By Dr Amrit Patel:
In a democratic country like India, elected legislators viz. MLAs in states and MPs at the national level have been engaged, among others, in formulating socio-economic policies and passing laws to exploit natural, physical, biological and human resources to enhance the gross domestic product of the States and the country respectively on one hand and on the other framing policies relating to strengthening political, economic, social, technological and military/defence system to substantially improve the quality of human life and safeguard country’s interest. However, past experiences reveal that most MLAs and MPs pay scant attention to the development of their constituencies and ignore aspirations and expectations of the people whom they represent. Against this background this article briefly highlights the need for electorates to vote in each election en masse and make legislators feel concern of people’s needs and committed to fulfil them and make legislators accountable to people who elect them.
Since the country’s independence and with the launch of eleven Five Year Plans, the Union and State Governments have established several departments, institutions and development agencies which have been implementing a number of programs, projects and schemes to fulfil people’s needs in the critical areas, viz. education, health, drinking water, sanitation, housing, road, transport, communication, agriculture, allied activities, non-farm sector, industries, business & services, among others. Successful implementation of all these programs have tremendous potential to alleviate poverty, generate massive employment and enhance income that can lead to significant improvement in the quality of human life. However, lack of comprehensive review and periodical monitoring of the implementation of these programs accompanied by scientific ex-post evaluation at the constituency level has resulted into country’s not being able to fulfil the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals that focus on democratically elected Governments to ensure basic human needs and fundamental rights that every individual should be able to enjoy, viz. freedom from extreme poverty, hunger and malnourishment; access to quality education, better health services and improved shelter; opportunity for productive, decent and environment-friendly employment; the right to women for safe delivery without risking their lives; a world where women and men live in equality and environment sustainability.
The Millennium Development represents the most important promise ever made to the world’s most vulnerable people in 2000 and to fulfil it within a period of 15 years i.e. by 2015. The MDG framework for accountability emerged from its declaration in 2000 has endorsed an unprecedented level of commitment and partnership in rebuilding hassle free and healthier lives for billions of people hitherto neglected and in creating an environment that contributes to inclusive growth, all round development, peace, harmony and security. Besides, it has also contributed to significant level of imbalances among constituencies within the state reflecting differences in the quality of human life. Institutional weaknesses accompanied by staff inefficiencies and inadequate infrastructure support have further aggravated this imbalance within the constituency as also among constituencies. Legislators’ positive intervention [not interference] during the review of the performance can yield better results and improve the working of the institutions to deliver the results.
It is disappointing that MLAs and MPs care little to fully apprise the people of their constituencies about the latest national and State policies of the Government decided by the Parliament and the State Assemblies and their likely impact on the quality of life and livelihood of the people of the constituency. Electorates must place a demand for this and it should be mandatory for the legislators to apprise the people all policy decisions.
The Union and State Governments formulate all programs keeping in view the national and states perspectives respectively i.e. one-size-fits in all without due regard to significant varying needs of most constituencies. Educated, intelligent and dedicated MLAs and MPs understand the strength, weaknesses, threat and opportunities of their constituencies in so far as the socio-economic development and provision of infrastructure are concerned. Legislators must, therefore, place demand on the Government to remedy this anomaly. In fact, all MLAs and MPs must have full knowledge of the developments that have taken place in each of the years during the last five elections in their constituencies and programs which according to people’s needs have yet not been undertaken along with the reasons thereof. MLAs and MPs sitting or prospective candidates need to put in all endeavours to scientifically and comprehensively assess the needs of the people in their constituencies and formulate strategic action plan in close consultation with the people to fulfil them in a time bound program. Thus, most programs must be formulated to meet with the people’s needs of specific constituencies
The Union Government has been providing to each MP and Rajya Sabha member per year Rs. five crore under the MP Local Area Development Fund. Similarly, some progressive State Governments also provide this facility to State legislators. However, only a few dedicated legislators make good use of this fund to fulfil the minimum and pressing needs of the people of their constituencies and a large number of MPs and MLAs have not been using the allocated fund for the development of their constituencies. Electorates must prioritize the development projects and place demand on their MPs and MLAs to productively use this allocated fund for these projects. The Government can create awareness among legislators and conduct capacity building training programs for them that can make them fully committed for the socio-economic development of the people in their constituencies.
The establishment of institutions, financial investments and creation of infrastructure has been grossly uneven among constituencies. As for example, MPs elected from Rae Bareli and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh have been nursing their constituencies much beyond expectations right from the election of late Mrs. Indira Gandhi and late Mr. Sanjay Gandhi in early 1970s, at the cost of other constituencies in Uttar Pradesh as also in the country. This shows the way how other legislators with concern and commitment to the people of their constituencies can also replicate these developments.
Evaluation of programs to determine the extent to which the benefits have accrued to people of the constituency is a continuous process. Impact evaluation of socio-economic benefits of programs in each constituency can be conducted at the end of every five years in each constituency and debated in the State Legislative Assemblies and the Parliament, as the case may be, and the programs redesigned to meet the people’s needs.
In recent years, the media have played a significant role in creating awareness among the electorates about the way in which democracy in India has been functioning. The media can now bring on a common platform all the contesting candidates before the people of the constituency in order to have face to face interaction that can determine the worthiness of the candidate in the election. People would like to know from the candidates about the problems being faced and candidates’ understanding of these problems as well as their concern, commitment and strategy to resolve the problems, inaction of the staff in the Government offices while responding to the people, say for example, recording police complaints, issuing the required certificates, citizen’s charter not being followed by the staff, their arrogance, delaying the decision on the matter, expecting bribery, among others