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The Prime Minister’s speech from the ramparts of the Red fort was originally meant to serve as a rallying cry for Indians – inspiring us with the vision and direction that our country would be taking. But 60 years after Independence, this great occasion and platform has been reduced to trotting out a litany of Government promises and programs.
The country is befuddled and drifting today beset with this perfect storm of scams and skeletons tumbling out almost every day. So I hope this Independence Day, the Prime Minister sets about commencing the heavy lifting of setting the country, its government, its economy and its people back on the right track – a track of progress, good governance and growth that our founding fathers envisioned when they first spoke on this day over six decades ago.
The agenda for the next two years has to be very clear – Just like the last two decades was about economic reforms, the next decade must be about Governance reforms. The next two years should set the tone for that. If we are to be an economic superpower, as many in New Delhi and IT sector keep prattling about, real work is required - and required in India and not Davos. For a country of a Billion people, majority of whom are young and have most of their lives and dreams ahead of them – they deserve a better Government.
Governance reforms is a much more difficult job than Economic reforms. In economic reforms, the Government had to simply step away from the inherent energy and entrepreneurial talent in our country. But Governance reforms is a much harder job because it has to confront the decline and decay of institutions, vested interests and crony business interests that have long since started exerting significant influence on Governance. The focus has to be to fix and transform Government. Make Government and Politics something to be proud of instead of being ashamed and embarrassed about.
Governance reforms is seen as something very complex, and therefore, the limited debate and discourse about it. It’s not really. It’s about a handful of initiatives that when working together – work to create a far more citizen focused model of Government – a more public service model of Politics.
So let’s look at what Governance reforms could be - To make Government more transparent, and therefore responsive, honest and effective. To create a culture of Value for Public money and public assets within Government. To take Governance into an outcome-driven form of Governance. To streamline Government spending and contracting around these outcomes. To undertake a major administrative revamp – where merit and performance are the criteria for growth and corruption, and ineptitude is weeded out. To ensure that IAS is not the Government and Government is not IAS – bring in more specialist talent to complement the very general skills of the IAS. Revamp the IAS and allow excellence and domain skills to be introduced within IAS, so like there are state Cadres within IAS, let there be cadres in Security, Economy, Agriculture etc.
I have no doubt that the Government’s initial instinct would be to soft sell a series of impressive sounding initiatives but with limited depth and impact as Governance reforms. But this drift in Governance needs arresting and reversing and if not will create the frustration and anger that is the fuel for revolutions and other forms of public anger!