By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi: Misgovernance in India stems from inherent flaws in the system that need to be removed at the structural level as corruption is rooted in “permission raj” that requires “layers and layers of clearances” for any project, noted political analyst and journalist Shankkar Aiyar says in his new book.
Aiyer’s “Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage Through Crisis and Change” probes the catalysts of change and triggers for growth in 21st century India on the premise that the “road to salvation for the country has been one of shame”.
The book, published by Aleph Book Company this month, has been received to critical acclaim and endorsed by the likes of C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, and Nandan Nilekani, Infosys co-founder and Unique Identification Authority of India chairman.
“We are living with systemic flaws in the government and in the business model of politics because we don’t have transparent funding process for parties. So while the poor elects government in a democracy of the poor, policy is hijacked by venture capitalists of politics,” Aiyar told.
He said a large part of the funding for parties comes not from corporations but from government processes.
“Anybody who is making money from the government is sharing money with political parties,” he said.
Aiyer also calls for a change in the structure of the government by reducing the number of ministries for better delivery.
“The next game-changer India badly needs is restructuring of the government. Why do we need so many ministries?
“The British from whom we have inherited ‘babudom’ have restructured their governments since 1990s,” Aiyer said.
In the book, Aiyer describes as “game changers” the seven spurs for growth in modern India that began with the Green Revolution of 1964, nationalisation of banks in 1969, Operation Flood of 1970, mid-day meal scheme in 1982, software revolution of 1990, liberalisation of the economy in 1991, and the Right To Information (RTI) Act in 2005.
But he also writes that the India story people celebrate today would have been scarcely visible had it not been for a sequence of crises and change.
In 1991, India dismantled the licences but it did not dismantle clearance ‘raj’, he said.
“We still have layers and layers of clearances and if you reflect on the corruption, they are all located in permission raj,” he said.
“The solution lies in rehauling the government.”
Aiyer’s style in the book is racy to the point that bare-boned political low-downs come across as interesting.
“India has always been a country where communities had a role. Democratic institutions need to be empowered. The answer is a bottoms-up approach,” he said.