Friday, August 16, 2013

Flashback August 15, 2004: Manmohan Singh’s definition of government & bureaucratic stranglehold

PM delivering his maiden speech from ramparts of Red Fort
PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday addressed the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, for the 10th time in a row, on the occasion of Independence Day, 2013. A pure political document with coming elections in mind, the speech had no reference to civil services. Flashback 2004. Singh, India’s only bureaucrat-turned Prime Minister, defined “government” and talked about “stranglehold of bureaucracy” when he delivered his maiden Independence Day speech. This is what he said on August 15, 2004:
“When we launched economic reforms over a decade ago, we tried to liberate individual enterprise from the stranglehold of bureaucracy. We will continue to widen the space available for private enterprise and individual initiative.
But governments cannot be wished away, especially in a developing country like ours where the government has an important role to play. The challenge for economic reform today is to breathe new life into government so that it can play a positive role where it must.
But what is government? Government comprises people’s representatives and civil servants. The reform of government is, therefore, a reform of the way we, the elected representatives and officials, work in government. It is you, fellow citizens, as members of the civil society, who must mobilize your enormous resources in support of such reform. To make democratic institutions more accountable we are committed to take several steps to strengthen the lowest tier of panchayats and urban local bodies. We need to build the capacity of decentralized bodies and their elected representatives and this is best done through effective transfer of funds and functions to them.”
Ten years down the line, the stranglehold of bureaucracy has remained in one form or the other. The process of decentralization has strengthened though the results are not up to the mark. And, has the space available for private enterprise and individual initiative, actually widened? The answer is not a straight “yes”.

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