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still remains on paper and in practice and even in the Right to Information Act, 2005; the secrecy act has not been repealed.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/

From ‘Rags’ to ‘To be Riches’!

It is not exactly a rags to riches story. Yet, I believe it is one in the making. I am sure we all have heard about people from different and not very affluent backgrounds striking Gold in their life. But have you ever had the pleasure of witnessing and listening to one such feat from the person himself/herself?

Monday night was one such night where I happened to be sitting right in front of a man who is all set to become what I can call a true inspiration for so many out there, in the near future. Without going into the details of who this guy is and what he is up to these days, because that, you all will in any case come to know in a couple of years time, let me take the liberty of introducing him as an individual and as a person.Inspiration

Apart from the achievements that he has managed to adorn himself with, in this short interval of life that he has led, what was inspiring was the manner in which he continues to lead his life. With utter simplicity, he keeps on doing what he used to do, say a couple of years back when he was seemingly no-one.

He says, “Not much has changed for me on a personal front. I am the same person as I used to be. I respect my parents in the same way, irrespective of what they could provide to me in terms of materialistic possessions of life. I care for my brother and sister in the same manner as I used to do earlier.

Only that people now respect me and my family for what I have been able to accomplish which they all call achievement. To me, I feel happy, at the same time, it seems a bit funny as to how the perceptions and opinions of the society including those of the extended family change on seeing someone rising up the ladder, which makes me believe that if you are not up there then the society will make sure to pull you down to the levels which at times the entire humanity would be ashamed of.

I guess, I owe my success to the society as well. If it was not there, then may be I wouldn’t have had the same kind of motivation. If the society had not ridiculed me at every other stage of my life I wouldn’t have been able to do what I could. More than a motivation, it became a necessity. 

Those were real desperate times. My father didn’t use to have enough money even to feed us well, what to talk of sending me away for education. But I was a good student in my school. I knew that if I had to come out of this vicious circle of poverty then I needed to study and work hard. 

Though, I had that motivation, I didn’t have the resources. If it were not for a couple of friends that I had back then, I wouldn’t be what I am today. It is said that God always finds a way to help the needy. Who can vouch for this better than myself! It was indeed a divine intervention which gave a 180 degree turn to my career and my life. 

And today, I am here talking to you about all the stuff that I have been through in my lifetime :). Here I am in a position where I can support my family and fulfill their wishes. Where I can give them all the things that I couldn’t get when I was a kid. Where I can afford to pursue my hobbies and fulfill what I always thought of doing as a child and am all set to go on a cycle tour of India. Would you like to join? ;)”

There I was talking to this enthusiastic and confident lad who’s personality has changed leaps and bounds from the days when he used to sit outside a small hut in a not so affluent village in India.cartoon_boy_25674847_std-222x300 

And by the way, the cycle tour proposition is too enticing an offer to resist. After all, we share the same chulli (curiosity) and which is to travel and explore things that are unknown to us and get a chance to experience life in a way as I have never done before. Wanna join? 😉

Source for Image: http://digcms.com/2010/09/15/creative-shadow-vector-designs-inspiration/,http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/01/29/krishna-will-hear-your-prayer/