Appoint Nandan Nilekani as Prime Minister’s special adviser!

Call Dr.Devi Shetty of Narayan Hirudalaya to make telemedicine part of the primary health centres!

Dr.Devi Shetty

Dr.Devi Shetty

Revamp the public services in the Indian villages!

Revenue depts. are the age-old institutions. Panchayat raj is with us for so many years.

Rural health services are   in total decline and utterly disappointing.
The average villager’s life is not rosy at all, so many developments, so many socio-economic changes and the poor quality if living in the villages is one major reason for the present exodus from the villages to the urban centres.  The result?

Villages give the look of ghost  haunts.

Electricity, drinking water supply ,sanitation, medical services, take any other imaginable services, they are becoming prey to large scale neglect, large scale corruption and so many social evils have now taken hold thanks to the populist government.

There is a well-established network of liquor sales outlets in TN, may be the same is true in other states, there are so many freebies, free payments for educated unemployed youth and also for old age  women and we are not sure about the status of older men!

But what is common is the poor quality of these services. The basic services of drinking water and electricity supply are yet to be solved satisfactorily.

Sanitation looks like a mirage.  Every village is an open latrine! Garbage would welcome you at the entrance to every village.

This is the scenario in the Southern states. One can imagine the status of villages in the Northern states.

There is the violence-ridden Naxalite areas.
India is rural hinterland is no paradise.

It is near hell!
So ,what to do?

There is a disconnect between New Delhi and the Indian villages!
Yes, the mood in the country today is one of disarray! 60 years of freedom was celebrated and there was the usual homilies. But then, there is also the feeling that somehow there is a gross inadequacy at the level of leadership. At the top levels, it is more glaring! Our high Constitutional functionaries seem to be  cocooned themselves into some cosy nooks and corners. They are neither visible nor seen nor heard!

They show a marked reluctance to travel inside India, to reach out to the interiors and to the remote and silent majority who live in inaccessible regions and live a hard life and yet we don’t seem to have our President and Vice-President or the Prime Minister taking time off to go out and reach out to these marginalised sections of Indian society.

Are we feeing the open society’s  full rigour and the vigour?
Not very sure!

So, we seem to be a very complacent to very helpless society for having to have such leaders, elected or unelected but not genuinely chosen through an open process of elections, the hustle and bustle of contests etc.
Anyway, that is why we are not very mature society, there is still coarser language when it comes to political dialogue, whether it is political ideology articulation or articulation of a vision or a larger picture, the average citizen is left wondering what the respective parties are working for?

The Congress has a coherent ideology, vision? Or, the BJP? No, not at all, somehow L.K.Advani wants to become the Prime Minister! The Left are the worst offenders. They have the cheek to invite some 35 international fraternal parties and yet they are not clear or honest enough to admit they have no way except to align with the grand old party!

The regional parties are the latest cause for so many worries. The Sivasena, the  Dravidian parties. What they still stand for? No one knows.
As for the economic development, the PM and his talkative FM, know only one economics, the rate of growth economics.

They don’t have the nerve to go out and see for themselves the growing disparities, rural-urban divide, the rich-poor divide and thy farmers suicides. What a shame they still have the gumption to talk and hold forth on the wisdom of pursuing the rate of growth alone, as if they want to hold the court for the sakes of  the Ambanis and other corporates.
Now, we have some reason to celebrate.

There is this unnoticed side of what has happened in the Indian Information Technology(IT) sector.

This sector has transformed the country’s image and standing in the world. India is a software superpower. All this had happened without the government knowing a thing about what is this IT industry!

Thanks to the IT revolution, there is now a silent revolution in the rural India, the thousands and lakhs of young and educated and motivated men and women, the first time degree holders have entered this sector and now thanks to the high earnings, these earnings are reaching the remote village homes, there is a new sense of purpose, a new sense of confidence and a new height of confidence, every other Bangalore boy or girl had now traveled to the US shores and back and India is truly a globalised nation thanks to these millions of new generation Indians.

The last thought on the minds of these youngster is a job at the government department, bureaucratic job is now shunned and there is a great deal of freedom and also money in the hands of this new generation. One wonders whether the New Delhi mandarins know this new generation at all!

New Delhi knows well Mumbai business. New Delhi is disconnected with Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India!

Now, we have to invite these doers, Nandan Nilekani, Narayanamurthy and Azim Premji to New Delhi and the Cabinet must seek their counsel and come out with something totally new to solve the myriad problems that defy solution to the bureaucratic redtape!

There is a lot of things the country can learn and benefit from taking their advice and help.

Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys for instance had been associated with the Bangalore’s urban infrastructure management and what he did on that score is still admired by the local residents as well as in world capitals, by the World Bank and other urban managers.

Nilekani is also very concerned with generating new ideas for giving India new ways of doing its business in many areas like delivery of public services.

Nilekani has talked of Indian agriculture and it is worth listening to him. It can be made to impact agri sector directly through supply chain and the warehousing and these can be made IT driven for one thing. One direct benefit would be minimise the losses, owing to lack of information and the whereabouts of food grains are minimised.

The commodity exchanges have done wonders in taking adequate support from the information technology sector. This ,despite the fact that commodity exchanges were non-existent a decade ago. They restarted in 2000 and in a matter of six or seven years we have two of the best commodity exchanges(the MCX and the NCDEX) in the world. Which is a great achievement.

He says the development is made possible because the technology had been deployed to achieve efficiency.

Land records. Now, an electronic land records registry can be created and in some states there is progress, Chandrababu Naidu in AP comes to mind as the pioneer Chief Minister in this regard. An up-to-date land record registry can lessen the burden on the farmers who now undergo untold miseries through various bureaucratic  mazes of redtape.

The most interesting thing Nilekani says is about raising the quality of public services in the rural areas. Yes, he says decisions are taken in Delhi, for the rural areas without proper decentralisation of powers and functions and resources we operate and this lack of adequate information creates the current mess. There is the financial leakage, corruption and this can be rectified if IT tools are deployed.

He is about to release a book, Imagining Indiam, due for release in November,2008 and he says his book will address some of the public services issues would be discussed in more detail.

How to modernise India through IT tools?
Take medical care. Dr.Devi Shetty of Narayan Hirudalaya, in Bangalore, on the outskirts had done much single handedly and the many schemes and the many lessons learnt can be  duplicated and deployed on an all Indian  scale.

Even in some limited areas like deploying the telemedicine tools in remote villages, the experience and the expertise of Narayan Hirudalaya  can be drawn for the larger benefit of the country in all parts of India.
The narration of the priority issues and the public services in the remote areas would be quite boring to the average, hurriedcx readers.

But the point here is that these myriad issues and large number of public services and services delivery modes can be standardised and the IT tools come in handy.

Even in generating employment, the BPO sector opens up many new opportunities to create jobs right in the villages.

For all these things to materialise and to get going what the Central government must do is to constitute a high power committee with leaders and achievers like Nandan Nilekani and Dr.Devi Shetty so that the committee can come out with practical solutions to a large number of issues that cry for attention.

Not to speak of issues like citizen rights and citizen freedoms. The right to information under the right to information act, the right for filing cases before the Supreme Court by ordinary citizens could all be made possible for a truly liberal and open society.

This is the critical job and the IT had done much to solve the public services in urban areas like Bangalore, Hyderabad and elsewhere in a range of public services, from paying ones taxes to various urban services  bills. The same experience can be used to take these services to the rural, panchayat level problems.

He is advocating a single social security number very much as in the USA and also a National Pension System.

To deploy the full potential of the IT tools for solving the public services delivery to all the citizens is the number one priority.
For this the Prime Minister must constitute a committee of the IT leaders and ask for their guidance.

That would be a great day for Indian villages and also solve their long standing issues of disconnect between New Delhi and the rural hinterland.

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