Let us de-bureaucratize the delivery of public services!

Menaka Gandhi in trouble!
 
Accuses Sonia Gandhi CBI shouldn’t be doing odd jobs!

There is news that Maneka Gandhi, former Minister under the NDA and the current Member of Parliament has been booked by the CBI alleging that she committed irregularities in distributing funds to NGOs. Now, we don’t want to go into the merits of what the CBI has done. What we are interested here is to point out certain things that are becoming familiar in the scheme of things in Delhi. More so mixing partisan politics with individuals, who are seen as doing good things for society, be they as Ministers or voluntary agencies, NGOs or other such individuals who outside office and authority still are doing very significant public service.

In such cases, wherever such large public service doers are seen committing improprieties, the Government should avoid bringing in the CBI which lately had almost completely lost all credibility in the public eye. No one will believe the CBI is functioning in total autonomy. It is seen more and more as a political instrument to misuse power for narrow ends. So, whether there is any merit in  Maneka Gandhi’s allegation that Mrs.Sonia Gandhi is taking some personal revenge against here, there is clearly a sort of non-application of mind by whoever he or she may be in the deployment of such a big weapon to beat what we see as a minor aberration.

The point is that as the Indian economic reforms are proceeding, with large area of public delivery of public services, ranging from education, health to so many advocacy groups and so many new areas of public domain that become now increasingly the concern of the civil society, there is a case for involvement of voluntary agencies, NGOs and other non-profit groups more actively in ensuring transparence  in governance.

We are sure the President and the Prime Minister would be the first persons to acknowledge that the Indian polity, with all its liberalization and opening up, had somehow become also more bureaucratic and the public see the repeated mistakes of the present regime to give extensions to the highest bureaucratic elements, from the Cabinet Secretary to the Foreign Secretary. That won’t enhance the image of the Prime Minister who already had saddled himself with so many Committees for whatever topic that springs to his mind!

The President had hosted a reception recently at the lawns of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan for the 100 odd NGOs from 20 States. It was a fine gesture and we would say a fine innovation in establishing links with the civil society outside the usual government machinery.

Civil society must be engaged today in a variety of government delivery of public services. There is a long list of activities, besides the usual NGO activities we are accustomed to. Some of the major metros, like Bangalore and Calcutta are homes for large number of dedicated NGOs, in fact they can be called NGO cities. Now, new SHGs are being set up in lakhs, for women specially. This is again a very positive development.

As for the farmers’ progress, in economic as well as social development of the rural families, farmers families too we need new institutional mechanisms. We need to organize farmers SHGs so that from taking credit to repaying them, from cultivating crops on contract basis to disposing them off at a profit, the farmers SHGs could trigger a much needed hope and confidence in the present much divided farmers’ societies. New services like health insurance and farm insurance cover, we need civil society groups, NGOs to take up the message and extend the few services that are started by such organizations like Narayana Hrudhalaya, Biocon in Bangalore to farmers, farmers’ clusters. These are all the new services that could trigger the much needed social revolution in the countryside.

Much more important  is the role of NGOs in such new legislation like the Right to Information Act(RTI).

So NGOs in the new scheme of things, in the emerging context of improving public delivery of public services need more NGO activism. So, please don’t curb the NGOs in the civil society activism.

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