The hot, blistering summer has descended upon New Delhi, and this singed city patiently awaits the declaration of the election results. The bureaucracy, which once used to be incorruptible like steel, is now corroded, politically partisan and therefore untrustworthy. It is beavering away trying to curry favour with the people it thinks could form the new government at the Centre. There was a time when the secretaries of the government of India were representatives of the educated class of this country; they were the best and the brightest. They were above nepotism and sycophancy, asserted their views and operated within established rules and norms. They helped citizens to be productive and effective.
Decades later, instead of continuing the good work and moving with the times, the babu epitomizes regressive, restrictive thinking, and is usually closed to new ideas and initiatives. This breed of administrators has crippled the creative initiatives of a young India that has been undergoing a transformation over the last few decades. Traditional skills and strengths could have been put to use in a contemporary manner. Such entrepreneurship would have added value to the past and enriched the future. A small bunch of decision makers in the corrupt corridors of power damaged the soul of the country.
Sectors such as tourism and hospitality can generate employment and huge financial returns if they are modernized. It is clear, however, that the babu and his restrictive practices have managed to stall what could have been rapid growth. It is shameful to see the vast difference in the numbers of people who visit Africa’s game parks and those who go to India’s. In fact, it would not be far from the truth to say that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York draws more visitors within a particular time frame than all the museums in India. There is no excuse for this inordinate failure in ensuring that basic amenities are available for safe travel and comfortable living when people visit our country.
Both the Centre and the state governments need to think differently and think big if they are to put India on the path to real progress. Babus will always try desperately to protect their turf when they see entrepreneurship blossoming in this new age. They are bound to be left behind with their archaic thinking unless they begin to actively assist and work towards change, even if they do not quite comprehend the ‘new’ age and the things that excite a new generation.
Corruption in India was the direct result of illegal restrictions and foolish regulations that were designed to prevent creative expression. The babu never understood such creative expression because of his caged mindset. In order to overcome every obstacle that stood in the way of entrepreneurship moving forward — attaining licences, for example — the exasperated entrepreneur, who could not afford to lose money and precious time because of red tape and inordinate delays, took to paying off the babu in cash, and sometimes in kind. He had to resort to this to get the bureaucrat to do something he ought to have done anyway. This was the irony plaguing the nation.
As Indians, we are constantly discussing and damning crony capitalism, but we seldom think about how it is aided by politics and the administration. This three-armed monster has stunted growth in the country and led to great disillusionment. One would have thought that the checks and balances in this dirty game would be provided by the Indian media. But the press too has fallen prey to being partisan. Biased reporting has ensured that the nuanced realities on the ground are rarely presented to readers and viewers. Legitimacy must be restored.