August 20, 2014
Based on decisions at a 5-day liberal workshop in Delhi a couple of weeks ago, the Sone Ki Chidiya Federation will now prepare revise its total reform agenda by October 2014 and print 1000 (or more) copies for wide circulation across India. It is hoped that the revised agenda would be endorsed by a good number of eminent Indians. In every way, India is an under performer, and there is no remedy in sight except this agenda.
Please consider providing your valuable comments on the draft agenda by 30 September. The agenda can be downloaded from http://sonekichidiya.in/ – a Word and PDF copy are available. Tracked changes in Word are ideal, but a simple email to me would also work (at email@example.com).
Please share this email among friends and well-wishers. Let India get involved in preparing a high quality agenda for governance and policy reform. (I'm bcc.ing a few people, with a similar request).
I'd also like to thank the hundreds of people who have provided various inputs to this agenda to date.
August 18, 2014
There is no reason why buffalo meat can't be sold and eaten in India. Even if cow beef is contestable (despite authorisation in Arthashastra to sell the meat of a cow no longer producing milk), it is clear that the buffalo is not at all "sacred". Instead, a buffalo is a demon in Hinduism. Fine, then eating a buffalo should not be an issue. Indeed, buffaloes are sacrificed regularly in Hindu temples – in Assam, Kerala and Nepal (see my draft manuscript). [That cows were similarly sacrificed/ eaten in the past is not in question, but at least buffalo meat should be commonly sold/available.]
I now gather that buffalo beef burgers are commercially available in Delhi. I'm providing below an initial compilation of articles that list places in India (mainly in Delhi, Bangalore and in Kerala) that serve buffalo beef.
Please provide additional names/ info that you may have. Let's create a buffalo beef movement in India, to allow farmers to achieve the best returns for their buffaloes and to encourage the consumption of low cost buffalo protein by children in India.
August 6, 2014
Questions in bold, my response in standard font.
1) Was IAS not created by British?
Not quite. The ICS was created by the British but Sardar Patel desired to continue it, as part of the transition in independent India. It may have been valid at that stage, but no longer so.
2) why even today also all Indian land -agriculture and residential, is still owned by the government and leased to the tenants -INDIANS. Is it not the misfortune of Indians that even after almost 70 years after the independence Indians could not own their own country?
In all countries, at all times, territory belongs to the entire nation (crown). Land is settled by the nation to individuals. If someone passes away without an heir, the land reverts to the nation.
3) Were the IAS collectors and commissioners in British government in India not created to collect "Lagaan" on agricultural lands from farmers? The government cannot even collect that "Lagaan" because we did not get any annual bills so far. We had to pay Rs.50 to a Patwari to get a copy of the state record and since we did not get any receipt even after asking? Why do Americans or other nationals receive their property tax bills every year? And why is a lien put on their property if the bill is not paid?
Yes, that was the primary role of ICS officers – along with maintenance of land records. Today, land revenue has mostly lapsed – as you’ve noted. Today the key function is only maintenance of land records. I disagree with the idea that land revenue should be made defunct. If you note, the SKC agenda talks about land tax – which is one of the most efficient and justifiable taxes in the world.
4) Why doesn't the government build and pay for the real estate homes for all Indians? Why do the individual CITIZEN pay for their homes or agriculture land if they DO NOT OWN THEIR HOMES OR LAND?
When a property is settled (unless it is leased), it is settled in perpetuity, and its title is transferable. There is no question of government building any houses for anyone. The function of maintaining property rights can’t be mixed with building homes, just like the stock exchange is not responsible for running individual companies that are registered with it.
August 6, 2014
I did not have time earlier to review the key recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Report. I'm going to quickly comment on key recommendations and will seek input from Mr Sharad Joshi and Dr Manvendra Kachole. My final position on these issues will be informed by further discussion/ debate.
Preliminary view: THIS IS A VERY POOR REPORT. FROM THE SAME SOCIALIST STABLE FROM WHICH MOST OF INDIA'S ILLS ARISE.
—Distribute ceiling-surplus and waste lands; [Sanjeev: The mess that is ceiling surplus should now come to an end. The ceilings should be abolished asap. In the meanwhile, any wasteland could be redistributed but this is a GHASTLY and ugly piece of work, which is a source of great immorality and corruption. This socialist intervention must end.]
—Prevent diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes. [Sanjeev: Agreed, to the extent that the LOCAL COMMUNITY - i.e. local government - decides, subject to overall zoning made centrally - for the overall progress of the state/economy]
—Ensure grazing rights and seasonal access to forests to tribals and pastoralists, and access to common property resources. [Sanjeev: this is a property rights issue. The use of common land should be decided by the local government/ community]
—Establish a National Land Use Advisory Service, which would have the capacity to link land use decisions with ecological meteorological and marketing factors on a location and season specific basis. [Sanjeev: Sounds like a property-rights body. No in-principle objection]
—Set up a mechanism to regulate the sale of agricultural land, based on quantum of land, nature of proposed use and category of buyer. [Sanjeev: This is ridiculously complex and unsustainable. Why get involved in such details after a zoning decision has been recorded?]
—Increase water supply through rainwater harvesting and recharge of the aquifer should become mandatory. "Million Wells Recharge" programme, specifically targeted at private wells should be launched. [Sanjeev: Anything that is mandatory imposes a cost. Who is going to bear this cost? Are we saying government functionaries will get involved in building water harvesting features in each farmer's land?]
—Substantial increase in investment in irrigation sector under the 11th Five Year Plan apportioned between large surface water systems; minor irrigation and new schemes for groundwater recharge. [Sanjeev: No issue in principle, but this should be largely promoted through private cooperatives, facilitated by professional managers].
Productivity of Agriculture
—Substantial increase in public investment in agriculture related infrastructure particularly in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research development and road connectivity etc. [Sanjeev: No issue in principle, but STRONG objections to this being implemented through existing governance arrangements. Basic governance system reform is critical, else both inefficiency and corruption will dog us at every step.]
—A national network of advanced soil testing laboratories with facilities for detection of micronutrient deficiencies. [Sanjeev: Need to study how this is done in other parts of the world. Not sure why a government agency - totally unresponsive to the market, should dabble in this trivial task. Private sector can readily supply IF there is a genuine need]
—Promotion of conservation farming, which will help farm families to conserve and improve soil health, water quantity and quality and biodiversity. [Sanjeev: What is the meaning of "promotion"? Why won't farmers do this on their own if it is in their own interest?]
Credit and Insurance
—Expand the outreach of the formal credit system to reach the really poor and needy. [Sanjeev: This is a motherhood statement. Even as the government has choked ALL private enterprise and competition in this sector, we are now repeating the same thing. Why not let the credit market FREE!? - under stern regulatory control?]
—Reduce rate of interest for crop loans to 4 per cent simple, with government support. [Sanjeev: This is NOT a good idea at all. Yet one more government subsidy, one more scheme. Liberate the market and regulate it well]
—Moratorium on debt recovery, including loans from non-institutional sources, and waiver of interest on loans in distress hotspots and during calamities, till capability is restored. [Sanjeev: This kind of policy has created sufficient moral hazard for the past 65 years. When are we going to end it?]
—Establish an Agriculture Risk Fund to provide relief to farmers in the aftermath of successive natural calamities. [Sanjeev: NO. This is yet another unnecessary government scheme. Implement an NIT based scheme to directly fund the poorest of the poor]
—Issue Kisan Credit Cards to women farmers, with joint pattas as collateral. [Sanjeev. NO. No more useless government schemes]
—Develop an integrated credit-cum-crop-livestock-human health insurance package. [Sanjeev: Implement the BFN solution which will ensure that everyone gets health care. Why is Swaminathan talking about health?]
—Expand crop insurance cover to cover the entire country and all crops, with reduced premiums and create a Rural Insurance Development Fund to take up development work for spreading rural insurance. [Sanjeev: NO. No government scheme. Just liberalise the insurance market]
—Promote sustainable livelihoods for the poor by improving (i) Financial services (ii) Infrastructure (iii) Investments in human development, agriculture and business development services (including productivity enhancement, local value addition, and alternate market linkages) and (iv) Institutional development services (forming and strengthening producers' organisations such as self-help groups and water user associations). [Sanjeev: This is something people can do on their own IF we let them free.]
—Implement a universal public distribution system. The NCF pointed out that the total subsidy required for this would be one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. [Sanjeev: This is a BAD idea. Let there be an NIT-type scheme which only funds the poorest. They can buy what they need, from the open market. No leakages to bureaucrats and politicians]
—Reorganise the delivery of nutrition support programmes on a life-cycle basis with the participation of Panchayats and local bodies. [Sanjeev: This, again, is NOT the business of governments. Direct elimination of poverty will enable people to buy the nutrition they need]
—Eliminate micronutrient deficiency induced hidden hunger through an integrated food cum fortification approach. [Sanjeev: This is a pretty strong regulatory intervention. Has been followed in some nations for some products. Worth considering based on proofs, and cost-benefit tests]
—Promote the establishment of Community Food and Water Banks operated by Women Self-help Groups (SHG), based on the principle ‘Store Grain and Water everywhere'. [Sanjeev: NO. This is ridiculously interventionist]
—Help small and marginal farmers to improve the productivity, quality and profitability of farm enterprises and organize a Rural Non-Farm Livelihood Initiative. [Sanjeev: Motherhood stuff. How can this be done? What's the special advantage a bureaucrat brings in this regard?]
—Formulate a National Food Guarantee Act continuing the useful features of the Food for Work and Employment Guarantee programmes. By increasing demand for foodgrains as a result of increased consumption by the poor, the economic conditions essential for further agricultural progress can be created. [Sanjeev: NO. Only direct elimination of poverty. All other work, including infrastructure, should be professionally done, with proper governance reforms preceding it]
Prevention of Farmers' Suicides
—Provide affordable health insurance and revitalize primary healthcare centres. The National Rural Health Mission should be extended to suicide hotspot locations on priority basis. [Sanjeev: This is a good idea, in principle. The health reforms outlined in SKC agenda will take care of this]
—Set up State level Farmers' Commission with representation of farmers for ensuring dynamic government response to farmers' problems. [Sanjeev: There is no need for another bureaucratic body. Let the government widely consult as part of an Regulatory Impact Statement it prepares]
—Restructure microfinance policies to serve as Livelihood Finance, i.e. credit coupled with support services in the areas of technology, management and markets. [Sanjeev: NO role for government.]
—Cover all crops by crop insurance with the village and not block as the unit for assessment. [Sanjeev: Already discussed above]
—Provide for a Social Security net with provision for old age support and health insurance. [Sanjeev: NO. Only NIT based payments. That's a single payment that will eliminate all poverty at all ages.]
—Promote aquifer recharge and rain water conservation. Decentralise water use planning and every village should aim at Jal Swaraj with Gram Sabhas serving as Pani Panchayats. [Sanjeev: Agreed, in principle]
—Ensure availability of quality seed and other inputs at affordable costs and at the right time and place. [Sanjeev: NO! This is not the job of government. Let the market supply the needs. Keep bureaucrats out of business.]
—Recommend low risk and low cost technologies which can help to provide maximum income to farmers because they cannot cope with the shock of crop failure, particularly those associated with high cost technologies like Bt cotton. [Sanjeev: Freeing the crop insurance and futures markets will readily resolve this issue]
—Need for focused Market Intervention Schemes (MIS) in the case of life-saving crops such as cumin in arid areas. Have a Price Stabilisation Fund in place to protect the farmers from price fluctuations. [Sanjeev: MORE SUBSIDY AFTER SUBSIDY. I'm getting sick of the MS Swaminathan report, by now]
—Need swift action on import duties to protect farmers from international price. [Sanjeev: Ridiculous. A free market is the best protection. Sorry, this report is more of the usual socialist nonsense]
—Set up Village Knowledge Centres (VKCs) or Gyan Chaupals in the farmers' distress hotspots. These can provide dynamic and demand driven information on all aspects of agricultural and non-farm livelihoods and also serve as guidance centres. [Sanjeev: Why is government required to do this? Why not private internet cafes? Why does Swaminathan have a PASSION for more government?]
—Public awareness campaigns to make people identify early signs of suicidal behavior. [Sanjeev: That's fine. But in Australia, this is done by Beyond Blue, a not for profit organisation. http://www.beyondblue.org.au/. Surely the Indian social sector can do this on its own?]
Competitiveness of Farmers
—Promotion of commodity-based farmers' organisations such as Small Cotton Farmers' Estates to combine decentralised production with centralised services such as post-harvest management, value addition and marketing, for leveraging institutional support and facilitating direct farmer-consumer linkage. [Sanjeev: Swaminathan doesn't understand the BASICS of markest. All these things will originate on their own in the private sector once you liberate the farm sector]
—Improvement in implementation of Minimum Support Price (MSP). Arrangements for MSP need to be put in place for crops other than paddy and wheat. Also, millets and other nutritious cereals should be permanently included in the PDS. [Sanjeev: NO!]
—MSP should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production. [Sanjeev: When the idea of MSP doesn't exist, why further details?]
—Availability of data about spot and future prices of commodities through the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCD) and the NCDEX and the APMC electronic networks covering 93 commodities through 6000 terminals and 430 towns and cities. [Sanjeev: Why won't the market supply these systems on its own??]
—State Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Acts [APMC Acts] relating to marketing, storage and processing of agriculture produce need to shift to one that promotes grading, branding, packaging and development of domestic and international markets for local produce, and move towards a Single Indian Market. [Sanjeev: APMC should go]
—Accelerating the rate of growth of the economy; [Sanjeev: I thought this was an agriculture report!]
—Emphasizing on relatively more labour intensive sectors and inducing a faster growth of these sectors; [Sanjeev: NO! Just let the people free, for God's sake.]
—Improving the functioning of the labour markets through such modification as may be necessary without eroding the core labour standards. [Sanjeev: I don't know what this means. Let there be a uniform labour law for all employees]
—Encourage non-farm employment opportunities by developing particular sectors and sub-sectors where demand for the product or services is growing namely: (i) trade, (ii) restaurants and hotels, (iii) transport, (iv) construction, (v) repairs and (vi) certain services. [Sanjeev: Why!!!! Let the market free, Mr Swaminathan! I'm happy to teach you the basics of the market.]
—The "net take home income" of farmers should be comparable to those of civil servants [Sanjeev: In fact, in Australia, civil servants get much LESS than farmers. But these farmers are super-educated and highly productive. Let the market decide who gets what]
—Preserving traditional rights of access to biodiversity, which include access to non-timber forest products including medicinal plants, gums and resins, oil yielding plants and beneficial micro-organisms; [Sanjeev: OK, but the ideal would to privatise under regulatory oversight]
—Conserving, enhancing and improving crops and farm animals as well as fish stocks through breeding; [Sanjeev: This is something that government COULD support, provided it is clear that the market will not do so on its own. A rare third order function for the state.]
—Encouraging community-based breed conservation (i.e. conservation through use); [Sanjeev: Not clear what this means in practice]
—Allowing export of indigenous breeds and import of suitable breeds to increase productivity of nondescript animals. [Sanjeev: THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT. This should be a key focus of government intervention in agriculture]
August 5, 2014
Yesterday I had the misfortune to waste my time meeting one Sudesh Aggarwal, a very wealthy man who has started a "clean" party, aiming to contest seats in Haryana.
I did so at the behest of a fine gentleman whom I met in Sonipat.
Surprisingly, this man Sudesh is simply not interested in anything but personal power and self-aggrandisement. He started off by boasting about his opulence and wealth. He said he is one of the greatest and most well-known persons in the world. He then kept undermining my discussion on policy and governance reform, saying these are matters for bureaucrats and consultants to advise on. I kept trying to suggest that clear knowledge about what one will do, if elected, is essential. And that bureaucrats are entirely ill-equipped to consider public policy. However, this man was neither interested in discussing policy nor in attracting new talent into his party (or forming an alliance with other like-minded parties).
He said that he will be the next Chief Minister of Haryana.
After about 15 minutes of a futile attempt to make a conversation, I walked out of the meeting. The most arrogant and closed-minded man I've met in my life. His goal is to find chamchas and those who bow to him. Not willing to indulge in any conversation as an equal citizen.
My prediction: The voter can see through the character of people instantly. His party will get ZERO seats in Haryana, and he wont' become an MLA, leave alone the Chief Minister of any state.
My recommendation: When he has squandered his hundreds of crores of rupees in futile efforts to win elections in India and has come down to the level of asking questions and engaging with talented, good people, he can contact me and then we can further discuss.
But first this man – the most arrogant I've ever met – will need to come down to earth. Indian voters will shortly teach him the necessary lesson.
Why do I further waste my time by writing about him? Because I believe in reaching out to all good Indians. He is clearly a GOOD man. He is also very wealthy. Unfortunately, he is not fit to lead India at this stage of his life. One day, if he reforms his style and focuses on finding and building good leaders, he can genuinely aspire to senior leadership roles. I look forward to his forced self-reflection and subsequent transformation after he hits the ground – quite hard – from his high pedestal.
August 5, 2014
In the previous blog post I provided comments by Rajput and Vinay Shankar (IAS, retired) on my strong recommendations regarding revamping the governance system of India.
Essence of Rajput's view
"IAS has become a bunch of "BABOONS", totally subservient to the corrupt rulers and politicians, who have shown no initiative, no new ideas and no improvement to reform the crippling system of red tape and bureaucracy that waste years of a citizen's life making him a coolie or moron in the end. Like the ministers, they, too, are corrupt, dishonest and unreliable.
"Nehru, instead of liberating the natives from the crushing load of red tape and bureaucracy he let the IAS create more and more ingenious ways to tie the natives down under pestering rules and regulations. Bribery and corruption flourished. Countless capable Indians (NRI’s) left the native shores, seeking freedoms abroad.
"I do not agree that IAS should be abolished. I am not clear whether you endorse what Sanjeev says or Sanjeev echoes your views [Sanjeev: These are my views based on learnings both academic and practical. My father - because of whose regard for the IAS I joined it, instead of becoming a painter or doctor which were my first preference - has incrementally learnt about them and understood them. He now strongly endorses them].
By simply wishing that an alternative system will be free of corruption, be epitome of efficiency and effectivenesss, it will not become so.
In a democrcy, it is the collective character of the people that is reflected in all institutions – political and bureaucratic.
Even if you abolish IAS, other central services will remain.
In a democracy, the craftsman is the political executive. If he is skillful, he will sharpen the tool and make it fit to do difficult job easily. If he is inefficient, he will blame the tool.
My thesis is that our consitution was unsuited to the socio-economimc conditions of the country prevailing in 1950 and it continues to be so. It has thrown up in to power the scum of the society and the really talented, sincere, committed people in to resignation and helplessness. It needs to be rewritten by a new constitutent assembly. new Constitution will come up with a new scheme of bureaucracy."
SO WHAT PRECISELY AM I SAYING?
First, I'm NOT saying that the IAS must be abolished in one go. I've clearly outlined a transitional plan in which the senior roles of the IAS will be incrementally replaced with highly paid but fully accountable contractual positions. Thereafter a thin layer of permanent service will remain – perhaps promoted (maximum) to the rank of Under Secretary to the GOI. But there will be NO tenure, even at this level. Whether it will be called IAS or something else is a matter to be considered in the future. Details are provided in BFN.
Second, there is absolutely no intent to retain any tenured central service. These too, will be incrementally replaced by a modern, performing service.
In each case, the best officers of these services will be eligible to be appointed (upon resignation from their tenured service) to senior roles – as part of open competition. This competition will NOT be run by the government but will be run by the concerned Secretary or his/her delegate for EACH individual post.
Third, I'm NOT saying that the IAS reform is the only solution that will fix India's governance. In terms of political reforms, and the urgency for change, it is ELECTORAL REFORMS that take priority. I've put them first in my book, for that's the soul of reform. Without creating a system in which good people are able to participate we can't possibly hope to clean up India's governance.
Fourth, I'm with Rajput. I left the IAS after meeting MANY senior IAS officers to whom I offered reform proposals. NONE of them were either willing to ask questions or discuss these proposals. Their entire "contribution" to India was to tell me that none of my proposals can be implemented in India because the politicians won't agree to them. But they REFUSED to undertake ANY due diligence to examine such reform proposals (e.g. negative income tax model to eliminate poverty – in the well-thought out manner I had proposed).
The IAS is the most incompetent bureaucracy in the world. That is totally undeniable.
Fifth, I agree with Vinay Shankar that a new Constitution is needed in India. I've thoroughly critiqued our Constitution in my book. However, we can't wait till such an assembly is established, to reform India's governance. Most reforms I've proposed can be implemented without any major change in the Constitution. Only Article 311 is one major stumbling block which should be eliminated as soon as possible. We need the SAME labour laws for the private sector and public sector. India is perhaps the only nation in the world with different labour laws for public servants (these are called service laws) and private sector employees. Across the world there is only one type of employee. All employees should have the same rights and obligations under the law. Not two different set of laws.
I had personally given a talk to Vinay Shankar and other senior retired officers of Palam Vihar, Gurgaon, a few years ago, but none had the patience to ask questions. They are typical babus who have long ago shut their mind and are of no particular use to India.
If ANY babu asks questions, he, too, is capable of learning. But babus are "know-alls". And that's how they destroy India, each day of their life.
THE GOOD NEWS: It is not just me who's been harpring on this for the past 15 years. I discovered that T. Chatterjee, Director (and head) of the Indian Institute of Public Administration has also recently published a note promoting the idea of dissolution of tenure.
Well, now there are two of us (former IAS officers) demanding the end of the IAS (tenured). I hope others like Vinay Shankar will soon see the light of day and ASK questions, instead of shutting their mind to new ideas.