The Inward Eye

Way forward has to be different

It is for the men who lead this great country to choose a new path or make major corrections in the present system. Let’s bring our best men and women from wherever they are and put them in their specialised slots and enable them to give us the future we deserve

Way forward has to be different

Gurbachan Jagat

Over the last couple of years, dark ominous clouds have been hovering over the horizon, but until recently not dark enough to be of great concern. However, things have been changing at a fast pace over the last year and events seem to be overtaking us in spite of the efforts of the Government of India. We have today a nosediving economy, a nation reeling under the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown and uncontrolled migration. If this were not enough, the Chinese are creating major problems in Ladakh, Pakistan-supported terrorists in Kashmir and the Nepalese claiming some of our territory. Internally also, some of the states seem to be unhappy with the Centre, especially in financial matters. All these problems factored together pose a major challenge and call for a national response. Although the Government of India is doing its best to face these challenges, a national crisis requires a national response.

The Government of India is a huge behemoth having different departments to deal with different subjects. It consists of ministers and bureaucrats of various levels and hues and requires great teamwork, with each member required to pull his weight. Ours is a parliamentary democracy and political parties select their candidates for elections, but merit and educational background are the least of qualifications being looked for. ‘Winnability’ is the keyword and it connotes a candidate’s money power, muscle power, religious and caste affiliations, etc. Unfortunately, many criminals and other unsavoury elements possess these qualifications and several of them get the tickets and also win elections. That leaves little space for well-educated and good people. This makes the task of selecting ministers more difficult and added to this is the fact that we have no tradition of ‘shadow cabinets’ and therefore, we have very few MPs who have specialised in certain fields and can be automatic choices for those departments. The result is that square pegs land up in round holes. Even otherwise, the process of Cabinet formation involves giving representation to various groups, religions, castes, etc.

The end result is that we have very few ministers who have domain knowledge of their departments and hence, there is heavy dependence on the bureaucracy, which also consists mainly of people with experience in general management. If there is a strongman at the helm, then everybody waits for a signal regarding which way the wind is blowing and all the weather cocks turn accordingly.

It has to be remembered that all results are achieved through teamwork, whether it be sports or governance, and teamwork at the national level requires all members to be competent, intelligent, resourceful and thinking men of integrity. Do we have enough such men in government or does one man have to carry the weight of many? No, we do not have enough such men. Our politics does not allow it. Governance today is a highly complex technical affair in countries of the size and scale of India and we are competing against the best in other countries. Today, especially, when we are faced with such a gamut of problems, we need the best. We need economists who can fathom the complexities of a modern economy in a global context, we need defence experts and analysts who can understand and strategise the threats we face as a new chapter begins in the ‘great game’. Similarly, we need experts on foreign affairs, industry and IT. We need outstanding administrators to deal with our internal problems, we need men of vision and action.

Our country has hundreds of such men and women who, at the drop of a hat, would jump in and do the best for the motherland. Where should we look for them? They are available in universities, private sector, diaspora, serving bureaucrats and diplomats, economists, defence strategists in various think tanks, entrepreneurs, IT whiz kids, researchers, space pioneers and last but not least, they are also there in other political parties. So we have the human resources — how do we use them in government? We have the example of the United Kingdom. From 1931 to 1945, they devised the system of ‘national government’ consisting of all major parties or coalitions of major parties to deal with the fallout of the Great Depression and the World Wars. Then we have the example of USA, where, during World War II, right from FDR’s first address to a joint session of Congress appealing for unity, to the successful conclusion of the war — the President, Congress, Senate and the nation stood as one entity. The American system allows induction of various heads of departments from outside the Senate and Congress. In fact, a large number are drawn from industry and the universities and after their term is over, they go back to business or teaching. Both the models have worked well.

It is for the men who lead this great country to choose a new path or make major corrections in the present system. All that we want is good governance and those who lead us to be men of vision, sincerity, integrity and dedication. We want men who look at the poorest of us with compassion and extend a helping hand to them. Nobody should feel left out, nobody should be left by the roadside to rot and nobody should have to undergo what lakhs of our unfortunate citizens have undergone recently. Let’s bring our best men and women from wherever they are and put them in their specialised slots and enable them to give us the future we deserve. All the challenges we face, internal and external, will be dealt with as they should be dealt with. Let us embark on this journey today, let the leaders show the way and bring in the transforming agents; we, the people, are ready for the challenge. Are our leaders ready?

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