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Governmental expectations

Governmental expectations
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First Published: Sun, Aug 15 2010. 09 51 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Aug 15 2010. 09 51 PM IST
The recent statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the National Development Council meet in New Delhi—that inflation would come down to 6% by December—is nothing but rubbish and bogus. The inflation figures released by the government are as misleading as ever. The market realities are totally different: If inflation will be down in coming months, would it not be reasonable to expect a fall or some stability in the prices of some essential commodities? Yet, the prices of all commodities keep going up. And there is no special move on the part of the government to tackle the worsening price situation: It sees inflation as an inevitable, unavoidable phenomenon. The state, it would appear, has more important things to do. Of course, it can be counted on to keep presenting a rosy inflation picture.
—Bhagwan B. Thadani
In your hard-hitting editorial “Mamata’s dangerous politics” (Mint, 10 August), you have pointed to Mamata Banerjee’s speech at Lalgarh, where she said she was in favour of negotiations between the Maoists and the government. People are aware of what she’s doing. With West Bengal’s assembly elections knocking at the door, her first priority, as a political leader, is clearly to consolidate her position in her home state. For this, she’s now enlisting the support of the Maoists.
Yet, joining hands with those whose avowed goal is achieving power through violence definitely cannot be accepted. You have rightly assessed that “this will not be the first time when a mainstream political party has tried to ride the tiger of extremism to power”. The results were indeed “disastrous”, and “the country at large had to face a ‘lost decade’ from 1984 to 1994”. I’m sure her self-centred political game may give her short-term gains, but in the process, it will destroy democracy. Her chickens will come home to roost one day. When she forms the government in Kolkata (as assumed), “the Maoists will demand what cannot be conceded”, as you have rightly noted. Hence it would be better if Banerjee were to reconsider her politics at this point. But the big question is: Will adamant Banerjee ever hear anybody’s good suggestion, if it does not suit her politically?
— Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee
The significance of the unique identity (UID) programme in India is immense. But the way in which it took off is not satisfactory. The government planned and started implementing it very rapidly. This actually degraded its efficiency. Its basic difficulty today lies in collecting data from the masses.
For example, one official is allotted one particular area to collect data within a time frame. But, here itself, UID hasn’t actually considered the pros and cons of collecting during the months of May, June and July, when many urban families may be away from their homes.
Then, if one looks closely at UID, it basically seems meant to be used by those who have adequate computer knowledge; this is not so for many of our government servants. These loopholes have to be filled.
UID is supposed to hugely benefit the public distribution system (PDS), a scheme mainly known for its leakages. Leakages in PDS can’t be eliminated, but certainly can be minimized. For this purpose, it’s not just important to correctly identify the beneficiaries—where UID comes in—but also to recognize the areas where the leakages are high and adequate infrastructure facilities are not available. There UID may not be able to help.
If the problem is inadequate infrastructure and governance, then it’s time to partially start more public-private participation in PDS. Considering the high burden of subsidy the government bears, it’s important to involve people to make PDS more efficient. The panchayati raj system, the real platform of Indian democracy, should be practically involved in the process. This can be done by decentralizing PDS.
Rahul Khachane
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First Published: Sun, Aug 15 2010. 09 51 PM IST