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Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 1: What should the government’s role be in India?

March 29th, 2011 · 23 Comments

In India, we have a paradoxical situation of maximum government, minimal governance. While it is not possible to simply say that we will have minimal government given the challenges that still lie unaddressed, what should the focus for government in India be?

Linked with this is the question of the objective of the government. As has come to light in the past few months (and what we have suspected all along), many of those in government have chosen to simply do with the British did to the Indian economy – extract and exploit. This is a result of the tremendous control that the government exercises on the economy.

So, what is the way ahead? What should be the objective of government?

Contest Overview.

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23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 FirstBallSix // Mar 29, 2011 at 10:28 am

    At this moment, India has a huge demographic advantage in terms of the percentage of overall population that can be part of the workforce (in other countries, the population is aging). This is India’s moment – we should do everything to seize the moment.

    The best role the government can play here is that of an active enabler. Just a passive “no hindrance” role will NOT suffice (though many people want it that way) – we need an absolutely positive approach to this decade and the next.

  • 2 Amit Doshi // Mar 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    What we need from the government is a basic commitment to accomplishing certain managable goals. The first is Electrification. I believe that in order to be able to get the fruits of modern technology -not just computers and internet, but improvements in food production yield, infrastructure, upgrading railways, – reliable and cheap electricity is a prerequisite. Its unfathomable to me that in 2011 outside a few major city there isnt 24 hour electric supply in the vast majority of the country. Until this prblem is addressed, all our hopes for manufacturing will go nowhere, without major manufacturing growth, and the need for speedy transport of those goods, infrastructure wont improve. In my opinion the primary challenge for India – and hence its government – is getting it completely electrified.

  • 3 anjali // Mar 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Its unfathomable to me that in 2011 outside a few major city there isnt 24 hour electric supply in the vast majority of the country.

  • 4 anjali // Mar 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    While it is not possible to simply say that we will have minimal government given the challenges that still lie unaddressed..

  • 5 anjali // Mar 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    As has come to light in the past few months (and what we have suspected all along), many of those in government have chosen to simply ..

  • 6 Aaren // Mar 29, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    The objective of government in India should be the provision of some key services – law & order (public safety, the enforcement of contracts, etc.), defence (protecting the people from external threat) and the development of MINIMAL regulation to permit markets to solve all other problems. As an extension of this, the government should not be involved in the provision of employment or education, industrial / agricultural policy should be restricted to minimal governmental intervention. However, this cannot be directly implemented – successive governments and elections in India have to reduce the size of our government, minimize rent-seeking opportunities and develop a generation that does not look to the government for handouts, but looks to the market for solutions to their needs.

  • 7 Sundarlal // Mar 30, 2011 at 5:14 am

    The government should be India’s laxative. It should flush out the bile that constipates India through its backside

  • 8 yayaver // Mar 30, 2011 at 6:40 am

    1- Huge Investment in Education and Healthcare.
    2- Significant Cut in the Military expenditure.
    3- Judicial and Police Reform at the top priority.

  • 9 Vibhu Pratap // Mar 30, 2011 at 8:50 am

    – Enforce the law of the land unequivocally.
    – Take lead in providing out of box solutions for imparting 21’st century education in our institutions.
    – Provide necessary outlets to unleash the creative potential of young India.
    – How about having district level Venture Fund instead of MPLAD’s to support local entrepreneurs ?
    – Try new ideas but make sure we fail fast. The government departments have to follow something like an “Agile Software Development Model” where there is a daily meetings followed by weekly/monthly progress reports.

  • 10 KS // Mar 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Set Eligibility to run for elected office :

    1. To become an MLA : 5 years of full time social service in any village in India
    2. To become an MP : 7 years of full time social service in any village in India
    3. To become a minister – state level : 10 years of full time social service in any village in India
    4. To become a centralminister : 12 years of full time social service in any village in India
    5. To become a President or Prime Minister : 15 years of full time social service in any village in India

    Hopefully this change the calibre of people running for office and eventually lower corruption

  • 11 Mallikarjuna // Mar 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    0) Pay Commission to Govt. Employees for each task they do. Don’t pay assured Salaries 🙂
    That way, there is incentive to do more tasks.
    Disinterested People will opt to retire.
    In 2003, Lifetime Pension was stopped & replaced by Contribution-Pension.
    So, this can be done….

    1) Do-away with “Govt Planning” Attitude .
    Allow imports do away with License lists,
    Allow competition in as many sectors,
    Allow people/banks/firms to fail,
    Allow
    Stop pampering & the “Maai-Baap” attitude.

    2) Insist on Facts & Quality, not on Symbols
    Empower all the toothless organizations, like Competition Commission,
    Consumer Affairs Ministry,
    Drug Control Department.
    Pay them commission for each task, not assured Salary.
    This’ll keep the industries/companies on their Toes

    3) Revamp the Info & Broadcasting Dept. I&B should
    a) voice the Govt’s tone, explaining it’s actions
    b) voice the opinion of “the ruled”.
    That debate, I feel will kick-start Ideas & I &B will become an IDEA FACTORY.

    Eg: Debate on why we need to liberalize Agriculture will clarify the idea to Farmers & their representatives. They’ll start using this in meetings, agitations, ….. steam will pick up & a trend will be made.
    Ladies working in BPO, wearing Pants, Prepaid mobile plans,……..

    A B Tech Student is well-off when there are 400+ companies offering job than with 10-15 Govt companies.

  • 12 Mallikarjuna // Mar 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Footnote to the Idea factory above:
    Delhi, Bangalore, Apna Hyderabad didn’t get Showable-CM’s just like that.

    Right or Wrong from economic standpoint, CNG, Metro-Rails, T-3, …. all are coming up due to the Urge of the people.

  • 13 mockingbuddha // Mar 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    The job of government is to govern, and its scope moves up and down with demand. Optimal governance is at best a moving target.

    Accusation by insinuation that governments have only sought to extract and exploit is an unsustainable argument, in practice most governments take the best advice of the day and run with it.

    In practice it mostly happens that the future judges them unfairly, and considers them to have failed.

    Take the example of the Asian tigers, whose roars do not reverberate as much as they did in the last decade. What did they do wrong, except take the best advice that was available then?

    Centralization has its benefits, Singapore is a good example. It has problems too, examples being too many.

    In the end it boils down to enlightened leadership, progressive but not aggressive, mellow but not shallow.

    Even in these modern times, leadership is what sets the trend, it not only leads, it also pushes down unresponsive throats, if that is found necessary.

    Governance is only as good as the governor, it does not matter if it is maximal or minimal as long as it is effective

  • 14 Sidharth // Apr 1, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Whilst this may seem a broad and open-ended statement, the government’s objective should be to maximize the value of the taxpayer’s money much like a company’s objective of maximizing share value. To achieve this, the government should have actionable targets set out for each sector, sort of like a balanced scorecard. The 5 year plans were meant for this, I suppose, but then they hardly seem actionable.
    The governance model would thus involve a planning/strategy phase that would set goals with a long-term perspective along with short-term actionable targets to achieve the goals. Once set out, each of the ministries would be measured in terms of their success in achieving the goals, and held responsible and accountable for those activities. The proceedings of both the planning phase as well as the evaluation phase should have a fair amount of transparency to ensure their fairness.

  • 15 Sushil // Apr 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    The role of the government very simply put should be to use the countries resources for the betterment of the country (not themselves).
    To do this, here are a few suggestions:

    1) Organisation:
    Just like a CEO cannot be good at doing anything and everything, we need a leader to have a team of able and knowledgeable people. The criteria for selection of the same should be stringent.
    We need the country to run like a professional organization where each department works not just for itself but for the betterment of the organization.

    2)Performance:
    ” There are a no free lunches”. Just like in an organisation, there is a basic salary and then incentives based on performance, the government employees should have the same.

    3) Efficiency:
    Make the resources available and hand them over to a good team that will take it forward. Once the team takes over the government should simply make sure that nothing comes in the way of the final achievement.

    4) Law:
    Today’s rules, regulations and legal system are outdated and need a lot of human decision making.
    These should be re-written to avoid discrepancies. The LAW cannot take a decade to solve a case that should have been finished in a year !

    5)Next Generation:
    Rather than teaching them that this is how it works, we need to take the initiative to tell them what is correct.
    Most people who break traffic signals on a daily basis are educated urban people. So clearly education is not only what we need. There is a higher social responsibility that we have !

  • 16 mockingbuddha // Apr 3, 2011 at 2:42 am

    Have just been watching Ajay Jadeja on NDTV after India’s famous world cup win. Congrats MSD and team…

    Ajay was saying this about Gary Kirsten, that (unlike the silly chappell) Gary understood Indian players well, which was the key to his success with them. It appears to me that the same applies to governance.

    India has particular and peculiar challenges, which means that solutions lifted from some ones’ backyard, like say America, cannot be foisted here, or to make the rhyme, lofted here.

    We need governments which understand this, we need politicians who understand this. A little bit of pity, a large amount of foresight, some execution discipline, a few tweaks in education, industry and we are there. Despite what the naysayers say, we are on the way there, albeit a little slowly.

    Development yes, derailment no, that is the target for government and enlightened governance.

  • 17 Rakesh // Apr 6, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Healthcare , Education, Creation of public goods, framing of policies in sunrise sectors, financial regulation to prevent financial crises, maintenance of law and order

  • 18 Sushil // Apr 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    1)introduce age limit for politicians
    2)minimum qualifications,
    3)use e-governance extensively
    4) police and judicial reforms
    5)bring all including PM under empowered Lok Pal
    6) plug loopholes and leakages in expenditure.
    7) computerise land records
    8)connectivity on top priority to remote villages-
    9)grid independent per generation and distribution
    10) use communication technologies to provide distance education,health,information,training.

  • 19 Umang Saini // Apr 8, 2011 at 8:15 am

    In two words – Be Transparent and Collaborate

    a. Transparency via IT – Realtime analytics on government spending, projections, major initiatives for big social programs. Hard deadlines, milestones and clear roadmap.

    b. Collaborate – Let big institutes succeed by collaborating with the best in the world and fulfill their roles.

    Side note on Energy / Infrastructure – It’s bad, but we have tolerated far worse in the past. The assumption being that above two will help resolve some challenges in Infra, Transport, Healthcare, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Judiciary etc. as well.

  • 20 Vinod Sankar // Apr 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    The idea of running Government like a publicly listed Company is very appealing. Many have referred to the example of the Singapore Government functioning in such a manner.

    I would like to add a couple of modifications to the Government-as-a-Company model:

    1. Government’s objectives need to revolve around national interest, and not the narrow objectives of profit maximization (shareholder returns) that many public Companies get measured on.

    2. Government focuses on “understanding” national interest by being closest to its customers (i.e. citizens) and their needs.

    3. Government focuses on “delivering” on these needs, not by itself, but by sourcing them from those entities that are best equipped to deliver. The Government only needs to retain those elements of “delivery” that form part of its core competencies, and those that cannot be sourced from other entities due to reasons such as national security.

    E.g. After 50 years, India had telecom density of around 0.3%. In the next 10 years, this figure has gone up to 70%. If the Government tried to deliver telecom services on its own (0r via PSUs) to citizens, we would not have got to 70% in such a short period of time. Same holds true for most services (exception being things like national security) that the common citizen requires.

    4. The Executive, Legislature and Judiciary need to collectively ensure separation of duties to avoid concentration of power and authority with any one of these branches. They also need to ensure fair and independent regulation in the “delivery and fulfillment” of citizens’ needs. The Indian people (especially the sizable middle class) need to be an active participant to make this happen, just as the stakeholders of a public Company hold the management responsible for delivering on its commitments.

  • 21 The Mindset // Apr 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

    1. Government should only be the policy maker. Government should care of the law & order situation, both external & internal. The Indian police has WWII weapons.

    Discovery channel in a documentry on 26/11 commeted “Equipped with .303 Enfield rifles used during the WWII the Indian police was no match for the terrorist who were

    equipped with asault rifles”. The condition of police must be changed for the security of citizens as its the police which comes as the first barrier between citizens and

    terrorists.
    Next is the improvement in the Army. In comparison to the army of China Indian Army stands nowhere. Army budget should be increased and its logistcs capabilities should

    be improved.

    2. India stands at 134 out of 183 in the “Ease of doing Business”. This is needed to be changed. The over-regulations should be removed giving freedom to entrepreneurship .

    Single window clearances should be made and innovative ideas should be encouraged.

    3. Overhauling of education system: the current education system produces clerks. innovations & critical thinking is discouraged. Also the grading system need to be

    dumped. It makes no difference between “excellent” and mediocre. Improvemnt in Communication skills and writing skills should be the goal. Rote learning should be

    discouraged while practical learning encouraged.

    4. Government employees should be made responsible for their performance.

    5. Trasnparency should be brought up through the use of IT & ITES. The best example is Gujarat state which has won The UNICEF Transparency Award.

    6. Most important, government should adopt single child policy in areas where population density or povert is more. By doing this government can ensure equal distribution

    of natural resources and equal empoyment opprtunities.

  • 22 santhosh. // Apr 20, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    1.firstly the election procedure should be change.the people should have power to direct elect the all ministers.
    2.More money spent for agriculture purpose.govt.should give more promotions to the younger s for engaging the agriculture field than the official job.
    3.we must have sufficient energies.concentrate to find out the sources of the oil.
    4.start the small scale industries /village industries.
    5.appoint faithful officers in the sensitive sector like army and protect the Indian geography.
    6.Always keeping the good relationship with the nearest countries.
    7.Reduce the unnecessary allowances/concessions to unqualified persons/families.
    8.try for price stability and controle the bank rate.appoint the proffessionals in all financial management.
    9.give the work related education to all childrens.and to arrange the education facilities to all.and expand and incease the railway routes to all states.we cannot expand the road due to increasing population.to set up the land reforms in all states.and make a rule for decentalised the accumulated wealth.
    10.re-enactment our laws for reducing the correption.and reduce the number of political parties.

  • 23 Rohit // Apr 24, 2011 at 5:18 am

    1) Rewrite outdated part of Constitution

    2) Increase privatization. Let the market take its own course (education/health care ..almost everything)

    3) Provide/maintain complete transparency in rules/policies/execution of any government action.

    4) Improve infrastructure(most importantly rail network/road conditions/power). Actually get out of all business aspect of these things and just get the required amount of work done using services from private companies.

    5) This I think is the most important : Ignore internet/mobile sectors for next 3-5 years. As a whole country we depend very less on these plus private companies are handling this very well, government should really focus on bottom 50% of population. Government never does anything for them other than stupid employment scheme which everybody knows don’t work. Rather stop all that crap and encourage the small/medium businesses which will help bottom 50% . And these people have nothing to do with modern tech yet. Not yet.

    6) Stop caste system. Why so many government forms ask about our caste ? Just remove that field completely and forget there is such a thing. Don’t even ask it.

    7) Treat social injustice/superstition/women abuse etc with highest priority. How come prime ministers have time for cricket matches and meetings with Bollywood actors but can not be among the first one to be when someone is burnt alive/paraded naked/commits suicide.

    8) Right to Information act is stupid. Change it to ‘Free information act’. Any information that Indian citizen can get through any way, from government should not be required to get it so. It should be available free from the government archive server. Period. If it can be asked for , I should not have to ask for it. Just make it public and let people download it as many times as they want it and get out of SLOW application processing crap of RTI. We don’t need RTI, we need Information.

    9) This also very important in my opinion: There is always a deadline. So all the new budget/legislation that government wants to bring in, it must be mandatory for each MP/MLA to go to his/her constituency and conduct open debate with scholars in each sector. Every constituency has a right to know what its candidates think in detail about every policy decision that is made and not just one line reply as I support the bill blah..blah.

    10) Leverage modern cheap technology to implement new infrastructure scheme/policies/provide information and take this to its extreme.

    11) All the rules/laws/causes must be simplified for the people to understand. What is the point if some rule is made for me and I can not freaking understand it. In every sector government must make extra effort for it to be simple for common man to understand it.

    12) Support free media and protect basic rights of every individual in the country. Banning book/websites should be never done. Period.

    13) Prepare a independent/open policy for internal affairs and not just be pet for some rich country like USA. If India wants to be a superpower, it should behave like one. If we need USA to talk to Pak for 26/11 what kind of superpower we can be ? Also Indian should always clear its position on most international matters and not just be silent spectator. Though not required to peruse, India should always be ready for war with ANY country. It’s not just about winning and all rich countries know that. As long as we can cause enough damage to any country in the world (if not win the war), we have nothing to be afraid of.

    14) India should enhance its military wing and mostly using home built technology rather than just importing it from weapon exporters. This shall also create jobs.

    15) Though already mentioned ,free the education sector from its control. Government should certainly provide some regulatory body but let anybody start the school and let market demand what it wants to learn / from whom /how and please stop deleting chapters from books which don’t align with government interests.

    16) Find out the real problem in slow law process in India and fix it. Whatever is required to do that to increase the speedy delivery of justice, just do that. We don’t need crime free country we just need a country with Rule of Law. Remember we never had crime free region in the human history ? Even in the ages of Rama/Krishna, there were crimes which these Gods had to take care of . So we don’t expect that but give us rule of the law. And heavily invest in new scientific technologies in crime investigation so that rich people just don’t make tool in their hand.

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