End the collectors’ Raj!
First step is the Right to Information Act!
Indian bureaucracy is not trained to part with information under the law. Under the existing law, there is so much official secrecy and everyone, from the ministers to the secretaries to the petty village clerk is accustomed to browbeat the poor and the weak. Farmers are the worst hit. Sonia Gandhi heads the National Advisory Council. This is both a policy making body as well as the watchdog of the performance of the government.
What the Council has done so far? What the government has done so far? For the transparency of governance? For attending to various issues at the grass roots? What is happening to the panchayat raj? Where do we stand upon the employment guarantee? Yes, the government has been active on many fronts.
What is the way to know the performance of the government or its various citizen services? The government is not forthcoming, the PM doesn’t talk or the officials are much more secretive and jealous of their powers. Luckily, we read that in Karnataka, the Dharam Singh government has been pro-active. Panchayats are given all powers and funds powers. The Bangalore and other rural online services are catching the attention of the citizens. What about other states? At the level of the Central government? How the farmers would know what are the agri prices in different markets? Where to buy and sell ?Where to go for loans or credit or such information? Everyday, we see villagers crowding the collectors offices and every taluk office is a picture of rural misery and helplessness!
The Council has some really bright people like Ms. Aruna Roy and Jean Dreaze. Roy is a Magsaysay award winner and Dreaze is a collaborator of Amartya Sen. Thus ,both enjoy high sense of integrity. Both have now found fault with the dilution of the government’s commitment. Yet Roy and other members remain silent! They could have protested, resigned or make more noises!
Yes, we have to use simple language to tell the ordinary people. The helpless citizens, the poor? The villagers? The farmers.
Who said this government is of the people, for the people..? This government is of the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats! All we see since Manmohan Singh took over, only the appointment of this or that retired bureaucracts, any number of committees! No action!
Do you know that in Singapore 1,600 citizen services are delivered online? Singapore ONE, the ambitious programme had led the country to number one rank in world rankings. India is 41, China 39! It is the Internet spread that is the driving force. Our PM doesn’t talk! On any topic of citizen interest! We hope the PM changes his talking priorities! He should talks and tell what his government is doing.
Nearer at home in Karnataka, the so-called Bangalore One online services now give citizens many services without anyone contacting the petty officials. 30 lakh transactions a month are expected at the various centres. The citizens get the services free! Now, the Rural Digital Services project of the State’s e-governance department is reaching out the poor. This bridging of the rural divide is as crucial as the urban based online services.
But the most important thing is the Right to Information. Still farmers pay penal interests, pay interests from 12 to 18 per cent, still loans are a tough part of farming, support price? Who said farmers can get support price? Insurance? Who says farmers have insurance cover? But in some states like Karnataka, governments do make certain difference!
So, the RTI is highly progressive act and the government would earn eternal goodwill of the harassed citizens if the Act is made a law. Now, for every petty favour from the government the citizens hang around the district collectors’ offices, make several visits, engage touts, bribe their way through several channels.