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"Naukri as Property," by Madhu Kishwar
I don't know why I was browsing so late at night: I do that between the
various runs of my SAS program: Whatever the reason, I found a very
interesting and very typical tale by Madhu of how our 'government'
functions. There is no government: only a bunch of thieves; well, more or
After discussing the problem, Madhu has these suggestions to offer. I know
Madhu is very busy and she has not participated in any debate so far (she
is, I believe, almost running her magazine virtually single-handedly). I
hope she can guide us to other writings of her which come out which such
points which we must adopt. Looks like the conclusions she has arrived at
are exceedingly similar to what we have arrived at, but there are many
newer points, and well-stated. Things like: "Duty to Provide Information
Act," Citizens Committees to check accounts, etc. (we call it Local
1. Dear Sanjive: can you please ask Rashmi to meet Madhu and see if she
could help Madhu in any way. Others on this list who can help out Madhu:
please do help her expand her magazine either by writing for it or by
subscribing to it. I also think we could gain from the experience of Madhu
in setting up the final printing of the draft Manifesto for 1/1/2000.
Madhu: what would a booklet of about 50-70 pages cost to print: 20,000
copies first run: we need to start budgeting.]
2. Dear Sanjeev (Chopra): I don't know if Madhu has been ever invited to
LBS. But she seems eminently suitable for giving some lectures to
probationers on gender issues as well as her experience in running this
magazine virtually single-handedly. Please consider inviting her for a
talk. OTs will gain a lot from her perspective.
Setting Things Rights
How do we set things right?
To begin with, government monopoly over essential services has to be
replaced by a system of service provision that encourages competitive
alternatives so that there are profit incentives for companies to provide
quality services at a competitive price.
There must be a system of sanctions to make service providers behave
responsibly. Our government servants need to be transformed into genuine
public servants by giving citizens real power to understand and monitor
their functioning and retain or dismiss them if they dont perform. This
means replacement of the culture of life-time naukris with a system of
jobs offered contingent on actual performance.
This restructuring process has to start at the village level because our
rural population is the worst victim of naukarshahis tyranny. The power to
hire and fire employees from school teachers to local police and
electricity department employees ought to rest with local panchayats. The
work of the government should be restricted to those tasks that cannot be
better done on a competitive basis in the non-government sectors. Whatever
jobs remain within the government should be linked to work actually done
under public supervision. A naukri within the government should not be
treated as a licence to obstruct and fleece people. Instead, to the extent
feasible, incentives should be inbuilt to enhance job performance. For
instance, if the salaries of our telephone employees were given or cut
according to the number of telephone lines under their groups charge that
they could keep in functioning order, they would have a strong personal
incentive to keep the system functioning smoothly.
We need to frame laws in such a way that they reduce the enormous
discretionary powers of our unaccountable government employees.
Today, our system bestows sweeping ill designed and ill defined powers on
law enforcers to punish citizens with thousands of unenforceable laws
which make law breaking the only effective way of surviving and making
money. We should reverse this altogether
Our laws should primarily target law enforcers for punishment if, under
their jurisdiction, the few necessary clear and rational laws are not
being correctly implemented. For example, building laws should be
restructured so that they are widely known to all interested citizens, are
enforceable without allowing the police or municipal officials wide
discretion, and there are as few of them as are required for basic social
health, safety and commerce. Failure to honestly implement those few
clearly stated laws ought to be treated as proof of connivance with law-
breakers and should merit dismissal of officials incharge of ensuring
The different classes of services class I, class II, class III and IV
ought to be replaced by a system that assigns job classifications
according to job functions. The current system is just another mindless
continuation of the former colonial government that provided an army of
peons, clerks and section heads for each class I officer. In fact we have
mindlessly increased the numbers of unnecessary government employees at
all levels, leading the country towards bankruptcy.
Such overstaffing and lack of clear job duties encourages
irresponsibility, demoralisation of workers and obstructionism. There is
no reason public officials should not deal directly with the public, type
their own letters and handle their own files so that work does not have to
move from table to table, room to room and clerk to clerk, at a snails
There should be a realistic time frame prescribed for every task to be
performed. Failure to stick to deadlines should lead to automatic
sanctions against the poor performance of the officials concerned.
The Official Secrets Act ought to be replaced by a Duty to Provide
Information Act which would make it mandatory for government officials to
provide accurate information to the general public (without a citizen
having to make any special requests or follow any difficult procedures) to
learn what happens to money allotted and expenditures incurred for each
activity of the government.
For instance, the officials of every municipal corporation and zilla
parishad should be obliged by law to put on easily available public notice
boards every month the money under their charge, where it comes from and
what exactly they spent it on. Failure to do so should result in automatic
suspension and even dismissal of the officials concerned. Citizen
committees should have the right to check and examine the veracity of
these accounts. In cases of possible fraud or misinformation, the official
concerned should be automatically suspended and if a hearing demonstrates
in a time limited period that he is responsible, he should be dismissed.
At the same time, the salaries of government employees should be increased
substantially. By giving them unrealistically low salaries, the government
is facilitating corruption. However, this can be feasible only if the size
of the naukarshahi is reduced drastically which will automatically
increase its efficiency and make this an affordable proposition.
Finally, and most importantly, while cutting down the bloated size of the
government, dismantling the monopolistic naukarshahi and making space for
a more competitive system, we need to overhaul our legal system from the
bottom up so that it is actually able to provide timely and enforceable
judgments to protect citizens from unscrupulous wrong doers whether in
government or in the private sector.
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