Are we Insane? A question that we must ask ourselves, why aren’t we questioning the people in Power?
According to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.”
Well, this is precisely what we have been doing concerning the Governance and Administration of our beloved country India for decades. Are we insane or have a low IQ, how can we expect different results from the same actions. When aren’t demanding change, how will the change begin?
We have watchdogs like CVC – Central Vigilance Commission, CAG – Comptroller and Auditor General; Internal Vigilance departments in different bodies, etc., in addition to laws like ‘Prevention of Corruption Act,1988’ and so on.
This all has, however, not stopped corruption or abated it. According to some reports, other than the major scams like the Antuley Cement Scam, Bofors Scam, Bihar Fodder Scam, Agusta Chopper Scam, 2G scam, Commonwealth game scam, Vypam scam, banks loot scams ( there are a whole lot of them), and a plethora of lesser-known scams of greater and lesser magnitude, almost daily some scam or the other is occurring in almost every Government office in India – be it Central, State, District, or Panchayat level.
Such is the state of affairs, that it has been heard that at times the internal vigilance department raids a concerned office on the day maximum bribes are expected, to take a larger cut for themselves.
Why don’t we question?
This is in addition to extremely shoddy delivery of services for which they enjoy tenure, perks, healthcare and retirement benefits.
As a case in point, I met a state-level secretary a few years back. He was known for his integrity and honesty, and for getting the job done. I asked him “Don’t you feel scared of stepping on political toes and upsetting vested interests?” His reply was both heartening and also worrisome. He replied “There are four or five senior bureaucrats in this state who pretty much ensure the state runs as smoothly as possible for us to do. If any political person stymies’ us, we do a pen down. This effectively grinds things to a halt. So, they dare not take overt action against us.” This gentleman must have tread on quite a few toes, as he was transferred to a post where he could not harm vested lobbies. For obvious reasons, neither he nor the state will be mentioned here.
Coming back to our story, at the same time, we elect our political servants – the Members of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assemblies, corporators, etc., based on caste and community (see my previous article: Ramrajya – a Fantasy or an attainable dream) Therein lies the rub.
Officers once selected are essentially there till retirement. While the politicians elected are shady at best, otherwise generally have highly suspect and criminal antecedents (this is regardless of whether they have got exonerated in different courts of law, or whether they have been caught or not).
In my previous article – Ramrajya – a Fantasy or an attainable dream, we had discussed the Indian political scene wherein we don’t choose our representatives – the people whose actions have a direct impact not only on our own lives, but that on the well-being of our entire nation, and of course the World at large.
These people – the elected representatives, and their bureaucratic acolytes effectively determine the courses of our lives in most ways.
We are doing the same thing and expecting different results
Yet, tragically we stick to the same emotions while choosing the politicians, and the same archaic systems as far as Bureaucracy are concerned. Scam after scam, and repeated tragic occurrences after tragic occurrences…yet the system remains robustly the same.
This is because there is a right proper political and bureaucratic (read police and bureaucrats as one) nexus. They all work symbiotically and synergistically.
The police and bureaucrats help the politicians either get out of jams or participate outright in their nefarious activities. The politicians – either those in power or out of power cronies – help these bureaucrats with plum transfers and promotions.
So shoddy roads are built, people fall in open manholes,( 5 every day die due to falling in Manhole) get electrocuted by touching electric poles, village and other healthcare facilities usually don’t have doctors and medicines, or have incompetent doctors and spurious medicines. In fact, it will be a rare government hospital where the doctor is there for the poor patients (I do happen to know a couple myself). But such cases are the exception, rather than the norm.
The same applies to village schools, where either the school or the building does not exist, is in shambles, or there are no teachers or illiterate teachers who themselves cannot read and write, forget to teach the kids.
Even in agricultural subsidies, like installing wells, drip irrigation, etc., etc., usually the commissions and bribes were taken by the Lekhpals, patwaris (the people who maintain the land ownership records for the Government), the Tehsildars, and other officers, the actual work rarely gets done. Just to mention – This is just at basic levels.
The same criminal apathy, corruption, negligence, and outright thievery is prevalent, albeit with bigger and bigger monetary figures the higher one goes up the administrative ladder.
Mai Baap Culture – It is still prevalent in India
During the British Raj, the Bureaucrats were servants of the British Crown and ruled us. They were here to rule, not to serve. From here, a ‘Mai Baap’ culture evolved, meaning, treating the officers as literal parents, and living off their largesse. So, as citizens, we could not expect anything. Everything was effectively a charitable act done by them. Hence, treating them as Mai Baap, or literally ‘Mother Father’.
This of course resulted in bakshish – pocket-money to peons etc., and a tactful ‘Nazraana’ – or a gift of gratitude and respect to the concerned officer. Sycophancy was of course a given.
The British left, India became a democracy – theoretically at least. However, the laws made by the British remained, as did the Administrative System, with only a change of nomenclature – from Indian Civil Services to Indian Administrative Services, and the Police from Imperial Police Service to Indian Police Service, and so on.
What remained along with the myriad laws – like the Sedition Law ( more on that later), was the ‘Mai Baap’ culture, leaving the public servants, including elected representatives in the misconception that they still are the rulers, and the public – their actual masters, their serfs.
And why not? After all the laws largely remain the same. All the powers rest with them, and the dice are loaded heavily against the citizens.
Time and again when the question of modernizing the system has come up, the powers that be, and their paid advertorial channels (read paid media) propagate that the current system is the best for the country.
They are all benefiting from this cosy nexus, so why should they do an ‘Own Goal’ – to borrow a soccer metaphor?
A renewed system would entail a meritocracy, where every person involved in governance is thoroughly tested for integrity, Emotional Quotient, Intelligence Quotient, criminal tendency, domain knowledge and expertise, communication, etc.
They would have periodic assessments, which would be open to public scrutiny and promotions and dismissal would depend on the delivery of services for which they were kept.
This would of course apply to all government employees – from the village panchayat representatives, the village health workers, the teachers, the police, the administration and all other elected and non-elected representatives.
Definition of an Ideal System
In an ideal system, political candidates too would submit to certain tests for criminal nature, Emotional Quotient, Intelligence Quotient and other tests to get eligibility to contest for elections. After all, they would then be responsible for the welfare of the citizens. What is their real motivation for standing for elections – is its power, money, or both? Or is it to get insulated from the laws of the land by becoming powerful? After all, to do service, one doesn’t need to become an MLA or an MP or a minister. Also, why is it that people enter politics from humble backgrounds, and come out as Millionaires and Billionaires? Where did the money come from? What kind of Sewa (service) are they doing which financially enriches them beyond dreams? What is the secret formula? Shouldn’t every citizen then do the same sewa, and money will magically fall on him or her, like manna from heaven? The reality is that all this money is earned by sacrificing National and citizen interests.
So, coming back to the beginning of this article and paraphrasing Einstein, we have to be Insane to expect good governance and change, with the same set of bureaucrats and politicians at the helm.
The change will come if we realize our rights and responsibilities as citizens, and ask the right questions, and start demanding a real change for the better in the way things are done.
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