Chandys 100-day Do-list Sets Eyes On Fine-tuning Govt Service Delivery

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept 13 | Updated: Sep 14 2004, 05:30am hrs
Before losing its honeymoon lustre, Oommen Chandy government in Kerala has come out with a priority list for its first 100 days. Despite a hurried pick-and-choose from Antony governments unfinished agenda, the time-table reflects a fair amount of development clarity in a jiffy, amidst its first concern of political pragmatism.

By intent or default, the keynote is fine-tuning governments service delivery machinery. Clearing all pending files (except those locked in litigation) in secretariat, opening chief ministers direct public complaint redressal fora in 14 districts and clearing all welfare pension arrears in 100 days smack unmistakably of the local bodies polls round the corner.

At the same time, the measures also read a slow waking up to the recent findings that no government - even amidst the current trend of shrinking role of government in services - can escape being judged based on the quality of governance. A country-wide survey by Delhi University (2002) had revealed that, irrespective of industrialisation or urbanisation, majority of people judged governance through their immediate cutting-edge interface with government.

Some of the items on the Mr Chandys list are too hazy to go beyond broad policy contours.

The Kerala government has vowed to clear electricity connections to 1.5 lakh families, drinking water facility to 10 lakh by inaugurating 16 water supply schemes and giving administrative sanction to Rs 250-crore worth additional road works, all in 100 days.

Obviously, it is an all-out effort to repair the public delivery system which is in a shambles.

One advantage of announcing a crash omnibus programme is the immediate advantage of creating the impression of attuning the state governance to the new model of chief ministers as CEOs. But political harvests apart, the development dynamics of such ultra-short run progra-mmes are chained heavily to the political sub-machinery and the bureaucratic edifice.

To achieve the professed targets, the chief minister will have to exact teamwork and commitment from his ministers and also from the bureaucracy. Given the behavioural nexus between ruptures in the political fabric of ruling UDF and the politicisation of the administrative machinery, this is an assignment hard to deliver. Kerala government is also coming out with a one-year programme soon.

At Rs 40,000 crore public debt to state exchequer, resource mobilisation for strengthening the public delivery is also an immediate task the agenda could have included. A study by Centre For Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram had alerted of about Rs 5000 crore untapped annual tax potential in the state,

implying inefficiencies in tax collections. A tri-monthly tax target would have been useful.