Whose development is it anyway?

The UP government, or should I say, Shri. Mulayam Singh's government, has set up a State Development Council. Since the Congress party has extended its support to the government I too should support this decision. But I cannot do so without asking a few questions “ (a) It is far from clear as to what is the legal basis of the decision? Is this Council set up by a Cabinet decision or resolution? Will it have a separate budget? (b) Does the Council have the wherewithal and the teeth to give UP's development a kick start? Does it propose to have a perspective plan or is it only for pontification of corporate heads and window dressing by wheeler-dealers?

The UP government is a coalition government, let us not forget. But it has no common minimum programme or statement of an agreed industrial policy. The Sugar sector is a critical and chronically troublesome sector of agriculture based industry. Suddenly two dozen sugar factories are purported to be offered on lease. People who know a little about sugar factories of UP will probably laugh at the offer. I doubt if there will be many takers. But that is different matter. The worry is about the style of governance. Nothing seems to have changed. It was the Taj Corridor yesterday. It is Sugar Mills today. And all this is done by a government that was never voted into power.

In any case, reverting to the Development Council, “ there are some wonderful people on it. But how often might one ask have they travelled on UP roads, it they can find them at all? I carried a road map with me last time I travelled on the GT road, not because its route is unfamiliar, but merely to follow the path that approximates for where the road once was. It's called Sher Shah Suri Marg and provides a ride not very different from the times of the great warrior. Bad roads can cause a lot of accidents. So we need a lot of hospitals and doctors. The Health Department's only achievement in the last ten years is that king George Medical College first lost them regained its name. Does the new Development Council know that almost 10,000 people die in road accidents in UP every year? That leaves many widows about. Widows get the generous sum of Rs. 125/- per month as pension if their bad luck ends with the death of their spouse. A recent random survey done in parts of Farrukhabad District indicated that less than 4% of entitled widows actually get a pension.

If you survive the roads of UP there is still no guarantee that you will survive its guns. Another 10,000 people get killed in acts of violence and crime every year. It does not take a lot of effort to discover that the conviction rate in UP is only 2.3%. The mysterious ways of gun licensing will not easily be unravelled by the wise corporate stars on the Development Council. Will the gun culture give way to work culture? Is a job less desired in UP than a gun? And if that does not change can we seriously hope to put ourselves on a development fast track?

There is one aspect of governance UP style that can give a clue to our condition “ the transfer industry! The CII and ASSOCHAM may be agonizing about transfer of technology but UP politicians have mastered the science of transfer of officials. If a DM does not give you enough guns he must go; if a SSP does not do you bidding, he must go; if a CDO does not share in the loot of development fund, he must go; if a Chief Medical officer does not function as an enthusiastic servant of the CM and his favourite Ministers he must go a long way. I would love to hear from Reliance, Sahara, Godrej, Hindustan Lever, etc, what would their companies look like if the CEOs and the Managers were changed six to ten times every year and given a few hours to pack their bags? Of course one should not look a gift horse in the mouth. But the poor UP pony has been abused and beaten mercilessly for so long that, there would be no teeth left. The fact is that the power of transfers is not something a UP politician will easily give up. But without that all effort to pull UP out of its BIMARU character will not succeed. The Development Council should expeditiously prepare ground rules for governance. Security of tenure and transparent accountability must be given statutory basis to have any meaning. The government's commitment to good governance will be put to a definitive test. No commitment means no good governance. Members of the Council can happily or unhappily return home. Unless of course they believe that development is possible without good governance.

In UP politics means power and power means possibilities. This is probably true for all of us. But a little vision thrown in here or there makes all the difference. It may be unreasonable to expect a grand beautiful picture but just a little flash of colour in a few places will brighten the landscape. We could begin by looking at the enormous insensitive bureaucracy and the terrible working conditions that kill the soul of every young idealist who joins the civil service to serve the nation. Talk to the civil servants who worked with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru “ they are all very old now, and yet you will see a sparkle in their eyes. Talk of Shri. Jagivan Ram, or Pandi Govind Ballaph Pant and you will hear a lot of appreciation. Talk of late Rajiv Gandhi to those who worked with him and you will see a wonderful look of nostalgia. It is all about respect that they felt for their political masters, not fear of a transfer or the hope of a good posting. Perhaps I am being unfair. Life is different now. Politicians are different too. There was a time when a DM spoke with pride at having arrested a top leader in a public demonstration. Now DMs seek security from political leaders.

I don't want to depress the Development Council before they begin their work. But I do want them to know that their work is not easy “ and certainly not like running a successful Indian company.

Salman Khurshid
3/11/2003

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