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Monday, September 13, 2010

G for Government

When the state is ruled by a mob, good lives are at risk. That's where a government is born in the state. A government is the organization, or agency through which a political unit exercises its authority, controls and administers public policy, and directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects. I am always amazed by the working nature of the government and its obsession with the authority and power.

Mikhail Bakunin, the 19th-century Russian anarchist, put it best : “A very grave danger to a person’s moral life is the habit of giving orders.” That habit of giving order and following it without questioning is trade mark of our governmental organization. Myth : The old structures are simply untouchable. This is the one of myths that prevail in our government corridors for outsiders.Even Lord Curzon has complained, "Round and Round like the .... revolutions of the earth goes file after file in the bureacratic daily dance, staely, solemn, sure and slow".

Regarding South Asians obsession with governmental power and aspiring feudal as a role model, Pakistani bureaucrat Irfan Hussian expalins : The essence of the feudal ethos is the conviction that he is always right and that he has a God-given right to lord it over his tenants. This attitude has seeped into much of our society to such an extent that when somebody is promoted to head a state organisation, he immediately flexes his authority and reminds everybody who’s boss, quickly forgetting his own days as an unappreciated subordinate.

A government is always personified form of all the people in the nation. So is ours Indian government. Indians have old mindset of scarcity and risk aversion. We accumulate huge foreign reserve and emphasizing stock piles in food grains. We have an obsession with government jobs that give access to social security without any accountability. Our public issue has been focused on privatization and reservations; No one talk about efficiency or accountability here.

The outmoded bureaucracies are incapable of identifying creative solutions. There is simply no alternative to information flow and dismantling the iron curtain.  The essential culture of government is always pervasive, new incentives or not. Much of dynamism and the risk taking is there because there had no set example to follow.

Change is always painful and hard won if it comes through public debate. A people driven transformation of a country holds a particular power; it is irreversible. Idea of making government transparent in processes has been inserted in common mind. It is happening slowly in India through RTI and huge media coverage.

Clean water, good schools, libraries, theatres, cafés, parks and public transport are clearly public goods – and the planet and its people need more of them. Yet no country has ever pursued an economic policy informed by this concept of maximizing public good while eliminating ‘positional goods’. Nothing happens in the world until people involved wanted it to happen.

My Role: I want to give a voice to society, to take up people's emotions and desires and make them resound in sublime form. This idea can prove explosive as soon as society rises up as a unified force. The collective consciousness as the voice of a deeply rooted, suppressed and yet lively humanism always exist in the background of all noises. Among the many insights Bakunin has left us with, here is a gem I have come to hold at the centre of my personal belief system: “To govern is to exploit.”

FootNote : Those who want to know about Indian bureaucrat, there is a blog: babus of India. About The Blogger (Self Description): Its A journalist with over 15 years of experience in covering economics and politics of India, babu blogger passionately follows every lead in India's Raisina Hills. He is now aided by an enthusiastic team from Indian Admin House, a non-profit trust, created to document various facets of Indian administration. A follower of white ambassadors 24X7, he spends quality time in power corridors of Delhi and elsewhere.

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