Corruption: I might pay off!


Yeah, you heard it right! Why should I take the trouble of cleaning the society when this thing is bound to go on? Let me be blunt in saying that over 95% of the youth in India will prefer paying off an authority and get away with any sort of crime or wrongdoing including me.

Usual action we see everyday. Source: http://mccoy.lib.siu.edu/

There are always things which we think would change the society once and for all but sadly, that’s not how it works. If I don’t pay Rs 100 to a traffic police in Mumbai and instead pay 4-5 times more the amount, what will it change? The traffic constable might earn 100 bucks less? We over assume things when we say that denying bribe will eradicate corruption, this society runs on money and if I get to pay 4-5 times less than the fine, I will avail that (I paid a fine of Rs 100 after all!) . If I get a eligibility certificate of university in 10 mins (which i need in a day due to college’s last date), I am going to avail it. We should consider it this way, irrespective of I pay Rs 100 or 4-5 times more than that, I paid a fine! A fine doesn’t mean that I should ensure that it reaches government, Fine simply means a sum of money that you pay as a penalty. Lastly to seal the deal here, the reason for mass participation in anti-corruption movement was because we advocate that it should end, but till the time I have an option, I’m going to use it because it’s in my interest to remain out of any controversy/save some money.. So I will do what most of the others did, PAY-OFF and leave my mistakes behind! 

Thanks for reading, will love to hear from you all, comment below or send me an email at avi.b.sharma@gmail.com .

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Indian Bureaucracy: Why these indefatigable people fail?


Ajay Prakash: IAS topper 2011

In a country obsessed for government jobs with a whopping population of over 1.2 billion people, there is no doubt that to become a officer is not an easy job. Every year, almost 6 lakh students/candidate take the test of Indian Administrative Services conducted by UPSC and mere 850 get selected. But only if you get a rank lower than 80 then there is a guarantee of you selection! (80 out of 6 lakh!)

Difficult? Hard? With an acceptance rate of just 0.025%, if your relatives dissuade you to follow this path then don’t be surprised! Without aggrandizing the issue, what happens to these intelligent indefatigable top brains of the country that they turn frivolous as an IAS officer in government? Let’s take a closer looks to the problems faced by these perseverant officers who gets moulded to be insensitive & inefficient.

Once out of college and with indefatigable hard work of over two years, a student gets accepted by UPSC to serve his country. His passion to assist the nation remains intact at this stage. He goes out to join the cadre for which he was selected & finds it humiliating to compare his present circumstance with that of his friends in private arena. His friends have got into a mid-manager level position in the 2 years (when he was preparing) and are drawing 3-4 times his present salary. His intact patriotism allows him composure by the fact that he is serving the nation & thus money is not a constraint. When he starts his job, he is given a Type 4 quarters which are 2 bedroom flats & those who have long completed their normal construction life. On the other hand, his friend in the private sector gets a fully furnished flat in a building which at least doesn’t look dead from outside! If this was not all to his humiliation, his own boss treat him like a inferior species as no one is accountable for attrition rate in government while his friend in private sector gets a warm interaction with seniors as they can’t afford someone leaving his job!

Govind Jaiswal: IAS AIR 48, Rickshawallah’s Son

Now that intact patriotism takes a hit & he starts to get moulded into the same insensitive officer that his boss is. A nation which expects him to sign on tenders going above the value of mere lakhs feels cheated when this officer boy uses car to drop her wife to the station. Media makes numerous stories on this car misuse in such a way that these people are further humiliated to realize that nation is not ready to give him any respect but expects him to be the same indefatigable lad.

After few years of experience, he receives an offer from some big private firm with whom he was dealing with and which is ready to pay him much more than his present salary, higher benefits and lastly, more respect in society. Now, should he not take this opportunity? Will you tell your son to leave it? May be not. Here lies the underneath problem with our bureaucracy as they are just left with one thing to show off i.e. “EGO”. Private sector will always try to poach these people mainly because they are the finest Indian brains and that is how attrition rate increases adding a cost of almost 5-8 times that of the salary of leaving employee.

Having advocated the problems faced by officers, this post will remain incomplete without suggesting improvements in our present bureaucratic system.

1) Have you ever felt like a customer in an RTO office or say in an passport office? A larger problem will be tacked only when bureaucrats consider meeting the needs of the customer, not the bureaucracy! Every department should identify customer foremost, survey there problems and get in the direction of solving them.

2) From a more centralized way of working to an decentralized governance is required in present circumstance. In this era of excessive information, pressure for accelerated decision-making may get solved either by adding more politicians, bureaucrats etc in the center ELSE: sharing it with more people down below instead of concentrating at already stressed and malfunctioning center. (Quote from Reinventing Government)

3) Give the IAS officers some freedom to express themselves and don’t tie them up! Don’t create a environment where an officer works just for the sake of passing those hours and days, give your support equivocally when they are right. Don’t make rules so rigid that they are not ready to innovate or may be even sign a single file with the fear of being caught for no wrong. They might receive a charge sheet in few months and then fight for year’s altogether to revoke that charge sheet for the sake of promotion.

4) Breaking the seniority ladder to a more scientific techniques like competency mapping of employees and find leaders among them should be the logical way out instead of present day’s seniority working. Everyone have some trait with few doing excellent in managing people while others extraordinary in innovation/R&D etc and thus choosing seniority leaders is just as random as a throw of a ball!

5) Lastly, attrition of one good leader/officer leads to an paralysis of entire office. Unlike many other fields where individuals don’t actually change things, in government offices, if you lose one good officer then the entire line of employees suffers & might turn completely inefficient. And that is why attrition rate should be brought to minimum level by more salary (not very important though) and proper facilities (very important).

In the end, Janlokpal movement might put the entire bureaucracy under bad press but to motivate India’s best brains should also be on the to do list. These people are not bad after all, they have got into a mould due to a long humiliating journey of being an IAS!

I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State.                                                                      -Sophocles

Goa Budget: A way forward for entire nation


When Goa voted for BJP & Manohar Parrikar just few months ago, no one expected these sorts of steps which will present Goa before any other state. The Goa budget which was presented by the CM  have made it to the headlines of most of the news channels & rightly so, considering he thought of a populist budget even after being elected two weeks ago. The biggest announcement which reached the ears of entire India was the reduction of Rs 11 on petrol as state VAT has been reduced from 20% to 0.1%. Thought many state governments including Mamta Banerjee’s garib aadmi government have thrashed center for increasing prices of petrol but have never ever thought of reducing VAT to this extent. A popular rumor regarding Rs5 hike in petrol prices is making headlines on all leading news channels but this time, instead of alone UPA2, state governments will also be under immense pressure to reduce VAT.

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Goa CM: Manohar Parrikar, one who deserves applauds. (Source: Live Mint)

Many of state governments have indicated that VAT on petroleum products provides them very heavy revenue and thus reducing it will have impact developmental projects. But Goa’s budget seems to be well thought of and thus state government expects a whooping increase of Rs 470 crore from VAT & other sort of taxes. CM Parrikar have just acted smart unlike most state government budgets by increasing tax on luxary items like cars above the value of Rs 15 lakhs and similar increase on bikes above the value of Rs 2 lakhs. Increase in tax on carbonated products (coke, pepsi etc) and also additional entry tax will help cover up the revenue lost from petrol.

The basic problem with most state governments is that they want to simply edit the budget here and there from the past budgets with no vision whatsoever. Mr Parrikar also presented a vision for the common citizen who includes first of its kind reward system for those who performed and punishments for inefficient employees. Also, he guided each state department to at least implement one e-governance initiative completely in the next 6 months to increase the impact of e-governance which have not delivered as expected till now. More importantly, to make the public redressal system more transparent, chief minister suggested that whole redressal mechanism should be online based.

Prime minister & Mr Nandan Nilekani have not been able to indicate preferable use of UID cards and the whole nation still looks uncertain on it. Yesterday, Mr Parrikar told the Goa house that he will link beneficiary oriented schemes with UID cards to utilize the high amount of money spent on this project. Finally, in the midst of massive corruption in mining industry, chief minister of Goa have promised a policy which will link mining with GIS technology to counter the evil of illegal mining.

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Goa CM utilizing their dream: UID (Source: IndiaToday)

In conclusion, this budget has the complete blend of forward looking policy for people with maximum utilization of technology. We did expect something extraordinary from this IIT graduate but this sort of budget was never ever expected from even BJP central leadership! It will be interesting to see the impact of Goa’s budget on other state governments & people of other states. Also, as soon as Rs 5 /litre hike on petrol will be declared, state governments will be pressed for the reduction of VAT without doubt by the people. If BJP can work like this in other states as well, then we can surely call them: Party with a change, a real change!

General V.K.Singh: An anti-corruption crusader in making?


If someone wants to be a crusader in India then he should have preferable taken on the government single handily & also, should be pretty against the babu system of working (esp. of India). General V.K. Singh is someone who could be the next big name to join the anti-corruption movement, either with Anna or without him. His age row proved that he has got the guts to stand alone against Babus of Ministry of Defence, although he lost, but his story have touched many Indians. And now, this bribe story is the final assault on the system as well as his representation to become a crusader against corruption.

In an interview to “The Hindu”, General VK Singh told the newspaper that he was offered a bribe of 14 crores in order to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles of a particular make cleared for purchase. He also told the newspaper that this incident was at least a year old & has been reported to ministry as well as the minister for Defence. Many people presented many questions on the timing of this revelation and it can be analyzed as: 1. Either he wanted this time to study corruption by previous predecessors & gather evidences, or 2. He gave time to ministry before giving this statement which would not only embarrass ministry but also, clean imaged Raksha Mantri A.K.Antomy. But mostly, this have come as a setback for Defence minister who have not denied that he was aware of this incident for past 1 and a half year & still no action was taken. Ministry of Defence have been indicated by experts as having a clean minister with policy paralysis just like at national level.

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General V.K.Singh: When he speaks, MoD watch out!

The question ministry & UPA 2 need to answer in future are very simple and straightforward. As COAS Gen. VK Singh reported the incident to minister & ministry, why didn’t the entire setup recommend VKS to file a criminal case? Secondly, what actions have been taken by MoD prior to 26th March, 2012 ? Who were the predecessors of VKS approved the buy of these sub standard trucks? And lastly, who was the retired Lt. General who offered 14 crore bribe to General VK Singh, is it Tejinder Singh or someone else?

As the ministry finds itself in the middle of another controversy & again in conflicting interest with the COAS, two things cannot be denied. First, General V.K. Singh has proved himself as a man who took on system against corruption & would no doubt be in the center of attraction even after his retirement. Secondly and most importantly, have the army also learned the tricks to tackle the deep nets of MoD babuism which have troubled their top brass for quite some time.

Question to ponder: Will the next few Chief of Army staffs continue to defy MoD & it’s babuism ?

“This is a kind of American Satyagraha movement”: Occupy wall street protester (An interview)


One month ago, about 2,000 people rallied in Lower Manhattan and marched up Broadway. Stopping at Zuccotti Park an estimated 150 stayed the night and began an encampment. All of them marched and stayed there for just one cause, i.e. end corporate greed. Now the protests have taken a worldwide platform and protests are taking place in United States, Milan & Rome (Italy), Madrid, Hong Kong, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv and list still goes on. When so many people are trying to communicate a message, then we should at least stop to listen to them.

In this process, I met an American protester who is a part of movement on the wall street and he is popularly known as ‘Angry Janitor’ among his friends. He got to know about the movement through adbuster and reddit.com and when asked why he joined it, he responded “I feel my voice is not heard by my congressman because he has received bribes from lobbyists hired by multi-national corporations”. While the movement is growing in number, pressure on organizers have increased to officially lay down their demands. When we asked Janitor about it, he told us that some official demands will be released on 20th Oct.,2011 and these are being decided by general assembly of the movement. He also disclosed some demands which may make it to the list according to him and those includes repeal citizens united ruling, restitution of Glass-Steagle act, electoral reform to mixed-member proportional representation etc.

Can they all be wrong ?

When we further discussed occupy Wall Street protest, we came to the controversial topic of role and view of politicians, corporate and media houses. When asked about the views on politician and corporate on this movement, he responded “so far, they have tried to discredit the movement by calling protesters stupid, unorganized, hippies, youth who want welfare for nothing but now they are moving to spread rumors of iranian funding for it in an attempt at another islamic scare similar to the red scare in US”. When asked about political parties and election 2012, he responded “Democratic party members will try to co-opt this movement.  Pritzker family (major fundraisers for Obama) are attempting to influence occupy Chicago; to what Koch brothers have done to tea party. The end result: establishment remains, and nothing really changes”. He also criticized media for discrediting the movement in early days and now they fear the intellectuals and artists who are drawn towards the movement which is making them report OWS.

Finally, we asked him about the question which matters most to the politicians and corporate: When will the movement end ? He responded “that remains to be determined. However this will not end before the G8 summit in May.  People are organizing to converge on G8”. And he went one step further to say that

This is a kind of American Satyagraha Movement

We can easily say here that people in the world are uprising every time they are unheard of: in a democracy (USA, India etc) or not in a democracy (Egypt, Libya etc). A true sense of rights, duties and conviction is being felt all around the world. Warning sign for undutiful politicians!!


			

Hunger- India’s silent crisis !!


Undernourishment and malnutrition are two such terms in which we lead according to statistics and luckily for politicians, common man are not much concerned about it. This post will be an eye opener to see the impact of this malnutrition and also the solutions to combat it.

Against the common belief of african country leading the list of most undernourished, India and Bangladesh leads the charts. India leads in most number of malnutrition cases in the world while Bangladesh leads in total number of children suffering from malnutrition in percentage according to population.Malnutrition increases susceptibility to infection and is responsible for 22% of India’s burden of diseases resulting in additional burden of already struggling health sector. It looks good when country’s top leaders and politician talk about GDP, Economic growth etc but when 60 million children suffer from malnutrition then what is the use of this development ? Do we realize then within 15-20 km from our home, there will be more than 1 family who will be sleeping with their stomach empty. It’s time we think !!

Useless because he don’t contribute to GDP ? Pic- UNICEF

Again, againt the common belief, government’s intention and aim for the policy is not the real problem in dealing with malnutrition. In this problem, intentions of policy are good while implementation and planning lacks. In the past 10 years, government of India’s investment have increased by a whooping 250% and state government’s funding by 4 times but we still don’t get the result of reduction in undernourished children by 250% or 4 times improvement. There is definitely a gap between what’s been invested and how it is being utilized. India’s integrated child development service (ICDS) is made with the intention to address the problem of malnutrition in children but this program contains many flaws in policy building and implementation.

The basic flaw of India’s Integrated child development service (ICDS) remains in its target age which is children above the age of 3 years. Children become the victim of undernourished diet in first 3 years due to less concentrated effort by government authorities and schemes resulting in susceptible to diseases, weak body structure etc. The second most important flaw in ICDS remains in its priority on food supplement rather than nutrition and health education. This too much emphasis on supplement nutrient is not doing positive for the situation. Third and one of the important problem is related to allotment of funding ‘Rich states get more fund per child’. Worst hurt states due to malnutrition are Madhya Pradesh(MP) , Uttar Pradesh (UP), Bihar and Rajasthan and cumulative have 43 % of all children suffering from malnutrition in India. Out of these 4; UP, Bihar and Rajasthan are the worst funded states for eradicating malnutrition while MP on the other hand is on the top of funding.  Increase synergy with other important programs such as reproductive & Child health program (RCH), primary education etc will further strengthen the service.

Another point of looking at it is how much concerned are our decision makers. High level political commitment is key to all successful public health programs. Although we have one of the highest proportions of underweight children in the world and the GOI has often expressed its commitment to reducing malnutrition, this is not adequately reflected in current policy discussions. Major factor which explains the failure to implement a proper strategy is a tendency to view malnutrition interventions as transfers to the poor and to under-estimate their economic impact for the whole nation;  the multiplicity of organizational stakeholders involved and the relatively muted voice of the poor. Building it as an issue remains commitment of both politicians and people. People can decide priorities for government and so can other politicians who are closer and near to the people, can lift the cause from people to governmental level. Something need to be done should be our bottom line !!

Lastly, India leads the world in most number of undernourished and over nourished people. This means only one thing- Big gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in this nation which need to be bridged at any cost. I hope you all will realize that there is a larger role than need to played by all of us and without doubt, have to bring malnutrition to our agenda. Let me end this article with a quote from John Grierson, a Scottish documentary maker with soft corner for the world –

“Beware the ends of the earth and the exotic: the drama is on your doorstep wherever the slums; are, wherever there is malnutrition, wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.”

Amen.

Article by: Avi Sharma (avi.b.sharma@gmail.com)