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Pro-poor Governance Remains Sole Agenda For Developing Nations
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pardesh   Bhopal  5/30/2011 1:50:56 AM

India is the fastest growing economy with all the states contributing immensely. The country is making advancements in all spheres and a number of social sector and poverty alleviation programmes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) have caught attention of developing nations. The only challenge is to reach out the deprived and weed out corruption. Preventing the leakage of public money is the most urgent task before the nation. Indian states need to come forward and prescribe effective, innovative and replicable strategies. Public service delivery systems need fundamental improvements and innovative remodelling. A vast country like India needs effective governance, IT-enabled transparent systems, innovative people-centric programme designing and pro-poor approach to policy making. We are striving to make Madhya Pradesh a model in pro-poor governance. The reason is that the benefits of economic growth must reach out to the deprived.

There is no other country like India that having socio-economic and cultural diversity. The ethnic diversity posts challenges before the policy makers as every community needs specific development interventions and for every initiative requires a specific implementation mechanism. We have pursued the concept of Antyodaya that means economic rising of those unreached so far.  The Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act 2010 serves a unique example in the country to ensure timely services to people. We are the first among Indian states to have enacted this path-breaking law. The objective is to make administration responsive and accountable to people. There is a time limit for every service. In case of delay, the officials responsible for delivery of services will be fined Rs. 250 per day until the delivery of services. Tendency of delaying the services on the part of concerning officials may invite disciplinary action. Within six months of implementing the legislation, enthusiastically prompt disposal of applications seeking different services from nine key departments was reported. So far, 48 lakh applicants taking help of the Act have been got services within time frame. Now Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Delhi Governments are adopting the Act due to its effectiveness. I describe it as a pioneer initiative as it would promote a work culture answerable to the common people.

To me, corruption is a world wide phenomenon. All developing nations are suffering from menacing corruption, which halts development process. We can make stringent laws to prevent corruption but can not motivate persons to shun their greed for money. It is only by creating models and examples, the possibilities of corruption can be averted and gradual evolution corrupt practices can be checked. Recently, we enacted radical legislation that enables the state government to confiscate properties of corrupt public servants amassed by illegal means. The confiscated properties can be used as public asset.

 Mechanism for direct cash transfer to the stake-holders is another way to prevent leakage of public money. This avoids chances of corruption as money reaches out directly to the needy. Madhya Pradesh is the only Indian state to have tried it with encouraging success. Thousands of wheat growing farmers are receiving the remuneration of their produce directly into their accounts immediate after sale in the farm produce trading yards. Similarly, parents are getting cash to purchase cycles and uniforms. This simple decision has addressed many grievances of parents.

The Indian states need simultaneous growth of social and economic infrastructures. Those deprived need social justice delivery systems and those having resources need growth opportunities. Entrepreneurship training on a massive scale for the rural and urban youths is an urgent task. The idea of social justice is deeply embedded into the governance systems in India. The preamble of the Indian Constitution itself is an embodiment of the concept social justice. Mechanism for delivery of social justice, precautionary legal measures and social safeguards suggested in the Constitution for protection of human rights have been demonstrated well in the public policies and programmes.

The biggest question is that who needs social justice and whose human rights are denied. What makes service delivery systems and administration of social justice defunct?  Legislature makes laws that reflect people's aspirations. Executive implements them in letter and spirit and Judiciary protects legal rights and entitlements bringing justice to the needy. These organs of India's parliamentary democracy function according to their specific mandate. Now it is the time to improve governance systems for effective delivery of social justice and creating a congenial environment in which there is not a slightest possibility of violation of human rights.
The States have been given enough powers and flexibilities to evolve their own governance practices. Many have performed well. We have novel schemes like Ladli Laxmi and Mukhya Mantry Kanya Dan. The former assures education of daughters of poor families and later is about marriage of daughters, whose families can not bear the expenses of marriage ceremonies.
The only problem states face is the understaffed service delivery system and geographical distance between service delivery system and the physical dwelling of the prospective beneficiaries. The composition of village also creates a problem. In states like Madhya Pradesh, one village is composed of even seven to eight hamlets and distance between two hamlets is sometimes more than 10 kms. In geographical constraints like this, the only solution is to reach out to the needy populations. 

(The views expressed in the article are personal and do not reflect the official policy or position of the organisation.)


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