Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Inefficient system

Over the years, governance has not risen beyond routine in our part of the world. What is hard to miss is the sheer adhocism about government work. What is more, poor governance neither becomes an issue nor provokes any protest even though it might indirectly stoke popular unrest. This in turn has contributed to the growth of a polity that finds in this situation an escape from accountability. No state government feels itself obliged to perform. And corruption which is so rife doesn’t get anything beyond a lip service. As a result it has become a way of life. Corrupt have been emboldened, they can subvert the system at their will. Widespread corruption is sickening, but frightening is unabashed behavior of the corrupt. We regularly read reports of sinking of stretch of roads/highways, damaged bridges, grid stations malfunctioning, etc. But how many times, we get to hear about corrupt engineers losing their job, and contractors put behind bars? Today there is no accountability. Accountability is broadly defined as an obligation of those holding power to take responsibility for their behaviour and actions. The ultimate objective is to improve the service delivery to the citizens who have given them their mandate. While accepting the fact that accountability lies on both sides – citizens as well as governance institutions – the accountability of the service delivery institution is of primary importance. The critical factor for successful implementation of social accountability tools depends on the relationship and trust between the citizen and the institution. And in the absence of right to information (through which they can monitor performance and demand accountability for services they receive), accountability remains a dream. The mere conferment of right to information like laws in the state, without changing the prevalent style of governance, makes the entire process futile. An accountable state is required to eradicate corruption. Conscious citizens can act as the best check on the corrupt practices of the government, but that is possible only if the state provides its citizens with a strong information system. When the Government denies information to its people, it can derail the accountability system as common people will remain unaware about the problems related to good governance. Clearly in our system of governance there are many areas that need immediate overhauling, and where no minor changes can make any difference. The reason that we face problems in many of our routine services is that our systems work on quick fixes and stop gap arrangements. This has given rise to multiple problems. A cursory look at our governance will tell us that from the formation of policies to the execution of detail on ground there is a lack of coordination, and also an absence of continuity. We have seen how many development initiatives that could have benefitted people, could not be completed because they were not followed to finish. Similarly there are many social welfare schemes that were rolled out with great expectations. But after some time we could see that the benefits are not reaching the target groups. The reason is that the concerned departments do not take up the matters related to the execution of these schemes in a professional manner. Now take a department like education. How many times we have heard of radical changes being done in the functioning of the department? But finally things remain the same and we move on. Same is the fate of all other sectors of governance. The question that arises is why we can’t deliver in an efficient way. Why things are left half way. Why policies don’t turn into practices. And why there is no system of evaluating this absence of efficiency. In the developed part of the world things are laid out to the last detail, and then followed till end. Why can’t it be done here? One of the reasons that can be assigned to this failure is the rot of acting tentative. We take decisions without doing sufficient thinking. We involve human resource on ad hoc basis. We pass buck when it comes to responsibility. All this cumulatively leads to the failure of policies, schemes and the apparatus of governance. Unless there is a radical shift from this attitude, any expectations of change are misplaced.