Fast track projects crawl and proposals under active consideration, in bureaucratese, mean the file may move. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given the bureaucratic lexicon a shining new term to promise efficient administration: “a super fast track”.
This was in Assam. Singh was laying the foundation stone of a gas cracker plant conceived 15 years ago. “Having taken so much time to start work on the project, we must place it on a super fast track,” Singh told the audience in his adopted home state this week.
And there, a senior government official remarked, Singh may have inadvertently coined a new term for them to bandy around. “You will hear more of it, at meetings and public discourses,” said the official who has closely watched bureaucratese – the bureaucratic lexicon – expand.
“These phases are coined to express the intention,” said an official, describing the bureaucracy as second only to management gurus in coining jargons.
It is not clear if the linguistic paradigm shift would move projects and files any faster. Proposals under active consideration certainly do not; it only signals if the proposal is on the radar of the government or somewhere under a mound of files.
Nor did it always make a difference when the government tried to cut the red tape and coined the fast track scheme in the early nineties.
A decade later, then power minister RKumaramangalam asked about delays in fast track power projects in Parliament confessed: “The word ‘fast track’ has become a misnomer…almost superstitious…The moment the word ‘fast’ is attached to it, it slows down substantially.”
The fast track did certainly catch the fancy of the bureaucracy; there is even a fast-track mechanism for scientific research project.
But it did not mean that those without the tag could beat a snail. A World Bank study on constraints to economic growth counts delays in infrastructure projects as one important reason. Breaking the bottlenecks was as important as pouring more money into the sector, it concluded.
The analysis did not shock anyone. India spends thousands of crores more on projects than required due to delays. More than one-third of 860 projects monitored by a government have missed deadlines by anything from one month to 16 years. The delay over July-September last year would cost the exchequer Rs 32,525 crore; four times the central contribution this year to feed over 12 crore students in schools.