If we have an uber view of India, we might stare at dysfunctional democratic chaos, but I think democracy is one of our strengths and it will bring us back to equilibrium if need be - after all collective wisdom (includes dissenting voices too) is never wrong. Our country is said to have 3 institutionalized pillars - legislative, executive and judiciary. I would write a little on how we can improve each of these or at least move to a better position than what we have now.
Often we focus most on the legislature (both central and state) which is evident in the huge amount of screen space, public debate space and brain space we put on our netas, their speeches and actions. Our democracy is very adaptive to various kinds of ideologies - see it allows the extreme right and extreme left to coexist and even expand democratically. There are bare minimal rules put in place for commanding legislative power, I think even Maoists or religious extremists are free to contest in elections - however collective wisdom of people never allowed a majority to radical thought. So culturally we are mindful, we have it in us to develop a glorious nation and we truly depend on legislative to do that for us giving them enormous powers to change institutions and improve and adapt to the needs of time and people. However, when we think of development initiatives stemming from legislative members we should see how their KPI works. For example, a lower house will hold elections every 5 years at max or 2 years if the upper house. For a neta, he needs to show a report card or advertise his current term work to the public. This situation compels netas to do very short term projects which show the result in 5 years or less. We should change this so that even in the lower house we have different membership by-elections. For example, certain sections of the legislature could contest on 5+ years (maybe 10) for the longer-term projects so that legislatures from above the party lines see through to the completion. After all party politics is only for elections and not for governance. I remember we did try holding national elections and state elections together in 2014 where different parties had an absolute majority in each. This shows that our voters are very informed as far as their choices are concerned.
Another limitation for the legislature is that it takes a huge amount of money and power to contest. If I as an adult in 20s want to bring some change in governance from outside the government, it’s super hard for me to convey my messages to legislatures. Netas collect votes on tall promises or by defending their past work, there is no one to hear me back after I vote. Opening an NGO is easier than getting the government’s attention for a project opportunity. Seeing the history of political corruption, it appears netas have a set pattern of working: award contracts for projects planned by bureaucratic officers, then take commissions, then fund elections, then repeat for as long as possible. This mindset is not taking us anywhere and sad to say that this has been the same with many netas once they come to power they get “busy” or “corrupt”, or else they cannot come back to power. There is a very simple solution to this, have a state-funded election. After nominations, every Candidate will get the same screen time (they can choose to decline though), and a blanket sharing on political ads or political funding. There are scenarios when a party karyakarta would want to build a party office or print posters out of his pocket, but in our country’s interest let’s say we all pool money for political funding and everyone gets the same share while contesting - say distribute whatever funds are collected per constituencies, etc.
With corruption in bureaucracy, I think we as common people get most impacted by the negligence, sloppy work, lack of dedication from a few impacts us all. We communicate with bureaucracy almost daily. If our roads are not proper, we should but we cannot hold an officer accountable. At times there’s overpressure as well, for example, if a crime happens in an area, the police officer on duty is probably the first one to be suspended without much reason. What purpose does that solve, other than just satiating the public that “some” action has been taken, such face-saver actions should not be allowed? It kills a person’s motivation and freedom to work. Imagine the life of officers who work under the constant pressure of suspension - why will they work for the public and not for appeasement only! We need an independent bureaucracy whom we can hold accountable. We should be able to allege a certain officer is corrupt, transfer him somewhere else or scrutinize their actions. Gone are those days when the public cannot directly interact with bureaucrats and need legislative members to take bossy actions. We can make dashboards to track public works, create Facebook, WhatsApp or other social media groups of essential public departments where the public is involved in governance say education, health, agriculture, business. That’s how our country has always been governed throughout much of our peaceful ancient history with massive public participation. Of course, no system is best but I think it’s time we take steps to use all the modern communication and collaborative tools for things when we interface with government. It would surely take time to build a great IT infrastructure to cater to the needs of such a wide variety of public requests and queries, but I don’t see any other concrete way to weed out corruption from our government offices.
Last but not least, our judiciary needs an urgent intervention for whosoever concerned - be it chief justice of India (CJI) or the president or the pm. I cannot stress this more than saying it has gone into a completely dysfunctional state. I cannot go to any court to get anything done. Cases take years to resolve with either party either dead or their descendants no longer interested to pursue the case. Every case be it civil or criminal lasts extra long as they say in the Kamasutra condom ad. I cannot compare it to anything else, and it feels sad inside me. Our country’s modern structure was put in place by a plethora of amazing lawyers post Independence, but sadly we failed to bring up a system which provides justice to us. Imagine a very simple dispute in a typical old city like Patna, if my neighbour puts a cantilever on my land, I cannot do anything, I would realize that I have zero freedom that very day unless I have “big contacts” or “money power” or “muscle power”, I cannot expect to get justice within a certain amount of time - that is even if all the stakeholders agree to decide a deadline for a decision from the court. I remember news articles written about some judges who created history by clearing hundreds and thousands of cases in a day, don’t know whether that was a joke just before retirement. Dear courts, why can’t you fix this small thing for us? Understandably, you want to be free from legislative or executive to maintain your Independence and you should do what is good for your institution, but your inaction towards effective and timely justice is also not serving us. If I am falsely accused of anything wrong, I cannot go to a court and legally fight my cases. I will have to mention all my life that there is a pending criminal case against me - maybe a murder or any crime which my not-so-well-wishers could label on me, I won’t be absolved of those allegations anytime soon and I would be forced to resort to any means however illegal to come back to normalcy. Don’t you think your sloppiness is the single biggest reason for corruption? I am no expert in how you can fix yourself, but at least try to move towards digital courts. Your current progress is super slow and unimaginable to even complete ever. I should be able to attend the court from video conference (by an authorized VC provider). I should be able to write my replies without paying lawyer fees, I am sure you know how much a lawyer takes to attend one hearing! Make things less structured and in favour of justice by hearing out the accused first rather than stories that lawyers sew for their clients.
Overall, I think the solution to most of the problems is putting the information of the people, to the people, for the people. For God’s sake, try moving your departments towards a digital world. Our country is considered an IT powerhouse, it wouldn’t take much to make it an IT superpower in terms of governance. Technically all these requirements can be fulfilled by a simple RDBMS(relational database management system) which is super simple to build at scale and all computer science graduates would be eligible to help you with that initiative. There may be glitches along the way, but that will take us to easier lives if not a glorious future. Please digitize land records at priority (since most disputes are pending there) and give the land records digital system some legal sanctity.
Few points on how an ideal India could look in a rosy world Vishwaraj Anand
All my bills paid online including taxes, fines, court judgements, disputes resolution, etc.
All my eligibility including loans, investments are automatically evaluated based on my financial profile (kept personal to me - shareable on my wishes)
All taxes are determined based on a rational approach depending on how much a person earns ( including cash earnings - extreme poor should have a tax free life )
Taxes should be dynamic, depending on the situation of the country including all its people
Fines should be depending on our financial health ( rich people should pay more for a petty crime like abusive behaviour in public or missing helmets - link it to their absolute monthly income or expenditure)
Complete transparency into non-sensitive accounts of government or courts or executive expenditures or public sector companies ( except police and defence, high tech science, secrecy sensitive areas or trade secrets)
politics policy improvement