. On the other hand, genuine people are harassed on the pretext of non-compliance of certain documentary evidences.
Monopoly of service providers :
Though it is a good sign that in several areas, the degree of government monopoly is getting lessened, it still remains in several areas like electricity, railways and others. It’s common knowledge that BSNL and LICI improved their efficiency after having several competitors. So we must have one/two competitors, in each service area.
Department of Industries :
1.The greatest problem of state control of industry is the allocation of industrial land and others resources like water, electricity, mines, transportation, etc. (with relevance to state of Orissa). For example, in Orissa in recent years there is a spurt of Sponge iron plants which invariably use water from deep tube wells. In a state where people do not get potable water it is criminal to deplete the ground water level by industrial consumption. In the last few years, the policies adapted by Orissa government invite and encourage all unscrupulous business men to get a share of ‘give-away’ bounty of land, SEZ, mines, etc. Again this is a criminal waste of resource because neither the government nor the public get the benefit of such industrialisation.
2.Secondly, recently, a business group has been allowed to set up a global university on twelve thousand acres of land. What we need today is not such a university but more medical colleges, hospitals and definitely more professional training schools. The check-list is what the government gains and what the public gains out of this industrialisation. Forget about the company – if the company is successful, they will make money with any government, any place, any system, and any sets of rules and regulations.
Education System :
This system is getting privatised as the government is continually failing to provide basic/primary education to people even if it is committed to it. So it has become a commercial activity in the hands of powerful businessmen. And the knowledge system also seems to be faulty. For example, how many engineers actually end up doing the job of an engineer. Most of the IIT and IIM alumni end up in fulfilling the company’s sales targets they work for. Thus this is a colossal waste of national and human resources.
It’s common knowledge that small defaulters and even general public are harassed and on the other hand big industries steal electricity rampantly, albeit in collusion with the corrupt officials. I’m very ashamed to say that a big industrial house of a state is the biggest defaulter. And then we have the power distribution company run by another big national industrial house who is a massive defaulter of the government dues. I have no practical suggestion here except of course a public retaliation.
Reservation and Minority :
Reservation was meant to give a chance to the lower echelons of society to get into the main stream, and initially it was in force for 20 years. But because of corruption and vested interest (electoral process) it got several extensions and also the proportions increase day by day. The only silver lining is that the judiciary has rightly pronounced against reservation and the minority character of some community. We suggest that the reservation should end in a definite and limited period of time (say 5 or 10 years) and should be limited to only economic backwardness and not class/caste.
The list is not exhaustive, one can go on and on. But I have tried to point out certain areas which breed corruption and positively influence other areas to be equally corruptive.
General Attitude of service personnel :
The attitude of the government officers towards their duties is a tendency to harass people – to get a sadistic pleasure out of it – to keep people waiting in a queue and gossiping. For example in a water cess collection department we have a receipt book with handwritten counterfoil which takes double time for a single deposit. When I pointed it out to the clerk suggesting him to use a carbon copy, he replied they can’t change it because the number of stationery already printed will last for next five years. This is a classic example of wastage of manpower. On the other hand, all the collection counters can be kept open for a longer period in view of the enhanced cash transaction timings in the banks.
The basic idea of reforms is of two-fold :
1.Increase in efficiency – servicing more people in less time, improving quality of services, making them more comfortable and convenience, adding more services, reducing the cost and wastage involved in it, etc.
2.Decrease in level of corruption or malpractices – reduction of red-tapism, reduction in greed, elimination of victimisation of certain clients, etc. Today because of the stringent vigilance activities the officers don’t spend the sanctioned development quota, for they can’t get their share/cut- and it’s returned unused. It’s the attitude of “If we don’t get, let none get too”.
Surprisingly, most of the government policies are meant for the welfare of the people, and if they are implemented in the letter and spirit they would benefit the mass. But they are twisted and implemented to make money for the enforcing officers, and not for the benefit of the people. And on the other hand many rules and regulations have been so drafted that they positively encourage malpractice and corruption and the defaulters are rewarded. In my opinion these should be framed in such a way that normal/general people would understand easily and naturally tend to follow, and generally tend to discourage malpractices.
And the basic actions for reforms are therefore of two-fold :
1.Rules and regulations should be made simple and short (KISS- Keep It Simple and Short), so that people have a natural tendency to follow.
2.Implementation should be made strict and massive (this seems to be a tall order if you look at the size of our population and our national character).
3.There’s a third point which is worth mentioning is the slave mentality of we Indians which was acquired during the last 400 years. It is apparent everywhere and it needs to be shed. A classic example is the wearing of black blazer by government officials as their official uniform. Can’t we have a more comfortable attire which suits our climate, culture and ethnicity.
Every thing said and done, it’s not an easy task of reforms. For this we need courage – we have seen many honest officers sacrificing their lives for a good cause. For a successful reforms process, two main parties are involved :
1.The Officers (Implementing Authority) : Officers need to be honest, upright, and importantly must have a helping attitude, a tendency to ease the things for the common man.
2.The Public : Public has an important role to play. What normally happens is one section of the public who are powerless and suffer the injustice and exploitation silently, whereas the other powerful section gets the system to work to their benefit. The corrupt officials get a strong support group in them.
So we must have a two-pronged attack – setting the corrupt officials to the honest track and preventing powerful members of public from manipulation. Of course this is a Herculean task. Without casting aspersion on any individual we can say that in a country where the highest and most responsible officials are NOT beyond doubt of their character, intention and integrity what can you expect from the lesser mortals ?
There’s no dearth of real genius in any field in our country, but still we are in poverty, corruption- why ? Because they are busy in their self-actualisation. Since the genius can’t do anything or don’t have support and means to do so, so the powerful manipulate the government for their benefit.
The human nature is such that the strong always oppresses the weak – in any field/walk of life. We come across numerous examples of it since time immemorial, or recorded history. The stronger section manipulates the governance, and in turn the governance exploits the weaker section. For this I don’t see any easy or quick solution. What went on for over 400 years can’t be undone in just 61 years. But the most important thing is to START at some point, which I think we haven’t done so far.
To start with we have to build our national character. But that can’t be done for two-thirds of our population don’t get two square meals a day, and one-third of our population don’t get one square meal a day. The have-nots are busy in collecting food, and the haves are busy in manipulating things. The reforms involve a collective process of controlling : (1) poverty, (2) population, and providing (1) shelter, (2) education, (3) health, (4) employment, (5) old-age security, etc.
This is all I have to say. Thank you all, Ladies and Gentlemen, for giving me a patient hearing !
Note : This paper was presented as a suggestion at the public hearing conducted by the Indian Public Administrative Reforms Committee in Bhubaneswar on 12-Apr-2007.
© Himansu S M / 02-Jan-2009