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Posts Tagged ‘Legislative Reforms’

Howsoever dark a cloud is, there is always a silver lining. For those of us in India who are in a mood of despondency these days and continue to be defensive about quite a few things under the sun, let me list out what is there to cheer about.

  • There has been a record reduction in poverty, but we do not wish to announce it to the world. One, we are still concerned about the ones still lagging behind in the economic growth rat race. Two, we are not too sure about our own numbers!
  • There has been a sustained increase in rural wages and incomes. Pretty soon, we shall find that the market is being propped up by rural demand, while our urban folks continue to be in a doom gloom phase. While FMCG honchos are busy designing packages specifically targeted at the semi-urban and rural hinterlands, we continue to be diffident on this front.
  • In five year’s time, we have set up one-fourth of our installed capacity for power generation.  We have also laid power lines to 4.6 lac villages. We can not claim this to be an achievement because we have failed to provide back-up linkages of fuel, leaving vast swathes of country reeling under a power shortage.
  • On the road to financial inclusion, we have created and rolled out a programme which gives each of us a unique identity. This is also likely to help us plug leakages of subsidies, making resources available for other social welfare measures. We are defensive about it, because we are not too sure it would eventually work out. Sure enough, for the un-entitled ones who have been enjoying subsidies so far, the cost of living is just going to go up.
  • We have laid fiber optic cables to 2,50,000 panchayats. The only plausible reason for our hesitation to energizing the same and converting our narrow band capabilities into genuinely broad band ones  could be our fear of a majority of our denizens being covered by snooping measures of some foreign intelligence agencies!
  • Our parallel economy continues to thrive. Our politicos and private sector do not appear to be in a mood to stifle the same any time soon. However, one does come across some  papers and articles which indicate that post-Lehman Brothers, India faced the effect of a meltdown much later, the insulation having been provided by our underground economy. So, may be, we are being smart, allowing black money to proliferate!
  • Our rural tele-density at the beginning of this millennium was close to 1. As of now, it is around 40. We are quite defensive when it comes to claiming this to be an achievement because of some scam ridden decisions which were taken by those at the helm of affairs in the interim.  The argument is not that corruption is acceptable; it is only to say that there is indeed a positive aspect  which needs to be kept in mind.
  • We have also orchestrated a structural transformation of the economy. With the ratio of those engaged in agriculture coming down below 50%, we appear to be on our way to get more industrialized. We feel shy of talking about this because we have not pro-actively addressed the issue of urban housing and reforms.

Forget the ‘Incredible India’ campaign. The credible India has much going for it – a thriving democracy, a robust corporate sector, a young population, a growing and aspirational middle class, increasing urbanization, to cite some of the long-term strengths.  Brand India is there to stay. The devil is in the details – a tendency towards jugaad or short-term fixes, a habit of claiming rights sans any feeling of responsibility, a poor track record in implementation of grandiose projects, and the like.

So, here is a glass which is half full. Admittedly, there are mighty challenges ahead.  Just  as in the case of individuals, nations can learn to manage better from crises. If 1991 brought us economic reforms, the current crisis could prod us into reforming our legislative, executive and judiciary. Bolder and structural reforms could improve the standard of living of millions of Indians in the days to come. Let us be self-confident and push ahead in these times of economic turbulence.

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It is heartening to know that India’s civil services aspirants shall soon be taking an examination in ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ as part of their endeavor to make a career in public administration. It is a laudable initiative, and one does hope that in the days to come, our denizens’ issues with the administration shall start getting resolved with empathy, pragmatism and promptness, sans any corrupt practices.    

As an average person, one is tempted to ask if our politicos should also be taking a similar test! We live in an era when probity in India emblempublic life is at a nadir. The conduct of some of our honorable MPs and MLAs on the floor of our august legislative bodies often leaves us red-faced and scurrying for cover. The only time we see a semblance of unity amongst politicians of different hues is when they are faced by the threat of declaring their finances under the landmark RTI Act or when trying to thwart the judiciary’s attempts to keep criminals out of our polity.

How about an Indian Political Service?!

May be, the time has come to introduce an Indian Political Service? If meritocracy has to rule, those aspiring for a career in politics can be made to first apply to a body like the Union Political Service Commission! Detailed CVs backed by details of socially relevant projects handled, vision for the future, parentage and financial backing etc will need to be submitted and made public. Thereafter, the aspirants would need to undergo a rigorous selection process, comprising a written examination, followed by a group discussion, individual PPT presentations for the benefit of their target constituents, personal interviews and the like.

A professional working license can get issued only after a five-year internship with a duly registered political party. Thereafter, the incumbent could become entitled to joining the election fray. license can be put up for renewal once every five years.

Criteria for disqualification can also be laid down. Involvement in scams of any kind, a lapse in discharge of core duties, getting convicted in a court of law, disrupting legislative work, browsing the net for pornographic content while on duty, tax arrears of any kind, etc., could lead to suspension of the license to practice.

An exhaustive appraisal system can be put in place. Performance could be rated on various aspects like development works completed in the constituency, number of new legislations introduced, hours of legislative attendance registered, besides core targets met for the portfolio handled. For re-election, the license will need to be renewed based on the ballot performance.   

Would a Management Development Program Help?India Parliament House

In case our leaders and constitutional experts declare the above mentioned approach as null and void, another option is at hand. We can ask some of our premier management institutes to design a Management Development Program for our politicians! Such a program could have modules on ethics and integrity and behavioral sciences – with a focus on etiquettes and manners. A crash course on meditation techniques could lead our politicos to do some introspection on their own part, trying to figure out ways to attract today’s educated youth into the political mainstream, handling important legislations with equipoise and equanimity, controlling passions on the floor of the house and cleaning up the finances of the parties they owe their affiliations to.

In an era of scams and systemic corruption, the reputation of our political honchos has taken a severe beating. This is not to say that there are no straight forward and honest politicians ruling us. But corruption appears to rule the roost. Whether it is through a loot of the exchequer (Westland helicopters, fodder scam), sale of patronage (allocation of natural resources) or plain extortion and rent-seeking (pay or take the highway), the ingenuity with which public money gets siphoned off to either fill the political parties’ tills or to shore up personal fortunes is something which one cannot learn at management or accounting institutes.

Connecting with the Post-reforms Generation

All political parties need to do some introspection as to how to win and influence potential voters, specifically Gen-Z, meaning those who were born in the post-reforms era and who expect performance in place of promises and delivery in place of dithering.

The writing on the wall is clear – cleaning up political funding, giving up vote bank politics, avoiding inane bickering to win India Rashtrapati Bhavanbrownie points and joining hands to work together and taking concrete steps which enable common citizens to become successful entrepreneurs and make the delicately nurtured amongst us experience true freedom.

It is apparent that as a country, India has so far focused only on economic reforms. Reforms in the other realms of a vibrant democracy, like legislature and judiciary, are yet to be conceptualized and rolled out. We have miles to go before we get to sleep!

 

 

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