Beginning of a novel experiment in politics. By Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
30 Dec 2013
With the formation of Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi the country is going to witness a novel experiment in politics. The first target has been the VIP culture. Arvind Kejriwal has refused to accept security, beacon fitted vehicle and a government bunglow not only for himself but all his ministers. In a country where most people become politician to avail of all these facilities it is going to be a trend setting decision. In fact, the facilities given to people’s representatives and bureaucrats should be drastically cut down. This is an unnecessary wastage and burden on the tax payer.
People’s representatives and bureaucrats should use their own vehicles or public transport and own houses or guest houses. They get enough salary to take care of these expenses themselves. The bureaucracy is already preparing to hike its salaries and perks by proposing the seventh pay commission. The salaries of bureaucrats need to be cut down rather than increased. During the years of economic reforms the gap between the rich and the poor has galloped. It is time to revise the wages of unorganised sector in upward direction and not the service class.
The bureaucrats must also learn to mingle with people. In most offices of senior government officials one needs a pass to enter. The pass is made only if the office of the official informs the people at the gate. This implies that you cannot meet a bureaucrat unless you know him/her through some connection. It is possible for ordinary people to meet politicians at home but the bureaucrats don’t entertain people at home. This system of requiring a pass should be done away with. If AAP leaders can do without security why can’t the bureaucrats learn to come out of their secure environs.
The biggest change that the AAP government will bring about is restraining corruption. Since AAP doesn’t need black money to finance its politics, there is no need for their leaders to become part of the existing corrupt political culture. AAP is the first party after the communist parties which has kept account of its political donations and expenditure properly and made them public. The check on day to day corruption will be a big relief to the people and end of commission raj will bring efficiency in the system. Overall the governance will improve. Arvind Kejriwal started his social activism from fighting corruption in income-tax department, electricity department and in the Public Distribution System in lower income localities. His colleague Santosh Koli, who was recently killed, emerged from the grassroots struggle against corruption in PDS. PDS and other social welfare schemes are of great concern to the poor and can really help in poverty alleviation. Corruption is proving to be a big road block in ending poverty in this country.
The most amazing change that AAP is going to bring about is in the decision making process. People will be involved in most decisions taken in open meetings of mohalla sabhas. In a country where so far only the elite and that too in closed rooms has been taking decisions which impact the lives of majority of the people it is going to be a welcome departure. When decisions are taken collectively chances are that wrong decisions will not be taken. There will be checks and balances among people themselves. Hence chances of AAP MLAs becoming corrupt are slim as the people are going to keep a strict vigil on their representatives and AAP has put in place an internal Lokpal which will deal with complaints against people within the party. When political bosses don’t indulge in corruption it will be easier to put pressure on the bureaucracy to change its ways. Then bureaucracy and lower employees will have no excuse to justify corruption. AAP has changed the set of leaders at top. But it is going to be a tougher task to tame the arrogant and corrupt bureaucracy and the attendant government machinery. It is time that the idea of making service sector truly service oriented may be considered. People should not work in service sector for salaries and perks. They should volunteer to work for service sector. Like people have taken time out from their jobs to work for AAP a similar model could be considered for running the governments. Why do we need permanent bureaucrats? Most of them have used their service for personal aggrandizement anyway.
If people get involved in decision making and a number of things are done with collective labour we may not need as many government employees as there are presently whom it has become an uphill task to manage. Most of them have formed unions which oppose any progressive moves. For example, recently government school teachers in UP protested against the corruption in education department but there was no word uttered on teacher absenteeism in schools during the demonstration.
Mood in the country is upbeat. People are joining AAP in big numbers. There are some who want to contest election too. An IIT Kanpur engineer who is a ferrocement expert and presently teaches at MNREC, Allahabad, has offered his technology to AAP government to build houses for poor. Two serving engineers of UP Power Corporation Limited have told Citizen News Service (CNS) to work out cost of electricity so that AAP can fulfill its promise in Delhi. A policewoman called to say that she doesn’t trust politicians and Arvind must accept security. Common people feel it is their government and everybody wants to contribute in whatever they can. This is certainly sign of political transformation at work.
(The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and a senior social activist who writes for Citizen News Service - CNS. He is the Vice President of Socialist Party (India) and member, National Presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch. He has led National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and is a former faculty of IIT Kanpur. Presently he is a faculty at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) BHU. He did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley and is a visiting faculty for a number of US Universities and IITs in India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)