Accountability and Transparency in India: Perspective of an “Aam Aadmi”

People have given their mandate and it is believed that the new government will be and can be the one stop solution for all our problems. Whether it would be or not is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure that there is hope amongst the population.

And one such hope that makes me excited on a personal level is that people who are given the power and the responsibility to execute scheme of things in their respective domains will be held accountable for what they are doing at the same time, the decisions, impacts on the population and the basis of the same will be made known to the public.

I believe this will not only empower the population to express their opinions and take part in the decision making process but also it will create an atmosphere of transparency which would enable the population to develop a resonance with the entire concept of a welfare state.

The question though is, how on earth this can be made possible. People have got used to a way of living that encourages corruption and jugaad, be it getting a driving license or a passport made or be it availing any other service from the bureaucrats and other government officials.acc2

The secrecy act, that was implemented at the time when British ruled India still remains on paper and in practice and even in the Right to Information Act, 2005; the secrecy act has not been repealed. But is the government the only entity to be blamed in this case?

Well, not really! It is the people who need to contribute on a personal level. Imagine a scenario, where everyone refuses to bribe a government official for the service he/she is supposed to provide and consider it as their right to be correctly informed, then would the government official have any other alternative than to serve you in his/her best possible ability.

The point that I am trying to make here is that we should try to be the change that we wish to see in others. We cannot expect others to do their part and continue to loiter around without any sense of responsibility towards our nation and her citizens.

The idea is to adopt a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach wherein both people and the government they elect, along with the government commit to this culture of transparency and accountability.

The question that arises here is where should we start from? Some would say that education is the key when it comes to developing the all-important morals and ethics in an individual and the schools need to be structured in such a manner so that utmost importance is given to these wonderful aspects not only in theory but also in practice.

It is no hidden truth, that children learn the most by observing others in their vicinity, be it the teachers in schools or parents at home, or their peers with whom they play and have fun. All stakeholders in this case need to do their bit and contribute to the development of a child who thinks and does things keeping in mind the value system and the ethics, dharma that India has been known for since our Ancient times.

We just need to rediscover that dharma and play the game by the rules that dharma seems to support. A good initiative in this regard could be setting up gurukul like schools where in the students can be made to learn the importance of living an upright life. The teachers that need to be recruited for such schools need to be people who are genuinely interested in improving the state of affairs in this sector and have lived accordingly setting an example for all to emulate.

Though, I would want the infrastructure to be of the highest quality, yet even if to start with; the infrastructure doesn’t match the likes of international schools, it can do without if these values and morals are instilled in the lives of the students.

When these kids go on to become government officials, I am pretty sure that things are going to improve. They would frame and implement policies which would have an in-built transparent character and in turn would take responsibility for their actions. The ideal case would be when they would not need anyone to monitor them from above for doing what they are already supposed to do.

In this ideal scenario, there would not be any need for a grievance redressal committee; there would not be any need for multiple bodies on which the government exchequer is wasted and this money in turn would be utilized for implementing various development policies, be it in agriculture, healthcare, employment sectors etc.

But we aren’t living in an ideal world, so to say, and we need to discover solutions to all our woes keeping in mind that the ideal will take some time and enormous effort to implement. We can start by implementing the ideal at the same time we need to provide support to this ideal initiative.

The support could come from the Civil Society, known for keeping the government on its toes for implementing the various schemes in an efficient and effective manner at the same time making sure that the government is held accountable for the responsibilities that it has undertaken.

The Civil society in turn needs to be supported by the big shots in the politics and corporate world. On part of political world, the legislature should leave no stone unturned when it comes to enacting laws which would prove to be a blessing in disguise for the common folk who will feel empowered by the state to fight for his/her rights, and there shouldn’t be any sort of delay in enacting the same.

The laws should be such which enables, encourages and makes it easy for people to do good rather than the bad. On part of the corporate world, the corporates need to understand that they have a social responsibility towards the various stakeholders whose lives they seem to effect and that they need to do business but in a responsible manner.

A good initiative in this regard is the 2% initiative, wherein the corporates would be made to invest 2% of their profits in CSR activities, thereby ensuring that the corporates contribute in this process of nation building.

Transparency should become a norm and secrecy an exception. Yes, I agree that certain truths about our national security needs to be hidden in order to make sure that they are not misused, but the rest on which a number of times politics is played and people are kept unaware just because the big shots will get a chance to exploit them in some way or the other needs to be made public.

A culture of information sharing on a voluntary basis needs to be instilled in the minds of the government officials for which adequate training should be provided in institutes like LBSNAA.

Every government department who is in the business of providing services to the citizens needs to have a charter in place where in a timeline is mentioned with regards to how many days it will take for a particular official to implement his/her duty and a clause mentioning what and how one could redress one’s grievance in case the official doesn’t fulfil his/her duty.

If at all such a situation arises, where an individual needs to appeal for redressal, it should be made sure that the redressal process is fast and cost-effective. Special courts and tribunals can be instituted for different departments in order to handle the departmental mess.

This would not only reduce the burden on the likes of High courts and the Supreme Court, but would ensure that justice is provided to the people in a cost-effective and timely manner, because justice delayed is as it is justice denied.

The right to information Act is an excellent initiative in this regard when it comes to moving towards a culture of transparency. But the lacuna in its implementation needs to be filled and it should be ensured that the very ideology behind implementing the same is pursued.

Decentralization is another aspect where in if people are given the responsibility of deciding what is good for them on a community level, will in itself lead to transparent functioning. Though there will certainly be a need to put in place a fully functional social audit system, monitored by the likes of SDM and DM in the respective districts.acc1

This would not only enable people to take control of their lives but would also ensure that they understand the difficulty and the various challenges that are faced by the government when it comes to implementing various schemes. This would in turn enable them to develop an attitude of bonhomie towards the government and a collective approach towards problem solving.

Coming to the various welfare schemes that are being implemented, per se on a policy level one can go on debating on the utility of the same; but on an implementation level certainly improvements can be made.

Some of the factors that have marred the various schemes from effective implementation are hoarding, corruption etc. One reason that one can associate with this is lack of transparency and information sharing.

People are not aware of what they are entitled for, whom they can approach and talk to in case they don’t get what they are entitled for. Rights based awareness generation is the need of the hour. Various NGOs, Anganwadi centres and the likes of SHGs can be made aware of the various schemes that are being implemented by both central and state government and they in turn can disseminate this information to the people at large.

Till the time rural electrification and internet connection is taking place, it should be ensured that information display boards are put up at panchayat level or block level in the local language wherein people can come and read about the various entitlements and then demand the same from the government officials in charge of disseminating their duties.

In case the government official goes back on fulfilling his/her commitments, the social audit body should be mandated to look into the same and recommend disciplinary proceedings against the official which should then be taken up on a high priority basis by the state government. Same applies to any other sector be it healthcare or be it agriculture.

The need of the hour is to have:

An attitudinal change on part of the government officials;

Rise in awareness quotient on part of the people;

Accountability mechanism for quick and cost-effective redressal on part of the state and central machinery;

Social auditing at community level;

A platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing;

Education of the highest quality on the lines of gurukul;

Tribunals in various departments for reducing the work load on the HC and SC;

Reforms in criminal and civil codes and the justice system with concepts such as Amicus Curie and Alternate Dispute Redressal given importance;

A will/desire on part of our government to improve the existing scenario;

Responsible voting behaviour on part of the people;

Being the change one wishes to see in others on part of the population;

Participation in decision making on part of the people at local level through decentralization;

Skill set development at community level to be able to work along with the government in a collective manner;

I am sure, if the above is implemented it will lead to an atmosphere and culture of transparency. People and government will start working towards nation building in a collective manner and the day will not be too far when the ideal would become a reality.

Sound monitoring mechanisms would encourage righteous behaviour. A strong accountability system would restore faith of people in the government and a better and a brighter future for India.

That is what one should not only hope for but should also contribute to the same at one’s own level. Isn’t it?

Source for Image: http://beautifultrouble.org/principle/take-leadership-from-the-most-impacted/, http://www.commirza.com/accountability-up-and-down-is-gold/

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The Modi Wave!

It is not often that you get a chance to have a conversation on politics, considering that you are sharing space with 4 other persons, all eagerly marching towards the Dhikaala gate of the Jim Corbett National Park.

What amazes me the most is that instead of me writing about my experience of the entire jungle safari, here I feel compelled more to share the wonderful thoughts of a learned gentleman (G) who happened to sit next to me in this beautiful journey on a topic which has become the most popular in recent times.

You are coming here for the first time?”—-G

Yes, uncle, how about you?”—-Me

No, I have come here before. You see I have plenty of time on my hands having retired from my job, unlike you youngsters who are busy with their own lives and need to take out time from your busy schedules.”—-G

That’s true, uncle.”—-Me

I don’t know whether it is the right time to discuss NaMo, as you youngsters like to refer to the man, still would like to know your opinion on the wave that everyone seems to be talking about.”—-GModi

Uncle, I feel today’s India certainly need a change in the way the things are being run by the state machinery and hence a need for better government. If NaMo does what he says then surely things will head in the right direction for a country like ours.”—-Me

So, you support Modi?”—-G

More than the person, I support the vision, though I have certain reservations about whether he would be able to do so in a country as big as ours.”—-Me

I have heard this many times before from youngsters as yourself and every time I feel like narrating a story which I happened to be a part of.”—G

I am all ears Uncle :).”—-Me

Well, a couple of months back, I went to Gujarat to attend my niece’s wedding. On one of the days that I happened to be there, I thought of taking a stroll down at 11’o clock in the night, not very far from a highway, where the house in which the wedding was taking place, was situated. I have a bad habit of losing my way as I tend to venture out far away and on this occasion it was no different. I had left my cell phone in the house, so had no one to call to. I decided that the only way left was to seek help, as I vaguely remembered the address.

As I was trying to figure out whom to talk to for help, I saw two teenage girls discussing their examination paper on a bus stop, with one sitting on a scooty and the other waiting for her bus. As I approached the girls, one of them asked, “What happened uncle? You are looking lost!”. After informing them about my situation, the girls informed me of the bus number that would take me straight to the place I was looking for.

As I sat on one of the benches on the bus stop, the girl with the scooty noticed my anxious face and came up to me,”Uncle, if you give me 5 minutes, I will drop you myself after solving this numerical.” to which I happily agreed and she did drop me to my place afterwards.

Now, of all places that you have visited in India, can you name a few where you would find the girls feeling safe while venturing out after 10 pm at night and talking to a stranger? I am sure you wouldn’t be able to name many. If we were to go by stats, Gujarat has a very low crime rate. Even if one were to question the very credibility of the crime numbers; there is no denying the fact that crime has not taken its toll in Gujarat.

If we were to talk of the water availability, it is available in remotest of areas in Gujarat. The roads are a beauty. On the industrial and infrastructural front, Gujarat has made tremendous progress. I have even heard that in order to improve the governance in the state, Modi routinely talks to the big shots in the bureaucracy and ensures that they remain grounded and on their toes in their service to mankind.

The man certainly has a vision but more than the vision he has the knack of fulfilling the same. If he can do it in one state, I strongly believe that he can do so in other states as well, if given a chance. Yes, it is my belief and a desire but it is founded on strong fundamentals.”—-G

And then the gentleman went on to describe the characteristics of the extremely generous Gujaratis whom he happened to meet on his visit along with the delicacies that formed very much a part of his visit to Gujarat.NaMo

I was pleasantly surprised to see the kind of effect this whole Modi Wave has generated. The people are hopeful. As we witness the great turnaround in the fortunes of the political parties, the focus is surely going to shift on what Mr. Modi will do in the coming 6-7 months after becoming the PM of our country.

They say, where there is a will, there is a way and where there is a way, things surely come to a fitting conclusion. All in all, after seeing the results that are coming our way, the only thing that I can hope for is for Mr. Modi to perform and that will determine whether India has truly voted for the betterment of our country.

Source for Image: http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-special-now-namo-on-your-dinner-table/20140102.htm, http://www.moneycontrol.com/video/politics/bjp-names-narendra-modi-its-pm-candidate-for-2014-polls_949487.html

The First Time!

There is always a first time for everything, whether it be your first friend that you make in your life or whether it be your first day at school. For the past couple of days, I have come across numerous posts on facebook where my friends and batch mates have gone on to display their photos showing a mark of ink on their fingers and feeling proud that they have voted for the first time in their lives.

It is great to see such an unprecedented election fever catching up among the youth who are keen on seeing a change in the way our country is being governed. They wish to see principles of good governance being brought into practice in every government department, whether it be applying for a passport or getting a driving license made.first time

Where on one hand, I could see several posts claiming victory on having voted in this election, on the other hand, I could see several posts with people blaming the government for not being able to provide them with their voter card on time due to which they could not cast their vote.

Some were upset because they didn’t become a part and parcel of the waves that have been in focus for the past couple of months, whether it be NaMo or RaGa, not to forget that AAP has its own following among the lower-middle class who feel cheated by the system and who feel that corruption is the root cause of maladministration and a one stop solution to all their problems.

The credit for NaMo wave in turn can very much be attributed to the persona of a man, who is being talked of in really high terms. He is being predicted as a saviour for all communities and a reincarnation of Lord Krishna.

AAP has been running high on the responsible shoulders of Arvind Kejriwal, an IITian turned bureaucrat turned politician who is believed to have lived in an extremely upright and honest manner and is believed to be another reincarnation who can get rid of this corruption menace.

RaGa wave seems to be the weakest right now, though it might be an illusion considering that there has been a section in our society who can truly be called the loyalists who never seem to forget their duty of remaining true to the party.

Somehow, the very aspect of pitching a person in divine terms seems to be disturbing to the core as we Indians have got into a habit of depending on our destinies more than having faith and ability in ourselves.

Somehow, I don’t like the idea of people getting influenced by one-man-ideology whether it be NaMo, RaGa or AK. One must always remember that though the individual credentials might be really good, the tickets that are offered by the respective parties are based on political compulsions of being able to win the seat in that particular constituency, which might lead to tickets being given to people with criminal antecedents.politics

What we want in our Legislature, are people with extremely upright credentials and people who can live up to the expectation of the people in our country. So, while voting, whether it be NaMo, or RaGa or AK you got to remember that individual credentials matter more than the persona of any particular leader.

Though it is great to see people coming out in numbers and voting, what worries me is the fact whether they are casting their vote responsibly and on the basis of the credentials of the people who have been given tickets by different political parties.

Source for Image: http://www.stereogum.com/1318152/dre-skull-first-time-feat-popcaan-purity-rings-megan-james/mp3s/, http://makerculture.pbworks.com/w/page/20123148/Episode%205%20-%20%20Politics%20-%20Final%20Copy

The Consequence!

Those who love to watch cricket and those who are forced to watch it just because their boy friends or husbands suddenly seem to become more interested in the other love of their lives, might have noticed a tagline: “one over will change the World“.

Though I can go on talking about the game and the master himself, yet I would not do the same, instead would want to take you to another aspect of the tag line and would want to make little modification in the same: “one incident/decision will change your World“. 

There can be many broad interpretations of the tagline that I have used above. It could be related to the much awaited and much talked about topics in recent times, politics, with slogans ranging from NaMo to RaGa coming to the fore. And yes, one vote does make a difference and one election outcome does make governments topple (so go out there and cast our vote for it is not only your right but also your duty to do so).decision

It could be related to the economy of the World and in turn India, which due to globalization and other similar forces has become increasingly linked to the decisions being made in the international arena. One decision of the federal bank in US of withdrawing the stimulus that it has been offering for a considerable period of time, just after the financial crisis, is surely going to have a significant impact on the economy of not only India but also all the developing countries.

It could be manifested in international relations among countries fighting over different natural resources present Worldwide. If US and in turn NATO were to carry on with the sanctions on Russia over the issue of Ukraine, it needs no Einstein to declare that we might once again be treading the path to the much talked about event in the history of international politics, the cold war. Sometimes, I wonder whether the end of the cold war was just a hoax to make sure that the cold war (which in itself was not a direct confrontation and in a sense secret) could be carried in a pseudo-secretive manner.

It could be manifested in the society that we all, willingly or unwillingly happen to be a part of. One decision, such as getting married out of your caste or with a person belonging to a different religion, could bring doomsday to the lives of the couples, who dare to go beyond the caste system and the Khap panchayat which seems to function in a different world altogether, and which seems not to be bound by our own Constitution and the laws thereof, which are supposed to provide security to every citizen of this country.

At personal level, it could also be related to the various decisions that you take at various points in your life, ranging from the choice between Biology and Mathematics after high school to what career path you ultimately decide to pursue; from going for a love or arranged marriage to making a choice between living in India or abroad and so on.

If we were to tread deeper into our own nano-World and were to explore at the micro level, one decision made during that night when say you were partying at your friend’s place and decided to go for a drive when you were all drunk and happened to have met an accident could indeed bring about a huge change in your life. I guess that’s why our forefathers were so keen on voicing the precautionary principle. 

Whatever it might be, every decision and every little step that we take in our lives has a consequence, which makes me wonder whether we are just a cog in this machine of the consequential life that we all happen to be living.life race

Sounds depressive to the core? Yes, but what I intend to convey here is not some silly depressive thought but a possibility that we can all bend this consequential life in our favour by ensuring that whatever decisions we make in our lives are first of all based on rationality and secondly even if the rationality happens to go wrong, then too we must always try to maintain a positive mindset which will help us all in handling those unwanted situations and circumstances that we all happen to find ourselves in at some point of time in our respective lives.

Thus, it is absolutely essential for all of us to take the consequences (both positive and more so negative) in our respective strides and keep evolving and learning from the same, during this journey of life. This reminds me of the famous song:

किसी  की  मुस्कुराहटों पे हो निसार किसी का दर्द मिल सके तो ले उधार, 
किसी के वास्ते हो तेरे दिल में प्यार, जीना इसी का नाम है.

Source for Image: http://www.rkdf.ac.in/Result.php, http://blog.theravid.com/physical-therapy-2/physical-therapy-marketing-consumer-decision-making-process/