What impedes improvement in public services in India? Is it inefficiency? Yes, to a great extent it is inefficiency. But more than inefficiency it is crass corruption at every level. The higher levels don’t inspire junior functionaries to work honestly. It is the lax supervision of the higher authorities that encourages junior functionaries to indulge in corrupt practices. Dereliction of duty is their tried method of denying quality public services. They convert the normal into abnormal, public into private, right into obligation through this method. To a large extent, it was trade union power that paralysed public services regularly before liberalisation and technological advances restricted the scope of corruption for them through this tried and tested method.
Public services shall continue to be the only mechanism to serve the people of India for several decades. Privatisation is a remedy worse than the disease in many areas.
Public grievances about deficiency in service are largely ignored. Complaints to agencies like the Central Vigilance Commission or State Vigilance Commission go unanswered largely. The very fact that millions of public grievances are lodged with the Prime Minister’s portal is evidence of the ground situation. Complaints with the national consumer complaints portal is another evidence. The sheer number of complaints pending with the consumer fora is another evidence of harassment of the public, denial of public service to them or scams being staged to deliberately paralyse the public services so as to vacate the lucrative space for the private sector to exploit. Generally, these areas are developed sectors of the economy, built on tax payers’ money and highly profitable. The private sector gets it almost for free as the Public Sector Enterprise is first made sick and thereafter sold to the private sector for a pittance. The private sector triples the charges at the very first day of the operations and then keeps increasing them gradually to make windfall profits. This technique came into operation at the beginning of this century in India. It has by now become a perfect art.
Take the case of the MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd). Telephone services were run by the Government of India departmentally. Trade union activity compelled the government to corporatize the service. Thus, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) came into existence. The BSNL was crippled to vacate space for the private players to step in. Officers of the BSNL, declared surplus, have yet not been absorbed fully. The MTNL was constituted to provide services in the Mumbai and Delhi metros.
The service of the MTNL is poor. Perhaps they want to shut down the MTNL and make over the assured huge market to private players. There is neither the will to provide efficient services to subscribers nor any commitment to do so.
On the contrary, the MTNL Delhi strengthens the view that deficiency in service is corruption by another name. They raise regular monthly bill without providing any service as there is neither connectivity nor coverage in many areas. In New Delhi, Dwarka, Sector 10, the deficiency has continued for more than 5 years now! The phone does not work but the bill comes regularly! Late fee is also charged. The MTNL authorities know the cause and reason for failed service but refuse to correct it.
Such dereliction, deficiency and indifference emanates from the fact that the concerned employees do not suffer the consequences- they are not penalised in any manner.
On the other hand, the citizens suffer grave consequences by lodging complaints with all kinds of agencies and follow them up with zero remedy and running high blood pressure in the process due to frustration and mental agony, harassment, financial loss, missing important calls, loss of official business (retired civil servant), forced new connection from private company etc. This misery of the people the inefficient employees don’t understand. To make them understand it, the government has to provide in their service rules penalties for failure to render efficient service within one day. Unless it is done, the schemes announced by the government from time to time will prove a terrible failure and create public discontent.
It is the responsibility of any government to provide quality public service to the citizens and the people. This burden of the past has shown the audacity to function for full four years of the Narendra Modi government without any improvement. It speaks volumes for the decadence in the system.
The corrupt have thrived on the patronage of the parallel government. But they have escaped Narendra Modi’s attention is proof of their reach in any government, whether a Man Mohan Singh government or a Narendra Modi government. But we, the people of India, reject their claims and are determined to deal with them effectively if the Narendra Modi government too fails to discipline them.