By Vijay Sanghvi
The major strength of India is in its democratic spirit on display for ages as it allowed coexistence for hundred thousand different and differing sects for centuries. India had peoples’ republics Gan Sangh long before the Roman Republics in the West. The vote did not choose the Senates, but every community sent their elected delegate to it by. The democratic political institution was all exclusive and economic institutes were not formed. Trade was merely an exchange of goods for surplus for need-based demands. Receiver returned value by services. Monetized economy came much later.
The first malady in Indian democratic structure was added by conversion of caste system from a need-based vocation into an unalterable ordained station in life and depriving the dignity of their profession due to involved manual labour. It riddled society with intra-caste conflicts. They often turned bloody. Probably to keep those engaged in dealing with organic materials at arm’s length out of fear of pollution affecting those involved in handling inorganic functions became the social structure into compartmentalized one with untouchables at the lowest rungs. That turned conflict into an integral part of the social fabric of each caste seeking ascendancy.
Lower rungs were denied opportunity to acquire the ability to read and write as unnecessary for their station in life. Vocational training was by the family traditions. 92 percent remained illiterates though not without a grasp of life. (KR Malkani, BJP Vice President, had told New York Times as late as in 1992 that Indian farmers did not need to read and write. They learn their vocation from their elders.
The democratic spirit did not allow the evolution of centralized political authority or religious one. It was impossible for a single body to rule over differing and dissenting fragments each with their icons. They formed local deities to be readily available as gods of higher castes were not accessible to them. An absence of centralized political authority resulted in uneven regional development. Lack of resources and pervading malnutrition affected the building of mental capacities. Climatic conditions, inherent social customs and availabilities were responsible for differing lifestyle, languages and temperaments of people. India looks like a conglomerate of various sub-nationalities.
This difference brought in uneven development. Each district differed so much in the availability of resources and mentality to deal with needs. The uniform model for development could not be valid or applicable to all, but the planned economic development model did not take into account. Planners ensconced comfortably in their air-conditioned Delhi offices designed and devised blue prints of development for uniform application to all districts without reflecting on peculiarities and needs of each. Gram Pradhan was never asked what their village needed. This led to the grand success of schemes in few parts and failure in most. Several patches remained extremely poverty ridden while few flourished beyond expectations. Peculiarities of people in those regions also contributed to unevenness in the generation of wealth and leaving abyss of poverty, deprivation and socio-economic injustice as a major challenge for the present. India cannot progress unless all march together and contribute their might to the generation of wealth and ushering in prosperity.
The power transfer on the departure of the British from India merely changed the colour skin of rulers as there were not changes in administrative structures or in the mentality of those assigned to manage various posts. Officials as representatives of the Empire functioned from a distance from masses and in cold blooded manners under the belief that every Indian is dishonest. The transfer did not bring them out of their empirical shell. In fact, they became more insensitive and unresponsive as they were given constitutional protection. No superior authority was formed to demand accounts for their performance. Periodical outbursts of politicians had little impact. Corruption added to woes of masses.
In recent times infamous and notorious characters are running parallel administrations in many areas in addition to growth of militancy in 159 districts in eight states. Their famous images or famous swing officialdom to immediate response to their demands while officials can easily lead ministers through garden path. The picture that emerges today if that democratic governments were formed and are run merely to maintain 40 million families that have got into government and semi-government offices as employees. The administrative expenditure appears to be over 80 per cent. In many districts salary doled out to the administration is 108 percent of total inflow of revenue, assistance from the Centre and the state. That leaves little sum for development as study conducted in Gulbarga, Kaira and Muzfarpur districts in 1985 revealed. Railways and Armed forces carry larger burden of pensions than salaries.
Overstaffing of departments is a norm as deployment of the workforce are related to cost of project and not to physical work involved. One Km stretch of road had only one engineer two decades earlier. Now at least five are deputed on the same job even though there was no increase in physical work but the financial outlays have inflated. Naturally so as projects have to carry burden of so many unnecessary employees. This calls for review of manpower deployed so that not only costs come down but work can be completed in stipulated time so projects do not overrun in financial allocations, and also a substantial loss in consequences as benefits expected to flow from projects are not attainable or available for the delayed periods. Manpower mismanagement is a serious malady that needs immediate attention to expedite process of develop0menjt and lower costs of most projects.
The primary cause of slow down is unwillingness or inability of politicians to recognize that bureaucrats were taking them for a ride. Some are polite and most are unable to see through the game. For example ,the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh could not comprehend that officials of the state jar board of taken him for a ride with a promise to construct 200 tube wells in Banda district in a span of a week. He sanctioned Rs. 8 crore for project and congratulated officials after inaugurating first tube well. It was merely a water filled barrel with pump attached to it.