Monday, May 20, 2019

Kejriwal’s governance reforms: A definite recipe for Disaster

By Dr. Sumeet Bhasin


As an astute observer of the Delhi Government and more importantly, as a citizen of Delhi I am deeply concerned about the future of my city. The manner in which Delhi has been governed under our current Chief Minister makes for a classic example of urban degradation. When Mr. Kejriwal took oath as the Chief Minister, Delhi had a wide tax base and a substantial amount of well developed urban infrastructure. What was required was to improve the state of the city’s infrastructure and upgrade it to meet the growing population while simultaneously improve the delivery of public goods such as healthcare, education, law and other governance services.

If you’re a resident of Delhi then you can vouch for the increase in traffic congestion over the last four years. This demonstrates how the city’s infrastructure hasn’t been upgraded to keep up with the growing population. As far as healthcare and education is concerned, if you look at media reports it seems that Delhi has ushered in a revolution however, a closer look would yield that the reforms or revolution only exists in newspapers as schools and mohalla clinics remain to be an epitome of state failure prevalent with most state schemes. While the government is busy chest thumping the achievements of Mr. Kejriwal, the water crisis that has hit Delhi has caused citizens to introspect whether they made the right choice in voting for a party with no experience of governance.

However, the focus of this article is the recent announcement of a door to door public delivery scheme. I really am perplexed by the idea because it comes at a time when the idea of a physical interface of a citizen with the government has become obsolete. It is no surprise that the physical interface has become obsolete given the amount of corruption that it led to in India. Technology has reduced the costs of public delivery of goods and services by making them online. The online mechanism has not only reduced the costs but has also made the government more efficient and it has eradicated the need to “grease” the palms at government offices. It’s ironical that the choice of delivery mechanism of public goods by a government that fought an election on anti-corruption plank involves the greatest possibility of exploitation of citizens by certain corrupt officials of the administration.

When most of central schemes and services can be availed online and similarly, for municipal corporations there’s a major share of services that have been put online; why would the state government want to start with a door to door delivery service? The decision to send state officials at my doorstep to deliver a government service not just puzzles me but also makes me concerned for the poor citizens of Delhi. These citizens who are unaware of their rights are more prone to being exploited by officials if not extorted by them. It is this section which would face the highest exploitation as they’d have to offer bribe for even the smallest of things.

Be it the odd-even scheme or the door to door delivery scheme, what Kejriwal’s government has achieved is to become a classic textbook exam of how to “not” design or implement schemes. The disastrous design of their schemes along with the implementation problems will go down as examples to be taught to students of governance and policy makers. To teach us what ought not be done; that’s the only achievement of the Kejriwal Government!


Dr. Sumeet Bhasin is currently the Director at Public Policy Research Center, New Delhi. He tweets at @sumeetbhasin. Views Personal 

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