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FORGE A NEWER PATH

The Aam Aadmi Party needs to be put through a stringent process of appraisal as it intervenes in the public sphere in an attempt to correct a corroded administrative system, particularly in the area of civil services. The randomness of the ‘experiment’ is frightening because it is unstructured and chaotic. It was shameful to watch the Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal — flanked by ministers wearing the signature topis — trying to escape the surging crowds that had gathered to register their grievances at the first janta durbar. If the capital of India is going to be administered in this careless manner, there will be a deterioration of systems and processes rather than an improvement. The babu should be scared into doing his job. If he causes delays, does not deliver or asks for bribes, he should be suspended immediately, following which there should be a non-departmental inquiry into the matter by non-partisan individuals. There are no signs of such action yet. The emphasis seems to be on street politics rather than on structured, inclusive governance.

The impression is that Kejriwal has officially endorsed a ‘free-for-all’ by encouraging the use of spycams to catch errant officers and public servants. He has said he will sack those who are caught red-handed asking for bribes. But what about suspending officers who delay work indefinitely, and those who manage to get important files to disappear? Which ‘vigilante’ group is going to monitor these horrors? Why can the new government of Delhi not lay out a new plan of governance that will be free of corruption and will deliver essential services to the people? Surely the AAP must know its own modus operandi since it made a bid for power in Delhi? Citizens deserve to know when they will get free running, potable water, and when the reduction in electricity rates will kick in. Are the people being fooled again by the political class?

Begin now

Resorting to populist rhetoric is easy and effective at a time when the mechanisms of governance have been misused over decades by those in power. However, to lay new foundations for good, transparent governance that is conducted with integrity requires a clean, creative mind that is trained to design structures that will make stakeholders a part of change and growth, without allowing corrupt practices. Sadly, there is neither any discourse around such matters, nor has there been any real, positive change in the first few weeks of the new government’s reign.

There has been no active debate about revamping existing systems to make them work as they should have before both babus and politicians started misusing them. Since Kejriwal used to be an officer in the income tax department, maybe he should begin with purging that department of all known corrupt officers. Most citizens earning above the tax-free limit will have been at the receiving end of extortion threats by income tax officers. The chief minister should promise that all complaints will be attended to and complainants will be protected from vengeful officers who have been exposed. The same rules should apply to customs and excise officials. Those who clear the illegal movement of goods and services across borders for a ‘fee’ should be heavily penalized. Threats from municipal officers to honest people who refuse to pay bribes should be stopped. All these actions should begin now. Why is the chief minister only stopping at cutting electricity tariff rates? He should order the cleansing of the delivery mechanisms upon which civil society is built.

Finally, the AAP should not indulge in crude political slogan-mongering. It only alienates decent people when they hear leaders publicly abuse one another. Such behaviour is cheap and unwarranted. Are all leaders the same?