Mr.Veerappa Moily, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka and now a senior Congress leader and trouble shooter for the PM and Sonia Gandhi(he is in charge of the Tamil Nadu Congress affairs) has headed a second administrative reforms panel and now submitted its proposals to the government.
From what we have seen from newspaper reports and the highlights, as found by the popular press, the very many recommendations are very welcome. But considering it as administrative reforms, one becomes easily cynical for known reasons. Even the great administrative reforms panel of earlier years under the redoubtable Morarji Desai went to seed. And we are witnessing a trend towards so many radical changes in the political landscape. There are several types of state governments, some coalitions, some patently outright unethical and some arbitrary (what is common to the state governments in Karnataka and in neighbouring Tamil Nadu?) Mr.Moily must only know too well that it is a vast canvass, this administrative reforms business! As such he and his team seem to have gone all over the place and searched for a focus that, in our considered view, is simply missing.
From the newspaper reports, it is not clear whether the panel is concentrating on the reforms at the Centre or both at the Centre and in the states. Surely, the reforms at the Centre are more important and urgent, if we consider the less than optimum performance of the Central government. There are too many arbitrary appointments, too many retired bureaucrats re-inducted into the highest levels of administration, in the PMO and also at the many advisory levels. There is a complete demoralisation at the levels of senior bureaucrats, so many superseded, so many favourites accommodated at higher levels. There are also wholesale promotions to some batches. There are no clear fixed tenures for some of the posts like the Cabinet secretary level appointments.
This arbitrary use of power by the Pm or in the name of PM hasn’t been touched by the panel. Clearly it would have touched so many raw nerves!
The CBI, the Vigilance Commissioner, the very pace with which the more sensitive political corruption cases are left to sleep while the coalition is carrying on happily forever, it seems, is not a scenario that would recommend too much for the panel’s recommendations or the timing.
The commission seems not to have bothered about the number of superannuated being deployed again and at what cost. The very many governance norms recommended by the many agencies including the World Bank studies suggested at one time that we need to reduce the cost of governance, we have to deploy the many tools like IT tools in so many departments. There is no mention about the reduction in the number of personnel or the reduction is expenditure on the bureaucracy in the Centre.
So, what use of effect the very few suggestions to reduce corruption? There is of course mention about the Lok Ayukta. Why not we bring in legislation for setting up Lok Ayuktas in all the states? There is an urgent necessity considering the growth of corruption at all levels. Mr.Moily is the right man to also know the sort of political revenge taking in the name of fighting corruption in states like TN of which state he is in charge! So, we need Lok Ayuktas, presided over by the Supreme Court judges in all states.
Instead to just suggest a Lok Ayukta for the Central government seems too tame a suggestion. Yes, we have to leave out the PM’s office from its purview for obvious reasons. The Lok Pal act is pending for far too long. The panel seems not have made any comments over the delay.
To do business with the Central government for the common man is even now a pain in the neck. There is too much paper pushing even now, reminding the olden days. What is the progress made in the introduction of e-governance? The very concept is missing from the report, it seems.
As for other reforms like anti-defection law, appointment of election commissioners etc are all too tame and too familiar a topic for a serious reform issues. The question of fighting political corruption is again too serious an issue and one wonder what the impact of this panel’s recommendations would be. It might not amount much. The MP/MLA constituency fund, a Narasimha Rao device to win support from MPs, is again a contentious issue very unlikely to be abolished.
Given the timing of the panel’s recommendations, it looks unlikely, the panel’s suggestions would be acted upon by this government. It is already past its mid-term years. Also, the coalition partners are all not as serious about transparency in governance, as the pious among the few in the government might imagine. Funding elections from the treasury is again a very complicated and sensitive issue, given the current trend among the contestants, they are all now big time spenders, from Punjab to down South, there is big money elections everywhere, money is no consideration, for all parties, big and small, high and the low, from powerful money empire wielders, from TV empire owners to film heroes and heroines to CPM empire builders as well.
Again political defections have taken new dimensions and colours. Here again, Mr.Moily must bring in his own state’s experience in how to cobble a coalition out of nowhere and the state is taken by surprise. Of course, it is another thing, sometimes such new coalitions from nowhere can deliver result to the comman man!
It seems we are living through very exciting times as well as through some difficult times. It requires deeper minds, some serious reflections on the changing nature of politics, changing political values, the very morals and amoral nature of politics of power and ruthlessness means that are deployed with such deadly effect.
So, what little progress we have made by way of improved governance, it seems, these positive changes have all come through various sources, the civil society groups, the NGOs and the public-private partnership concepts, again from Bangalore and Karnataka, in urban governance and in rural panchayat raj governance, we have had so many initiatives.
Out of all these changes we might get a clear conception of what constitutes a corruption-free, transparent, citizen-centric governance and administrative system.