last week we witnessed something unusual in Indian political
arena. Ms Jayalalitha, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister took
a heroic and courageous decision not to bow to the demands
of the state government employees who went on a strike.
She refused to be browbeaten by the sheer strength in numbers
and has in fact gone one step ahead and initiated steps
to dismiss them en masse and recruit new people. Fortunately
the apex court brought some moderation to the issue upholding
the government's action, while urging that employees may
be taken back conditionally. Most of us believe that our
politicians are only capable of taking decisions which benefit
them and which will ensure their hold on power. The Tamil
Nadu CM has proved us wrong by exhibiting rare courage in
taking a politically incorrect decision - a decision which
benefits the people at large.
this with the attitude of Gujral government which capitulated
to the demands of employees on the Fifth Pay Commission
issue without even a semblance of resistance. Thanks to
Gujral's largesse, the state and union governments together
have an additional annual wage burden of Rs 80,000 crores.
This single measure has devastated the economies of most
states leading them into massive fiscal deficits. After
remitting power Mr Gujral said in a TV interview: "What
can I do? My hands were tied. The employees were threatening
to go on a strike and paralyze the whole government."
Most politicians and parties have been cowardly in dealing
with bureaucracy. Even mighty governments which received
unprecedented mandates were cowed down by bureaucracy. This
is in sharp contrast with mature democracies. Witness the
shut down (barring essential services) of American government
once in 1981 when Reagan vetoed congressional spending proposals,
and twice in 1995 when Clinton vetoed the budget. There
was no sense of alarm in the US, and in both instances the
defiant president emerged stronger, not weaker.
Gujral's decision was a complete abdication of responsibility
and negation of peoples' trust. For most of the Indian middle
class he still comes across as a decent person, whereas
Ms Jayalalitha due to her style of functioning is reviled.
We elect our leaders to truly lead and expect them to take
the tough decisions that are necessary.
the status quo has to change and the quality of our public
services and governance has to improve there has to be a
drastic restructuring of our bureaucracy. A majority of
the government employees are deployed unproductively where
as critical sectors like education and health care continue
to be understaffed. Prioritization of services and redeployment
is the need of the hour. The bulk of the employees are decent
and honest. Unfortunately those who are slothful and corrupt
are not weeded out quickly; and the cancer spreads rapidly.
Firm action to punish the guilty in time is vital.
most of all our politicians and leaders should have the
courage to lead and take tough decisions, even if they are
politically incorrect and sometimes unpopular. And we need
to shed our myths about leaders like Ms Jayalalitha and
recognize them for their leadership qualities.