WHY ONLY A BANK ACCOUNT?
WHY NOT GOVERNANCE THROUGH TAB?
Good governance has become the new mantra for political parties. The impact of Aam Aadmi Party's success and the massive mass support it has garnered has sent other political parties to the drawing boards to work out the modalities for a corruption less blueprint for governance to be incorporated in their manifestos for the coming elections. Each party with its own model of good governance tantalizingly held before the voters to convince them about their intentions.
It seems that good governance is some kind of chameleon which can take as many shapes and properties as the political parties. Good governance is not a privilege being bestowed by the political parties on the people. It is the right of the people to get good governance. Government is obligated to provide the same level of governance irrespective of parties' different agenda of honest governance. Unless there is a permanent and organized system for delivering corruption-free good governance involving all the stake holders, the possibility of it being durable, acceptable and having a universal outreach will be negligible.
What is the geography of good governance? For Delhi it is a helpline for the entire state. Are we looking for Delhi like city states, in the whole country, as plausible unit for good governance? A sting operation say in Macchli Shahr will require much larger and more complex machinery for effective deterrence, if the decision makers are sitting in Lucknow. Or a call to a helpline in a state capital by a villager from a remote village will rely more on the mercy of the Good Samaritan bureaucrat than the government machinery.
Again in this age of instant communication, any system which expects people to stand in a line and present their problems to the top leader in a Janta Darbar is effectively a bad exercise at symbolism, a desperate attempt at populism, or a crude way of satisfying the wrongly placed ego of the leader. Communication of a problem and resolving it, are two different things and such stand alone systems generally tend to collapse. If the chief Minister is the fountain of every dispensation in the state or if he is the only pair of ear in the state for hearing people grievances then why do we have so many of elected representatives?
Any system which excludes the voters and the elected representatives, from the redressal or governance mechanism is bound to fail. It becomes a system which relies heavily on administrative discretion and political patronage.
The fact that a crowd is not equivalent to voters plays heavily with the psyche of all. The people never get that group moral courage to challenge their leaders about their unfulfilled promises and they never collectively question the administration about its performance. The leaders do not owe any loyalty to the crowd. For them a crowd of slogan shouting people is way different from the line of voters standing in front of their polling booth to vote for them. Why would they not like to hide behind relative anonymity of a crowd to blame their opponents or some disgruntled religious or social group for their failures? All crowds can be anything but their voters. More so if the crowd comprises mostly of people who are not from his vote bank. In the same vein the administration and public service organisations will always love to forget people as voters who helped build the delivery system but would prefer to look at them only as beneficiaries of the system.
Voters need to have a constituency to call themselves voters and elected representatives need to have a constituency to represent. Irony is that constituencies do not exist, neither real nor virtual. They are administrative conveniences created to hold elections. The only connect between voters and their representative is snapped when the constituencies cease to exist as soon as the results of the elections are declared. The collective of people who elected them as their representative cease to exist and the leader ceases to be answerable to his constituents. His loyalty switches over to the only tangible option available, that is, the party. No doubt leaders totally become creatures of the party since they do not have a constituency to relate to and the voters become just ordinary citizen left at the mercy of handful of bureaucrats. Had there been a physical boundary of a constituency it would have been impossible for its leaders to ignore it and for its people to be so powerless. So unless the grievance redressal and governance mechanism overlaps geography of constituencies, and the voters & their elected representatives are recognized as its most important stake holders, we will be staring at an isolated effort for good governance stemming from a Chief Minister or a Prime Minister rather than the people who have to implement it or who have to benefit from it.
Governance is certainly not something which can be done in a closet.
Complaints have a built-in tendency of finding their place under a carpet. Police stations, Customer support systems, Government call centers all will do well not having any complaint. So why have them at all? The politics of complaint, sting and punishment brings unwanted dissension among the stake holders of any democracy. And Janta Darbars by the name of it speaks of feudal dispensation of something which only the Raja will be able to provide. You cannot expect the society to work on fear, inquisition and guillotine and more so in a democracy.
I asked the Youth wing president of a national party as to why does he not have a dedicated call number of his own on which people may call him and let him know of their problems. He replied that hundreds of people already met him every day with their problems so he does not want to make his life miserable by having a call number too. Another youth leader said that people come to him with their problems but as a legislator he cannot provide any solution to it. Even to get an administrative decision taken by the government to address that problem it requires that either he is a legislator of the ruling party or he has the patience and time to see the things are done through the government red tape. He hardly had any system or resources at his disposal to attend to complaints. If the irrigation canal is not having water for months on end he can hardly provide farmers water even if he wanted to, especially if he is from the party in opposition.
The holistic concept of good governance should be constituency based, inclusive, non-conflicting & measurable and it should derive its strength from positive competition between delivery mechanism of various constituencies rather than fear and retribution. Something of a people managed public ledger of the administrative and public services provided by departments, NGOs and CSR activities of the Corporates.
A Delhi based small NGO has recently launched a platform called Janpratinidhi.com to show us how the two technologies of Internet and mobile may be used for what it calls a 'People's initiative to address governance issues': finding good leader to govern; feedback mechanism between the governed and the governors; and grievance redressal.
National Help Centre of Janpratinidhi.com provides forum for grievance redressal to every citizen in India. He may file his complaint online from his constituency page available on Janpratinidhi.com or call a national call number and leave a voice recording of his complaint after selecting the appropriate IVR options. All of these complaints are promptly displayed on the constituency page of the caller along with his audio files. The public display of the complaints of various departments sensitizes every stake holder about the problem. Instead of being an indictment of the administration, the government or the legislator it becomes a huge 'to do' list to be addressed by the service agencies. It removes the language problem, It saves fruitless and costly visit of poor people to the janta darbar, it removes favoritism, it checks corruption since the complaint is already in public domain, it provides the service provider an opportunity to explain the reason for complaint, it provides a reflection on different administrators and their approach to the grievance redressal, it provides a tool to find out how much pro-active the elected representative is to his voters, and it provides a tool for comparison to find constituencies with better governance to institute an award system. It makes every elected representative relevant to his constituency; it celebrates democracy by providing the elected representative a virtual constituency to stay connected to his people for his tenure. It rises above caste, religion and race to be truly secular. And it is easily accessible to eighty percent of the population of this country.
One of the biggest problems in governance, which also is mother of all corruption, is the failure of people's feedback. An effort at such feedback mechanism was the statutory social audit in the MGNREG Act. Being generally government/administration and NGO driven it becomes a field day for all corrupt involved in the delivery mechanism because there is no feed-back for the people to audit the delivery. The famous lines of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister, that only 18 Paise of every rupee intended for the poor in the villages, ultimately reaches the poor, is clearly a tale of an absent public feedback system. The People's Audit is another of such application by which Janpratinidhi.com claims to bring transparency and a people watch for projects and social schemes. Once again relying on the two technologies, the application provides the government departments and the administration of every constituency to declare the details regarding the implementation of any scheme or project from beneficiary's perspective. In case of absence of such information from the government the same can be sought through RTI by common public and populated on the constituency page of the portal. The people are expected to audit the scheme with respect to their village, panchayat or block and provide their input about the implementation, volume, time taken, quality and maintenance. It is a people driven open platform which is secular, and information driven. It is non accusative. It provides the public stamp to targets and achievements, Monitors the implementation and gives a recourse to decision makers to bring mid stream changes for better public experience from the schemes.
There is a mad rush for all political parties to find acceptable, creditable and honest faces for their party. Supreme Court decision of barring criminals and AAP experiment of putting up candidates who are honest and with integrity has started a viral campaign for finding good people as leaders. Why not let people find the best candidates from among themselves, to whom parties may eventually give their tickets? The Lok Ummeedwar application on Janpratinidhi.com allows people to reach a consensus about their choice of candidates for political parties to accept. The choice for a good candidate would be people driven instead of one imposed by party chiefs for reasons which is anything but public service.
The fact that the present day politics has become a watershed in the history of this country; the fact that the middle class and youth of this country have found a voice to ask for change and express aspirations; and the fact that our democracy will have lot of options, it becomes imperative that the people as voters get their rightful place among the stakeholders of democracy. Efforts like Janpratinidhi.com will restore the power back to the people so that we do not lose our perspective ever.