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CLEAN UP THE MESS

The new government in Delhi is working full days and the babus seem to be on their toes, going to work on time and avoiding long lunch breaks and post-lunch siestas. Discipline at the workplace seems to have been restored in an effort to bring a semblance of credibility, accountability and professionalism to the functioning of the government. News about cleaning up government buildings is welcome because these are filthy. We must keep our fingers crossed and hope that the ‘peons’ cease to sit on rickety chairs outside the burra sahib’s office with surly, bored expressions. The attempt to maintain order and cleanliness at the workplace and the insistence on discipline at the top are long overdue. Housekeeping is essential to make the work atmosphere conducive to competent and timely delivery of goods and services.

It remains difficult to comprehend why previous ministers and secretaries to the government neither kept their work environment clean nor demanded the same from their colleagues. It was embarrassing to walk through every government building; it was shameful to see the contrast between the filthy corridors and the partitioned rooms of the assistants on one hand, and the plush, spacious interiors where the senior officials presided over the affairs of the nation on the other. This divide was symbolic of the Indian habit of maintaining personal hygiene and a clean kitchen, while recklessly polluting the streets. This lack of civic sense and responsibility is characteristic of Indians.

New ways

Hopefully, if the top order adopts corrective measures, and if stringent laws are made to enforce cleanliness, order and accountability, the ‘trickle down’ effect will make us efficient, productive and proud of our environment.

The chief minister of Rajasthan works from a secretariat that is spotlessly clean and devoid of clutter. It reflects an unusual sensibility and also the ethos and culture of the state. Silence prevails in the corridors, and a new and efficient work ethic is palpable. No smelly bathrooms, rickety almirahs or stained windows and doors can be seen. If order can be effectively introduced in the secretariat in Jaipur, why can the same not happen in Delhi as well as in the capitals of every other state? There is no excuse for the chaos that symbolizes government offices and no explanation for the errant, lazy and perpetually ‘stalling’ babu. Open-plan offices, with transparent glass sheets will compel clean governance.

From this place of efficiency, Vasundhara Raje has initiated a set of labour reforms. It has been an extremely important step towards restructuring redundant, restrictive laws and regulations, most of which have limited and stalled growth in almost all sectors of the economy. Once this initiative is approved by the president, Pranab Mukherjee, it will very likely trigger a spurt in economic activity. This will strengthen the push for development and growth in Rajasthan. Breaking the status quo, empowering the people, making good use of their skills and protecting their interests are the main responsibilities of the government.

In sharp contrast, the few members of the Congress who have the strength to air their views on television, are reacting like immature schoolchildren who have lost a marathon. Mature interventions seem to evade them. It has been nearly a month since the Congress’s debacle at the polls, but the party has failed to make proper arrangements to take on their role as the Opposition. Why are the leaders’ heads buried in the sand? Are they bereft of ideas for the future? Or are they still in supreme denial about their electoral loss? India needs a proactive Opposition so that democracy can flourish.