Last week, a young leader, who doesn’t require any introduction, named Feroz Varun Gandhi, wrote an article in a leading English daily and underlined that this government has seen more farmers’ suicide than the previous ones. The sidelined status of Mr. Gandhi, too, was highlighted; he had the opportunity to do some serious research about the core issues of the Indian economy, and has focused on coming up with sustaining solutions for paving the path of ‘Bharat’ to prosperity.
I think it is a great start when a youth leader does some serious research to bring to centre stage the ignored issue of rural development and devolution of power to local governments. Intellectual debates on these issues are where empathy is most needed. We are discussing administrative reforms, economic reforms, and social reforms, but we really lack an aptitude for reforms for people in power, without which even democracy provides only a slim chance of intervention.
‘Minimum government and Maximum governance’ is a rhetoric which PM Modi attached to his office as a tagline and hence made comprehensive and deep interventions to empower panchayats. At this juncture of Indian democracy there is no other way through which maximum governance is possible. Keeping the vast size of the Indian economy and democracy in mind, even the Centre has limited penetrative capacities. This is why our Constitution lists all services immediately proximate to citizens as state and Central responsibilities. These are majorly on aspects affecting the daily life of the citizens in ordinary conditions. Hence, even if the Centre wants maximum governance with all its will and resources through the empowerment of local governments, it’s not possible to do it exclusively. The decisive role in this radical vision is of individual states. The 73rd and 74th amendment of the Constitution of India have used astute words to make states figure out their own contextual ways to empower local governing bodies. But repeated analysis of local governments in India have underlined that a lot more needs to be done.
The whole issue is of aptitude, network, real time monitoring, and appropriate decision making to dispose problems.
The whole world condemned the accidents of 9/11 and 26/11, and we also highlighted our learnings from these. Today, India is proud of being in a position of having no such attack after that. Why? Because we have constantly updated our system with decisive, emotional and analytical activities, and with comprehensive and deep networks of security agencies. Most of these agencies existed earlier also but now they have attained a collaborative approach to operations. We have established hotline connections with neighboring countries which increase the flow of information and help us respond to any situation, properly, in a short span of time. All this appears easy and possible only because we have increased the network and cohesion of functionary bodies. The same is needed in the war against poverty. Until we increase the outreach of operating agencies (both top-down and bottom-up), it is quite tough to keep up with our changing world.
Now when a government makes its decision, citizens are also in favour of keeping up with the same pace. The agitation of the base of the pyramid of the economy is nothing more than the impatience taking place in the brain and heart. Farmers shouldn’t have to march to Parliament just to be heard by a government chosen by themselves. It’s a situation which takes the country back by decades, and makes all sensitive citizens introspect about why the Prime Minister of the country is unable to make way for making local governing bodies that function as nodal agencies, and provide personalised attention for groups of citizens.
The academia, the bureaucracy and the government itself keep saying that citizens should participate in local governance, but how? No states have made any compulsory provisions (for citizen action) to facilitate a paradigm shift. It should be taken into account that India is a nation which has been broken at each level by foreign rulers, and today has a significant nexus of politics and crime. The delays in our justice system make life difficult for common citizens. In that condition, how can one envision a break in the power nexus?
The sense of sharing power comes from humility and responsibility to future generations. But this humility decreases when you are made to suffer for questioning a decision-controlling group.
It is a fact that when a lower bureaucrat starts following their own mind, and makes decisions, they simply break the barricade which imposes followership. That’s where the problem starts for the bosses. It is also concentric to the start of the ignorance to the bigger cause, the very reason why bureaucracy exists. This condition triggers responses and reactions to persons rather than that to situations. This is why there are minimal outcomes of our bureaucratic investments. Excluding some examples, it is not an extreme statement to say that district level administration generally works as a trouble shooting agency. That’s it.
We are in a situation where India is climbing up the list of nations with considerable ease of doing business, secure citizens, increased manufacturing, export, and higher stakes in international power, but is there progress on all major indicators of economic development when poverty is also increasing?
It is undoubted that the whole nation is deeply affected by the push for entrepreneurship by this government. But to let the trend of entrepreneurship flourish, there are some prerequisites which are indispensable. It’s tough to prioritise them but I am quite sure that the rule of law is of utmost importance. Entrepreneurship needs sustenance, and it may flourish only if human capital is not insecure about life and property. And to ensure a flawless, quick, and responsive security system for citizens, there is no other way for the system but to respond to the situation and prevent itself from being the curator of these situations. Inside and outside the system, we have been partially successful in managing our vast human energy in productive way.
It should be noted that an enterprise requires collaboration with different players. at different levels, and all layers of collaboration must be somehow facilitated by the government. If there is a lack of collaboration in the facilitating agency, it’s quite tough for citizens to think of generating jobs.
I think to change the stereotyped narrative of being privileged by being part of government (to the renaissance of being privileged by generating jobs) needs major proactive facilitation of the powerful system on ground, while upholding the rule of law and without compromise in it. That’s where India’s key to raise its national character lies.