In the wake of mosquito-borne diseases in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party recently had to face some flak for its ‘inefficiency’ to curb the speading diseases. Talking on the lines of it, member of AAP and Delhi Dialogue Commission vice-chairperson, Ashish Khetan writes in The Indian Express how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of “minimum government, maximum governance” are empty and if the Delhi government were to adopt it, will the Centre support it.
Khetan while questioning the famous “minimum government, maximum governance” and ” acche din” slogans says, that both of these have become empty promises now.
“The massive outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases in Delhi underscores the importance of systemic reforms promised by Modi. At the root of the malaise is an oversized, outdated and lethargic bureaucracy,” writes Khetan in The Indian Express.
According to Khetan, the national capital reported 16,000 confirmed cases of dengue with around 60 fatalities in 2015. The actual number is suspected to be higher as a lot of cases go unreported. India was caught in the claws of chikungunya in 2006, when more than 13 lakh cases were reported. So this outbreak was long overdue, writes Khetan. However, with the onset of the health crisis, the agencies froze “like a deer caught in the headlights.”
Citing examples of other countries and their framework of health departments, the journalist turned politician says, that due to multiple authorities functioning in the capital, the accountability gets diffused.
“Every few years, the Centre, in consultation with the states, sets aside key posts that can only be occupied by the IAS. A brief survey across the country would reveal that all key posts in governments are occupied by the IAS. The current Delhi health secretary, who was on a 12-day leave when the chikungunya epidemic broke, was Puducherry’s development commissioner three months ago. After being transferred to Delhi, he took over as secretary, environment and forests, before being given additional charge of the health department on August 30. This game of musical chairs in which a bureaucrat keeps moving from one department to another results in inconsistency.”
In Delhi, there are seven major public healthcare providers- the government of Delhi, Union government, three MCDs, NDMC and the cantonment boards. Out of all this, sanitation and mosquito control through measures like household inspection comes under the municipal corporations, writes Khetan.
Paperwork in our system has become a raison d’etre, the very purpose of bureaucracy. Almost every activity in government is regulated by precise-drawn rules and in such a case, the simple task of installing air-conditioners in a hospital ward may take months. Khetan argues, the reason for this being that financial rules have to be compiled. Any relaxation in the rules is seen with suspicion.
“From fixing potholes to running schools, giving permits for cabs to operating buses, regulating hawkers to luxury hotels, laying norms for lifts in residential buildings to private guards outside our gates, the government controls everything.”
“Modi was expected to get the government out of our hair, do away with over-regulations and break the monopoly of civil servants by inducting technically qualified professionals. None of that has happened,” says Khetan.
Asserting that if a country of over 1.2 billion population is to be provided with good governance then it is imperative to process re-engineering, efficiency and economy in the government. “Time has come for a complete overhaul of the systems as well as mindsets.”
“The question is will the Centre back the Delhi government if it wants to implement Modi’s dictum of minimum government, maximum governance?” asks Khetan.