More governance and less government has been an integral part of Narendra Modi's public statements. Every time I hear this, it makes me think how will he ensure what he truly wants? (If he gets to be in that position nationally) Where does he begin from? Is it possible without a few essential corrections? What are those basics without which he cannot achieve which he wants to?
In other words, what are the 'cannots' which he cannot carry along, if he has to make the breakthroughs. Similarly what are the 'cans' which Modi as a prime minister can/must do, to provide more governance?
These are my select five thought-through thoughts in both the categories -- the 'cannots' and the 'cans'.
First the 'cannots' to provide more governance and less government:
1) More governance cannot begin without the elected members of Parliament observing a 365-day of code of conduct. This means rewriting of the oath of office as MPs. They do not only take an oath of secrecy and allegiance to India's Constitution but also of a solemn pledge to ensure Lok Sabha does not become a 'Lock' Sabha and the Rajya Sabha not a 'Rage' Sabha. This means elected representatives set the right example of civility and decorum in parliamentary proceedings. Members may oppose if they need to, but without obstruction and destruction; without pepper sprays, tearing papers, pulling out mikes or indulging in unruly behaviour.
Unless the elected political class sets the right example of good governance how will they be able command moral authority, respect and trust to get citizens' participation for good governance? Will Modi be able to make some breakthrough in this?
2) There cannot be maximum governance with minimum government without bright, upright officers in the right places. And the critical positions begin with the cabinet secretary, who oversees union secretaries and provides the critical link between the prime minister's office and the rest of the secretaries at the Centre and even the states. Other key positions are chief secretaries, director generals of police and revenue commissioners. These officers cannot but be the best. That is if the goals of good governance have to be achieved.
3) Modi (if he holds the PM's post) cannot keep transferring saved or borrowed money into leaking buckets without plugging the holes. This is reference to several social welfare schemes, which are money guzzlers, doled out with an eye on the votebank.
4) He cannot ignore nearly two crore government employees across the country, who are the real governance to the last mile, for the poorest of the poor in the remotest corner of the country.
5) Modi also cannot govern systems with a 19th century mindset, 20th century government processes for meeting 21st century needs.
Now from these five challenges of cannot, I wish to share the 5 cans which Modi can ensure.
a) With the backing of his party and right-minded people, he can put in place systems that enable identifying right officers for postings, transfers and promotion for key positions as mentioned, such as cabinet secretary, chief secretaries, director generals of police and revenue commissioners. By chief secretaries effective coordination is ensured: with capable police chiefs, law and order is made possible, and with revenue officials, enough revenue is generated for money to be available for equitable development.
b) Modi can create policies to involve education and research institutes to objectively evaluate performance of government schemes or government department's performance at no cost to the exchequer. This ensures transparency and accountability through objective analysis and regular feedback, along with practical learning for students as part of their project writing.
c) All contracts above a certain amount can be on site to ensure a level playing field for business and entrepreneurial community. This will restore faith in the government, while providing good governance. Most of all, it will restore integrity.
d) Cooling off period for all civil servants, including the judiciary, for at least two years will ensure some insulation from temptations of immediate post retirement appointments. It will also enable assimilation in normal public life devoid of official trappings. This will generate re-sensitisation, essential before re-engagement with government in power.
e) Retrain and align the two crore public servants towards citizen charter and grievance redressal issues through greater use of technology and easy access to helplines with assured timelines. This is a must for sensitive governance. Or how else will the country as a whole feel the change. Retraining, constant sensitisation of public servants can be integrated in the governance systems itself. "Old tools do not create new carvings". They will need to be kept updated and relevant.
Narendra Modi may like to remember what William Gladstone, a four-time prime minister of the United Kingdom, said: "It is the duty of the government to make it difficult for people to do wrong."
It is the duty of governance to make it easy for people to do right.
(The writer is the first woman IPS officer and now a social activist)