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How do you marry change with the information and ensure that they come together becomes a citizen’s tool for ensuring transparency as well better governance?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The only solution (of crime) is the detection, arrest and prosecution of criminals — the basis of criminal jurisprudence. The same analogy should apply to political corruption, administrative corruption, and crony capitalism. We must recognise that the biggest threat to our city is corruption, the coming together of that unholy alliance. But the challenges are a little new today. If we identify the main problem as corruption, we will respond with the necessary solutions. I think in with each day passing, corruption will be the issue not just in Bangalore but across the country.

My way of being active is not to have 20,000 people in a rally. I am a politician of ideas, and I call a spade a spade. I don’t do anything but politics – that of ideas, of getting people behind the cause. I have no delusions of being a mass leader. I have focused on the fact that it is corruption that is holding the city back. The people are beginning to understand as much.

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The roots of the problem in Bengaluru are since a fairly long time. Do you think a different kind of agenda-setting can be being done to change the problem?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

There are many well-meaning citizens in this city. But good intentions are not the same as standing up for what is right. There is no point saying I will facilitate building of roads, when the underlying model encourages corruption.

 

Making the right investments, taking the right decisions to change the city for good, and ensuring that future generations of Bangaloreans live better – that is what they did not do. Had they done these kind of reforms at that time, things would have changed. I tried it a bit when I was member of another such forum – ABIDe. We had suggested deep reforms, talked of structural changes.

 

People don’t want sugar-coated promises anymore. Therein, the Lokpal/ Janlokpal seek deep structural reform. It is a pushback by the people saying we cannot tolerate this anymore. One can argue it creates another bureaucracy, but it is also fundamentally a demand for change.

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What should the government do revive and restore the investor confidence in our economy?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Strengthen independent regulatory institutions- This is an important signalling requirement for investors that seek to invest in projects that will have life spans across various government terms. Investors want policy making and regulatory action that is consistent and sound across infrastructure, technology and 'Make in India' - as we seek out FDI, FDI looks for clean, clear regulation and policy making. Therefore, rebuilding and/or enhancing the capacities of our independent regulators will be a powerful beacon to investors. To get global investors, we need regulatory institutions that meet global standards. This requires deep changes, ranging from better oversight and financial independence, to clarity of roles and separation from administrative ministries.

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The 7th CPC has created a lot of discontent in the Defence Forces personnel and veterans. In your view, has the 7th CPC recommendations caused a decline in the status of Defence Forces?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The angst of the armed forces, which is slowly converting into anger, goes back to 5th Pay Commission.

It is a reality that over the last 15-20 years the armed forces have slowly declined in stature and relative importance and positioning vis-à-vis the IAS and IPS. Most of the angst of the military – serving and veterans – has to do with this. There is absolutely no doubt that IAS and IPS because of their proximity to the political powers have over successive pay commissions given themselves sweeter and sweeter deals and left the military out in the cold. This is indisputable because the military has never been represented in these pay commissions.

The 7th CPC has some very obvious anomalies that need to set right at the earliest to maintain a Civil – Defence parity.

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What are some of the challenges that need to be addressed in order to make #DigitalIndia a reality?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The following five issues are pivotal for the success of Digital India:

               i.    First, the delays in the laying out of the National Optic Fibre Network need to be addressed. The NOFN is the backbone of Digital India -- it creates the infrastructural framework upon which Internet connectivity (and all its allied benefits,) shall be made available to everyone of India’s 250,000 panchayats.

             ii.    Second, the government needs to examine the validity of claims from the industry on spectrum shortage. Spectrum is a scarce resource, but measurements reveal that several licensed frequency bands are underutilised most of the time. The government could consider introducing emerging technologies such as cognitive radio that could allow spectrum to be used more efficiently.

            iii.    Third, and most importantly, the government needs to create an enabling policy ecosystem to ensure that legislation and regulations bolster e-innovation and the design of Indian applications. This can only happen if the Internet is neutral -- ie, open, fair, accessible and has no gatekeepers. This is crucial for new entrants to have the ability to create applications and services that enable Digital India to improve the efficiency of the government and other services. To this extent, the government’s official policy on Net Neutrality shall be crucial.

           iv.    Fourth, the government needs to create a unified and efficient technological platform for the entire government machinery so as to ensure that all tasks, both government-government and government-citizen, are automated. This shall require a good chief technology officer within the government to lead the process of creating and embedding such a platform -- the platform that allows it to operate with consistent standards of efficiency, transparency and responsiveness. The creation of this platform is essential to realising the vision of 'Maximum Governance Minimum Government'.

             v.    Fifth is the issue of Privacy and Cyber security. As Digital India accelerates towards its vision for Universal Access, there is also a need for the government to create a robust Internet safety architecture. There are major gaps in the present-day skill situation concerning IT security, which can impact the handling of cyber threats in industries such as banking, defence, healthcare, information and energy among others. Cyber security, therefore, remains a huge gap in India’s Internet policy ecosystem and must be at the very top of the MoCIT’s (ministry of communication and  information technology) list of policy priorities.

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What steps do you think the Government can take to ensure ex-servicemen get their voices heard by the law makers?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Thank you for your question. While there is a Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in the Ministry of Defence, veterans continue to struggle with their problems.

I have taken up their causes since the time I stepped into Parliament in 2006. While the Armed Forces Personnel selflessly guard the nation and protect the country against enemies, there is a feeling that the country does not understand their concerns and that they do not have a forceful platform to voice their demands. I have long maintained that it is time for the nation to address this concern.

In 2011 I wrote to the then Prime Minister and Defence Minister to consider giving an independent, non-political voice, to the Armed Forces veterans by reserving one Parliament Seat – anywhere in lndia – for a representative of the Armed Forces veterans or nominating one representative from the veterans to the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha who can be the voice of the over 26 lakh ex-servicemen and their families. Our founding fathers have recognized the need for giving representation to distinguished citizens such as artists, poets, sportsmen etc. in Parliament and a nomination of one distinguished Armed Forces veteran I believe will be perfectly consistent with this tradition

Although I did not receive a positive response, but I will continue to push for this idea of giving representation to the veterans in Parliament. This will send a message to the armed forces personnel and their families that the Nation understands and accords the highest priority to their welfare.

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What are some of the gaps in the Institutional response to incidents of Child Sexual Abuse?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

i.    Curtailed Access: Of the relatively few cases of child sexual abuse that are reported to the police, an even smaller proportion ever makes it through the justice system. Access to justice remains a big challenge in service provision chain. Many parents and caregivers, especially those with little access to resources, are dissuaded by the logistics and bureaucracy associated with negotiating POCSO courts.

 ii.    Justice Delayed: The special designated POCSO courts were constituted with explicitly to "provide a speedy trial" for child sexual abuse cases. In fact, section 35 (2) of the Act, stipulates a period of one year from the date of taking cognisance of the incident, for the court to dispose off with the case.
Unfortunately, even cursory data on case disposal reported by the government, paints a discouraging picture of how well this intention has been actualized. Of the 6,816 alleged perpetrators booked under the POCSO Act, only 166 convictions have been made, while 389 accused have been acquitted. The conviction rate under the act, therefore, is a paltry 2.4%.

The tragic corollary to this is that pendency rates for child rape cases have actually increased from 20594 in 2010 to 37519 in 2014 - a massive increase of about 84% This pendency persists in the face of increased reporting. While the judicial process dawdles along, eight cases of child sexual abuse continue to be reported everyday. The number of registered child rapes rose 151% from 5,484 in 2009 to 13,766 in 2014.

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How can we reform the functioning of the Public Sector Banks, which are grappling with mounting NPAs?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Indian Economy’s Achilles Heel continues to be the NPAs of the Public Sector Banks. The way to tackle this problem is to : 1) Remove PSU Banks from Finance Ministry supervision to a holding company structure. 2) Address issues of PSU Bank Management & NPAs. Make PSU Bank Boards responsible for NPAs and willful defaulters. Create a New Law to track down assets of willful defaulters and big businesses. 3) Address the issue of concentration of risk and loans to top 10 groups and reform the CDR mechanism

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Given the mess Bangalore finds itself in, it is difficult to find a starting point for change. What do you think can be done?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

As a guardian MP of Bengaluru, I have been a vociferous advocate of

planned, intelligent solutions for the varied problems a fast-growing metropolis like

this city faces. There is a strong need for the devolution of power to evolve

governance reforms based on citizen-centric decision making. I have been vocal

about the need for greater transparency and accountability in governance institutions

and public authorities alike.

 

We need to get out of this mess and change the direction the city is going in. The

starting point is to clearly understand why we have reached this point. We can argue

that it has been the failure of government and bureaucracy.

 

In Bengaluru, over the last 15 years, there has been a coming together of politicians,

bureaucrats, and a certain number of businesses (builders, contractors and others)

through an unholy sort of alliance. You can call them vested interests. The taking

over of policymaking by this group is at the heart of things (of where we are today).

This is the very reason why we are yet to find a multi-year city development plan.

Vested interests do not like statutory plans. They like adhocism, administrative

distribution, contracting discretions.

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What should be the government’s role in making sure India remains a vibrant and a dynamic economy?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The Indian Economy has to be led by its entrepreneurs and its consumers. India’s economy should be seen and felt as an energetic economy driven by the energy and innovation of its millions of young and old entrepreneurs – big and small. The government must play the role of an efficient catalyst and its policies should have a sharp focus on the consumers. Government should introduce wide ranging Governance reforms, usher in transparency and reduce Government footprint

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There have been many instances of disabled soldiers fighting for their legitimate pensions and benefits in courts. Have you taken any steps to stop this?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

I am concerned over painful battles soldiers have to fight for disability pensions / benefits. It is an issue I have raised time and again with successive Governments and Ministers of Defence.

It is a matter of great concern that there are currently over 16000 cases related to the uniformed services pending before the various courts and tribunals in the country. Of these, almost 90 per cent of the total appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence comprises challenge to the disability benefits to the soldiers.

The Prime Minister and the Raksha Mantri have on various occasions voiced their concern about the welfare of men and women in uniform. Both have also called for reduction in litigation by the Government against defence personnel, but the issues continue.

I have suggested audits to check cases rather than automatic appealing against all. It is unfortunate that our brave men and women in uniform who serve and their families have to fight for their legitimate dues.

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What is the role of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, in ensuring Digital India’s Success?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

The capability gaps in the TRAI that are required to deliver on this vision of an open, fair and safe internet are becoming painfully clear. It has consistently under-delivered on its consumer and public interest mandate — a mandate for which it has powers under the TRAI Act.

The following reforms need to be undertaken in order to correct this:

            i.    Empower TRAI so that it can may regulate and effectively enforce consumer rights;

           ii.    Ensure a greater degree of accountability to Parliament

          iii.    Enhancing TRAI’s capacity and capability by providing unfettered access to talent and human resources from both, the government and private sector

         iv.    TRAI’s financial autonomy and independence should be ensured by giving a share in the Union Budget

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