20th century governance style that was with the help of inspectors and rent-seeking bureaucrats will not match the requirements of a knowledge and information economy! Modi and Kejriwal are the youth icons rather than Rahul Gandhi. Arwind and AAP may disappear! But another Kejriwal and AAP would emerge.
There are certain inherent contradictions in the style of functioning of the UPA government. On the one hand while it talks of decentralization and deepening democracy, its track record really doesn’t support that. When it comes to internal democracy, where does the Congress stand? Was there any discussion among the MPs and at AICC or even at CWC with regard to various policies that the government has undertaken? Was there any consensus on various policy decisions with regard to welfare programs implemented by the party? Have they encouraged discussions on serious policy matters affecting large sections of people in the Parliament?
Just for instance, take the case of Aadhar! There was no discussion on Aadhar in the Parliament and it was implemented without proper consultation and approval of the Indian Parliament. Petroleum pricing policy is yet another similar issue that affects lives of people on a day to day basis. De-control of petroleum prices is of course a politically risky decision. It may be needed to control growing deficit. But if it could result in price escalation, especially that of essential food items and impact cost of living and income of people, how that could be an economically sensible step?
Policies, including taxation policies and other initiatives by the UPA have caused severe damage to the credibility of the State. Under the UPA government, the State has been reduced to its lowest level of respect and standards. The UPA’s actions have given an impression that the State as an entity stands for protecting the interests of its Babus and an agency that collects taxes for ensuring the prompt payment of their salaries. And the State functions for ensuring the safety, security and welfare of an army of Babus and Clerks. Why 6th PAY was introduced, if there was such a serious fiscal crisis?
When the crowd shouted, we want Barabas and crucify Jesus, ruling UPA heard the crowd and appointed a commission and passed a law through an ordinance, hurriedly, to protect women and hang the rapists. Were democratic process and parliamentary procedures followed? Environment protection is a serious matter and everyone is concerned about it. But it is no secret that many want to tap into the potential of environment protection! The tag of something like an “environmentalist minister and political leader” is a good tag indeed! But it is not a good idea to use that for one’s own self political promotion and image building. Unfortunately, Congress is going to pay a price for thoughtless and senseless behavior by its leaders who attempted to monopolize environmentalist tag and its political potential, as well as creating a conflict situation in the Western Ghats, just for instance. There are many such regions, instances and occasions of thoughtless self-promotion attempts by some of its leaders costing dearly to the party.
What are the most appropriate methods of protection of women in the country? With better policing, quick acting and responsive police force and better monitoring systems with the help of IT tools, as in other countries, our streets could be made much safer! No attempt has been made so far in that direction. The easy solution was legislation! People in Western Ghats are being projected as anti-environment, while living so closely with environment is what they practice.
UPA pronouncements and its various actions repeatedly seem to have conveyed a message that the State is not there for its citizens but for the Babus and Clerks. In addition, the actions of Parliamentarians, across party lines, when they often ganged-up to approve various demands unanimously, which directly affected them, like for instance hiking their remunerations, is yet another instance. Altogether, it sends a message that the State would push for legislations and measures that enhances the facilities, welfare, safety, benefits and salary and emoluments of those who that serves it, at any cost.
When the government tried hard to protect the Indian diplomat, who underpaid her maid servant, it was in fact sending across a message and reiterating the role of Indian State as a protector of its Babus, rather than that it works for the protection and welfare of its citizens and an entity that upholds justice, human rights and such other democratic values for which people of India as a nation stands for! What is the record of Indian missions abroad in delivering its daily duties and responsibilities to the Indian citizens abroad?
The time has come to seriously think about the functions, role and the mode of service delivery by the State agencies. Also, it is important to ensure that policies are debated, discussed and consensus is formed before they are being implemented.
In this context, a number of questions come up with regard to various actions by the UPA governments, in the past 10 years. From Aadhar to NREGA, Food Security, Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan Reports! There is a common thread that signals, challenging of democratic process and parliamentary practices, everywhere and throughout. Subverting democratic process was the way of UPA government. When it comes to Gadgil report, there are questions and doubts regarding the study methodology. Aadhar and such other cards were made mandatory for receiving State subsidy. But have they discussed it in the Parliament?
A first AD Census by the Roman Empire, which caused hardship to the common people across the empire, has something common with Aadhar initiative by UPA. We need to see how National Advisory Council (NAC) was formed as an advisory body by the UPA-I. How was it functioning? What was its legal status? To whom was it responsible? How was it formed? To whom are their members accountable to?
Aam Admi Party (AAP) phenomenon raises certain critical questions. What is the whole purpose and role of governments, its various agencies and departments? What is the role and responsibility of the police force? Indeed, the decision by the Aam Admi Party to remove red lights and Supreme Court direction with regard to red-lights give some hope to the people, at least this would restore public confidence in ‘the State’ to a certain extent !
Why do we need non-performing diplomatic missions? Why not we outsource service delivery responsibility to private agencies? If the responsibility of Aadhar and personal data can be handled by private agencies, why not consular services, such as issuing of visas and passports! And let there be elected Indian Ambassadors! Indian citizens living in a particular country, together elect an Indian citizen there as an Indian Ambassador or a team of representatives, who could represent India officially for a term!
In the emerging global market, in the new international order, where humanism, peace and sustainable development are at the forefront of national and international priorities, when there is no scope for national pride and questions of Cold War era and Pre-Cold War era priorities of nation states, we need to seriously think about new arrangements and systems. Is there any relevance for Vienna convention regarding diplomatic immunity today?
Arvind Kejrival the man of the moment may be a man in a hurry. He represents the present generation and our times better than anyone! His way of governance is what the aspirational Facebook generation expecting from a government. That is quick action. Governance and government action is expected as quick as a Facebook post appears online, and of course likes and dislikes follow, no doubt. AAP hints an important transition in our democratic system. Mr. Kejriwal could tap the possibilities of IT and media based promotions very effectively. It is part of an international trend, in the technology driven world, political systems have to be prepared to deal with the changing demands and needs of this IT generation. In the era of Information and Communications Technology, people expect quick and fast measures.
Governments world over are challenged. It is the same spirit that swept the Arab world a couple of years back, called Arab Spring, is moving the Indian youth and politics in India today. However, it has taken a definite shape in the political front in India. People and youth expect political success made by AAP translating into the economic and governance front through tangible results. The new generation who are going to vote will not tolerate corruption, inefficiency and red-tapism, as success of their “knowledge” based economic and entrepreneurial ventures that are competing with the global players are their top agenda. 20th century governance style, which was with the help of inspectors and rent-seeking bureaucrats, will not match the requirements in the knowledge and information economy!
Modi and Kejriwal are the youth icons rather than Rahul Gandhi. For the Congress he may be the youth icon. But for many, it seems, Rahul is a representative of dynasty, culture of arrogance and the last century remnant of State high-handedness & inspector Raj system and someone who cries for some relevance, role and importance.
The inherent question that was raised by Arab Spring was that of addressing aspirations of modern day youth and IT driven communities and their expectations. How the State could address modernization and humanization challenges? Indeed it was a call by the youth to humanize the States. Emperors, kings, queens and rulers would be under constant scrutiny in today’s ICT and visual media world, where Face book and Twitter bridges communication gap and act as a tool for fast mobilization. Arvind and AAP may disappear! But another Kejriwal and AAP would emerge. The role of Princes and their States will be redefined! New leaders and parities will emerge and they as well as the old would be under constant scrutiny and monitoring.
Congress undertook the responsibility of modernizing and reforming the governance apparatus and providing a modern administrative system and a smooth and quick resolution of people’s problems. It has failed in that. In 1991, when New Industrial Policy was announced, there was a promise on “One Window System” for entrepreneurs of India. Even after 20 + years nothing much has changed. When in Gujarat, a leader could deliver on the promise of at least some aspects of a modern government, who could really reduce the bad effects of governance by rent seeking bureaucracy considerably, who could speed up the work of Indian entrepreneurs, there is a quest for many across India to test that model of governance. When he talks of abolishing income tax, sales tax and excise and discuss about far reaching reforms in the tax system, people welcome that. This is nothing but reform that modernize and humanize our economy and society. More jobs and opportunities would be created when entrepreneurs can do their work without fear of harassment. Success story of Gujarat is the better governance, a good business climate for entrepreneurs, an atmosphere of satisfaction and happiness that the government clienteles, especially entrepreneurs and people experienced. Together it contributed to better business climate, entrepreneurial satisfaction as well as economic growth and development. However, Congress and Rahul called Gujarat Development Model a failure, for which they are more responsible in a sense.
When employment was guaranteed by altering labor market equilibrium through MNREGA, crucial ‘enterprise security and health’ got affected. Productive job creation in manufacturing sector was challenged. When laborers shifted to MNREGA programs, it has caused the closure of different manufacturing units across India. At the cost of Indian manufacturing, a vote bank oriented program was implemented. Not much discussion happened on how better, without affecting the industry and small scale units and productive agriculture jobs, MNREGA could be implemented!
When they pulled out labor from industry and agriculture, through MNREGA, it caused damage to productive economic activities that could create jobs, exports and welfare of people. When it has affected labor market equilibrium, the beneficiary was Chinese and others with whom we have FTAs. Altogether, UPA measures have killed entrepreneurial system in the Indian rural side, many of the tiny entrepreneurs withdrawn from their manufacturing ventures. Manufacturing entrepreneurs have started shifting to service oriented activities. Entrepreneurship culture in India is being challenged by UPA policies.
The Idea called Congress and its time is getting over due to its failure to respect democracy and understand the aspirations of today’s generation. Rahul could gang up sons and daughters of many of his fathers’ friends as a support group, but not the youth of the country. Finally, initiatives in the last 10 years seem to have its core agenda as vote bank politics based upon cheap populism, as people see things at the end of UPA second term. A responsive, quick acting and humanistic State is what the Youth of today expects!