E-governance and administrative reforms could go a long way in mitigating our problems, says former Cabinet Secretary

The policy paradigm in India needs to be shifted heavily in favour of the common man, former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian said on Monday.

Poverty, illiteracy, rampant corruption, low public health and sanitation standards even after 60 years of independence were indicators of scant regard shown to the nation’s bottom line, Mr.Subramanian said, delivering the Rajaji Memorial Lecture on ‘Current issues in governance’ at the National College here.

Stating that the common man was not the focus of most public policy decisions, Mr.Subramanian said poor policy formulation, bad implementation and poor governance were responsible for failures in several areas, including poverty alleviation, education, public health and agriculture.

In nearly every area touching the life of the public, the ground reality was far short of the minimum required to provide ‘dignity’ to the common man, a basic promise given by the Constitution.

There was a significant policy bias in favour of the ‘large and spectacular’ as opposed to the tiny.

Income disparities had sharply widened in the past 30 years and the growth of new billionaires in India had only been equalled by rapid rise in farmer suicides, he pointed out.

The emphasis had been on growth especially in the industrial and financial sectors with hardly any attention to income distribution, he said adding that income distribution, alleviation of poverty, and related issues should be as significant a policy goal as growth.

Corruption was another factor for lack of development and had contributed to income disparity, backwardness and poverty.

On the education sector, he said time had come to rethink from top to bottom in this area as primary, secondary and higher education standards were abysmally low.

Good governance now demanded that the electoral scene be cleaned up. “We need a new Seshan to stop money power in elections.” He said our founding fathers did not envisage any checks and balances on the political class.

Mr. Subramanian was confident that India being an eternal country would regain its original greatness despite problems confronting it. The right atmosphere was coming back; he said referring to the Right to Information Act. The government authorities and the middle class had woken up, he said.

A major thrust on e-governance and meaningful administrative reforms could go a long way in mitigating the problems to a large extent, he said.