Thoughts on economics and liberty

When the river drinks up its waters

Retired Vice Admiral Admiral Barry Bharathan, a prominent member of the Freedom Team of India has written this excellent write-up which I thought deserves wide dissemination.


You are incredulous at first. You then scramble for buying up bottled water like the many who can afford it. You don’t want to know as to why the river drinks up the water. You look at someone who starts digging up a bore well with awe and admiration. You think that this will solve your problems. You simply do not want to hear or read anything about the water table.

God Bless Shri Anna Hazare. The debate is not about him or the movement that is being supported by many former bureaucrats, cops, lawyers, and other reputed leaders. The real issue is our readiness to discuss, study, enquire, inquire, debate on something that is below and beneath acceptable norms of administrative and civic conduct. It is akin to describing some woman as being a little pregnant. Human venality has no real answers. At best, it can be controlled. This is the mythical and historical truth from the time Homo sapiens came into being. 

All the clamour is our Nation’s admittance of helplessness. The common man is excited and naively feels that there would be rapid reformation. The government heaves a sigh of relief that it has an escape route in the form of the “LOK PAL”. Everyone is only too familiar that the survival angst of Indians invariably calls for short term temporary placebo solutions. We need pragmatic, acceptable quality rules of business that truly addresses the aspect of effective governance.

The concept of the LOK PAL appears laudable but is actually unworkable. Our venerated constitution so wonderfully written has certain basic contradictions. An example is article 39 which directs the state to secure many essentials for the livelihood of its people. Yet article 37 prevents the state from being taken to court if it fails to do so. Article 311 seeks to provide job security to government employees. Yet it has unwittingly made the “government servant” a “People Master. Productivity and performance statistics clearly show abysmal depths of administration.  We seem to want to catch the tiger by its tail!  We have a political party agnostic government system that remains unchanged over the last six decades. Opacity, diffused accountability, compartmentalized working is the norm since independence. Rules of business, regulations, encourage below the table adjustments. People are conditioned to be supplicant when it comes to dealing with essentialities of documentation for their very existence!   

The logic of the LOK PAL to oversee the functioning of the government, review the past misdoings, without any constitutional authority seems perplexing. Assuming that even this is done, how can anyone regulate, implement a system that is not designed for transparent rules of business. The lack of a viable management information system, the absence of any corporate management and the embedded DNA of a welfare state all render Governance sub optimal. Consequently corruption has been integral to our way of life.

The LOK PAL charter simply needs to be optimized by focusing on Governance and rules of business. What affects the day to day to life of the common human? Can we make the rules and regulations people friendly. Can we create internet information highways? Can we improve supply chain management in our towns and villages. 

The Politico-Legal-Bureaucratic-Military combine must seek to get its basics right. Corruption can be stripped by transparent, accountable practices. Let us give our people a sense of belonging, believing and being Indians.       

Most refreshing is the way people came together in a peaceful manner. This is the promise of India. Let us quench the thirst of the river.


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2 thoughts on “When the river drinks up its waters
  1. N.P. Singh

    It is hard to tell if Barry Bharthan approves or disapprove of the Jan Lokpal movement, but he surely finds it short on many counts. Certainly it is no panacea for all that ails India, and it's people. Before I can figure out how to respond I see a sentence in Hindi on the right hand column of the blog that sums my feeling " Let us at least make a begining, India will change."
    To my mind Jan Lokpal proposals that seek to establish an independent (like Election Commission and Supreme Court) ombudsman to inquire into and prosecute complaints of corruption, reorganize the vigilance mechanism and remove conflicts of interest therein, and provide immediate relief to victims of corruption are an essential and welcome begining, should the government adopt them under whatever compulsion. These proposals will empower people much like the Right To Information. Jan Lokpal is not the whole solution, not least because whole solutions are not possible to such a complex problem as India.
    The Jan Lokpal proposals are available on the net and seriously and humbly I ask Barry to point out how he reached his conclusions regarding lack of transparency, lack of constitutional authority etc. and how Jan Lokpal is less workable than trying to give a nation of 1.3 billion people a DNA transplant which he seems to be rooting for.
    N.P. Singh

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