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Saturday, April 12, 2014

मतदान न करना जिम्मेदारी से भागने जैसा


Our vote will decide quality of governance

India is world's largest democracy with 81 crore voters, of which 10 crore are first-timers. The right to vote comes to us every five years to elect our Parliament and state assemblies. We also elect our municipal councillors and panchayats. It is this one vote collectively counted that brings into power a group of people who then govern us for five years.

None of them can be recalled once elected for there is no provision in our Constitution to do so. We as voters have only been recently given the right to 'No Vote' if we do not like any candidate. But even that does not amount to recalling the elected candidate.
Sacred responsibilityHence, voting is our sacred responsibility for the quality of governance of the village, district, state and the country. How have we exercised this power in the past over 60 years? Did we consider it as a conscientious duty which must be performed with a sense of full responsibility?
Voting is not compulsory in our country unlike in some other countries such as Australia. But it is our duty as a citizen.
In the past, in some key metropolitan cities, the voting percentage was even less than 50%. This is negation of one's responsibility as a citizen. If one does that, one has no right to complain about bad governance. Hence, let us commit that this time no one will miss this sacred duty.
Once at the polling station, we need vote for the future of the country rising above narrow interests. We should know full well who are we voting for and why. Is it in national interest or we are having a personal and narrow view?
Party credentials
Both the candidate and party are important. Also, by whom is the party led? Who all does the party comprise? What is their spread and organisational strength? What is their past record? What are their policies, manifestos and declarations, their capability and capacity, their vision and intention?
This is everyone's duty that cannot be delegated. There was once a king who one day asked all his court persons to bring a glass of milk each and pour it in a big pitcher placed in the centre of the courtyard. People thought how did it matter if they did not bring in milk because their water would get mixed with the others' milk. Little did they realise that many others were thinking on similar lines. So when the king saw the pitcher, it had only water. Moral of the story: do your duty and don't expect others to do what you are supposed to.
This is what many of us voters did in the past thinking what if I didn't vote, others would. Or if I voted with a sense of irresponsibility, it wouldn't matter for I would have the right to claim good governance anyway for others would vote with responsibility. It won't happen this time.
Each vote is a responsibility for voting for good governance, which ensures longevity, sustainability and right policies, which are in the best interest of the country, giving people a sense of security, enhancing prestige and power of the nation, getting out of debt traps, balanced budgets, inclusive growth, generating employment, increasing infrastructure, ensuring health care, education and skills for all and more. Most of all ensuring our hard-earned money is not wasted or stolen.
For this each of us has to cast our vote with a full sense of responsibility. It's a vote for our future and the future of our children. We all love our children. And we love their motherland, which is ours too.

Friday, March 07, 2014

"Water is women's power ", how she gets it is her challenge


This Women's Day (March 8), we will have varied issues to celebrate. Women empowerment, though, remains a vital issue.
Exactly two weeks on, we will be celebrating the World Water Day ([/owa/]March 22). Have we ever thought that providing access to clean drinking water and improving inadequate sanitation facilities are some important issues for women's empowerment?
Women and girls continue to be affected by the lack of access to water and sanitation facilities. They bear the primary responsibility for collection of water, especially in rural communities. They walk miles, carry heavy burden and wait for hours to fulfil their need of water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning, animal husbandry etc. This is time not spent in income-generation activities or girls attending school. Therefore, there is loss of opportunity in availing education, skills and knowledge outside their traditional roles. This contributes to their weaker economic status.
Inadequate sanitationWomen also suffer from lack of adequate sanitation facilties. This impinges not just on their health but also on 'dignity' and 'safety'. In our villages, there are schools that have toilets but girls come back home during lunch as there is no water in these. Non-availability of clean water at child-birth has often resulted in child and maternal mortality.
Access to clean and nearby sources of water, thus, empowers women to become self-reliant, save their future, take care of their families and help improve the country's economy. Jal Shakti (Water Power) is the basis of Nari Shakti (Women Empowerment).
This premise is what marked Navjyoti India Foundation's celebrations to mark Women's Day, as part of its rural development program.
More than 250 women from 40 villages of Sohna Block, district Gurgaon, assembled at Navjyoti's Naya Gaon campus and conducted 'Pani Panchyat' (a water council). The agenda was to prepare their action plan, be ready for the monsoon and empower themselves.
Pani Police: Women's water literacy initiative "Imagine that your children go to school without bathing everyday and they take shower only once a month," asked Rahul Gupta, head of the rural development programme, of the women. Another scenario was given, "What if we assemble here in five years and all smell filthy as we did not have water to bathe."
The women laughed, initially.
Yet another example was quoted, "Today the rate of gold is Rs. 30,000 per few grams, what if one bottle of water costs Rs. 15,000 in 2020?" Immediately, a woman responded "Sona nahi, pani chahiye (…we do not need gold but need water). By this time, the women had realised the value of water is more than gold.
One of the women said that 25,000 litres of water was being wasted everyday in their village as the taps leak profusely, when electricity comes in i.e. approximately 90 lakh litres of water in an year goes unused. They calculated that if the cost of 1 litre of bottle is Rs. 15, they were wasting Rs. 3.75 lakh every day. The women decided to form 'Pani Police' (water police) and start a helpline number. Anyone can call on the number, if they notice wastage of water, whether during construction of houses, or because of taps running at homes. The women will together visit that area and start Bhakti, i.e. sing spiritual songs. Twenty five women leaders were elected by them who would lead the initiative of Pani Policeand also generate awareness through distribution of handbills.
Women brainstormThe women brainstormed and exchanged the good practices being implemented at their homes. An action plan emerged, ranging from water awareness programmes, optimal utilisation of water, reuse of water for plants and mopping, rooftop harvesting at home and saving every drop of water. They were taught to prepare their land ready for rainwater harvesting, so that the underground water was recharged.
The women pledged that they will not let drought come in Gurgaon, which is heading towards one in years ahead!
Hope for future generationsAll NGOs must take such initiatives to mobilise women to come together and address their specific needs for water and sanitation. Women have the strength and courage to transform their families and communities. Banks can provide special loans to women encourage roof-top harvesting and construction of toilets. Special loans for women, at easier rates, can be provided. The government has schemes targeting water, but these officers must tie-up with local NGOs and participate for effective implementation. Schemes such as MGNREGA can be linked with construction of check-dams and other watershed management projects. Projects on water can be successful and sustainable only if women are actively involved to voice concerns and help themselves. These concerted efforts can take us a step closer to end the water crisis and provide hope for future generations. Providing water for women will result in improved literacy level among them, better health facilities, and improved socio-economic opportunity.
Soon after the event I recall tweeting, "What we did in Navjyoti is the primary work of local government officials. However, they neither work on Sundays nor do they bring people together on other days."
Women power is enhanced by right to water! The challenge is how does she get it?

International Women's Celebrations on Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity and Women Empowerment.

Invited to speak at British Council on International Women's Celebrations  on Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity and Women Empowerment. 
Here are my thoughts as they came. 

First and foremost:
Indian women basically are hugely handicapped in the following ways! In gender equality, equal opportunity and empowerment. 
1----The way they are groomed. 
It's highly unequal. And that is when the seeds of insecurity and inequality are sown in the minds of young girls. ( I am not talking of the privileged girls who had parents like mine, rich or not, educated or not, rural or urban)  
India's patriarchal society limits the role of a man. He is groomed to be the provider and get served! And the girl to grow up to be a dependent service provider with or without love! 
2---The media projection of women has reinforced a weak image in the minds of people. Woman , weak, attractive, alluring for entertainment. The item songs are devastating. Sadly they are money spinners for singers as well as producers! But highly damaging for weak minds. 
3---on expectations.---Are different from men and different from women. Men as providers and women as primary care givers! This perception is still the same! 
4---our culture---all our rituals, ceremonies, religious practices have women as receivers! Not givers! 
5---opportunities---are highly unequal between sons and daughters. By which the girl gets left far behind. 
6---our governance is highly opaque! It's also too crowded. One needs muscle power to get its service.  Also suffers from lack of coordination. 
7----our politicians ---themselves need to be protected from. They come from old mindsets. 
8----absence of security  systems. The widow, the old, the sick, the lonely. She is once agains dependent on her son and daughter in law!
9----
The country has a budget for the marginalized. Has corpus, the laws, policies, announcements, helplines, scholarships----but not the mindset! Which is the key! 
Unless we have a near revolution of change of mindset beginning with homes, schools, and governance Indian woman will be still decades away from holistic empowerment. 
** wish to say there are very many exceptions to my perceptions. And may their tribe increase! And good new is it is. But the scale of the population in need of change is 1.2 billion only! And counting! 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

5 CAN NOTS' and 5 CANS' for -More governance, less government


More 'Governance and less Government' has been integral part of Mr Narendra Modi’s public statements.   
Every time I hear this, it makes me think how will/can he ensure what he truly wants? (If he gets to be in that position nationally) Where does he begin from? Is it possible without few essential corrections? What are those basics without which he can-not achieve which he wants to?
 In other words what are the 'can-not’s which he can-not carry along, if he has to make the breakthroughs.
Similarly what are the 'cans’ which Mr Modi as a Prime Minister can/must do, to provide more governance?
These are my select five thought-through-thoughts in both the categories--the ‘can-not’s and the ‘cans’
First the 'can-not’s to provide, “more Governance and less Government”--

1) More Governance can-not begin without the elected members of parliament observe a 365 days of code of conduct. This means re-writing of the oath of office as MPs. They do not only take an oath of secrecy and allegiance to India’s constitution but also of a solemn pledge to ensure Lok Sabha does not become a ‘Lock’-Sabha and the Rajya Sabha not a ‘Rage’- Sabha. This means elected representatives set the right example of civility and decorum in parliament proceedings. Members may oppose if they need to, but without obstruction and destruction; without pepper sprays, tearing papers, pulling out mikes or indulging in unruly behaviour.
Unless the elected political class sets the right example of good governance how will they be able command moral authority, respect and trust to get citizens participation for good governance? Will Mr Modi be able to make some breakthrough in this?

2) There cannot be maximum governance with minimum government without right-bright-upright officers in the right places. And the critical positions to begin with are: cabinet secretary which overseas union secretaries and providing the critical link between prime minister's office, rest of the secretaries, at the centre and even the states. Other key positions being chief secretaries, director generals of police and the revenue commissioners! These officers’ cannot but be the best. That is if the goals of good governance have to be achieved.

3) Mr Modi (and PM in position, if wants to) can-not keep transferring saved or borrowed moneys into leaking buckets without plugging holes. This is reference to several social welfare schemes, which are money guzzlers, doled out with an eye on vote banks.

4) He can-not ignore nearly 2 Crore government employees across the country, which are the real governance to the last mile, for the poorest of the poor in the remotest corner of the country.

5) Mr Modi also can-not govern systems with 19 century mind-set, with 20 century government processes for meeting 21 century needs.
Now from these 5 challenges of can-not, I wish to share the 5 can-s which Mr Modi can ensure.
a) With the backing of his party and right minded people he can put in place systems which enable identifying right officers for postings, transfers and promotion for key positions as mentioned, such as cabinet secretary, chief secretaries, director generals of police and revenue commissioners. By chief secretaries effective coordination is ensured: with capable police chiefs, law and order is made possible, and with revenue officials, enough revenue is generated for moneys available for equitable development.
b) Mr Modi can create policies to involve education and research institutes to objectively evaluate performance of government schemes and or government department’s performance at no- cost to the exchequer. This ensures transparency, accountability through objective analysis and regular feedback, along with practical learning for students as part of their project writing.
c) All contracts above a certain amount can be on site to ensure a level playing field for business and entrepreneurial community. This will restore faith in government, while providing good governance. Most of all it will restore integrity.
d) Cooling off period for all civil servants including the judiciary for at least two years will ensure some insulation from temptations of immediate post retirement appointments. It will also enable assimilation in normal public life devoid of official trappings. This will generate re-sensitisation, essential before re-engagement with government in power.
e) Retrain and align the 2crore public servants towards citizen charter and grievance redressal issues through greater use of technology and easy access to helplines with assured timelines. This is a must for sensitive governance. Or how else will the country as a whole feel the change. Retraining, constant sensitisation of public servants can be integrated in the governance systems itself. “Old tools do not create new carvings”. They will need to be kept updated and relevant.

Mr Narendra Modi may like to remember what William Gladstone, Prime Minister of United Kingdom, four separate times said; it is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong.                                 It is the duty of governance to make it easy for people to do right.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We can expect governance from the BJP


Social activist Anna Hazare's key aide Kiran Bedi says that the people of Delhi are disillusioned by the Aam Aadmi Party, and  that she herself would go with her inner ‘nod’ and not invitation or a go ahead from others to contest elections.
Bedi spoke to rediff.com's Upasna Pandey-
How do you rate the performance of the 49 days of the AAP government in Delhi?
They themselves say they were in a hurry. The AAP leadership adopted a most confrontational and hostile approach towards everything and everybody as they needed to move on to campaigning for the General Elections. All their decisions were impulsive and for increasing vote banks.
This approach in fact has divided Delhi for the first time on class lines. It clearly isolated institutions such as the Delhi police and others. They displayed no skills not the intention to work around with the system, they wanted only its exposure and to punish and gain media engagement all the time.

Delhi will go for fresh polls in the next six months. How do you view this scenario? Do you see things to be any different next time around with the promise of the AAP returning with a majority?

Six months is both long and short for such politics! If Delhi remains in a confrontational and impulsive mode, then we are heading for massive disturbance in the peace quotient of the city.  
There is mass anxiety about it. Anywhere one goes, the question being asked is, how long? And when will Delhi settle down; clearly people are feeling disillusioned.
Hazare has been critical of former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the way he quit from Delhi. He (Hazare) has now also promised support to West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee as ‘the most suitable prime ministerial candidate of India’. Do you agree with him?

Anna is an institution by himself and has his very personal views on certain matters. It is best therefore to respect his views and keep yours.

What is your view on the role of the third front in the upcoming elections?

The voters today have an option of choosing one of the two national parties, the BJP, and to reject the Congress which has caused many scams. We can expect governance from the BJP since its being led by an experienced and tested leadership. We as voters will decide what we truly want. Currently, it is time to move on towards solutions and not to look for scapegoats.
Good governance and sound leadership will make corruption difficult and also with Lokpal Act, in which there is now an independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation, punishment of guilty is possible.
I don’t think that the coming together of several parties under the banner of the third front can provide the much-needed political stability; it can only result in poor governance, no progress and decline in all indices. 
There are reports that Hazare has given a nod for you to contest elections. Please share your plan ahead and the role you would play during the elections, in case you choose not to contest.

I don't seek others’ 'nod,' I go by my own inner 'nod'. I don’t know politics! I know public service, and so I willingly remained a cop for 35 years. I wish to remain who I am.

As a former associate of Kejriwal, do you and other members of the Jan Lokpal movement feel that he has become larger than the movement and perhaps Hazare himself?  Some believe that Kejriwal has hijacked the movement for political gains. Your view?

The last fast of July 2012, which he and his team undertook was not with Anna’s prior approval and the rest of the team. It was thrust upon us and the end game was pre-decided. They had said in one of their meetings that if Anna did not support them they would go without him.  Anna joined them for the sake of unity of the movement, without knowing what was in store. That is the reason he dissolved the group immediately after.

How do you think issues such as corruption, law and order, safety of women, apart from economic growth fare in an election which is witnessing strong undercurrents of communal polarisation across party lines?

Those who are interested in vote bank politics would only talk about issues such as communal polarisation. The country is not interested in this. We are looking for development and prosperity and those who do this will save the country and work for India first. 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

What Kejriwal isn't telling people



Kejriwal is not telling people that Lokpal Bill which he has used (or over-used) as the reason to quit Delhi Government in just 49 days, is National Act today!  (Delhi only needed an amended Delhi Lokayukta!

When confronted by this, he says "oh its a jokepal! He belittles it. He rubbishes it. Because if he respects it he loses the agenda for the political chaos he needs for electoral gains! He is in a political arena and whatever he says and does has a political self interest in the garb of public interest!
Therefore to mislead and get votes on this account he is compelled to keep this diversion alive!
Which is why he does not explain to people the key empowering-added-new provisions of the National Act which is equally applicable to Delhi! People need to know and focus on it to ensure it takes off correctly! And becomes the much needed institution country has been waiting for! (This is the much amended one from the kinds offered by Government during and post anti corruption movement)
 Here are the key elements of the National  Lokpal which Kejriwal does not tell his vote bank, lest he loses his key agenda----
* The CBI's director appointment: In the new Act it's by a collegium comprising of the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India. (People wanted this and got it)
* The Selection Committee for lokpal members, comprises of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha Speaker,and an eminent jurist to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the selection committee
* The lokpal would have eight members: four from the judiciary and the others with expertise of law, investigation, finance, vigilance, anti-corruption etc. Also, with due representation from Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and women.
Overseeing CBI
* The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will be overseen by the lokpal in relation to cases referred by the lokpal. In all matters referred by the lokpal to the CBI, the latter will be directly reporting to the lokpal only. Hence, it stands insulated from any political interference in Lokpal referred cases. (no more law ministers' interference of the kind witnessed earlier).
* CBI officers investigating lokpal cases will be transferred by the government only with the prior approval of lokpal 
* CBI will also be free to appoint its own team of lawyers with the lokpal's consent. Currently, it's a very bureaucratic route.
* CBI shall have directorate of prosecution under a director who shall be under the CBI director. (This, too, is a major improvement. Law officers come from the law ministry
* The government shall provide all such expenditure, which in the opinion of the CBI director is necessary to conduct a fair investigation. The CBI director will be responsible for all expenditure sanctioned and spent on the conduct of such investigations. (It cuts out all existing red tape, and makes the CBI director the head of his own organisation, which he has been seeking for a long time)
Inquiry wing
* There shall be an inquiry and an investigative wing too, which enables the lokpal on receipt of a complaint to decide whether to get the complaint inquired into, or order an investigation by any investigation agency, even besides the CBI!
* The government, however, has proposed that prior to this, the government official may give a hearing before filing charges! (Within norms of natural justice)
* Another important change is the issue of sanction from the government before proceeding with the complaint concerning a government servant (not needed now). 
* The Prime Minister is included with certain exceptions such as public order, space, defence matters etc. but not the Prime Minister's office!
* The lokpal can be removed by the President after a Supreme Court inquiry on a reference from the President on a petition signed by at least 100 MPs.
* In case of a false or frivolous complaint, those made in good faith should not be penalised.
* The lokpal Act to be a model Act for all the states to pass lokayukts within a year. Many states till now do not have one.

We may at least begin with this Lokpal Act and Improve it as we proceed!
 It is finally providing for an independent anti-corruption system and opens the cage of the 'caged parrot' (CBI). .The country is finally getting a mini Supreme Court for Anti Corruption matters. It now needs few other bills such as Whistle blower and Grievance Redressal Bills! Hope a stable Government, post elections, provides for these! As these are pending in Parliament. 
Orissa assembly has become the first State to pass a Lokayukta on the lines as National Act. It ought to have made good news! But Alas! 

Mr Kejriwal needed to work on Delhi Lokayukta and improve it. He would have for the support of all! Most of all the Central Government. Delhi would have gained! 

But did Kejriwal government want it? If it did it could have done what Orissa Government did! Pass an amended Delhi Lokayukta Act with due process!

The intention of Kejriwal was suspect from day one due to several lawless acts of his and some of his party members! It was not governance from day one, but disruption, chaos, blame games,vote banks, fear and threats! 

This is not Administration but abuse of it! A serious breach of trust! 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is not every indian a brand ambassador for India to the rest of the world?

Every CM is a Brand Ambassador? Rather every indian is a brand ambassador. How can we restrict it to the select few?