19 Mar

Making things happen in the government

A fascinating lecture by Mr Anil Swarup (retired IAS, ex-Secretary to Govt. of India & State Govt of UP) at Lt Governer, Puducherry Raj Niwas. His Wikipedia page here and Twitter account here.

The first half is the talk itself, followed by some time of Q&A, followed by a short talk by Mr Ashwani Kumar (Chief Secretary to Government of Pondicherry) and in the end is Lt Governor Kiran Bedi.

Misc notes from this talk

  1. For an idea to fructify in a democracy like ours, it has to politically acceptable, socially desirable, technologically feasible, financially viable, administratively doable and judiciary tenable.
  2. Don’t get agitated about things over which you have no control.
  3. Key thing is to focus and change yourself and rest will just follow.
  4. The digitalisation helps significantly in reducing corruption and adding more transparency.
  5. For solutions to a large number of problems, we do not need to look outside (of the country) but inwards towards various states from the length and breadth of the country.
  6. There was a draconian section clause in the Prevention of Corruption Act 13 (1) d. The clause was: while holding office as a public servant, obtains for any person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest; or (source)

    In simple terms, it means that if anyone makes an undue benefit in a process, the bureaucrat will be held for it whether or not he had any benefit from it. Eventually, Modi Govt. in the centre revoked it and this Gazette notification has a new law. Thus now for bonafide mistake bureaucrats are legally protected.
  7. Culture of views & counterviews in the bureaucracy got deteriorated because of RTI activism. “RTI activist” end up in matching the notes of multiple officers & then try to play them against each other.
  8. Systems like Aadhar should have been respected & promoted but became a major target of “activist brigade”. I personally had a discussion with some of the folks who are heavily against the Aadhar and would even go to the extent of suggesting to shut down the program. While they might make a couple of valid points, but a large part of their points come with the fundamental assumption that rest of society, systems, identification technologies etc are utopian in nature!
  9. E-office system of Govt. needs more improvement. In some case, it’s just another system and a process where one has to dump scanned documents instead of actually digitalising.

Ending this post with a poem from Mr Swarup in Hindi! 🙂

समय रुका नहीं, हम क्यू ठहर गए? अभी तो हम चले भी नहीं, फिर क्यू थक गए?
उठो पथिक, उठो पथिक मत भ्रमित हो धूमिल अंधियारे में, श्रेष्ठ वही जो घिरा नहीं हो षणिक निराशा में|
जागो जगाओ, मन मत बहलाओ, एक मसीहा तुम भी बन जाओ |

10 Apr

Arun Shourie on Govt. defecit

Today was voting day in many states including Haryana (where I stay) and I just casted vote. This was 2nd time I voted and first time when I voted in a Lok Sabha election (last time being for local Municipal Election). 

Sometimes back I came across a very nice lecture by one of great Indian scholar, politician, author and lot more Mr Arun Shourie.  


Some key points of his lecture

  • Political situation has degraded significantly and during the time he gave this lecture. Four of politicians including Haryana’s Ex-CM were in jail for some really serious charges. 
  • We are not using rights of freedom for the re-construction of society. Media is one of key institutions which has degraded so much. 
  • We feel proud to say that we are largest democracy though real bitter truth is that most of that is a complete disarray
  • No party in current time believes in ideology, idea or ideals. It’s plainly politics to get in power. (I personally disagree to this though). 
  • We have got lot’s of media channels and that make us feel very proud of though most just work in same manner. The pattern as well as the news is almost same on each of them. Diversity & plurality is not there. 
  • There’s a very organized structure of paid media in form of “rate cards” where certain rates are provided in well defined pattern for giving better news coverage. 
  • Indian media is very much into giving excessive coverage to insignificant events while there’s almost no interest in critical issues like state of defence, our position w.r.t. China, our internal security etc. 
  • Indian media has gone so much into “manipulation mode” that they use a lot of “So you mean to say….” kind of statement to make things more exciting while loosing the actual value in discussion. 
  • There’s almost no coverage in mainstream Indian media on scientific developments. New which has potential to impact our life significantly is not given any importance at all. 
  • Elite Indian class considers India to be a “Knowledge Super Powereven though without knowledge, no read and opinion on everything. 🙂 
  • There’s too much of balanced journalism where idea is to show two sides and end every debate with yes & no kind of situation. There’s no analysis or use of mind – it’s all just like showing a balanced, unquestionable picture of everything. While in real life there’s only side, only one side is right and not two sides. 
  • (Best advise:) Do not waste time in watching TV when it’s showing useless crap news. Just turn it off and watch TED talk or Authors @ Google videos talk on YouTube. 🙂
  • There’s a false sense that Indian society has become intolerant. Truth is that it’s all about weak state control.
  • Lokpal likely won’t help and all we need is three key changes in judiciary – No adjournments at all, Preponderance of probability and punishment not just in form of fine but also a ban from public life. 
  • Sad truth is that over time India is becoming weaker and weaker due to extremely poor governance. India is moreover governed by bureaucracy and not really political leadership. 


Some personal thoughts… 

I really wish to read his books and infact meet him someday in person. There are lot of things to learn from his experience. As Disinvestment Minister he was one of key persons in VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd) disinvestment during Vajpayee’s Govt. This was time when this precious telecommunications infrastructure got investments from Tata Group which later turned it into Tata Communication after merging assets of VSNL, Tyco Global Network and TeleGlobe. 

Let’s see how will be new govt. 🙂

Disclaimer: I work for an Indian ISP and all comments here are completely personal. In no way it reflects my employers view.