In times when one is used to hearing the term ‘governance deficit’, more often especially due to the current crisis in the Kashmir Valley, the term ‘governance transparency’ comes as a surprise. No doubt that the former would have made a catchier headline but, the latter too deserves attention.
Two recent events are noteworthy. First, when the all-party delegation of MPs visited Jammu and Kashmir to assess the ground level situation there, all discussions including those with the separatists were recorded and broadcast. It is not that this happened for the first time but, the underlying message is very important. It brings transparency into the system. It makes the people in positions of power accountable to the public at large; to the very people who shall actually get affected by the decisions made.
Second, the Finance Ministry recently released a new Ministry publication called the Budget Manual. This Manual assumes significance as it brings into the public domain the process of Budget making, a process that has been a secret for many including some government officials. By taking this step, the government may be able to bring more transparency and accountability into the Budget making process. Also, it shall reduce the level of speculation in the stock market or corporate world in the days leading to the Budget announcement.
The UPA government should be given credit for taking such significant steps. In the recent past it introduced the Right To Information Act that empowered the common man with the right to ask the government some questions. Then came the Unique Identification project. If implemented properly, it can usher in an era of inclusion and empowerment of even the weakest and poorest sections of our society. This programme has the capability to plug leakages and other loopholes in the State machinery by bringing transparency into the tracking system.
India has some very good systems in place. There is no dearth of talent in our country. Still, we are not able to progress at a rate that we can. This is because of the loopholes in our systems of governance. It is only when transparency and accountability is brought into the system, can there be any hope of growing faster. RTI, UID, Budget Manual and the likes are great steps in that direction but, a lot more needs to be done.
Though there are many areas that need improvement, the most important one to make a start would be to bring in transparency and accountability into the functioning of our politicians. It should become compulsory for all politicians to state their areas of responsibility and their quarterly targets on their official websites. At the end of each quarter, they should share their progress report, citing reasons for their failures, if any. Such reports should be constantly monitored by higher authorities and appropriate action should be taken against defaulters. If implemented, this step shall go a long way in improving the way government functions.
It shall be a long and hard journey from a state of ‘governance deficit’ to that of ‘governance surplus’. Nevertheless, it would be a journey worth taking. Hope the government is listening.
(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)