Inefficient delivery of public services breeds corruption. When essential services like drinking water, electricity, subsidized food grains, fuel for cooking (gas or coal), health services, school admission, employment, roads, housing, Birth & Death certificate are denied in the normal course, the exercise of extracting bribe or illegal gratification in cash or kind begins. It injects an element of uncertainty and erosion of trust of the common man in the government and its agencies. When public servants openly indulge in such an exercise with impunity, it creates an atmosphere of governance by extra constitutional authorities variously described as parallel government, commission agents, middlemen, fixers, wheeler-dealers, lobbyists, syndicates, party workers and many other denominations.
Once a system comes into existence outside the constitutional scheme of things, deterioration in the efficiency of public services spreads fast. If x-ray machines or other equipment don’t work properly in a government hospital, it renders the whole infrastructure infructuous. The logic extends to hundreds of other government facilities in education, communication, transport, employment, commercial enterprises, policing, dispensation of justice, broadcasting, supply chain management of farm/ horticulture produce including food grains etc. The government is present in every walk of life, whether we like it or not. There is too much of government in our life as a citizen, consumer, employee, employer, intellectual, academician, author, artist, public speaker or advocate of human rights etc. If the damage occurs by choice of those responsible for ensuring delivery of public services on time and efficiently, it leads to public dissatisfaction and alienation, ending in unachieved targets, wastage of financial and human resources.
In such situations, productivity suffers immensely. Workers opt to ignore duty. Digital India remains on paper only because telephones calls are not taken, emails don’t get delivered, appointments with public servants can’t be fixed over the phone or email and intimations are not sent to the target person as mandated by government orders. People are made to make unproductive visits to the public servants and their office. These practices afflict even the private businesses who resort to it to make money out of the misery of the consumer who has no remedy against them except going to a court of law, which is beyond the capacity of the ordinary, cumbersome and a battle for next few years. The private sector invests heavily to make officers of the state to encourage inefficiency cleverly, rendering government facilities look poor in quality, which compels citizens to go to private facilities. These private facilities are run on commercial principles of profit at all costs. Schools, colleges, universities, professional institutions, hospitals are commercial ventures, which are a very heavy burden on citizens. They compromise on quality of service merrily and paralyse government facilities in order to get business. Public servants are seduced to rig rules and compromise standards impacting highest standards of integrity expected of them all the time.
As the government gets sick or lame, public demand for more facilities like hospitals, schools, universities etc. grows year after year. This is nothing but waste of public investment on developing finest quality of institutions and training the personnel to man them. Instead of adding more facilities, we must achieve higher targets by improving efficiency and productivity. So far, nobody outside the government sector, has come forward to set up and run at the same cost the fine facilities created by the government in developed as also “backward” areas of the country. In fact, the private sector tries to eject the government in developed urban conglomerates so as to occupy the space artificially created for them to operate in the name of “reforms”. Nothing can be more unethical, shameful and criminal than calling such moves as reform. Air services, telecommunication, health, education are only some instances of such immoral activities. The people in Gorakhpur or Muzaffarpur have been suffering from AJE (Acute Japanese Encephalitis) killing hundred of small children for years without a single private hospital offering any treatment for them or making efforts to eradicate the menace. Dengue and chikungunya afflict thousands of people in the Delhi NCR region, but no private facility has so far done any research to contain the diseases or provide effective treatment. The responsibility falls on the government alone.
More than 3,50,00,000 cases are pending in the courts- lower judiciary to the supreme court. Large number of cases are also pending before dozens of Tribunals, Fora, Quasi-judicial authorities, commissions etc. The excuse for the huge pendency is cited to be shortage of judges, staff and court infrastructure. But nobody ever emphasizes the need to redo the procedures and laws. What should take no more than 10 minutes of judicial time takes 10 years or more because of the infirmities cited by the opposing parties due to procedural lapses, which are so superfluous that dispensing them would accelerate the disposal of cases, improve efficiency and productivity. Procrastination is not to be misinterpreted as efficiency or productivity. On the contrary, it is the opposite of both.
Public servants in India are some of the finest talent available to governments anywhere in the world. If we decide not to copy but create our own architecture and eco system, we would achieve wonders because it would bring improvement in efficiency as well as productivity in the system. Government leadership has proved it that their own commitment to high integrity in public service has meant great improvement in the productivity and efficiency in the existing pool of manpower. They have successfully achieved more from the same pool than previously achieved because of change in work culture. When there exists no gap between the government’s pronouncements and actual functioning, inefficiency and low productivity makes the exit fast.
Five years of transparency and clean governance since 2014 needs to be complimented with 59 months of ensuring highest efficiency and productivity in functioning of the government.