PROCEEDING OF THE SEMINAR ON `AGENDA FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS'
-Ms. Aruna Roy*
Friends from Common Cause and others, I am pleased to be here because I see so many parts of my life. There are two of my friends from the 1968 batch of IAS sitting on either side. There are other friends, whom I have met across debates on the NDTV, and then there are friends, who have been with me in many struggles. There is Sandeep Pandey here…. In a way, we represent the anomaly of a common cause. I am happy to be with all of you.
I might have views, which many of you may not agree with, but I think there are some common concerns. A common cause arises out of common concerns and of the willingness to give and take, to understand and to realize that this quest for solutions arises from the understanding and recognition of the truth.
Of course, the perception changes when you sit in different chairs, even though you the see the same set of circumstances. We have to accept that others also have a right to an honest opinion. I think our democracy is rather skewed in this regard. We have not listened to the honest opinions of masses of people whom we have completely brushed off in the visual paradigm of policymaking and decision making by saying that they are illiterate; they do not know anything and they cannot understand anything. We forget that illiterate people discovered agriculture, created the wheel and made many of the important discoveries of the world on which we survive today. Just the skill of literacy is not intelligence, nor does education or literacy mean understanding or wisdom. I think we have failed as a country to recognize this fact.
There is a story that I would like to narrate before I say my brief. It is my very favorite story of Mullah Nasruddin. The stories of Mullah Nasruddin have been for me a source of practical wisdom on how to carry on with life and when I get too pompous, thinking of Mullah Nasruddin always brings me back to reality.
Mullah Nasruddin was desperately looking for a key in his outside yard. His neighbour popped across and asked, "What are you hunting for?" Mullah said," I have lost my key." Will you join me in the search? He said, "Sure." They spent hours searching and finally the guy asked Mullah Nasruddin "But where did you lose the key?" He said, "I think I lost it inside the house." Then he said," Why are you looking for it outside?" He said," There is more light outside."
I think all our quests are like that; we do not go where the real problem lies and we seek solutions in our own areas of comfort and they cannot come from those areas of comfort. There will be discomfort at the level of thought and understanding, at the level of recognition and identifying the problem when move out of our areas of comfort. But if we do not do that, I do not think solutions can be found. The most important thing in terms of delivering anything is to understand where the problems lie. There is so much difference of opinion in understanding where the problem lies that we never find the solutions.
Let me begin by saying that bureaucracies will always exist. No matter what kind of political system you have for running a country, the bureaucracies will always be there and need to be there to run the system. The criticism of the establishment is because it is not functioning. And let us also stop having this colonial view which is still, I am afraid, the prevalent view among bureaucrats that they are there as a composite capsule of innovation, delivery , education, enlightenment, wisdom and leadership. I think those amongst us who have been civil servants know the tremendous limitations of the roles assigned to us, our intrinsic shortcomings, and the enormity of the demands made upon us. This is true of any position of authority, whether in the civil services, armed forces, police or accounts. The first thing we really have to understand is that while it is necessary to have a bureaucracy to run the government, it has to be both transparent and accountable. It should be equally under the law and not above the law. In India, there is no need to argue the point that every position of power has argued itself out of any kind of accountability. The most recent example of course is our judges who say that everyone else must be transparent and they won't be.
No one is above the law and no one is above being both transparent and accountable in a democracy where we, the people, have a written constitution that gives us all the sovereignty to rule the country. In a sense, it has been a challenge for all of us around the table to deal with and we have dealt with it in our own different ways. I have chosen, with many of my friends, to go and live with people whom many of us see as those who pull down the 8 ½% growth rate, whose presence highlights the problems, whose lifestyle is degrading to our sense of hygiene, of well being. But I have seen that the richness of the country lies often with people who have battled and fought and maintained their dignity in the face of serious odds and continued to contribute in a very basic sense to all the points of view that I have today.
After going through a very formal, western liberal education, I had to discard many of my prejudices and get rid of my arrogance. All of us do go with an arrogance that we know everything and I have been no exception.
I remember the first time I had been to a village in 1974-75, not as an IAS officer, but as a common citizen. I encountered many women who told me in Rajasthani, "Get lost, go and reform your home and your husband", and pushed me out of their houses. "We never asked you to come here and you have no business to be with us. Just get lost." That set me thinking actually of the difference between interference and intervention. Most of us are interferers. We do not have a sense of equality. Intervention means to take cognizance of the person in front of you, sit down, and talk. You listen. Of course, you may have your own position. Well, I have had no children out of choice, but if a village woman does not have children, she is the victim of family abuse, of village abuse, of social abuse. Her husband will go get another wife. If you do not understand this, new policy, new systems will not emerge; revamping of any development system or delivery system will simply not occur.
Having said that, let me talk of something that actually happened and why it is so important to have certain concepts which are being threatened even as I talk. Department of Personnel is trying very hard to amend the law on right to information, which they themselves made. This government is now seriously thinking of amending two sections.
The first one, of course, concerns their bête-noire, which is file notings. They seem to have decided to exclude file noting from the purview of RTI. I may not be correct, but if you give me your email id, I will send you my letter, which I sent to the Prime Minister with signatures of about a hundred people from all occupations. Many people have supposedly seen the amendments. They say that not only will they put file notings under wraps, but they will also put under wraps all discussions, all consultations and reasons for decision-making and all processes of decision-making. Then what are they going to give us? They might as well not give us anything. Whatever is out in the newspapers, we already know; what you can get through the gossip channels, we already know; what we want to know of is the why and how of decision making.
The second thing they are refusing to give us is information sought in what they call frivolous and vexatious applications. Now, one can always reject frivolous and vexatious applications. There is nothing in the extant law that says that you cannot reject them. What is vexatious and frivolous? If I go to a village in which I do not live and ask how much money you spent last year on your rural development works; they will say, "She is asking a vexatious question, because she doesn't live in the village; she doesn't belong to the Panchayat .She has come here to worry us" or `The MKSS is an organization that is hostile to us and she has come for some odd reason to fix us. So, you will not get the information."
If a poor woman goes to a PDS today, she is getting the desired information; she is getting rations due to the Right to Information law. But this may not last. If the proposed amendment is carried out, this woman, if she were to ask a question, will be told that she is vexatious, frivolous and will be sent home. So for us, these are very serious issues and politically, it will be a big mistake, if the party and the government which have given us the law should dilute it .But if the bureaucrats still go about it, they will have to face real hell. Because this Act, despite what you read everywhere, has been owned across the country and by people of all hues, from all kinds of background, the poor, the rich, people who use computers, people who do not, doctors without borders, engineers without borders, people in animal husbandry, peasants , women from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir, from Shillong to Gujrat. Everyone knows how to use the RTI law. Thus, it is going to be a huge political problem, if they try and take it away because it is the first time in our lives that the law has given us the right to govern ourselves.
What has this right done for us - every single process is important , governance is not just what we in Delhi do at policy level, but also what the Panchayats, the Patwaris and the Gram Sevaks do, and what they do really is multiplied by lakhs and that is what delivery is. The people have had a chance to look at the process and come up with a system and that system has really delivered.
If you put a board outside the Panchayat, and you say what exactly has been the expenditure over the past five years. You do not have to worry about anything else. People come automatically and tell you what has been done, how much money has been spent, who among them has taken the money and who among the people who govern has been stealing. And they say it on a mike. Thus, we have created a legal framework for government, a framework within the government and given a platform where people can come and state what is wrong. One does not have to worry about the niceties of law, policy, etc. because the system is simple.
The Right to Information has done a lot and if it is tampered with, it will be a failure of democracy in India. We have to mobilize public opinion that we do not want the RTI Act to be amended at all. We must have it for total accountability and transparency. How many Patwaris or Thanedars are you going to change because the powers that be will appoint the same kinds of people?
Agitators do not ask for the removal of an individual official such as a police inspector or commissioner as the next person will also do the same wrongs as the present official. The idea is to bring in a system of accountability which has been brought in by RTI. It has made the vote work. If we have voted for a particular party, the MLA or the Sarpanch, they have never come back to us. What happened to that precious vote? The RTI has made these votes count. Now use that vote for political deliveries; we now know that our vote can make politicians deliver. We can ask questions; we can demand answers. So, with this enormous privilege and power now, people like you must see how it should be used better.
I will now table the problems that arise. Three aspects we should look at: First, within the Government, section 4 of the RTI Act has not been implemented. On October 13, 2005, all Government officials were expected to put up pro-active disclosure boards. It has not happened. Why has it not happened? We have gone to them hundreds of time; we cannot be accused of not negotiating with them, not using advocacy. They have still not put up those boards anywhere even in Central Government offices. The state governments likewise have dragged their feet. The Secretariat in Rajasthan has put a small board near some toilet. This is the kind of trivialization that they have resorted to. If you look at the NREG on the other hand, the MIS system is so good, it has uncovered many faults. You can go to www.nrega.nic.in and you can see the personal details of each person who has received wages, and how many days that person has worked in a village anywhere in India. Much of the facts are not quite right, but we are battling with the problem how to improve the system. Why do other Ministries in the Government of India not emulate it?
I would like to talk very briefly about NREGA. For thirty-four years, I have been travelling all over the country. Wherever I went among needy people, first thing they always asked was work. No one asked for money that should be given to them. With great dignity, they all asked for work. Hundreds of people who come out from these various places to build our infrastructure are not lazy people. Now the point is that both in Right to Information and Employment Guarantee, people's voices and needs were never fully accepted by the powers that be. But they were negotiated on the basis of equality. These two Acts have established the democratic pattern that is vital to this country. They have shown that no single unit of Government can formulate good policy on its own without involving people. You need to have participation of the people in law making; only then will people own and use that particular legislation. They need to sit with you and say what they want from it. They cannot frame the legislation, but they can definitely tell you what route it should take. I think both these Acts therefore represent very significant happenings.
If you look into the entire mess, my friends and I feel that it is a failure of many things. It is a failure principally of governance. Nothing reaches the people; it is a great failure of the delivery system. I remember that once we went to four districts in what is now Chhattisgarh. We collected information in one district from a ration shop and we knew that not a drop of kerosene was recorded on any one of their ration cards. But all the kerosene had been lifted; all the rice had been lifted. I do not think that any systematic effort to reach basic services to the tribal belt has been made in India. These whole areas have been badly neglected by government after government. Today, you see Maoism spreading in that area and it is essentially because of total failure to deliver. Perhaps you will all agree that there has been a complete failure of delivery of essential services. If you provide essential services, people do not quarrel or fight for survival and they do not become violent. Things like NREGA have been thought of in this context. NREGA is not only a lifeline to people , but it's also a lifeline to the Government as it ensures that it doesn't end up managing an unmanageable state, where you use your own people to kill your own people. Somewhere rationality has to prevail and for rationality to prevail, you will have to listen to what people say. You cannot neglect your own people and get away with it. People have a right to good governance.
We did a Social Audit in Bhilwara recently. The Union Minister of Rural Development says that there shall be social audit. The Chief Minister says that there shall be social audit. But all the Sarpanches have organized themselves and are sitting on the streets of Bhilwara saying that their accounts will not be audited; no action will be taken against them for any kind of fraud. The Gram Sevaks have joined hands with them. How can the Gram Sevaks as the lowest functionaries of the Government go on strike saying that they will boycott NREGA? They are saying that they will not take responsibility for their actions. The act begins there, but I am afraid it does not end there. It is the most visible part of governance. With our Minister for Rural Development on the podium, the Rajasthan Minister said that no grassroot level corruption could take place without getting green signal from above. If a machine was used for a NREGA work, which does not allow use of machines, what was the Collector doing? He has to make 10 visits a month to NREGA work sites. Why did he or she not go to the work sites? Why did the SDM not go? Why did the BDO not do his function properly? Why were the entire rungs of people not functioning? So, that's the assertive question that a program like NREGA is beginning to ask. The corruption that it exposes speaks for its efficiency, because the other schemes like Indira Avaas Yojana or the Food for Work Programme did not do this. So, if we care for India, we should make sure that transparency and accountability are established. There should be no compromise on that. There are no grey areas here at all. This principle applies to the Armed Forces, not to matters concerning the country's security that we do not want to know, but to the procurement of supplies by the Armed Forces which we need to know. As for the Police, we do not need to know the investigative matters, but we certainly want to know why when bullet proof jackets are brought, they are not bulletproof; we want to know how Police officers are appointed; we want to know how postings are made. Since I am an ex-IAS officer, I know that even in Delhi in 1972, some of my SHOs used to say that they had paid one or one and a half lakh for their posting. For instance, Sadar was a coveted posting and in 1972, a Thanedaar had paid a lakh of rupees for it.
The second dilemma of governance, which we all have to resolve, is the tremendous contradiction between our political jargon and intent and our economic jargon and intent. We go around saying that in our democracy, we have the Right to Property. But while many rich people are acquiring massive properties, when the tribal says that he or she has the Right to Property and should have the right to decide what is to be done with his property, we accuse him of being anti-national. The Government cannot have this kind of rationalization of the irrational, because people see through it very easily. When the Collector comes, they say "Han, Hazoor", but when they see that car with red light going, they say, "Chor hai".
All the decision making process in a democracy has to be participatory; that brings rationality and sense into all our lives. As Prof. Alagh said in the beginning, there is a process of evaluation within the system when you have a participatory decision making process. It teaches you how to compromise, because there will have to be compromise in any participatory decision making, but there should be no compromise on the ethics and principles. That has to be the basis on which our country runs.
The second thing that I would like to say is that systems must be created where people can actually take those decisions, people can actually explain what they were doing. So, we must sit down and look at the systems and as the British said; "The Devil lies in the details"; unless you look at the details, systems do not improve.
The third thing that I would like to say is that in all policies, the micro and the macro are equally important; if you ignore the macro, it is a disaster, if you ignore the micro, it is a disaster. And both these laws (RTI and NREGA) have proved that the macro and the micro need to come together. The micro has to understand the macro, and the macro has to understand and accept the micro. This leads to enormous benefits.
I end with a quotation from Jeremy Cronin, a poet and writer from South Africa. He says, "Democracy is speaking truth to power, making truth powerful and power truthful." That is a challenge for all of us.
* "Founder, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), crusader for Right to Information, recipient of Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community leadership and International Understanding (2000)".
-Prof. Bibek Debroy*
Governance clearly is not Government; it is more than Government. Had it just been Government, then we would not have used the word `Governance'. If you look at all of these various definitions of Governance floating around, the key in all of these definitions, which distinguishes Governance from Government, is that Governance is about processes - processes that are participatory; that is what distinguishes Governance from Government.
The next term we need to focus on, because that's there in our agenda, is delivery. When you say `delivery', you mean public delivery; but the obvious question is, public delivery of what? Obviously goods and services, but what kinds of goods and services, and indeed if one tracks the debate in India over reforms, willy-nilly it boils downs to one simple question - what are the things we want the Government to do and what are things we do not want the Government to do? Because there is a trade-off here. If the Government tries to produce cement, steel, condoms and cycles, it will not be particularly efficient at delivering what we regard as core public goods and services. I do not think there will be a very great debate here about what constitutes the core of public delivery of goods and services it will be health, at least primary health; it will be education, at least school education; it will be law and order. I will use the word law and order to mean civil justice and criminal justice, a sub-set of which is police reforms. Perhaps you can add to this list by including roads of certain types, you can include electricity of certain varieties, you can include water - of certain types, and perhaps given what has been happening, you can bring in Government restrictions on land use. So, on this list, I do not think there will be a great debate. Nor, contrary to what Aruna Roy has said, will there be a great debate even outside this room about the fact that in the areas, which are distinguished and characterized by extreme kinds of violence, there has been complete abdication of responsibility by Government concerning delivery of all of these public goods and services. Most of you, perhaps all of you, will have read the report of the task force that was set up by Planning Commission under the chairmanship of Debu Bandopadhyay and that report documents pretty extensively how all Government and governance have been completely missing in these areas. Yes, today the NREGS covers all districts, but by any quantitative indicator, reliable village level data are rather difficult to obtain. There are about hundred and twenty five thousand villages in India and there are about hundred and fifty districts in India, where none of these elements of physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, law and order, or more broadly, governance, exists.
In this delivery, let me flag another issue, which is an issue of great debate also, although it has not cropped up in the discussion so far. It is about public delivery vis-à-vis of subsidized delivery, because there are trade-offs here also. There are people who are unambiguously poor, people who are unambiguously rich and there is a great continuum in between. The debate about poverty, the debate about poverty numbers, across the Planning Commission, across The Ministry of Rural Development, across whatever Suresh Tendulkar is saying, is about this continuum. But while that debate can continue, surely we can agree that there are people in India who do not deserve subsidies. Just as there will be no controversy about people who are unambiguously poor, there ought to be no controversy about people who are unambiguously rich. We should at least accept that subsidies should not go to these people, To the best of my understanding, the only party, which has attempted to say this in its election manifesto, is actually the CPI. It has said that no income tax payer should benefit from subsidies. We can debate whether that is the right criterion or not. But I am just flagging the issue that subsidy targeting and subsidy exclusion are something we need to address. While on the public goods and services, let me also mention that even in those remote villages, even in those bypassed districts, India is no longer what it used to be in the 1950s; the problem is no longer one of lack of physical access. Even in the remotest parts, the physical access does exist. The problem really is of accountability, of transparency and of efficient delivery. Many of these deprived geographical regions are also the regions where the classic market failure still exists. I should also flag the fact that with increasing awareness, with increasing incomes, the demand has increased and because the demand has increased, because in certain cases there are competing private sources of delivery, the demand for greater accountability, transparency and efficiency has increased. Toward the beginning of this paper, there is a reference to the statement made by Rajeev Gandhi about only 15% of programme funds actually reaching the intended beneficiaries. Now this is not just about corruption. A large part of that leakage is about high delivery cost. And I am flagging this again because people quite often interpret this as corruption. Corruption is there; it exists, but a large part of the leakage is due to high administrative delivery cost. Those high administrative delivery costs will remain as long as we have this vertical structure of delivery with a large number of government Ministries and departments, which simply do not deserve to exist. There is no logical reason why they should exist. If they exist, they will justify themselves only by increasing expenditure. Now so far as the present Government is concerned, public expenditure generally has gone up substantially since 2004. But, as public expenditure goes up, one ought to also improve the efficiency of that public expenditure. Not much that I can see has happened on improving the efficiency. Yes, the RTI has been good despite its odd blemishes; yes, Panchayats have been good, but there are all kinds of blemishes there too with state governments being somewhat reluctant. State governments are always very keen to decentralize when it involves decentralization from the Center to the states. The moment it involves decentralization and devolution within the state, state governments are notoriously reluctant. So, that's the reason I said, that when it comes to Panchayats, there is a great deal of euphoria, not necessarily backed up by concrete measures. Again in the paper, there is a reference to the recommendations made by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. The Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), about six months ago, brought out a CD. This CD has the recommendations of seventy-three different committees, commissions and tasks forces, which have gone on and on into the issues of Administrative Reforms in India from the 19th century onwards. That's not what is interesting. What is interesting is something that the DOPT has not compiled. And that is what has happened to the recommendations. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has been mentioned and Vineeta Rai, who was its Member Secretary, is sitting here. Go to the DOPT's website and see what the government's reaction has been to five of the reports submitted by the Second ARC, including that on Local Governance and Decentralization. Effectively, the recommendations have all been shot down. So the issue we need to address, and I think on this there will be no disagreement, is the following - that the government generally is a very reluctant reformer. So it's not just a matter of the devil being in the detail, but it's also the matter of government itself being the devil. Again a reference was made to out of box thinking: the box in a sense is the government. One can cite `Catch 22' of Joseph Hellier; one can cite Sir Humphrey Appleby; one can be specific and talk about the Official Secrets Act, but the simple point is that the government is a reluctant reformer. Broadly speaking, administrative reforms involve two kinds of interactions. The first kind of interaction is between citizens and the government, which typically happens to be not the Central or the state government, but the local government. Secondly, there is interaction between enterprises and the government. 'Enterprise' does not necessarily mean large enterprises represented by CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM; it also means the small entrepreneur, the small businessperson. Many of the administrative rules and regulations are not neutral in the sense that they hurt the smaller and poorer enterprises much more than they hurt the richer ones. The richer ones have the economies of scale and the fixed cost of bribery and corruption can be spread over a larger volume. It is distributionally much more difficult for the smaller ones.
The only way the government reforms is when a countervailing pressure is exerted. All the successful instances that one can think of are instances where countervailing pressures were exerted by civil society. There are three things, which bother me about these successful instances of countervailing pressure. First, in a completely different context, John Kenneth Galbraith talked about cessation of the successful. Cessation of the successful is extremely dangerous in terms of exerting the countervailing pressure. The countervailing pressure needs to be triggered, needs to be catalyzed by people who are educated, by people who are aware. But those are the people who tend to succeed and then cease to be the catalyst, or the trigger. The second thing, which bothers me about civil society's countervailing pressure, is its urban-centricity. These instances of successful countervailing pressure occur in certain parts of the country but not in others. There are rural instances but not as many. The third question in fact a set of related questions - that confronts us, and I do not have a satisfactory answer to it, is what guarantees success of these attempts? What are the preconditions of these attempts? What ensures their failure and what therefore ensures how they can be replicated elsewhere; what ensures they can be scaled up? I stated almost as an assumption, that government is a reluctant reformer, and therefore we need to ensure that these countervailing pressures are exerted elsewhere too; we need to understand how these successful instances can be replicated and scaled up.
The last point I want to make is about something that most of you may be aware of. The Center for Good Governance in Hyderabad has now developed an implementable template to benchmark and measure the state of governance in Indian states. You do not necessarily have to make inter-state comparisons. You can benchmark a state and track its improvement over time, but to implement it, you need information. You need the data to be collected, but our present data collection systems do not generate the kind of objective data needed for it. Governance is sometimes a matter of subjective perception. I am not talking about the subjectivity, but to the extent that objective data is concerned, the system of collection of statistic, whether it is the Census, the National Sample Survey, or other such exercises, today it does not generate the kind of reliable data that is needed to evaluate governance. So, the final point I would' therefore, make is as follows. Before we can try and determine how countervailing pressure can be exerted, there is a great need to ensure that data for measuring governance begins to be generated. Otherwise, what we get is something like the World Bank business indicators, which are very arbitrary, very subjective, very localized and yet people quote them, without recognizing the limitations of that database. So, therefore, let us collect the data; let us collect the information; let us generate the countervailing pressure; let us replicate the experiments that have been successful, because that is the only way we can change the governance.
* "Professor, Centre for Policy Research, noted economist and author".
-Mr. R. Chandrasekhar*
I am glad to be here and to have an opportunity to interact with such a distinguished group. My presentation here will have a little bit about some of the work that has been done and a lot about what has been planned on the leveraging of technology for improving governance, in particular, improving the delivery of services by the Government.
I must confess that I was somewhat frightened by the initial introduction, which referred to me as a person who is working on the solutions to these problems. The very eloquent and graphic statement and exposition of the problems by earlier speakers made it even more frightening. But, I would like to say that while getting the laws and policies right is the starting point for good governance, all of us are painfully aware that that's not the end. In fact, the real fun begins after that because what happens in terms of how these services actually get delivered. That is where a more proactive, intelligent and discriminating use of technology does help. This is just a brief outline of some of the things which are being done and which are being planned. I must again emphasize that the problems being so vast and complex, clearly, there is no single solution. But personally I do feel that technology is a weapon which is quite important and can play a significant role in ensuring a much more effective and efficient delivery of public goods and services that is much more accessible to the people.
There is currently a National plan for e-Governance, the aim of which is to bring services closer to the people. I will just cover very briefly some of the features of these plans and visions, which are also supported by certain amount of infrastructure, implementation framework and strategy for service delivery. Getting the broad picture of some of these is perhaps relevant to really understanding how best one could use this facility to address some of the problems that we have been discussing, the institutions that are involved and some of the key issues.
First, I think the problem in e-Governance was that while a lot of implementations were happening with periodic successes and while its potential was becoming increasingly apparent, there was no single unifying vision across the government. Moreover, these implementations quite often did not really look at the things from the citizens' perspective. So the fundamental paradigm shift which has happened is to focus e-Governance almost entirely on areas of relevance to common man and to make services available in his locality through a common service center. Primarily, the need for such common services delivery outlets arises because even if information is available in electronic form or on the web, citizens in the villages may not have the means to access it. Either they do not have access to computers and the internet, or in some cases, they are not even literate. But their need for information is no less than for anybody else.
The National e-Governance Programme was launched in 2006, and it looked at both the aspects, one of enabling such services but equally importantly, of creating a platform for actual delivery of those services and of making them accessible in villages. These are the two broad aspects of the programme. It also takes into account the fact that the infrastructure for accessing such services electronically is not available in most of the villages. Therefore, if we do not establish that, access will remain confined to the same few people, who in any case have greater access to the system. The other important aspect is that it also recognizes the fact that in most cases, significant results have not been achieved merely by applying technology. They have been achieved
by combining a change in the processes and the procedures with the use of technology. There is a lot of debate on whether one should reform first and bring in the IT later, or taking a completely contrarian view, bring in the IT first and then carry out the reforms as you go forward. But I think the experience is that you really cannot do it in a sequential manner. It turns out that many of the most interesting and powerful reforms in the procedures and processes, which impact delivery, actually happen only alongside the use of technology, because in the absence of technology, those procedural changes simply cannot work at all. Equally, sometimes it so happens that you can make very significant changes in the procedure merely by using technology. For example, you can eliminate twenty of the twenty-five steps in a procedure when you are actually delivering electronically, though sometimes in the practical world, it becomes necessary to say that you cannot have that degree of optimization on day one. So, let us start with a certain level of optimization and then, you keep making further administrative changes. So, it is not exactly a black and white situation. One has to take a calibrated decision on how much of that reform should be brought in on day one with the introduction of the technology. How much should be brought in progressively thereafter? Once you have a complete, technology-enabled process, then making any changes thereafter is like turning on or off a switch, which can be done quickly. Another key element in the whole programme is that it makes extensive use of Public- Private Partnership models. Because, it turns out, the Government policy at least says that the Government would like to deliver its services better. There is no doubt that people want better services. The IT industry, which has a lot of capability and capacity to actually deliver the services and configure the solutions, is also very keen that it should happen. Financial allocations, I can definitely say, have not been a major impediment for implementation of e-Governance. So, where is the problem then? The problem as it turns out is actually in making this happen.
The e-Governance Programme enables the citizen-government interface to be made electronic, so that people can access these services either from the comfort of their home or from a Common Service Center (CSC), or from any other location without necessarily having to come to a Government office, which may sometimes be hundreds of kilometers away from a village. Some of these programmes relate to departments and ministries of Government of India and some of them relate to State Governments. In fact, some of them actually relate to more than one department or more than one Government. It is important to recognize that ultimately different departments and different governments carry out the delivery of services and that the reform of those processes and the way those services are delivered are a function of those departments or governments. Therefore, the ownership in that sense needs to be with that particular department or government. So, this was one very clear understanding that technology was the enabler and not the driver of the e-Governance process. The process and procedures reforms were to be led by the owners of that particular domain. Therefore, the people who are responsible for that domain must understand what technology can do and how it can make the difference. Then they can proceed to lead that transformation while being assisted by technical or technology providing departments like ours, or technology providing agencies in the private or public sector. There are a number of underlying components, which actually make individual projects happen. The National e-Governance Programme (NeGP) is not just a collection of certain projects; it is also mandated to set up the underlying components which actually form the base on which these whole edifices are built. These include things like common policies and standards, which in a technology arena can be quite complex. For example, there is a project to cover the police; and there is a project to cover passports and immigration. Now, how is a passport issued? Whenever a passport is issued, there is a process of police verification and one of the problems in issuing a passport is that nobody is able to predict how much time exactly it would take because the process of police verification takes a long and variable time. Such uncertainty and opacity, even in the absence of any other wrong motive, is a breeding ground for corruption, because if nobody knows how long it is going to take, then clearly, it means a lot of room for corruption. Having computerized both of them separately, linking them or creating a bridge between them can become a problem. If it is not done carefully, then it can aggravate the problems of non-coordination between different departments. There have been instances around the world, like in Malaysia, where once there were entrenched interests even in the e-solutions (even at the highest level, in that particular case, at the level of Prime Minister), the solutions were found to be intractable. It is essential to look at the standards and interface issues right at the outset, since you have the benefit of looking into the problems encountered and solved in many other countries.
I have mentioned about the infrastructure part and the other key element. There is a common thrust on building the capacities. This whole emphasis is on individual domain owners being responsible for the delivery of the services and leading the process of e-enablement. This throw up a big problem in terms of capability of these departments, their having people who are able to see the possibilities, configure the steps involved and having the professional organizations to implement them.
The other key element is of awareness and assessment, for, a lot of problems in the area of e-Governance arise because people are not aware of what is working and what is not working. What is working and where? Sometimes something, which works very well in a particular area, does not work very well elsewhere. And unfortunately, as it turns out in these things, the media is not a great judge of what is succeeding and what is not succeeding. For example, Bill Clinton came to see a V-SAT based project in Rajasthan, which was touted as a great success. The project, which was supposedly delivering some services to a large number of rural women in that area, made great headlines because Clinton had visited it, women were the beneficiaries, and modern technologies were being used. That is till some press reporter decided to go back one year later to find out how it was doing after one year. He found that it had not actually worked for more than 48 hours. Therefore, there is a need for independent assessment. This is also something, which has been brought in, and I am happy to share some of those details with you. In terms of infrastructure, there is a common platform, so that each department does not have to go through the whole problem of creating the common infrastructure on which the whole delivery of services rests. A data center for each state, which securely houses the data, where Government departments can store their data without worrying about it being lost or corrupted. Wider networks using optical fiber go up to the Block level and Common Service Centers located in the villages. The projects are administered by different departments, which actually enabled the services to be delivered through this pipe. In a manner of speaking, this is like the distribution system of water supply, but what flows through it is the actual service. There are the Common Service Centers (CSCs) I talked about. Currently the plan is to deliver about one hundred thousand of them for the six hundred thousand villages. If you look at it like a honeycomb pattern, then it is actually having one center in every alternate village. In the recent announcement by the President to Parliament, it was mentioned that these centers would now be set-up inr every Panchayat by the year 2012. So, by the year 2012, each Panchayat would have one such broadband and internet enabled service centers. Currently, we already have about fifty five thousand of these centers, which are up and running out of the one hundred thousand which are planned and the rest of them would be up by June 2010. All the Panchayats, that is two hundred and fifty thousand Panchayats would have CSCs by 2012 June. Wide Area Networks, of course, provide high quality connectivity up to the Block headquarters. I have also mentioned about Data Center and capacity building.
Recognizing that this is not a departmental programme, there is a whole implementation framework, which is headed at the highest level by the Prime Minister and at the administrative level by the Cabinet Secretary. This actually helps to look at all the projects and the coordination issues across different projects, which come up from time to time. Some of the projects have already been completed; some are under implementation, while some are still on the drawing board. So, it's a mixed bag, as things stands today. Our role is actually that of a facilitator; while we play a significant role in conceptualizing the whole programme, we also provide technical assistance and support the process of formulation of policy and standards, and so on.
Let us see how the service delivery actually takes place. At the center of the Scheme, you have State Data Center. People can access information from CSCs; they can access the forms or download them at the CSC, they can be fill and submit them electronically, without moving out of the village. The transaction goes through the State Data Center, which, as the gateway for service delivery center, logs every such request. An analogy would be a PNR number of a railway ticket. Therefore, wherever you go, you can access the status with that number. Similarly, on the reverse path, once the service is delivered, e.g., delivery of land records or something like that, it goes on the same path.
Another feature of the Programme is that apart from normal kinds of services, there is also a decision that major projects would actually be linked to this infrastructure to make the services and information available right down to the villages. I think the example of NREGS is particularly relevant. Similar things are contemplated for other major flagship programmes, like the Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, and so on.
A lot of this is actually captured through a portal, which provides a single window reference point to the citizen, as a single place to see what all kinds of services are available. This is at the national level. Similarly, at each state level portal, these services are brought on board progressively.
There are many different success stories in terms of project areas. Land records are one significant area; property registration and passports are other notable successes. The trick is to measure the benefits in terms of the reduction in the number of trips that a person makes to a Government office to obtain a given service. Has it reduced the time, and has it reduced the distance required to be covered to access the service? And all of these parameters have shown significant improvements.
In terms of the road map, this is where we are. I would say that today the platform is largely ready, but a lot of work needs to be done in terms of making the services available on a much more wide- spread and ubiquitous manner. There are two suggestions, which are on the drawing board. The first is to have a legislation, which says that various kinds of services and information have to be made available or provided in the electronic mode. But the second, which I think is of immediate possibility, is to make use of Section 4 (1) of the RTI Act, which actually says that certain kinds of information should be made available electronically. But it says it in such a manner that a government department can easily wriggle out of its responsibility. The use of phrases like `within a reasonable time', `subject to availability of resources' provides so many escape routes. So, in this case, in the entire area of citizen services at least, civil society needs to invest its time and effort to give teeth to Section 4 (1) of the RTI Act. I am convinced that it will be a viable investment. I think advocacy groups would have to play a significant role here.
These are some of the critical issues that I leave on the table for discussion
CRITICAL ISSUES FOR SERVICE DELIVERY:
- Focus on citizen-centric services and service levels
- Anytime, Anywhere' availability with multiple channels of service delivery
- Ensuring `Standardisation' and `Interoperability' at the National level with flexibility for customisation at the State level
- Focus on use of Core and Support infrastructure being set-up by the Department of Information Technology:
o SWANs, SDCs and CSCs
- Availability of Finances and ensuring long-term sustainability
- Ensuring maximum participation of private players
- Timely implementation
NeGP was launched in May 2006 to improve public service delivery. It includes:
I. 27 Mission Mode Projects (MMPs).
II. Core infrastructure components - Service Centers, Data Centers and Wide Area Networks.
III. Web enabled delivery of services & service levels.
IV. Process re-engineering, change management and project management.
V. Centralized Initiative - Decentralized Implementation with emphasis on Private Public Partnership (PPP).
NeGP Mission Mode Projects (MMP) taken up in Central, State and Integrated are:
Nine Central: i. Income Tax, ii. Central Excise, iii. Passports/Visa, iv. Immigration, v. MCA 21, vi. National ID / UID, vii. Pensions, viii. e-Office and ix. Banking & Insurance.
Eleven in States: i. Agriculture, ii. Property Registration, iii. Land Records NLRMP, iv. Transport,
v. Treasuries, vi. Commercial Taxes, vii. Gram Panchayats, viii. Municipalities, ix. Police CCTNS,
x. Employment Exchange and xi. e-District
Seven Integrated: i. e-Biz, ii. EDI, iii. India Portal, iv. CSC, v. NSDG, vi. e-Courts and
The Components of NeGP are as follows:
- Policies, Standards and Guidelines
- Infrastructure (SWAN, CSCs , SDC )
- Support Infrastructure
- Capacity Building and Training
- Awareness & Assessment
- Technical Assistance
National NeGP Plan: Web-enabled Anytime, Anywhere - Services & Information
CORE & SUPPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
- Common Service Centers (CSC)
o More than100,000 tele-centers in 600,000 villages.
o Broad band internet enabled connectivity
o Implementation through PPP
- State Wide Area Network (SWAN)
o Secured network for Government work
o Connecting State HQs ,District HQs, Blocks HQs
o Minimum 2 Mbps Broadband Connectivity
- State Data Centers (SDC)
o State of art Data Centers at each of 35 States/UTs
o e-Delivery of G2G, G2C and G2B services
o State Portals, State Service Delivery Gateways
- Capacity Building Scheme (CBS)
o Recruiting 400 Professional from market
o Constituting State e Mission Teams ( SeMTs)
o E- Governance roadmaps and Programme Management
ROLE OF DIT IN NeGP:
i. Act as Secretariat to the Apex Committee
ii. Appraise (Technically) all projects prior to approval
iii. Provide technical assistance to Central Line Departments / States
iv. Implement pilots / infrastructure / special projects
v. Lay down standards and policy guidelines
vi. Leverage capacity of existing public and private institutions SERVICE DELIVERY STRATEGY
COMMON SERVICE CENTERS
- 100 150 sq. ft space
- Minimum 1 PC with UPS
- Minimum 1 Printer (Inkjet or Dotmatrix)
- Digital / Web Camera
- Genset / Inverter/ Solar
- OS and other application software
- Wired / Wireless Broadband Connectivity
- Trained and incentivized manpower
* "Secretary to Government of Inida, Department of Information Technology; pioneer in the field of e-Governance".
-Mr. Anil Sachdeva*
Refurbishing HR & Accountability
• The Leadership Crisis
• Crises are created by us
• When those in power become selfish, their competence causes havoc
• When organization structures, systems and processes are not refurbished, accountability is weak
• When cause and effect are distanced by time and space, our thinking gets clouded Inspired Leadership
• Great organizations who have chosen to follow the model of inspired leadership have resilience
• They have always put focus on the long term and have not taken strategic decisions based on short term considerations benefiting a few who `rule'
• They have done the right thing for all stakeholders including the community and the Eco-system
• Inspired leadership has five core values: ethics, sustainability, mindfulness, compassion and diversity
• Ethics means there is openness, transparency and sharing of good news and bad news well in time and `No Deception' or `Half truths' and the means used are fair and `above board'
• Sustainability means we produce more than what we consume and always pay attention to the way we use the earth's resources
• Mindfulness means we understand the way our thinking and living impacts the planet
• Compassion means we feel for those who are less fortunate
• Diversity means we respect and leverage the uniqueness of each person to create the larger good of all
Refurbishing HR in Today's times
• Organizations become great work places when there is focus on shared vision and values, credible leadership and the collective will to make a difference- transformation is possible in the worst run systems
• The gap between great Institutions and others stands out in a big way even though they may similar constraints
• When there is high trust and high touch, it becomes easy to make tough calls
• Corruption can be reduced when people take pride in their work
Some Smart Strategies
• Over communicate- leaders need to be much more accessible and visible
• Drive Innovation by rallying the people together and channeling fear into creativity- create networks of the good so that they do not get deterred by the evil few
• Treating deserving people well pays rich dividends
• Setting personal examples always works
Invest in building character
• It is wrong to assume that character can not be shaped when people get older
• Sharing stories, appreciating good work and rewarding positive behavior with the right work are important steps
• Peer pressure on the corrupt can work wonders
• We need to teach `revolution' to the ruling class!
• Identify strategic initiatives and projects that matter
• Choosing teams that are based on careful matching of portfolio of talent with the portfolio of projects
• Leveraging networks for accelerated learning
• The 70-20-10 basis for development of people
Designing new dash board and rewards
• Choose new measures that build health and are not guided by short term window dressing
• Change reward systems
• Do honest reviews based on facts and not impressions including complete acknowledgement of mistakes
• Make rewards based on inspired leadership behavior
Inspired Leadership Behavior
• Feeling like a victim is the worst form of behavior
• So inspire people, make them feel wanted, speak the truth and pay attention to those who are doing the right things
* "Founder and CEO, School of Imspired Leadership, Gurgaon and distinguished HR professional".
-Prof Biju Varkkey*
Performance Related Rewards in Government
• Introduction of PRR in government would lead to significant improvements in economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
• It will enhance employee motivation and will provide performing employees with opportunity to earn.
• The experience of performance related pay in government in a number of countries has shown that it led to productivity improvements and efficiency gains as well as tangible cost savings. (OECD Studies). Yes there are negative examples also.
January - March, 2010