he opening of high-level positions in the bureaucracy to so-called talent from the private sector is a move fraught with grave dangers that may not meet the eye immediately. It cannot be a question of borrowing brains or ideas, since experience earned in private sector cannot possibly help in implementing any governmental scheme meant primarily to be non-profit. In other words, the motive behind every action is extremely important for the outcome. It could turn out like a gamble akin to Demonetisation, which might seem to promise much but could deliver undesired results. The government is looking for individuals with expertise in revenue, financial services, economic affairs, agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare, road transport and highways, shipping, environment, forests and climate change, new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce. These are vital sectors where the country could undoubtedly benefit from fresh ideas. But one apprehension is that the government could be making the change at the top so that the very basic tenet of governance – welfare of the people – may be completely deleted. A great example of corporate profit-making perversion entering the government through the garb of helping plug welfare leakages – Aaadhar – may be an exercise worth evaluating. Masterminded by Nandan Nilekani, a well-known corporate honcho, a never-ending government programme such as Aaadhar has the potential to irrevocably damage every single registered user. That big data has no protection globally has been proven beyond doubt. It has to be kept in mind that for a corporate executive, all the experience gained and lessons learnt are focused on earning super normal profits for the company. Their efficiency in achieving this target offers them not only seniority but great benefits. It is difficult, however, to comprehend how that solid mindset can make an about turn while given the control to operate a government system focused on welfare of the poorest and the weakest. It does not require a Leftist mindset to understand that the clash will be immense. Juxtapose Nandan Nilekani and his data collection mania with, say, a Chanda Kochhar giving ideas on banking as Secretary Banking, Ministry of Finance, or a Jindal executive as the Commerce Secretary. Private company executives have been proven beyond doubt as being equally, if not more, corrupt as babus. However, with an exit option that these honchos will enjoy because of their corporates lurking in the background, the ratio of recklessly swinging deals will evidently increase manifold. The nation saw how a large corporate senior executive, when saddled on the country’s central bank remained mute while the country was being pulverized. Some will argue that the government is trying something innovative and that the scope for lateral entry should not be restricted to the top order. The argument obviously against the present system of Indian bureaucracy would sound strong and attractive. No doubt the majority of babus in our country is inept, inefficient, corrupt and does not have the desire to deliver justice. All this is accepted. However, corporatising India with the mindset presently prevalent will eventually encourage these nouveau bureaucrats to utilise governmental clout for raking in massive profits at the cost of the people. The mindset that accepts ‘collateral damage’ on the path to ‘national good’ will leave no scope for questioning. It would be difficult to point out a wrong policy or expect a rollback of an erroneous idea if the government of the day stands firm behind such people from private sector. Our parliamentary system of majority party and the Whip will ensure that democratically elected representatives will, perforce, support such acts. Harsher the motive of profiteering, stronger will be the political support behind it. The reasons are obvious. Politicians will happily forget the poor and the middle class and cater only to the super rich. This will fetch them the moolah required for fighting elections. This will imply no citizen will have an option to demand justice and the whole country will be run with the interests of a few super rich families in mind, neglecting the public good. In being part of the machinery that runs the country, one will have to account for the immense diversity that it comes with and also ensure that all are included in the framework. The incumbent government already faces criticism that it is encouraging crony capitalism. The fresh initiative should not be one other way to corporatise governance. The nation should not be run like a corporate, as the corporate structure has its own inherent flaws. The bureaucracy should not go into the hands of people involved in a rat race for survival and one-upmanship. It should be with people who value common good and are able to bring about change through transformation of minds rather than by perverse tactics of pressure and coercion.
Ghasiram Panda The National Education Policy of 1986, which called for special emphasis on removing disparities and equalising educational opportunities,...Read more