Everyone knows that drastic reforms are needed in pretty much every sector in India. But any debate on the same tends to get carried away in several directions, primarily because different people have different opinions on what reforms are more urgent and more important. Politicians, of course, have no opinion on this. The current logjam suits them very well!
So I thought, let me post a list of the core issues that, if addressed, will in my view have the most significant impact and automatically address the other issues as well, such as corruption, red-tapism, mobocracy, etc. at least partially.
Issues are sorted in order of priority:
- Judicial reforms.This is the number one priority. India needs a huge investment in this sector. The Govt. needs to build scores of new district courts and also appoint tens of thousands of judges as soon as possible. Justice needs to be delivered in weeks and months, never going into years.Once people realise that if they commit a crime or an offence, they may be punished in a matter of weeks or months, then it will greatly reduce the incentive to break the law. Right now, people have stopped caring for the law. The judicial system is almost non-existent in our minds. That’s the reason why people are resorting to violence everywhere, be it on moral, social or criminal issues. For them, violence acts like a release of pent up anger and frustration over their day-to-day problems.If the judicial system is strengthened in this country, many problems such as corruption, crimes against women, traffic violations, moral policing, religious conflicts, etc. will automatically come under control, because people will realise that the courts are there to punish them if caught.
But on the other hand, if the Govt. still doesn’t wake up and realise the extent of this problem, this country will gradually slip into anarchy and we may see a repeat of the Pakistan situation here.
- Police reforms.This is the number two priority. The general impression in India is that the Police are nothing but uniformed goons, a public-funded private militia of the ruling class, one that is more interested in protecting the interests of the powers-that-be instead of implementing the law in letter and spirit. They are best avoided, and are courted only by those on the wrong side of the law!The entire Police system in this country needs an urgent overhaul. Cops are poorly trained, poorly equipped and behave more like feudal lords than public servants. One only needs to pay a visit to any Police station to see this fact. In most cases, the Police decline to act. And whenever they do, they invariably seem to add to the problem instead of solving it. Recent events like the Mangalore pub attack, the Gujarat riots and other cases reinforce this belief.The immediate need of the hour is to add manpower, provide modern equipment and upgrade police stations and make them more “employee” and “consumer” friendly. IT can play a significant role in enhancing the quality of Police-public contact. They also need to be trained in modern forensic and investigative techniques. There are concrete proposals for Police reforms that are pending since 1981! What is stopping the Govt. from implementing them?
But perhaps the most important need is to have a clear separation between the political system and the Police. In India, anything that is prone to political interference is bound to be ruined! The Police must have its own board that makes appointments, transfers, etc., much like the legal system. They should only be answerable to a strong judiciary. The same goes for other agencies like the CBI, CID, etc.
- Governance reforms.This is a joint second priority. Dealing with the Govt. in any form is nothing short of a pain for ordinary citizens. You wouldn’t be an Indian if you didn’t agree with this statement!The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by Veerappa Moily has come up with several remarkable proposals for encouraging performance in the civil services, such as additional pay based on number of “files” cleared or speed of clearing files, merit based promotions, etc. These are generic proposals that can be implemented on all levels (but are conveniently slated to be submitted just before the 2009 elections, when they can’t be implemented!).The most important part of the bureaucracy are the “front-office” folks who interact with the public. They must be made more sensitive to the needs and troubles of the public and must be “encouraged” to work faster and not make people run around. Again, IT can play an important role in enhancing the quality of contact and reducing unnecessary visits to Govt. offices.
Govt. offices need to be overhauled and given better infrastructure, just like Police stations. The way Govt. offices are, employees would hardly be motivated to put in better performance. They will only change if given a good place to work in, and benefits for hard work.
One only needs to visit a Govt. office in the US/Canada or UK to see the stark contrast in the experience!
- Political reforms.Decriminalisation of politics is a long pending demand of many in India. I don’t understand why chargesheeted politicians cannot be debarred from contesting elections. This is clearly a mockery of democracy by those who claim to protect it!On a related note, the concept of “negative voting”, i.e. the right to vote for none of the candidates, sounds promising. This, if it works well in practice, can shame political parties into discarding non-performing candidates and nominating cleaner ones.
Other important issues:
- Major focus on public transport in all Tier 1/2/3 cities.This would include introduction of modern comfortable buses like the Vajra Volvos in Bangalore, metro trains like the Delhi Metro, and good modern taxis. Perhaps the Tata Nano can replace all the rickshaws in India. Also, the Mahindra-Renault Logan would make a great taxi!Also, complaints of overcharging and refusing customers by taxi and rickshaw drivers need to be looked into. This is a major problem in Bangalore currently.
- Disinvestment and privatisation of non-core Govt. run institutions, but only after strengthening of regulatory bodies, watchdog bodies and ombudsman bodies. Clearly, it’s not the Govt.’s job to run airlines, hotels, etc.And with a strong body to oversee their conduct, private companies can provide good service and modern facilities to consumers. But without oversight, they would only indulge in profiteering.
- Power reformsare another urgent requirement. This would include reforming all aspects of the power sector, such as generation, transmission and also consumption. Setting up new power plants is certainly needed, but the 40% transmission and distribution losses (read pilferage) also needs to be addressed. And lastly, consumers need to be given financial incentives to purchase energy-efficient CFL or LED based bulbs or tubes.Likewise, they must be encouraged to switch to solar energy for heating water, etc.
- Municipal reforms.Hardly any Indian city has been developed in a planned manner, perhaps with the exception of Chandigarh. Indian cities are hazardous zones, as any foreigner will tell you! Lack of footpaths, poor roads, congested bylanes, no traffic management, poor parking facilities, poor garbage disposal, overflowing sewers, webs of electric wires at poles, lack of open spaces — the list is infinite! All this is a direct result of unplanned development and expansion. Unless we invest in professional town-planners, this will never improve.The surfeit of municipal bodies (e.g. BDA, BBMP, BMRDA, etc. in Bangalore) only adds to the confusion in decision making. Here, routinely new roads are laid only to be dug up by some other agency for repairing drains or laying cables, etc.
These are some of the points I had to make. I will add more points as and when I can think of them.