Wednesday, February 23, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Why no takers for EWS houses?

THE report “No takers for EWS houses” published in The Tribune dated February 16 draws the attention of the readers towards the deplorable condition of certain houses built for Harijans in Malerkotla. In fact, these are not EWS houses but named as “houses for Harijans or landless workers”. Such houses are being built all over the country under HUDCO schemes. Otherwise, EWS houses fall in the lowest category among the HIG, MIG, LIG, EWS classifications.

“Houses for Harijans or landless workers” is a useless scheme mooted by HUDCO. The scheme seems to be aiming more at projecting a large number of houses built with HUDCO aid and less at actually providing shelter to the needy. Under the scheme, land is acquired from village panchayats at a nominal cost. Two-room houses having no flooring, no water supply, no electricity and no toilets are then built on it. The area around is left undeveloped and there are no roads, water supply, sewerage and street-lighting. The result is that the allottees refuse to occupy the houses and these become a haven for anti-social elements.

  It is not understood what purpose HUDCO is trying to serve by running such schemes. It is mere wastage of money. Such schemes should rather be converted to some self-financing schemes, and houses with proper amenities should be provided to the poor.


Power sector reforms

The Tribune has given a very balanced view of the problems facing the power sector (“Power sector impasse”, editorial, January 28). I agree with the view that, as several studies have revealed, electricity boards are loss-making organisations not because of any serious flaw in their structure but because of faulty policies and equally flawed working.

The State Electricity Boards were created under the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 authored by none else than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the founder of modern India. This resolution explicitly stated the role of such public enterprises in a core sector of the Indian economy: “speedy decisions and willingness to assume responsibility are essential if these enterprises are to succeed. For this purpose, wherever possible there should be a decentralisation of authority and their management should be on business lines. It is also expected that public enterprises will augment the revenues of the state and provide resources for further development in fresh fields. Public enterprises have to be judged by their total results, and in their working they should have the largest possible measure of freedom.”

Readers will appreciate that none of the objectives set forth above have been solemnly pursued by the successive state and Central governments. There has been much interference in their (SEBs) day-to-day working, and in the matter of policy of placement of top management, we have continued to rely on an inherited bureaucratic philosophy of the colonial past which is based on distrust, and the terms office have been restricted to even two years for the chairman and members of these SEBs.

So, the root cause of the failure lie in the falling standard of morality of our political executive which, in its greed for “power and pelf”, did not spare even these core sector enterprises. Several studies, as referred to in the editorial, were dumped because of lack of will to implement suggestions. It is here that we the enlightened citizens working in the power sector do not see any ray of hope in the much-publicised “unbundling of SEBs” and other such restructuring reforms.

We see these reforms as opening new conduits for the continued loot of the money which would have gone otherwise to the welfare of poor masses of the country. We perceive that the World Bank aid will only act as a “steroid dose”, and the new proposed organisations will crumble fast.

If the power sector in this country is to be reformed then the following measures appear unavoidable:

(i) Working of the SEBs has to be reformed, and they have to be given freedom in fixing tariffs. This freedom should not include taxing the consumer with the cost of inefficiency and corruption. Central agencies like the CBI should act in conjunction with the available vigilance arrangements to bring the corrupt to book.

(ii) The associations and unions have also to look inwards and launch a massive programme for improvement in work culture. The corrupt have to be exposed and the inefficient have to be forced out. Even the top management has to be kept on toes in these matters, and is not to be allowed to be “soft”. I am certain that clamouring against reforms and indulging in strikes and protests is not going to pay at all.



Public awareness

It has been experienced that in Chandigarh — or for that matter, in any other city — the maintenance of open spaces, parks and roads cannot be done by the government alone without the active cooperation of public.

We have been striving hard with the help of the administration to keep open spaces and parks beautiful and clean, but it has proved an exercise in futility. The administration has provided dust-bins at specific points for dumping household garbage, but people throw it away in the open and split it on the ground. Such carelessness on the part of residents is simply intolerable.

Our association has (Sector 46-D) engaged a rehriwala who collects garbage from door to door daily on a meagre monthly payment of Rs 10 from each house. Most of the residents are, however, not ready to part with this meagre amount even whereas on the other hand, they spend a lot of money on other things.

Similar is the position of roads. By sustained and serious persuasion with the administration, we had been able to get the carpeting of the roads done in this area only about 10 months back. Now the roads are in bad shape due to the carelessness of residents while washing their vehicles as well as floors.

People in general are becoming more selfish day by day. Even the President of India, Mr R.K. Narayanan, in his Address to the Nation on the eve of Republic Day — January 26 — had touched this issue and tried to awaken the conscience of the citizens.



Question: Which is the most profitable business these days?

Answer: Politics!



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