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Making Government Facilities non-Functional

One reason for so much public anger against the government is a direct outcome of vested interests making every government facility non-functional. Advanced diagnostic facilities in most government hospitals in the national capital, Delhi, are reported to be “non-functional or partially functional” due to which patients are compelled to go to private laboratories and facilities. This model of promoting investment in the private sector is the bane of India. It is nothing more than crony capitalism. It is an organized  economic crime against the aam aadmi (ordinary citizen), in whose name all kinds of welfare schemes are announced regularly. It is touted to be a facility for the aam aadmi and a welfare measure. The public service delivered by the government hospital was available at a reasonable price being a non-commercial activity, which became costly in a privately run facility that is a commercial establishment .It is sold to the people as a facility available to them at a concessional rate.

Sadly, health services or medical facilities are not the only ones to be the target of such well devised acts of sabotage. Almost all public services stand affected by the practice of rendering public facilities non-functional or partially functional. Whether it is school education, housing, transport, telecommunication, highways, bridges, postal services, hospitality, television, radio, textiles, fertilizers, mining, public enterprises, banking, insurance, research, science, technology, higher studies, public distribution, child & maternity services or anything that fails to escape executive supervision-every single service and facility has suffered such challenge. Big people, really powerful people, are directly or indirectly linked to such shady business. It benefits them both ways: first by seeking higher budgetary support to augment the public services and then ensuring they become non-functional immediately on the very day they are installed. The citizens seeking such services are easily diverted to the private facilities. Those who have never seen things closely would be surprised if they were told of the modus operandi of making perfectly functional personnel, machines and facilities non-functional. It is like the policeman refusing to take cognizance of a complaint (unless some “higher up” speaks to him). The operation includes laying footpaths only to be dug up before the concrete has set in or fences/grills disappearing overnight. It became common knowledge during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Machines-like those in hospitals- are damaged in the very process of commissioning. Thousands of jeeps for hospitals are parked in the open to get rusted, for neither driver nor fuel has been made available. Thousands of crores of rupees worth machines and equipment are not even unpacked for years. This year too, purchases will be made to spend the funds before 31 March.

 

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister would have done his calculations, projecting “deficit” and “widening the tax net”. There is no bigger economic myth than this deficit and taxation, when not more than 15% of the funds ever reach the target groups. It is no absurd statement by anybody. It is from none other than Late Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, and he can be trusted. Nobody has proved him otherwise so far, including the Finance Ministers or Prime Ministers after him.

 

So when it is on record that the funds do not get employed for the tasks that they are supposed to accomplish; when 85% funds leak on their way to the field; when such evaporation of public money is called “corruption”; and when this government has failed pathetically to stop corruption, is there any case for increased taxes? The resounding answer is: NO.

 

If the Finance Minister revises his calculations honestly, he can reform the tax regime, reduce tax rates and indirectly eliminate corruption from governance. He can do so. He is capable of doing so. But will he become “functional”? That he knows is beyond him. I would agree with him, because if the public services were not to be crippled deliberately, India could become “corruption free in no time”. Those who were determined to deliver did so fearlessly and those who still want to do shall certainly do.

 

It is time to bust this hollow myth of deficit financing. What is 5 or 6% deficit compared to transmission loss of 85% of all funds for all schemes, programmes and projects?

India is not yet ripe for PPP model. Such models have proved successful in those economies which initially started as capitalist countries and gradually moved selectively towards socialistic pattern of partnerships with the citizenry. As against it, India started as a socialist country, with clearly marked territories for public, private and joint enterprises. Since the government was in production, supply and distribution of products and services, a sizable battery of “contractors” emerged. These private players were abused by the bureaucracy and the political authority by making them do all kinds of unethical things, which were generally against public interest and fell in the category of corruption. Once the private participant saw the weak points in the power structure, it started dominating decision making and influencing policy making. The current lobbying for PPP draws its inspiration from it. This kind of Public Private Partnership(PPP) can not succeed if the public utilities, facilities and services continue to deliver satisfactory service at such cheap rates. Hence, it becomes obligatory for them to first render these services “non-functional” and then offer their services under the PPP model. That suits all stakeholders .Only the citizens are aggrieved. They complain, and rather loudly, there being no net addition to the services. Rather it is a surreptitious way of privatizing public services, for which the budget makes the necessary money available. Disrupting these services is nothing less than disrupting governance. The Nation and the aam aadmi can be served only if these services are strengthened and made fully functional. The Finance Minister should not increase taxes anymore.

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