A new agenda for India is what we need. Within the structure that was designed for this nation state when it broke loose from its colonial shackles, the operating system that grinds on is no longer effective and needs to be redesigned for a new age in which freedoms dominate. Therefore, the challenge for the government is to embrace and manage diversity and govern with equality. That is the excitement of our times, and a country that works towards this goal is bound to lead in the spheres of socio-economic and political activities.
Since the bureaucratic machine in India has rusted beyond repair and has been corrupted by competing viruses, this is the moment to grab the opportunity to restructure the methodologies of governance to ensure that the interventions are respectful of citizens, non-exploitative and friendly. The arrogance of the babu needs to be obliterated and they ought to be made accountable. Once they are made ‘vulnerable’ — this can be achieved by stripping them of the ‘protection’ they enjoy — they will automatically become humane and efficient if they have it in them to become competent administrators. An inclusive value system needs to replace the one that is in place within the external boundaries of the existing democratic structure.
Simple things need to be banned. If we could do away with the disgusting lal-batti and frightful siren attached to the vehicles of the VVIPs, men and women who use their positions to ride roughshod over citizens with supreme arrogance, we can reform the errant police as well. Small measures can lead to larger correctives. This morning I saw a cop dragging a chair to the edge of a radial road on Windsor Place in New Delhi. Then he proceeded to make himself comfortable while the traffic went haywire. As the confusion reigned, Mr Cop continued chatting on his cell phone.
Municipalities should be instructed to cover manholes in their jurisdiction within 100 hours, after which a penalty of Rs 10,000 should be imposed on the erring officer. Equally, a delay beyond 48 hours in garbage collection and cleaning of public spaces like roads and parks should be tackled with the suspension of the officer concerned. The government needs to show that it is working efficiently and, thereby, set higher standards for the rest. It used to be like that once upon a time in the not-so-distant past. I cannot comprehend this sharp decline in service in the capital city these days.
Singapore can teach us the mechanics of city management. We need to learn these lessons urgently. Ideally, a joint venture to change the worst of our knotted cities should be undertaken to showcase what can be done to make our living habitats clean, happy, citizen friendly domains.
Limited minds laced with dollops of misplaced arrogance have destroyed our modern habitats and reduced Incredible India to an oversized, unmanageable slum governed by bad practice. We must transform this horror into an ‘Indianized’ space where beauty coexists with diverse legacies of fine traditions that have been the hallmark of our civilization.
There are numerous examples of carefully-planned public and private spaces that we have inherited from the past. These are designed to deal with challenges related to climate and culture in a manner that is scientific and sustainable. Sadly, infrastructural interventions replicated alien, disconnected models from other nations and imposed them on us in an unimaginative manner, diluting time-tested indigenous traditions in the process.
A rethink is imperative in this respect. Such an initiative must draw ideas from a public- private partnership involving the best and the brightest.