the much-maligned Gujarat. Three years ago, the losses in
power sector were of the order of Rs.2,500 crore. In a bold
initiative, the Gujarat government separated the agricultural
feeder lines from domestic supply. Farm power is charged
at Rs.850 per HP (at 1700 units consumption and 0.50 ps/unit).
Today, all villages get 24-hour domestic supply, and the
power board is making a tidy profit!
Union itself is guilty of disjointed policy and incoherent
execution in many sectors. Take energy sector. We have several
players - ministries of oil and gas, power, coal, mines,
non-conventional energy, and nuclear energy, and several
public sector behemoths. Each functions as an isolated,
vertical silo and there is no integration or convergence.
This, at a time when dramatic changes are sweeping energy
sector globally, and vital new initiatives need to be coordinated.
Health sector provides another example. Nutrition, water
supply and sanitation - three key determinants of health
- are each managed in splendid isolation. Within health
itself, the various disease control programmes, NACO, and
AYUSH function as separate empires with very little convergence.
states, the situation is at times even more alarming. Often
key positions are filled routinely, with square pegs occupying
round holes. The tenure of key public servants is usually
under a year, and in many cases below 6 months! In this
merry-go-round, there is neither authority to deliver, nor
accountability. Everybody complains against everyone else.
A classic system of realistic and plausible alibis is created,
in which we have only victims and no villains. Not surprisingly,
corruption is rampant.
general, delivery of services, not withstanding a few notable
successes, is poor. Education and healthcare are two important
areas of failure. At the policy level, there is welcome
recognition of past follies. More attention and money are
now allocated to these sectors. In the absence of real reform
in delivery, more funds would only lead to more leakages
we have to live with this unhappy state of affairs, or can
we improve performance? Will our economy be held back by
poor governance? The answers lie in our approach to delivery
over the next few years. A priceless opportunity beckons
us. Indian economy can be truly unleashed and poverty ended
if only public money is put to good use and services are
certainly need comprehensive political reform to change
incentives in public life and eliminate corruption. Equally,
we need rational, growth-oriented, wealth and employment
generating policies. Past orthodoxies need to be given up.
But our economy need not be held back until these political
and policy failures are addressed. Competent delivery can
still be ensured within the political constraints, accelerating
growth and reducing the burden of poverty.
are four broad approaches which can yield significant results
in delivery. First, we need effective convergence of key
sectors and services at all levels - Union, state and local.
The fact that there are about 70 Groups of Ministers in
the Union shows how disparate the functioning of departments
and ministries is! Significant restructuring at every level
is both necessary and feasible. This better coordination
alone will improve both policy making and execution.
a rational personnel policy needs to be evolved and implemented
at all levels. Development of domain expertise, selection
of the right person for the right job, a guaranteed tenure,
clear mandate and adequate resources should be the key elements
of personnel management. No elected government can completely
ignore compulsions of politics, ideological affinity and
personal chemistry. But it is possible to improve performance
even within those constraints by sound management. Such
management requires parallel recruitment for a tenure, competition,
and honourable retirement for those whose strengths do not
match the requirements of a growing economy. The barriers
between public and private sectors should be lowered, and
mobility should be encouraged.
we need fusion of authority with accountability. The bane
of our administration is complete divorce between the requirements
of a job and the resources at the command of key functionaries.
Mistrust, inadequate delegation, over-centralization, excessive
procedural rigidities, and low risk-taking capacity are
the characteristics of most public servants. As a result,
most functionaries tend to take the line of least resistance.
Routine files and meetings account for over 90% of the time,
and neither innovation nor actual outcomes are pursued with
vigour. We need to create a system of clear lines of accountability
and clothe functionaries with commensurate authority and
the focus must shift from expenditure and outputs to outcomes.
Even physical targets are meaningless except in infrastructure
sector, and outcomes need to be monitored in service delivery.
For instance, educational attainments, health status, out
of-pocket expenditure, economic burden of disease and skill
levels can all be measured through random surveys with sufficient
granularity to make assessments at district and block levels.
We have impressive capabilities in organizations like NSSO,
and they need to be strengthened to measure and assess outcomes
in key sectors and programmes at grassroots level. Such
feedback would be a tool for midcourse corrections as well
as monitoring. The additional cost would be marginal, considering
the vast outlays now proposed in key sectors of education,
healthcare and social security.