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"India is an example of private success and public failure"

Oct 23, 2012

Gurcharan Das, a leading author and columnist, tells OneWorld South Asia's Ashok Kumar that economic reforms could deal with the menace of corruption because it takes away discretion from a babu or a politician and gives it to the market.

Gurcharan Das

India is an example of private success and public failure. We need to reform our institutions. A strong liberal state has three pillars. The first pillar is the government, which acts quickly and decisively when needed.

The secondly one is the action, which is bound by the rule of law. The third pillar is accountability; the action should be accountable to people. Unfortunately, the rule of law has weakened, which in turn has also created accountability issues.

A strong state does not tolerate corruption. Here, if someone is caught indulging in corrupt practices, nothing happens to him. There are so many government officials who hardly work.  We have forgotten that the government is created to do work. It takes eight years to build roads, when it should just take three. It takes 10 years to get justice from the courts, when it could be done in two or three years.  

Look at how Air India is bleeding the country. Only one fourth of the seats are occupied in the airline. You cannot run it like this. What is the benefit of running Air India to the nation?  Every day it flies abroad, it spoils the image of your country and has become a laughing stock. The real reform is to take stock of the companies that are bleeding you.

In education, the achievement of the government is that 95-96% of the children are in school. But in the same government primary schools, one out of four teaches is absent. And, one out of four teachers who is present is not teaching. How many teachers think of inspiring the next generation? So, that is a failure.

Look at the primary health centres.   Forty per cent of the doctors are absent. One-third of the nurses are absent. Sixty per cent of the medicines are stolen from the primary health centres. The lesson we have learned is we have to earn to succeed.

There is no accountability in government offices because you get an increment irrespective of whether you work hard or not.  Surprisingly, four out of five bureaucrats are rated very good or outstanding, which means they get a very high rating, something which suggests an error somewhere. Similarly, when you work for the government, there is no reward for working hard which sends a wrong signal.

There is more accountability in the private sector. If you don’t do your job, you lose your job. Look at the Uttam Manohar Nakate case. Nakate used to work for Bharat Forge Company of Pune. He used to sleep during his duty hours while the forging was in process. After serving many notices to him, the firm sacked him after six months.  But he went to court and got the firm’s decision reversed. Asking the firm to take him back, the court said you cannot sack a person for falling asleep on the job.  After 17 years, the Supreme Court ruled that if a man falls asleep on his job habitually, he can be sacked. Now, the point is, it should not have taken 17 years.

We have fine laws, but the execution or implementation of laws is the problem. Also, we have too many laws. We don’t need so many laws. If you don’t obey the law and nothing happens to you, it sends the signal that the law is not sacrosanct. There is no place for corruption in a strong state, but unfortunately it’s not so in India.

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Source : Governance Knowledge Centre

(Gurcharan Das is a leading author and commentator. His major works include The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma and India Unbound. The latter has been published in 17 languages and filmed by BBC. He writes regular columns for several newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs and Newsweek. He is a former CEO of Procter and Gamble India. His recent book India Grows at Night: A Liberal Case for a Strong  State  was published in September 2012.)

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