A stimulus for governance – The Hindu BusinessLine

Clipped from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/a-stimulus-for-governance/article36969654.ece?homepage=true

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Inducting professionals into the Cabinet is a good move

Given the myriad challenges the world’s largest democracy is currently facing on various fronts, it is heartening to see seven PhDs, three MBAs, 13 lawyers, one chartered accountant, six doctors, five engineers, seven former civil servants and 68 graduates in the recently reshuffled council of ministers. Inducting professionals as Cabinet ministers seems to have become a new paradigm in India.

Since Independence, India has often fallen short of efficient execution of policies. Notwithstanding the huge progress made in areas such as space and information technology, India appears to be struggling in several basic, yet key, social sector areas such as healthcare, education, sanitation, housing and food security. To ameliorate the living standard of the people, it is apposite for the present dispensation to trust bureaucrats/professionals, given their training and experience in policy implementation at the grassroots levels, as the country embarks on celebrating its 75th anniversary of Independence.

Myriad issues

India, with its diversity in respect of geography, demography, climate, economy, culture and social structures, requires specialised treatment for its problems at various locations. A one-size-fits-all approach is not a panacea for all its problems, especially in policy execution.

The experience of bureaucrats helps them shape policy which is both feasible and execution-friendly. Another advantage of their induction into the council of ministers is that their relatively low allegiance to any ideology means little or no political baggage, thus paving the way for long-term decisions in public interest.

Elected representatives have a proclivity to take populist measures for short term political gains, which later take a toll on the overall health of the economy. Such polices often become instruments of patronage and pilferage. Seasoned bureaucrats turned politicians think pragmatically and seldom make promises that are difficult to fulfil.

Professional qualifications equip them with technical acumen, which enhances their decision-making capabilities in extraordinary circumstances. This sort of lateral entry into the Cabinet may prove to be a catalyst in transforming laggard ministries and departments into high performers.

Knowing the system inside out, it is much easier for them to break inter- and intra-departmental silos, which can lead to a significant reduction in red tape and, thereby, improvement in productivity. Several economies bear testimony to the fact that when policies were entirely re-engineered, it led to dramatic progress — India liberalising its economy in the early 1990s is one such example.

The experiment of involving professionals with elected representatives will not only strengthen our parliamentary democracy but also help in quick and seamless implementation welfare measures for the common man. Crisis management and skill sets to utilise resources optimally give professionals the extra edge vis-à-vis their elected counterparts in the Cabinet.

While they may have to struggle initially to gain the acceptance and trust of the workforce and the general public, their ability to encourage team effort should work in their favour soon. Besides, given their administrative experience they can be of immense value to the government for tackling conflicts, disputes, and protests. Also, their strategic intellectual and managerial skills can be utilised for building consensus among sparring stakeholders. Hence, their involvement should help raise the governance bar.

Having said that, a fine balance between elected representatives and bureaucrats/professionals is the need of the hour for the Indian parliamentary system in view of the ever growing global and domestic socio-economic challenges.

Participation of both would be vital for the government to improve governance and service delivery to its people.

The writer teaches in the Department of Production & Industrial Engineering, MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur. Views are personal

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