22nd August 2010
In 1998-99 I started a handful of articles/ academic papers which I never got to progress, having come down with the most acute case of RSI. I accidentally came across some of these old writings a moment ago. Some of these papers are over 14000 words long and not suitable for a blog post. But a few short ones might be OK for a blog.
This one, on good governance, is a preliminary paper of 1999. Some of this material has flowed into BFN. The rest remains unexplored/unpublished.
=== DRAFT ARTICLE WRITTEN IN MAY 1999 ====
The demand for good governance is voiced across the country, but few have stated explicitly the fundamental changes it will take to arrive at this objective. We have dug our head into the sand regarding the analysis of the fundamental deficiencies in our democracy, and this is now beginning to take a heavy toll on our daily lives. I will touch upon four issues here which I believe are fundamental problems of our system needing to be addressed urgently.
1. Democracy costs a lot of money
Democracy does not come for free. Enormous expenses are incurred both in the organisation of elections by the Election Commission and in contesting elections by candidates. Whereas the first of these easily runs to many hundreds of crores per general election, and has our sanction as a citizenry, we seem to balk at considering the likelihood of candidates spending similar sums of money. We have not only imposed limits on electoral expenses, which are flouted blatantly by candidates, but we have also kept no relationship between the expenses incurred in election by candidates and the remuneration received after elections by the successful ones. The limit of expenditure in a Parliamentary Election is now Rs. 15 lakhs, a number of reports — informal as well as formal — prove that candidates spend on average well over Rs. 1 crore (for example, see pp. 272-278, pp.296-298 of The Black Economy of India by Arun Kumar, Penguin, 1999). At the end of this process in which one out of many are elected, the take-home pay of the successful representative, a Member of Parliament, is Rs.4,000 per month (details in Annexure I, including why other expenses are not part of this take-home pay). Clearly in this process there would be some who wish to provide charity to us citizens by spending their own money with no thought of returns, but on the whole, the main category of persons who enter this absurd process are those who have no compunction about misusing their elected office to capture rents from the Government machinery to recover their heavy investment . In not-so-polite language, we can say without fear of being rebutted that a vast majority have come into public office with the primary objective of looting the system. The N.N. Vohra Committee report on the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and criminals including the Mafia is as explicit a statement of fact as any one can get from within the system. “In certain states … these gangs enjoy the patronage of local level politicians, cutting across party lines and the protection of government functionaries.” Democracies do not run on charity and we should not be depend as citizens on the good will of a few charitable souls who spend their own money in order to ‘serve’ us. Our representatives must not have to depend on loot and black money for their sustenance.
To make matters worse, the Election Commission of India prevents debate on whatever expenses have been declared to it by political parties. The mystification of the basic processes of democracy is causing large scale corruption in
In brief, the solution here is (a) to remove limits on electoral expenses but to insist on transparency, and (b) to drastically increase the take-home remuneration of MPs while completely eliminating their ‘perquisites’ except those that are necessary in the interest of security.
The Official Secrets Act of 1923 talks about not disclosing secret official information which is likely to assist, directly or indirectly, an enemy or which relates to a matter the disclosure of which is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of
3. Supervision of Government Machinery
We can skirt the micro- issue of supervision of the government machinery at our own peril. In order to be truly representative, a democracy has to be designed to leave the control over, and superintendence of, governance, with the citizens at all times.
Under the current dispensation, we have a system of representing ourselves democratically at the highest level of governance. We give to ourselves a government every few years in order to carry out functions that we cannot perform ourselves as individuals. This representation is very thin, though. As a ratio, at the national level, one out of every twenty lakh people represents us. At the state level, this is slightly better, but still very thin. The actual structure of government is many tens of thousands of times larger than the number of representatives.
Our representatives are authorised to create laws and statutes by which we are to be governed. Some of these representatives are then empowered to execute these laws. We also expect the representatives to supervise — through the use of mechanisms such as government auditors and committees of the legislature — the actual implementation of these laws and the thousands of rules framed thereunder. Unfortunately, due to the way the system of supervision has been designed, most of the laws are violated fearlessly by the very same gargantuan governmental machinery which was designed to assist our representatives execute them. I believe that a vast majority of these violations are never even brought up to the notice of various committees of the Assembly or Parliament, and therefore, functionaries continue to violate laws with impunity.
Once the contentious process of framing laws is resolved democratically, each of us should resume to ourselves the power to verify that these laws and rules are being followed strictly. The Local Board that I envision would be attached to each local office of the government, such as each district library, each post office, each branch office of each public sector undertaking. Without having any power to legislate or to execute, its sole function would be to supervise the procedural aspects of functioning of the governmental organisation to which it is assigned. Voters of the city or village in which the office is located would be eligible to apply for membership of such Boards. A public drawing from among the eligible applicants would take place. Members of the Board would be authorised to inspect all records with due advance notice. Members would be responsible for pointing out errors of omission and commission in procedure to the concerned elected representatives and to the people directly through the press. They would, in addition, be invited to all statutory meetings, where they would act as observers, such as at the time of opening of sealed tenders.
Local Boards will ensure that the fundamental control of our country’s governance vests with citizens at all times. As part of the process of deepening and strengthening democracy in
4. Using the best technology
This does not necessarily mean that the use of latest technology is optimal for each situation. In the case of private goods, the most labour-saving technology chosen — and the availability of this choice is of the essence — by a self-interested individual facing a personal budget constraint can be defined as optimal. If all technology, of all vintages, is freely available, then all individual decisions made in the marketplace of technology are optimal and thus appropriate, making the term appropriate technology tautological, merely representing free choice. It then does not possess meaningful content for a policy maker, leaving no scope to interfere with the forces of the market.
For public goods, the choice of appropriate technology is not quite as obvious. It is difficult to choose between hand-made roads (labour-intensive) and machine-made roads, for example. Since social cost-benefit analyses have serious shortcomings, I suggest that human dignity, safety and standardisation of quality be considered in making these decisions.
Using manual labour for tasks such as collection of garbage in cities, cleaning public drains, breaking large stones into gravel and carrying bricks up bamboo scaffolds, is inhumane. These activities are almost always carried out without concern for the safety of the citizens involved. Since labour is cheap, the life of these temporary workers, often hired newly each day by contractors, is itself felt to be cheap, and little is heard of their injury, disease, and consequent lay-offs in government sponsored projects, except when a major accident takes place and tens of them are crushed to death here or there.
Machines provide dignity and also standardise quality. The construction of roads by machines leads to durable roads, permitting the use of larger trucks of higher quality to operate, reducing the cost of maintenance of roads as well as the cost of transportation of goods across the country.
As a very important spin-off, machines demand and indeed compel, the development of indigenous skills, both to handle them properly and to build and manage them. Vocationalisation of education will become meaningful if government insists that contractors employed by it should employ only licensed technicians empowered with the best tools.
Paradoxical though it may appear, societies which set incentives for the best technology generally enjoy a low rate of unemployment. The compulsion to use the best technology forces an entire society to become intellectually competitive over time. Competitive societies in turn overwhelm other countries with their exports and ability to lower costs internally.
Thus as a nation, only the world’s best technology is appropriate for us. We have to put an end to the annual sacrifice of thousands of citizens at the alter of our
I have touched briefly upon some of what I thought were the more important issues relating to the strategy for improved governance. These are of course many more areas which deserve our urgent attention, and we must try to set aside time in our daily lives to look into these matters. For example, improved governance needs vast improvements in economic and social policy at the same time. These are vast topics in themselves and need further debate. As a matter of principle, a free democracy needs much more open debate and interaction in order that its citizens understand the issues involved and to collectively act in order to bring about significant change in the lives of the common man. Bureaucrats are citizens first. They should come out and talk about what they have learned from their experience.
STATEMENT SHOWING THE SALARY, ALLOWANCE AND OTHER
FACILITIES ADMISSIBLE TO MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
S. NO. & ITEM
TAKE HOME VALUE
Rs. 4,000/- per month
Rs. 4,000/- per month
Rs.400/- the MP have to sign the register except on holidays.
Zero. Given in lieu of expenditure on being out of their place of residence. Similar DA given to all government servants.
Constituency Allowance @ Rs. 8000/- per month and Office Expense Allowance @ Rs.8,500/- per month, Out of which Rs.2,500/- should be for expenses on stationery etc. and Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha Secretariat may pay upto Rs. 6000/- per month to the person (s) engaged by the MP for obtaining secretarial assistance.
Zero. MPs are expected to incur miscellaneous expenses for their constitutency. In fact they probably spend more than this per month. The others are in lieu of actual expenses on PA/ stationary.
1,00,000 free local calls per annum on both the telephones Delhi and Constituency residence pooled together. Trunk call bills adjusted within the monetary equivalent of the ceiling of 1,00,000 local calls per annum. Excess calls made over and above the quota allowed to be adjusted in the next years quota.
Zero. A necessity for MPs, just like similar entitlements to senior government functionaries.
Rent free flats only (including hostel accommodation). If a Member is allotted bungalow at his request, he shall pay (a) Full normal rent if he is entitled to such accommodation; and (b) Full normal rent and a non-entitlement charge of Rs.500/- per month, if he is not so entitled.
Rent free furniture upto the monetary celling of Rs.24,000/- for durable furniture
and Rs.5,000/- for non-durable furniture.
Free Washing of sofa covers and curtains every 3 months.
Tiles in bathroom, kitchen wherever demanded by MP.
Zero. MP has to maintain his original establishment elsewhere. This is more like free hostel accommodation and you do not get to take it in cash, home.
Water & Electricity
25,000 units of electricity per annum 12500 units each on Light/Power meters or pooled together Members who have no power meters installed are allowed 25000 units per annum on light meter and 2,000 kl. of water per annum beginning January every year.
Zero. Addition to above accommodation.
As available to Grade-I Officers of the Central Government under CGHS.
Zero. Govt. servants get similar facilities.
Rs.1,00,000/- on interest as applicable to the Central Government Employees recoverable within a maximum period of 5 years not extending beyond the tenure of MP.
Zero. Govt. servants get better facilities.
Pension to ex-MPs
(i) Minimum pension of Rs.2,500/- per month for membership of 4 years and Rs.500/- per month for every year in excess of five without any maximum celling.
(ii) Pension to Members with two terms of Lok Sabha and to all the Members of Provisional Parliament (Constituent Assembly). Minimum Rs.2,500/- per month.
(iii) (a) In case where the elections are not held due to unforseen circumstances like weather conditions etc., such as in Ladakh in J&K and Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, such period should be counted towards their eligibility period for grant of pension.
(b) Where in any General Elections held for the purpose of constituting of a new Lok Sabha, polls were delayed in any Parliamentary Constituency of any part thereof on account of terrorism, Insurgency or public order problem, the delayed period will count for pension purpose at the rate admissible under the law for the time being in force and from the date on whcih the dissolution of such House took place.
(iv) Ex-MPs pension allowed irrespective of any other pension without any upper limit on the aggregate.
This has a positive Net Present Value to be determined separately in each case.
Pension to the spouse/ dependent of an MP dying in harness.
Rs. 1000/- per month for a period of 5 years from the date of death of MP, to the spouse, if any, or dependent.
Very small, almost like that given to Jawans. Best ignored.
RAIL One 1st Class + One II Class fare
AIR One and one fourth air fare. Also air fare for one companion in case of a blind/physically incapacitated MP.
STEAMER One and 3/5th of the fare for highest class (without diet).
ROAD (i) Rs 6/- per km (ii) Minimum Rs.120/- to/fro from
Zero. No take home cash component. Govt. officers get similar facilities for official duty.
(1) Railway pass for MP for travel in AC 1st Class or Executive Class of any Indian Railway. Spouse can also travel with MP in the same Class. If such journey or part thereof is undertaken by air from place other than usual place of residence of the Member to Delhi and back, to an amount equal to the fare by air for such journey or part thereof or the amount equal to the Journey performed by air from usual place of residence of the Member to Delhi and back whichever is less.(ii) Companion can also travel with MP in AC II tier. (iii) To and fro air travel for the MP from Ladakh for Member and Spouse/companion. (iv) To and fro air travel facility for Member and spouse/companion between the
This has some value (only as far as spouse is concerned. MP is supposed to be doing official duties) depending on how much the spouse uses this. If spouse flies 10 times at an average of Rs. 5,000 each, it is worth Rs. 50,000 per year.
Travelling facility to ex-MPs
Ex-MPs alongwith a companion are entitled to free AC two tier rail travel facility from any place to any other place in India, on the basis of an authorisation issued for this purpose by either Secretariat of Parliament as the case may be.
Part of pension benefit. Has “take home” value in some cases. Should be added to pension and included in NPV of pension.