Farmers air their grievences in the presence of the PM. Why not act at once on their suggestions?
It is becoming difficult everyday to judge the government. Its many actions. Yes, Dr.Singh is a decent man. This much is admitted by everyone. He seems to have no enemies. But then what is his performance as a Prime Minister? Yes, his flagging off the launch of the bus journey to POK territory won the hearts of all peace lovers. His encounter with his Chinese counterpart is in form. Then, the rest of his job? The PM is suffering from a terrible handicap. That is his image problem. He is not seen as a PM in his own legitimate way. In the political sense. This distracts our judgemental perspectives. Also, his leadership of the coalition invites comparison with Vajpayee. In spite of these handicaps, he is seen as an ineffective leader of a Cabinet. There is no visible performance. There are so many committees and commissions. The latest is the administrative commission. This we consider is a sheer waste of time and money. Not much is happening. The government had to plead before the Supreme Court for time for coming with a progress report on inter-linking the rivers. Vajpayee at least openly promised for the project, if voted to power. Here, even the National Highway project is not high profile.
As for the party backup, it seems only a negative outcome. The Congress party is in disarray in almost every state. In UP and Bihar it is nowhere. In Maharashtra and Karnataka it is no more dominant. The small timers are calling the shots. The party might disintegrate further. So, the future of parties in India is becoming uncertain. The industrial houses, one by one, seems to be pulling their strings with dramatic outcomes. Unaccounted money power in politics, in nominating various rather undesirable individuals, be it Rajya Sabha or other high level bodies is further distorting political values and ideological clarities. I am not sure Sonia Gandhi or dynastic politics would help matters.
In this scenario, Dr.Singh can at best be seen as a stop gap. He is waiting to vacate the office for someone with more legitimacy or more legitimate political mandate. Till then, it seems it is more and more commissions and less and less real, genuine political action!
PM could still act
The PM could still act decisively. He saw before his own eyes how for instance farmers spoke of their problems? Why he doesn’t speak out and ask his minister or ministers to come up with solutions, say, within a time limit?
What the IT ministry is doing? The government efficiency, its commitment to transparency etc. can be instantly solved if the governments depts. are put on IT, Internet map! It is one of honest, open commitment to serve the people. To attend to each one of the citizens problems and suggestions. The real tragedy is the PM is not speaking out sufficiently. So that the people can have some relief that the PM knows their problems. This is not happening today.
The people don’t know or not sure whether they have been guaranteed employment or food for all or health for all. There is no monitoring and the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council after a flurry of some recommendations, is now in some inaction. The very sensitive and self-respecting members are at least airing their disenchantment in the open. That is some real gain in credibility or transparency of governance. The Right to Information Act is already diluted and no bureaucrat or bureaucrats would like to part with information in this terribly bureaucratic society. Now comes another staid news about appointing a second administrative reforms commission. Typical of the mindset of this already highly bureaucratised government culture over which Manmohan Singh is happily presiding over, we read with much dismay and not without any optimism. Why?
Even if one of the promises made in the CMP or suggestions presented by the Sonia Gandhi Council is implemented with some seriousness and urgency, the work that is expected of the bureaucratic reforms would be half done! Why we say these things? I had bought and read two autobiographies of two Cabinet secretaries. One by Deshmukh and another by T.S.Subramanian. The third by P.C.Alexander I didn’t buy after reading about his frustrations. These three top bureaucrats have given enough indication how bureaucrats are ungrateful to their one-time masters! Also I have read enough of CBI directors stories and also the functioning of the Central Vigilance Commission and how the CVC is handicapped when it comes to prosecuting the corrupt officials. To make some periodic raids is no way to curb the corruption in a systematic way. Karnataka at least has one Lokayukta who is doing his job so innovatively that he is now considered a god by the public!
In this connection we like to refer to the recent event in Delhi, The Agriculture Summit 2005. In which both the PM and the agri minister had participated. The farmers from the Kisan club in Jind in Haryana who participated complained first about the use of English, they said they wanted the proceedings in Hindi. A fair demand? Yes, we think! Next, they said the farmers said : please allow us to ask some questions! This is also fair demand! Next, the farmers dais they had grown jatropa (bio-fuel) and organic wheat and they wanted to seek information. But officers were too busy to give them time! Again, a fair demand? Yes, we think so! On agri exports, the farmers said, they found the APEDA regulations too many, registration fee too high. A fair demand? Yes, we think so! They also said the local market on organic produce is not developed and also they could get certification of organic produce. The farmers also said they didn’t know about the seed bill, nor the food safety bill!
Farmers confront the PM
Yes, farmers don’t get these things these days. Let the PM and agri minister attend to these grievances. Back to the queries we raised : bring about the right to information bill. Involve the public-private partnership concept at all levels. Help to spread the Internet penetration, raise the number of infokiosks, partially or fully privatise many services in the countryside. The new concepts of Build ,Operate and Transfer can be applied to many infrastructure projects. We are constrained to say : this government is not attuned for action. Decision action? Not seems this time round!
Luckily, the Supreme Court had stepped up its jurisdiction so that the common man hopes that justice will be delivered by the highest authority. Unfortunately, what the government must be routinely doing it doesn’t perform. If we apply the rest of the private sector companies, most of our ministers would have been sacked routinely for non-performance!
The one redeeming feature of India today is that so many positive developments are taking place. IT industry had changed the face of India. Employment for the educated had come from this high paying sector. So too the many citizen-centric development initiatives, be it urban, municipal governance or peoples resistance to, many thoughtless government actions like demolishing the slums or building dams or big projects where no public debate and public involvement is taking place.
So, the more public exposure, media exposure and public interest litigations are meeting the many challenges in the changed situation of coalition governments and the consequent fall in the performance of the governments could be partially stopped.