Going by the media discussions (both mainstream and social) about the speech that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi delivered recently at Delhi’s SRCC’s Business Conclave, he probably has put the topic of development, good governance and its benefits at the centrestage of public discourse amongst this country’s youth. In his speech to an audience largely comprising of young college students, Modi laid out his vision for India’s development drawing upon Gujarat’s success in the implementation of various policies related to its agriculture, services & industry sectors. In the speech whose topic was ‘Emerging business models in the global scenario’, his message to the youth was simply thus; go forth and dare to dream about making India a global business & knowledge hub and a supportive government focused on good governance will make every attempt in helping the people realize their ambitions, goals, dreams and their potential. And in that process India will realize its potential to become a superpower.
It is this message that will find resonance with the vast majority of progressive youth who have hitherto found themselves being denied even the basic amenities on account of Government indifference and apathy, let alone avenues and potential opportunities that are available to their counterparts in the developed world. And furthermore Modi asserts that all of this is achievable as has been amply demonstrated in Gujarat “with the same laws, same rules, regulations and same people”. In my view, it is this statement of his that will potentially shape the development discourse and eventually increase the demand for good governance across India.
Let’s look at the second part of that statement first; that is of achieving good governance in Gujarat with the same type of government employees found elsewhere in the country. Modi’s implementation of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’ model would depend heavily on an efficient public service delivery mechanism. Now, efficient public service delivery is a concept largely unknown in India where public servants see themselves as serfs before whom people must supplicate to get those services that they are entitled to. Ensuring a citizen focus in government’s service delivery then is no mean achievement on Modi’s part when elsewhere in India, citizens routinely suffer owing to public sector employee apathy.
Let me use a personal example to highlight how even a decently educated citizen of this country feels when faced with the prospect of accessing government services. I remember very clearly when I had to visit the Delhi Passport Office in 2010 to get my passport reissued. The sense of despondency and frustration that I felt is revealed in this Facebook post which I felt even before I visited the Passport office. And these government employees expectedly did not disappoint; the unhelpful and harrowing experience pushed me to use the services of an agent who got the work done smoothly by appropriately greasing the palms of the so called “public servants”.
However, people in Gujarat are not strangers to the idea of an efficient public service mechanism. There, it is a living reality. There are numerous accounts that give both a first hand and second hand account of the manner in which the bureaucracy and the service delivery mechanisms of the Gujarat Government have geared up to meet the citizens’ needs (rather than of the financial wants (read bribe, speed money) of the government employees). It seems that the Gujarat government under Modi has made the government employees actually earn their money by carrying out the principal duty for which they have been recruited for; that of servicing the citizens. In any other state, a government employee probably deems her salary as appearance fees (to the office). Her work related performance fees would of course have to be remunerated in the form of bribes from the public. If it can be done in Gujarat, then over the course of time, people in othjer states will also come to expect a similar quality of public service and increasingly demand for good governance.
Now let’s look at the part about delivering good governance with “the same laws, same rules & regulations”. Over the last two years, many states in India have implemented or are in the process of implementing what is collectively known as the Right to Public Services legislation. Incidentally, the first two states that enacted this legislation were two other states where governance has vastly improved over the course of the reign of their new chief ministers. The Central Government too is in the process of working out the details of a similar legislation. It is interesting to note that Narendra Modi did not feel the need to enact a similar legislation for making his public service delivery mechanism timely and accountable. It says a lot about Modi’s administrative and leadership capability to be able to deliver good governance while directing and inspiring a typically insipid, unconcerned & apathetic breed of bureaucratic animal that is the public servant.
The emergence of Narendra Modi at the national level can only have good repercussions for India. Narendra Modi has changed the game of governance in India in as far as it existed in the form of bureaucratic red tapism, tardiness and apathy. Also when it comes to industry-government interface, his speech seeks to spur the vast creative energies of the youth and channel it towards whichever endeavour they wish to undertake. For far too long, the Indian government has come in the way of the unfolding of the natural creative efforts of this country’s citizens; Modi has delivered a message that under him India cannot afford to waste the precious talent of the youth.