Friday, March 30, 2007

No Time For Governance

“Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now” - Larry Kersten (American Sociologist and Author).
I found the above quote very amusing and relevant. Those in the government - ministers and bureaucrats seem to have been immensely inspired by it. Or else how can one gloss over the colossal loss of over Rs25,545 crores ($58 billion) incurred in 476 centrally-funded projects. It just sums up to 8% of cost overun. The irony is that the most serious delays occurred in power, petroleum and railway projects which constitute the backbone of India's infrastructure. The government, without any let or hindrance, would be happy to fantasize about becoming the second largest economy in the world when development of basic infrastructure vital for such dreams to materialise remains neglected.
Who is to blame for such poor performance? Nobody. In the recent history of the government, there is hardly any instance when any head of a minister or bureaucrat has rolled for such failures. Introspection seems to be the right medicine to cure such maladies. The other day, the Prime Minister, while talking on the slippages in power projects, suggested introspection for the officials. For the crucial power sector, the achievement against the target was a meagre 56% for the Tenth Plan. Interestingly, such shortfalls did not happen overnight but was spread over 5 long years and despite a separate ministry of Programme Implementation supposedly monitoring central projects round the year.
BCCI President Sharad Pawar, who is also the Agriculture Minister, also advised introspection after the debacle of Team India in World Cup 2007. Where else his heart should be as BCCI is the richest cricket organisation in the world? It is unfortunate that he cannot devote so much time for the hapless farmers who are committing suicides by dozens.
Similarly, inflation is forcing millions of self-employed, daily wage-earners and senior citizens(who are not getting pension from the government) to tighten their belts to make both ends meet. The ministers and the government officials who should have been alarmed at their own failures are protected automatically with their pay and perquisites linked to consumer price index. And even before any pressure has built up for setting up of the Sixth Pay Commission, the Prime Minister himself took the initiative to announce it to win the hearts of the pampered and organised group of government employees who constitute merely 4% of the total labour force.
My advice to the remaining 96% of the labour force is that they should be patient and introspective.

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