Monday, 20 January 2014

Empowered Governance

In reality, our states need a new system of governance. A system that says: minimum government, maximum governance. The idea of empowered governance recognises this conflict between dreams and practice and is shaped by our vision for a developed India. The past ten years in India have seen a stagnating growth rate, policy paralysis, a complete breakdown of communication among the government, industrial slowdown and constant inflation. Thus, making it nearly a wasted decade.

Change is not impossible and it most certainly does not require miracles to get things back. Common sense and political will are the key points that are required now and three months is the minimum time gap to be given in order to reverse the despondency the country is in now. The idea, of course, is to ensure empowered governance. A few ideas that can be implemented to ensure that empowered governance is possible are:

* Subsidies: Our socialist leanings ensure that we cannot deviate from our welfare policies. However, studies conducted in the past have revealed that beneficiaries of subsidies are largely people who do not really require them. If a proportion of the same welfare policies are diverted towards renewable fuel projects, we would alternatives to crude and other related products which would solve India's trade deficit problems in the long run thus making it socially and environmentally viable.

* Mutual Respect: States are an indivisible limbs of the nation. Hence, it is necessary that every state should learn to emulate the success of other state. However, this is only possible if internal conflict among states is reduced and chief ministers of states are made equal stakeholders in ensuring good governance. Reaching out to chief ministers in an effective manner is of utmost important. Central agencies must ensure that they visit the states to ensure that opinions matter and key projects are approved without significant delays and prevention of cost overruns. 

* Outreach: Communication is one of the key things to ensure accountability. In the current phase, we realise that there is a complete breakdown in communication. The idea is to refrain from distancing people. Dialogue with partners, agencies, civil society, bureaucrats as well as the judiciary must be encouraged. For example, judges can be made to visit factories as an industrial visit in order to meet and understand the challenges of the real world. Engagement with agencies, the judiciary as well as the armed forces is necessary on key issues such as development, infrastructure and security in order to end the prevalent logjam.

* Laws: A constant source of worry has been India having too many laws. The point where we are unable to score is the implementation of laws. Implementation has to be done in a manner that would instill respect for laws. Having said that, there is an urgent need to ensure that we desist from passing new laws and creating new institutions. Creation of new laws or institutions does not necessarily problems being addressed. All laws are mostly open to misuse and are often full of loopholes. Loopholes and shortcomings need to be repaired which would help in strengthening existing institutions and laws.

* Chalta Hain: The national culture of unquestioned obedience to authority along with an acceptance of shoddiness through the "chalta hain" attitude must not be used as an excuse to overlook violations. It is in our culture to respect authority. We are taught from childhood to obey our elders. We grow up with the notion that our teachers, our managers, function heads and business heads within our respective organisations know more than us. Hierarchy is revered and authority is seldom questioned. However, the "chalta hain" attitude must be changed by instilling respect for institutions. A conscious effort has to be made in order to desist from mindless perversion of institutions. Having said that, misuse of institutions need to be exposed. The media must be fortresses of good work and there has to be constant pressure on them to ensure that positive news gets highlighted as well. 

The issue of corruption is a major issue in India as it has economic consequences. The causes for corruption in India include excessive regulations, complicated taxes and licencing systems, numerous government departments with opaque bureaucracies and discretionary powers. If there is strong political and legal will to solve the malaise of corruption from public life, it can be done in five simple ways:

* Adjournments: It is often observed that cases in India take several years to reach a definite conclusion. This happens due to multiple adjournments. Adjournments hamper work flow and create a backlog. Therefore, in matters of public service or importance, there must be no adjournments. Adjournments must be necessary only due to medical, mental or physical reasons.

* Proof: One of the major impediments faced by investigating agencies is the collection of evidence. It must also be acknowledged that lack of impunity results in destruction of evidence. A possible way to solve this problem is to reduce the burden of collecting evidence and reversing it back to victim. 

* Talk Less: There have been instances when leaders and lawyers in Parliament and the judiciary tend to speak for an extended period of time. A significant way to ensuring that cases do not lag is to strictly limit all arguments both for and against in the judiciary and Parliament to 30 minutes. This will ensure that cases do not lag and precious time of the Parliament is not wasted in mere speeches.

* Assets: Disproportionate assets, bribery etc. are all forms of corruption. The post 2010 years presented a new facet of corruption reaching impregnable heights. Corruption is a real phenomenon and begins due to a top-down structure. Instead, the issue can be resolved if there is confiscation of all assets owned by an individual who is active in public life, if s/he is accused. Similarly, there should be physical detainment of the accused until there is a conviction/acquittal. In order to send strong precedents, accused members can be barred from public life for the rest of their lives.  

1 comment:

manjujoglekar said...

Thoughtful post, Akshay.

Agree with most of the suggestions you've made. In fact, few people would disagree.

The problem is in the difficulty of implementng them. :)

I do not quite agree with the last suggestion of barring/detaining an accused until conviction or acquittal. May lead to frivolous accusations and perhaps deliberate delays in completion of investigations.