For a Good Life Beyond ‘Welfare, Development’

Date:

Citizens Plead ‘Treat us with Courtesy, Give us Choice and Voice’

(Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao)

It is generally construed that, Government or Governance means, ‘Welfare and Development’ and nothing else. If it is true, then, despite best of welfare and development, why are governments voted out?

Therefore, there is something else, that, citizens of their choice need. The good old concept of Government that, it means ‘Ruling and Controlling the State and Citizen’ is obsolete now. Difference between ‘Government and Governance,’ is that former refers to ‘Institutional Structure’ and latter to ‘Collective Action and Networking of Citizens.’ Government or Governance is not like parents’ intruding. ‘Father’s Excessive Concern for and Interference in his Son’s Life,’ as in a Telugu Movie ‘Bommarillu,’ leads to son’s ‘Bitterness to his Overbearing Father.’

As a student of Public Administration and Political Science, I accept as true, with Henry David Thoreau, an American Philosopher of yester years, said that ‘The Best Government is that which Governs Least,’ which phrase is also credited to Thomas Jefferson or John Locke. Being in Active Public and Private Service for over 53 years, beginning career as Librarian, I reached to a level as Chief Public Relations Officer to First Chief Minister of Telangana. 53 years’ service included 15 years stint put together with Governor Kumud Ben Joshi and two extraordinarily intellectual, incredible, and influential Chief Ministers Dr M Channa Reddy and K Chandrashekhar Rao. Working with them, and with high profile IAS Officers, I had an opportunity to closely witness the decision-making process in administration, though seldom formed part of it.

Organizing Training Programs in Dr MCR HRD Institute, for 9 years, including that of ‘Under Training IAS Officers’ and to entire AP State Cabinet once, was an experience of ‘Joint Learning’ on Governance. Similarly, while organizing ‘Governing for Results,’ and ‘Orientation to Management of Training (OMOT)’ Programs, along with my senior colleagues, R Seeta Rama Rao, and MP Sethy, on directions of the then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, in which participants were HoDs and senior IAS Officers, gave me improved insight on ‘Government, Governance, Welfare and Development.’ Citizens’ Charter, Public Grievances Redressal, Public Facilitation Centers, Right to Information, Reform Initiatives etc. Programs provided extra information on this subject.

Leading ‘Public Private Partnership’ theme in Emergency Management and Research Institute provided me an opportunity to interact with Bureaucrats and Ministers, who included Chief Ministers, of some states, during my visits for expansion of 108 Ambulance Services to more than ten states. Among them were undivided AP and Gujarat CMs, Dr YS Rajshekhar Reddy, and Narendra Modi respectively, enabling further exposure to Governance.

Of late, it has become a fashion for successive governments, to announce scheme after scheme, whether beneficiary accepts or not, as an ‘Excessive Concern.’ Despite ‘Per Capita Income and GSDP’ growth, which perceptibly means poverty is on the decline, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Schemes are being announced. Likewise, ‘Development’ is certainly acceptable, but, ‘Erratic Development,’ without going into the other side of undesirable aspects, is arguable. For instance, construction of many Irrigation Projects maybe required, but by that it may not be desirable to do away with production of multiple crops as in the past, and limit to huge paddy production.

From ‘Kingdoms and Empires,’ ‘Monarchies and Dictatorships,’ and ‘Feudalism and Capitalism,’ Governments altered to ‘Sovereign, Socialistic, Secular, Democracies,’ as in the case of India. Abraham Lincoln’s Ideology of ‘Democracy is a Government of the People, by the People and for the People’ though welcomed, remained on paper by and large. ‘Governance’ transformed to ‘Good Governance,’ and ‘Governance with Difference.’ Development and Welfare Schemes are prioritized. But, people, in the ever-changing economic status scenario, social and political awareness, broadening of occupations, and being conscious of empowerment, expect to listen to them, before decisions are taken. Instead of ‘Unilateral and Arbitrary’ decisions Citizen’s preference is ‘Nothing More and Nothing Less, but to be Precise.’

In the changing and emerging context, it is time for Governments, to fundamentally change their perceptions of Governance and ‘Justify the Trust of Faith of the People’ in Administration, by taking Citizens in to confidence, in the decision-making process, which for all practical purposes is absent now. Designing, Developing, and Delivering Schemes, however much liberal, generous, and beneficial maybe, will be a total futile exercise, or maximum may cause temporary success. Governments must annul, forever, the ‘Growing Doubts about the Accountability, Effectiveness, and Moral Standards’ of their Administration in Citizens.

In politics of ‘Cutthroat Competition’ and urge to come to power, retain power and continue in power, it is a challenging task to accomplish the above, and demands unstinted commitment of not only Politicians, but also their Civil Servants. Therefore, this requires a ‘Paradigm Shift’ transforming ‘Regulator Governance’ to ‘Facilitator Governance.’ Rather, a government from ‘Regulator and Controller’ to ‘Enabler of Citizen Needs.’ This is possible, if only, ‘Interface with Citizens with Determination’ is enhanced, propelling the service providers, ‘Responsive and Accountable to People.’ The lead shall come from CMs in states and PM at center.

This paradigm shift in Governance shall be, from ‘Fat, Complacent Administration’ to ‘Slender, Alert Administration’; from ‘Bureaucracy’ to ‘Honesty’; from ‘Extremely Tight Culture’ to ‘Ability to Change, and Familiarize’; from ‘Public Hostility’ to ‘Public Empathy’; from ‘We know Best and Everything Arrogance’ to ‘Concept of Joint Learning’; from ‘Mistrust and Fear of Government’ to ‘Trust and Faith in Leader and Governance’; from ‘Administration Controlled by Hierarchies’ to ‘Decision Making based on Team Work’; from ‘Concentration in Power’ to ‘Co-ordination in Work Culture’; from ‘Citizen Unfriendly’ to ‘Citizen Friendly’; from Pure ‘Local Standards’ to a mix of ‘Local and World Standards’; and finally from ‘Conservative and Inflexible’ to ‘Creative and Innovative.’

Shared concern of citizen is to have an efficient, open, responsive, accountable, clean, and dynamically adjusting administration. The overall negative perception about public services as apathetic, insensitive, dilatory, dishonest, and biased needs to be addressed. ‘Citizens’ Charters’ once successfully tried all over country including AP, 25 years ago, and now either abandoned or in namesake operation should be revived beginning with those departments which have a large public interface, specifying standards of service and time limits that the public can reasonably expect so that the citizen is placed at the center of administration instead of a passive recipient of services.

Therefore, for a ‘Good Life,’ ‘Beyond Welfare and Development,’ what Citizens are saying is ‘Treat us with Courtesy and Respect, Make Things Easy for us, Provide Reliable and Timely Help, Give us Choice and Voice.’ Good Life implies, ‘Self-Satisfaction, Self-Mastery and Personal Fulfilment.’ Perhaps, the ‘Praja Vani’ (Citizen’s Voice) Experiment initiated by Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy, will be a ‘Trendsetter and Trailblazer’ for other states, if continued seriously. It is a platform with a mix of ‘Public Grievances Redressal’ and ‘Public Facilitation Center.’

Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan, in Her address to both Houses of Legislature on December 15, describing Her Government and Governance as the one, taking steps to give Freedom, Liberty and Equal Opportunities to people within the reach of Citizen, said that, the ‘Praja Vaani’ is first step in this direction. However, instead of organizing ‘Praja Vaani,’ only for two days in a week, in the long run, it could be on all days, and on each day, two or three concerned Ministers listen to public grievances, with a day exclusively by CM himself.

Further, CM Revanth Reddy’s recent visit to Dr MCR HRD Institute, and giving importance to ‘Training Public Servants’ will go a long way, in realizing by ‘Letter and Spirit,’ in providing ‘Learning Opportunities Systematically’ to Public Servants, both Official and Non-Official, which is essential to improve the mandatory ‘Knowledge, Skill and Attitudinal Change,’ on the implications of above-mentioned Paradigm Shift.

(Writer is Former CPRO to Former Chief Minister, Telangana)

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