Playing with the lives of hapless masses

20 April 2015 05:26 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


If this pattern continues in the next few months, people will naturally be frustrated and the immediate beneficiaries of such a situation would naturally be the leaders of the previous regime.

People in this country voted out the previous regime a few months back hoping for radical political reforms that would make the State more democratic, government more transparent and responsive and political leaders more accountable. 

No matter how desirable such reforms might be, there is no political consensus on the issue in the country today. The opposition politicians seem to do everything to deflect public attention from the real issue. This is understandable because many opposition politicians are alleged to have abused their positions and violated the norms of good governance.

From the point of view of the average citizen, there cannot be any doubt regarding the desirability of political reforms. Yet, it is the politicians who have the power to bring about change. For instance, much needed constitutional reforms cannot be effected without a two thirds of the sitting parliamentarians voting for the change. Ironically, some of them are going to be negatively affected by political reforms that have been proposed. So, it is natural for them to look for ways and means of preventing such reforms.  On the other hand, it is common knowledge that there was so much corruption and abuse of power over the last ten years or so, not just by political leaders but also by many others around them. If we introduce political reforms, many instances of abuse of power are likely to come out in the near future and the offenders will have to face the consequences.

As is well known, politics became the biggest rent seeking activity in this country in recent years. Politicians could enjoy unprecedented privileges at public expense. In addition to various perks legally given to them, they have found various other ways to abuse public resources. They have also used public resources to offer various benefits to their friends, relatives and political supporters. It is this kind of political patronage that has also undermined good governance. For instance, political leaders have tended to appoint all kinds of people to important positions in state institutions without paying any attention to their suitability. The result is the virtual collapse of such institutions.

 Ad hoc decision making outside a clearly articulated policy framework has been part and parcel of poor governance and abuse of power. This tendency has undermined both political and other institutions adversely affecting the development process and public welfare.

Yet, we have maintained a plethora of political and other state institutions that were established for the express purpose of facilitating serious policy debate and evidence based policy making. The obvious example is the parliament. It has long ceased to be a serious forum for policy debate. When you look at some of the people who have been elected or nominated to parliament, this sorry state of affairs becomes quite clear. But what can the ordinary people do to prevent such actions on the part of political leaders ? They got rid of the previous regime because the leaders of the present government promised to restore good governance and establish accountability of Ministers, other politicians and public officials. 

But what is increasingly becoming quite clear is that people’s aspirations are going to be brushed aside again and that important positions in all public institutions are going to be filled by relatives, friends and political supporters as they were under the previous regime. 

If this pattern continues in the next few months, people will naturally be frustrated and the immediate beneficiaries of such a situation would naturally be the leaders of the previous regime.

It should be obvious to anybody in this country that the myriad of problems faced by the ordinary masses need to be addressed through sound public policies. In this regard, an urgent first step is to revamp various  state institutions by getting the right people into important leadership positions, not friends, relatives and political supporters, as it is being done today. 

Though the establishment of independent commissions can be a major step in the above direction, filling all the positions in the wrong way now will leave no room for corrective action for many years to come. While the state institutions in the wrong hands cannot be expected to come up with good public policies and much needed state interventions, problems faced by various groups of citizens are more than likely to remain unresolved, be it poverty, unemployment, national disunity,  inequity in education and health or public transport. 

What would happen under such circumstances is an open question that we all could attempt to answer. But, what is certain is that, when people come under pressure due to various problems that surround them, political stability becomes an obvious casualty leading to another inward spiral of unrest, violence and social and economic decline. It is hoped that the leaders of the regime will not let down the right thinking citizens in this country who voted for genuine political reforms.

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