Profile: Jayaprakash Narayan is founder and president of Lok Satta Party. He is an MLA from Andhra Pradesh. A former IAS officer, he was on the National Advisory Council for UPA-1, and was part of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2005) and Task Force for the National Rural Health Mission.
Disenchanted as we are with our politics and governance, it is hard for us to realise that we succeeded remarkably well in building a nation and democratic institutions. We did not always fail. We gave ourselves a liberal, democratic and inclusive constitution; over 550 princely states were integrated into India with great ease and no bloodshed; our unmatched linguistic diversity has been accommodated with great sensitivity and wisdom by the linguistic re-organisation of states and a three-language formula; even in recent decades, our federalism matured significantly with states coming into their own; and we achieved moderate economic growth while preserving liberty.
Then why have we failed in many other respects? We need to focus on our initial conditions to understand our governance crisis. Abject poverty, illiteracy, social divisions and universal franchise are an explosive cocktail. Right from the beginning there has been an inherent asymmetry of power between the poor, helpless citizen, and the public servant with a safe job, secure income and awesome power. This is complicated by poor service delivery. Bribes, red tape, harassment and delays are endemic even for simple services.
In this climate, there has been an over-dependence on politicians who seek the vote, because they alone have to go back to the people for a renewal of their mandate. Politicians should have ideally built a framework for easy, painless delivery of services with sensible incentives and accountability. Instead, they responded by creating a vast party machinery to somehow address public needs in the face of a dysfunctional, unaccountable bureaucracy. Delivery did not improve; but perverse incentives distorted the picture further. Over-centralisation added to our woes. Both the state legislator and bureaucrat thrived in a centralised, opaque system.
Three post-independence failures compounded our governance failures. First, the licence-permit-quota raj was given free rein for over three decades. In our misplaced zeal for ‘socialism’, individual initiative and economic freedom were suppressed, leading to low motivation, rise of the free-loader mentality, monumental corruption, and a stagnant economy. The issue is not capitalism vs socialism; it simply is the failure to define the state’s primary role. The basic functions of state—public order, justice and rule of law, infrastructure and natural resources development, education and health care—were all neglected, as the state sought to take on business functions, and predictably failed in both areas.
Second, halting, half-hearted efforts to decentralise power failed; we are now saddled with the unwieldy 73rd and 74th amendments, which created over-structured, underpowered, and largely ineffective local governments. Third, there was the failure to modernise crime investigation and insulate it from political vagaries.
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(This story appears in the 23 August, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
Loksatta is the only liberal, secular party that puts Nation above everything else and strongly believes that we can fix the two big problems we have : unfulfilled potential of our people and avoidable suffering. Loksatta quietly made many contributions to governance and politics in India and continues to work in bringing change. You can follow Dr. JP on Facebook at facebook.com/jploksatta and on twitter.com/jp_loksatta. See loksatta.org for the party\'s vision, mission and profiles of leaders. See kukatpallynow.com to understand Dr.JP\'s work as an M.L.A in A.P Loksatta members are professionals and think of politics as a means to public service, not private gain. come join us! loksatta.org/join Loksatta Party is a National Party with presence in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharastra, U.P, Delhi. There are Loksatta members in almost all states.on Aug 21, 2013
All those misinformed and misguided supporters of Modi must read this article word by word, understand, assimilate and start supporting JP and other like minded and capable leaders. There are no short cuts and Modi is never one of that if not a problem. Need less to mention another problem called Rahul!on Aug 14, 2013
I\'ll wait for the day Dr. JP becomes PM for real change to place in India. I have no hope in either Congress or BJP of the future. Both are beyond corrupt and beyond reform, and voters are foolish to think once Modi comes to power, corruption will disappear! You want real change? give new politics and newer parties like Lok Satta and AAP a chance!on Aug 14, 2013
Agree completely with your views on things Mr Narayan. But when did ANY political system anywhere in the world, voluntarily cede powers they benefit from - viz. - legislators effecting reform that'd reduce "trading" ability. Barring the likes of a Nelson Mandela, who steps away, it doesnt happen easily. Empowering local communities - power plus finance to back it up - is the way to go. Let us make our own mistakes and fix them, rather than passing blame.on Aug 13, 2013
\"Let us make our own mistakes and fix them\" - How? PLease elaborate on the modus operandi.on Aug 16, 2013
Dear Gaurav, Thanks for the comment / query. Let me attempt to explain with a light example Let say, zoning rules on parking (recent coverage in a Delhi daily). Let residents / occupants decide in their neighborhood. They may get it wrong on several counts : i) realise public areas are being \"privatized\" through cars parking there. ii) expanding parking reduces road space and or playgrounds for their own kids iii) may conclude charging a fee rationalizes usage (just saying those points). Each of those may not work. It\'ll be the result of their/our own decisions. We won\'t accuse an \"official\" of corruption because we got it wrong. We collect fees directly to use for community purposes - whether planting flowers or making available dustbins etc. We have the money, we decide, we err - \'cos we didn\'t know better and we stop blaming others. It there\'s corruption, its the guy living next door - so we can bring him to book with a variety of measures. Several aspects of civic living, commerce and security are amenable to such a measure. Hope this helps - if its flawed, its my limitations of understanding and not because I\'m a lackey of some political party!!! KInd regards.on Aug 16, 2013