The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- What a citizen handbook reveals about misgovernance in Delhi

After the recent state-level elections, political parties have apparently realized that governance is important. More accurately, they have realized that governance is important for winning elections. Whe- ther this hypothesis is true is debatable. But let that pass. Governance is about what the government should do, and deciding an appropriate role for the state also involves scope for debate. However, rule of law, some elements of physical and social infrastructure and the creation of an enabling environment for private entrepreneurship are presumably core governance areas. As citizens, we curse the state or government for not delivering these services. Not just BSP (bijli, sadak, pani). And although the word “state” is often used loosely, constitutionally, the three organs are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

These may have a Central angle, a state-level angle or even a local body angle. As citizens, we may be sick and tired of the way these three organs function, or fail to function. However, unless citizens exert a countervailing force, the cynicism does not get us very far. Collectively, citizens are often referred to as civil society, and civil society becomes equated with the media and non-governmental organization movement. There are several instan- ces where NGOs have been agents of change. But barring Bangalore, and perhaps Hyderabad, not too many NGOs have been concerned with state roles in metros.

Centre for Civil Society is an NGO based in Delhi, although it actually describes itself as a “research and educational think-tank devoted to improving the quality of life for all people of India by reviving and reinvigorating civil society”. CCS has just brought out a book titled, State of Governance, Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003. This is a bit like a report-card on what the Delhi government does, meaning the 25 agencies, boards, corporations and departments of the government of Delhi. Delhi is, of course, a funny kind of animal. There is the state government, the Central government, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Delhi Development Authority, not to speak of a Cantonment Board.

Many of the national capital territory’s problems cannot be resolved without doing something about the national capital region, which encompasses areas from neighbouring states. Given this multiplicity, it is not always clear who can be blamed for misgovernance or given the credit for good governance. It is easy to pass the buck. Nevertheless, the CCS findings can be mapped against our expectations of what a government should be doing.

Here are 10 findings CCS regards as most important. (1) The prevention of food adulteration department has 28 inspectors to oversee 1.50 lakh (registered) food establishments. At one outlet per inspector per day, an outlet would be inspected once in 17 years. The number of inspectors has not changed since 1960. (2) A study conducted by Social Jurist found that more than 80 per cent of the children who pass Class V from MCD schools do not know how to read or write their names. (3) The Delhi Transport Corporation employs 12 people per bus and incurs a monthly loss of Rs 25 crore, whereas private operators employ 6 persons per bus and make profits. (4) Farmers pay 7-15 per cent of sales to commission agents at the wholesale markets that are the monopoly of the Delhi Agriculture Marketing Board. (5) Delhi has 36 safai karmacharis per 10,000 persons, while all other metros have about 18-20. (6) Over Rs 4 crore of taxpayers’ money has been wasted in the old age pension scheme as 37.5 per cent of the beneficiaries were ineligible. In 168 cases, the beneficiaries had died, but the department of social welfare continued to send them pension despite being informed by local post offices. (7) At the holiday homes for industrial workers run by the labour department, the subsidy per visitor was Rs 1,545 (at Mussoorie) and Rs 2,612 (at Hardwar) in 2000-01. (8) The drug control department has 29 drug inspectors for over 500 drug retailers. The fake drug market is estimated to be Rs 4,000 crore per year. (9) The comptroller and auditor general concluded that the Del- hi Financial Corporation has overstated profits by at least Rs 171.25 lakh and the reserves and surplus by Rs 78.99 lakh for 2002-03. (10) Only 3.6 per cent of the MLA local area development scheme funds were spent during 1999-2000, rising to 52.2 per cent in 2002-03.

Given a choice, I would have flagged some other findings in the list of top ten. Many people applied for below-the-poverty-line ration-cards more than one and a half years ago. They didn’t get the cards. Nor is there any information about what had happened to their applications. The cards had actually been issued. But had been retained by local shopkeepers, who were siphoning off these subsidized rations. The problem was resolved when the Right to Information Act was invoked. Five lakh children who live in 1,200 slums have no access to schools. Delhi needs to set up at least 1,000 more schools, which the government is in no position to do. But you require 14 licenses to set up a private school in Delhi.

Transmission and distribution losses of the Delhi Vidyut Board increased from 7 per cent in 1953 to more than 50 per cent in 2000. In March 2001, 0.42 lakh commercial and 7.80 lakh private vehicles were plying without val- id fitness certificates. More than 1.96 lakh challans were pending with the courts. The conservation and sanitation department of the MCD takes 2 to 15 days to attend to complaints regarding garbage removal. Under the public works department, a city museum was planned more than 15 years ago, and the expenditure has also been incur- red. The museum is yet to materialize.

The planning department conducted a survey and found that 292 out of 293 people surveyed know the hazards of drinking. But the directorate of prohibition employs 34 people and spends Rs 1.6 crore to publicize this message. Simultaneously, the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation and the department of tourism sell liquor to raise revenue. According to the Delhi planning department, the Delhi Energy Development Agency has spent Rs 1.2 crore since 1986, but has not achieved any of its objectives. The total cost borne by Delhi households to compensate for water shortages is 6.5 times more than what they pay for their consumption of water and this figure does not include costs on water purification devices. Delhi Jal Board wastes 40 per cent of its water.

The rate of recovery of loans by the Delhi Financial Corporation is 40 per cent of total disbursals. About the holiday homes for industrial workers, an evaluation report in 2001 recommended that they should be shut down immediately. No action has been taken. The Delhi government provided subsidies to NGOs to establish 10 Gau Sadans in Delhi. Two hundred and fifty one acres of land was allotted, but 50 per cent of the allotted land remain unutilized. “The expenditure per cow is Rs 4,416, more than the per student expenditure in a government school.” There is quite a bit on fiscal marksmanship. The department of social welfare was allocated Rs 19 crore to convert dry latrines into water-borne ones. Only Rs 71,000 has been spent. There are many more such instances.

Delhi may be the peg. But this report card is not about Delhi alone. It is about the state of misgovernance everywhere in India, and Delhi is just an illustration. Instead of just being cynical about the government, there should be such citizen handbooks eve- rywhere in India. Without that, there will be no pressure or impetus for change. The hypothesis that Delhi and other state-elections were fought on governance issues will remain wishful thinking.

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