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Tragic destiny~III

Inclusive development for the people is possible when the bureaucracy has authentic, relevant, and complete statistical data, facts and evidence for formulating effective policies.

KK Shashidharan | New Delhi |

The slogan, Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat (EBSB), can be used to make India united and integrated in every respect by meaningful inter-state engagements. MoUs were entered with six pared States/UTs by the Department of Higher Education and the HRD ministry. The entity called Development Support Services to States (DSSS) was set up to to establish a Centre-State partnership model for Private Public Partnership and to address key structural issues in project development.

Out of 450 projects from 20 States, 10 from eight States in 10 sectors were shortlisted for implementation. Public-Private Partnership in health can boost healthcare. In consultation with the Centre, pending issues have been resolved by Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Puducherry. The State Human Development report of Maharashtra, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Nagaland, the Bundelkhand region and Delhi were very useful.

The policy think-tank has identified 115 aspirational districts to realise the vision of Sabka Saath, SabkaVikas and to make India’s growth inclusive. Forty-nine key performance indicators (KPIs) have been identified across these sectors to improve the ease of living and economic productivity. Health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skill development and basic infrastructure are key pre-requisites for rapid transformation.

The baseline ranking of these districts can ascertain their status in these sectors, and appropriate action can be taken accordingly. As “champions of change”, so-called, the aspirational districts can collect real-time data and rankings across all indicators for better governance.

The think-tank has advanced many indicators and reports to help civil servants to achieve inclusive growth and the ultimate governance objective of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. Fresh guidelines by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj for transparent and equitable allocation of funds in the areas covered by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is an important step.

Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have to perform in accord with the constitutional provision to transform the villages. Transfer of adequate funds, functionaries and functions to the rural and urban bodies by the state governments as per the Acts of 1992 and 1993 must be implemented. The Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA) has been created as a centrally sponsored scheme from 2018-19 to 2021-22 to address the challenges of PRI states.

Inclusive development for the people is possible when the bureaucracy has authentic, relevant, and complete statistical data, facts and evidence for formulating effective policies. The contribution of NITI Aayog in this direction is commendable. It has prepared a three-year action agenda from 2017-18 to 2019-20. It provided policy inputs for strategic PSU disinvestment and suggested several measures for balanced regional development.

It recommended adequate resource allocation for Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal and a roadmap for integrated development of the North-Eastern and the Himalayan States. NITI Forum for North East has representatitives from each of the NE States and the concerned Union Ministries/Departments for addressing the development constraints. It has also created policy papers for holistic, sustainable development of the islands. The policy body shortlisted 10 islands for environmental zoning. Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands can sustain ecotourism, generate employment and boost maritime economy. Island Development Agency (IDA) set up in June 2017 reviews the holistic development of the identified islands.

NITI Aayog has urged the government to use the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in the planning, management and monitoring of government service delivery and capacity development. Health & Nutrition Sector Reforms includes the National Commission for Homoeopathy (NCH) and the National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine.

It formulated the National Nutrition Strategy for policy makers to bring nutrition to the centre of India’s development agenda. The POSHAN Abhiyaan aims at improving nutrition outcomes in the next three years. NITI Aayog has provided policy inputs for pharmaceutical education. India Energy Security Scenario (IESS), 2047 was recast in 2015 with Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam for the “Development of State Energy Calculator”. ‘India’s Renewable Electricity Roadmap 2030’ summarizes the opportunities in the sector. Niti Aayog has developed the State Energy Index towards ensuring energy security for the nation.

Its inputs for job creation in export-related areas are important to bridge its current accounts deficit in foreign trade. Drinking water for rural areas can be provided when arsenic and fluoride affected water sources in the states are made safe. Swacchh Bharat Mission (SBM) launched on 2 October 2014 covers 3.64 lakh villages, 385 districts and 13 States and 4 Union Territories were declared as Open Defecation Free. The focus on outputs, outcomes, and indicators based on international best practices in performance monitoring is an important step in the right direction towards inclusive sustainable integrated development of the country.

The administrators must use these tools like Output Outcome Monitoring Framework 2018-19 to achieve the planned results. The monitoring and reviews must be an ongoing process for tracking physical progress to outcome progress. PMO reviews also focus on timely implementation of projects relating to Road, Railways, Airports, Ports, Digital India, Coal PNG, Power, NRE, Urban Housing, Rural Housing, and PMGSY. E dashboard developed must be used continuously for effective monitoring and evaluation for specific schemes. There must be a paradigm shift in the mindset of the civil servants to focus on timely execution of projects within the laid down time frame with planned outcome benefiting the targeted beneficiaries.

Good governance must ensure citizen centric prompt service delivery with transparency, public accountability, right to information, effectiveness, efficiency, economy and goal orientation and achievement of milestones in outputs and outcome within the budgeted resources. Effective project execution must be the order of the day rather than an exception like Delhi Metro. When India is implementing thousands of schemes and projects for transforming the rural and urban India to modern SMART cities, districts and villages, the most important thing is responsible, responsive, sensitive and competent, incorruptible bureaucracy, committed to the constitutional principles, values and the rule of law.

Emphasis must be rightly on qualitative and quantitative outputs and more importantly planned timely desired outcomes within the resource allocation. The first thing first is that NITI, as a policy factory could, of course, finalise ‘indices to measure incremental annual outcomes in critical social sectors like health, education, water and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)’. Measuring is no doubt a significant first step; but more crucial is realising the planned quality timely results or outcome within the budgeted resources.

For that, the implementing agency, the public servants or the civil servants must transform to be the real servant of the public, ever ready to serve the people of the nation as per the rule of law with absolute dedication, sincerity and commitment to the cause.

The tragedy of India is not shrouded in mystery but in its decadent public service. As depicted by the “Three Wise Monkeys” or the “Three Mystic Apes” of the ancient Japanese icon. It is not just “See no Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil “but the tragedy of India’s development story is the apathy of the public service or rather a public service inflicted by the cancer of corruption in various rungs. Consequently, for the people of India, or the common man as seen in the once ubiquitous cartoons of RK Laxman’s, the common man’s sorrows nobody sees, hears or speaks except perhaps vociferously in the election campaigns.

Otherwise, the administration seems to be not interested in the poorest of the poor whom we see sleep hungry along the streets of cities of India amidst street dogs and cattle. If governance is to be good, citizen centric, accountable, sensitive to the needs of the people, public administration needs to be overhauled.

The colonial mind-set of the master of the people of the civil service government must be replaced by servants of the people. The common man and woman’s woes must be heard, seen and understood and remedial action should be taken before any delay in delivery of service or justice by good governance.

The current insensitive non-tolerant attitude towards the poor, the underprivileged and the downtrodden by the elite class including the ruling class and the bureaucracy and turning a blind eye, deaf year and dumb mouth must go forever to be replaced by compassionate problem resolving service orientation to undo the misconduct of the vested interests and the mighty influential sections of the people.

For the elite of the society, the poor are ugly and to be avoided for good reason. Nobody in the ruling party or the opposition seem to have been genuinely perturbed except doling out the occasional direct benefit transfer as monthly income to the poor.

(The writer is a former DG in the Office of the CAG of India. Views are personal)