Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gujarat model

Gujarat model of development is being  hotly debated these days.   It  is  neither a  new topic  nor unexpected at this time though.   As NaMo gained prominence politically,  everything related to him also got  hitched automatically.    Predictably,  his detractors cannot be tired of finding fault with everything that is remotely connected to him.     Gujarat was formed in 1960 in its  current geographical extent.  The state   was ruled by Congress party uninterruptedly until 1995.    Although the fact remains that people of Gujarat are entrepreneurial  by nature,  the rate and nature of growth for the 2 periods for the first 48 years (from 1947  to 1995)  and  the subsequent 18 years (from 1995 till date) can throw some insightful data.     The latest 12 years starting   from 2002 come to be  universally and popularly  recognised as  NaMo's  Gujarat model of governance.             
All kinds of numbers are being dished out by NaMo's political detractors  comparing  the state of affairs in Gujarat vis-à-vis other states of India, intended to deny any  possible credit going his way.   It is sad if statistical numbers are used to  fool or mislead people.    There is something more to the process of development than mere statistics.  First,  the  feel good factor by general public  which is more than amply demonstrated by 3 consecutive victories by NaMo and his party.    For quite long period since  independence,  entrepreneurs from Gujarat preferred to shift to Mumbai  or areas within Maharashtra adjacent to Gujarat  to set up  their  business.  Better infrastructure in the neighbouring state was the main attraction.   12 years under NaMo, Gujarat is not the state it used to be  - which  is  demonstrated by the reverse-migration of entrepreneurs from Maharashtra to Gujarat.    In the final analysis,  clarity of purpose,  sincere commitment to the goals  are much more important than degrees from IIT or Harward.           
It is well documented how Gujarat runs on a well oiled  administration machinery.   NaMo not only coined  the slogan "minimum government, maximum governance" but  also implemented it in reality.  For a relatively large state with 33 districts and a  population of   about 60 million, there are only 26 ministers, which must be one of the lowest sized cabinets in India.   Many  of the social initiatives of Gujarat government are quite novel and have won awards even from Rajiv Gandhi foundation.    Here is a summary of the different activities under which Gujarat model can be analysed, if anyone cares to do it in a non-partisan way.                      
- Extensive use of IT is the hallmark of NaMo administration.  A brief visit to Gujarat state government's website (www.gujaratindia.com) will make this point clear.    From whatever I  have seen so far,  this is  one of the finest websites officially uploaded by   a state government.   E-Governance is   NaMo's  key strategic initiative  to  control corruption.      Digitising the administrative  process  reduces manual interference in official work and also minimises    "discretionary powers" at different levels.   NaMo's approach to tackling   corruption is definitely very practical and sincere.  We will realise it when contrasted with Kejrival's approach which seemed more like  knee-jerk reactions and mere publicity stunts.                
- Road and buildings department, as it is called in Gujarat, can easily be a role model for all other states, if anyone cares for  efficient implementation of government's infrastructural  projects.   National & state highways in Gujarat  are by far the best in the country.   Endless other public amenities have also sprung up  all over the state due to sincere efforts of this key  government  department.   
- Balanced growth of the economy focusing on  3 areas – namely  agriculture, industry and service - have been highlighted  as NaMo government's mission.   NaMo's vision statements   are truly inspirational.   His hands on style of management is credited with successful implementation of many fast-track projects of importance to the state.          
- Revival of public sector : It is well documented how  GSFC (Gujarat State Fertiliser Corporation),  a sick state government enterprise  when NaMo took over, was turned around  within a short period of time.   Announcement of   NaMo as PM candidate by BJP has brought hopes to several central PSUs  (not just  the Navratnas but all those which are sick).  They  can definitely  look forward to better days ahead. 
- Water resources management is not just one of those routine departments to float a few government tenders every year and keep blaming  monsoon failure for every other disaster.  In a state like Gujarat which receives scant rainfall  and  does not have the luxury of exclusive access to the captive water resource of  any big river  within its own territory,  it is important to have a clear policy to efficiently manage water as a critical   resource.   Canals carrying Gujarat's share of water from Narmada dam not only bring drinking water to different parts of the state but also fill up several natural ponds on their way, thus replenishing the ground water levels in the surroundings.     As per reports, solar panels were planned to be erected along  the long stretch of  canals.  If implemented,  this scheme  would help to  compensate   loss of ground space lost for construction of canals by allowing its parallel use for generating solar power.    In addition, solar panels will offer some shade to the running canals and minimise loss of water by evaporation.   Government schemes have rarely been so imaginative.   
- It is no secret that  congress party and some NGOs "fed" by that  party   have a very clear agenda to ensure that ghosts of 2002 riots keep haunting  NaMo.   For all practical purposes, it has lost steam.   However, it is surprising that even the media conveniently ignores  Gujarat's track record of  riot-free administration in more than a decade  since 2002.    It is sad that our media lacks even  basic courtesy to acknowledge  such rare religious harmony in a state that was witness to many riots at regular intervals, much before 2002.          
- Under NaMo administration, Gujarat   enjoys  the rare distinction of   24 hours power supply in all parts of the state.   Turning Gujarat into power surplus state is no mean achievement, considering the fact that NaMo managed to achieve this within his first term  in office.  
- NaMo demonstrates his vision when he articulates the theory of balanced growth.  According to him, Gujarat's development  model is based on equal focus to 3 areas of interest to state's GDP -   Agriculture,  Industry and Service sector.   Normally, development of one area comes at the cost of another because of inequitable attention.     He has been careful to nurture all important segments of the economy.
- Another  infrastructural initiative  unique to   Gujarat is the Mass Rapid Transport system in Ahmedabad.   This is the  local transport system using normal buses which runs as efficiently as a  Metro.   When we compare the cost and time involved in any metro project, we know why the system in Ahmedabad is so special.            
- Gujarat state is also known for its efficient public grievance redressal system.   Gujarat CM has a laid out a very efficient process to receive and solve public grievances.   It is unfortunate that such sincere  initiatives do not receive the publicity  they deserve, as compared to  the political gimmick of Rahul Gandhi  visiting a dalit household in a remote village.           
- NaMo administration is also credited with technological support to  its  fishermen  which allows them to be more efficient in their  daily efforts in the sea.    This is a small example of hoe a committed administration can bring positive changes in the daily lives of its citizens in many different ways.   
There are many more  unique  projects  initiated by NaMo government     -    Proposed statue of Vallabhai Patel,   Sabarmati purification,   Initiatives by Gujarat
Tourism etc.,   
More importantly,  whatever has been achieved  in Gujarat is inspite of a no-holds-barred hostility by central government ruled by UPA for most part of NaMo's tenure in office.   Some individuals flourish and shine under tough  challenges – NaMo is definitely one  such rare, inspiring leader of our times.     

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Decoding AAP

A lot has been written about AAP, so much so that it has become a word by itself.     Arvind Kejrival was definitely more respectable as a member of  anti corruption  movement.    However, when AAP arrived on the scene with its political avatar, it was very difficult avoid  skepticism   inspite of  conscious efforts to avoid being  judgemental.   I summarise the reasons : 
- First of all, what could  be the reason for  other respectable members like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and a few others  from the original team not identifying themselves with this new political outfit ? Members like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and  Santosh Hegde had some strong individual credentials through  their sustained and  proven positive contribution to society well before the  anti corruption  movement started.   The same cannot be said about Kejrival, his Magsaysay award notwithstanding.     His academic  background from IIT and subsequent service in government's revenue department were nothing to  write   home about.   Possibly, he was too dominating or  opinionated or even selfish which made others to stay away.   Perhaps,  there were "other" reasons  which they may not disclose from  ethical considerations.             
- Initially, there were odd reports in the media about  funds collected for anti corruption movement being diverted  by Kejrival.        While the news originated with a video clip of   Anna himself talking about  pilfering of funds,   the   news did not last too long  possibly due to magnanimity of Anna Hazare not to pursue the matter.    Caeser's wife must  be above suspicion.  But Kejrival did not seem to believe so and allowed his sacred halo to take a beating.  
- While Anna's movement had a  clear purpose,  AAP's agenda was never clearly defined in public domain.     Anti corruption theme can be a good launch-pad for a potential vote catching  slogan  but it ends there.  Beyond votes and winning,   a solid institutional mechanism is required to eradicate corruption.    Governing   a large and complex nation like India  with deeply established bureaucratic systems requires some experience.  Knee-jerk responses end up causing more harm than  any good.    While a strong legislation can help in   addressing corruption, there is no quick fix.  It will  definitely require  time and patience.  For example,  each individual will have an opinion on  whether it should be a top down or bottom up process.    It  would be  more professional to think of   studying existing  policies and practices of certified  non-corrupt countries around the  world like Sweden, Newzealand etc., to formulate our own version of a practical mechanism to handle the menace.   It seems,   Kejrival had no vision beyond his initial agenda of sanctioning  subsidies and free power.    He was a man in a hurry who perhaps  believed in charting his own course.   Obviously,   "haste is waste" was not a line of wisdom for him. 
-  AAP indulged in manipulating and harnessing popular public opinion to gain favourable mandate.   It worked well, until other political parties  accumulated  enough ammunition to call  AAP's bluff.    Public referendum was one such gimmick which made people believe that Kejrival would  being democracy to their door steps.   But the same AAP did not care to hold a referendum while deciding to resign as CM.    Hopefully,  Kejrival would have realised short cuts do not  take one too far  in public life.  
- Another big flop show  soon after Kerjrival took over as CM was the embarrassing interview he gave to a team of visiting journalists from Pak.   The team had come with lots of positive expectation to meet someone who was gaining popularity by the day as "politician of the century".   As per  reports,  Kejrival   was glorified   to the extent that Imran Khan,  who has a longer innings in politics,  came to be branded  as Kejrival of Pakistan !  However, Kejrival's  expressed plain ignorance about basic international issues related to  the Indian sub-continent. That  was enough to expose the  real worth of someone who was being projected  in the media as a potential PM of India.      Hype and craze around Kejrival was already on the wane. 
-  By every passing day,   it was  clear that AAP was finding practical administration a tough task and their lack of experience was in full display.    It was not easy for them to do  tight rope walking  to keep their minority government alive.   It was also not practical to meet expectations of  people,  especially after the high moral ground they had taken by painting almost everybody else in the world as corrupt.   That claim sounded hollow when they failed to check the credentials of all the new entrants to their own party.   Afterall,  everyone wanted  to join the bandwagon  when AAP   was at the peak.    One can easily imagine, exodus would be as quick too.
-  AAP seemed to be looking for an escape route  to get out of the governing mess they had got into.     Their hurried exit without the  "trademark"  referendum  earned Kejrival an unenviable code name of AK49.    This is surely going to haunt him for rest of his life.   He may have learnt the hard way by now, all the smartness in the world is not in the exclusive custody of IIT'ans.        
- While even common logic could have suggested that AAP should have made an honest attempt to prove itself in Delhi, its scheme seemed to be different.    Obviously,   AAP was in a tearing hurry to hit the national scene in the  parliamentary elections.    How could a fledgling party of less than a year in existence back itself to arrange funds to fight  over 400 seats all over India ? How could it even find candidates to match its proclaimed high moral standards in such short time ?  Even though everything  sounded so mysterious,  it was highly sacrilegious to even whisper anything  remotely non-complimentary about AAP.   Such was their clout and nexus  in the media.              
- Prashant Bhushan, one of the AAP's founder members,  has never been new to controversies.   On a rare sunny  day while on a  visit to Kashmir,  he got  little too ambitious and tried   to strategically pose himself as the future foreign minister  of a potential AAP government  of India.   He dared to issue a statement favouring a solution through AAP's  single most  preferred route of  referendum.   This  statement sounds  so innocuous at first glance.   But,   when we stitch together   all other  theories around AAP,   we might end up  re-discovering  the wisdom behind age old  proverb   "everything  white is not necessarily milk".   
-  There seems to be slightly more than what meets the eye  and much more than a simple statistical coincidence when we  consider the fact that AAP has simply too many members running NGOs which are funded by multi-national agencies falling "somehow" into  an inter-connected  umbrella.    The names of such individuals and AAP sympathisers  are too well publicised.    We can also see,   many others  who joined AAP without proper scrutiny  and later ended up contesting elections  included  many well meaning, innocent individuals as well.      Hopefully, such nobler souls will distance themselves from AAP soon, but not before burning a big hole in their pockets caused by    election related expenses.   Better late than never, as they say.                     
There are many  scary and  scandalous  articles about AAP doing the  rounds in the cyber world, which seem to be not entirely speculative.    As and when  the facts are substantiated,  our countrymen can hope to know  them authentically.   Finally, h
ere is my  summary :  the original word aap  in Hindi was truly  representative of Indian culture – something very unique to our civilization.   It signifies  the divinity we readily see in another person.    It is sad that such a sacred word  should have ended up as an acronym for a political party which did not serve any purpose other than diluting the divinity of the word itself.