Growth Cannot be a National Race for the Few
Growth should be inclusive
Good governance does not just aim at material progress of the strongest and fittest, but also removes handicaps in the path of those who are not so strong to enable them to participate equally in the progress. The fundamental aims of good governance therefore must be equity, fairness, inclusion and participation. No exclusion should be allowed to prevail on the basis of caste, creed, region, language or sex. It must provide full protection of human rights and liberties to the weaker sections of society, minorities, children and women.
In order to achieve these goals, however, governance must transform itself to enforce transparency. Decisions must be taken in an open manner for the accountability of the decision makers. This can be further ensured by making information freely available in easily understandable form and medium to those who will be affected by the decision.
‘Growth’ is a word that makes you feel good and happy. The opposite of growth is stagnation or deceleration, which I don’t think anybody wants. We all want growth. We want to grow more and more. But we have to see who is growing and who is not. Growth of India should not be like a national race in which only the few participate and the majority is debarred.
Growth is a tree whose fruits must be shared among all. The poor and the weak cannot be held back from picking the fruits of the tree. That is bad and poor governance.
Inclusive growth strengthens social harmony by bridging the gap between haves and have nots and among different segments. It strengthens the sense of belonging to the nation. It unleashes the vast talent and potential of the citizens, thereby making the country achieve a balanced development.
Social harmony is the foundation for a plural society like ours. India incorporates a larger number of faiths than any other nation. We have a Sikh majority state (Punjab), three Christian majority states (Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland), a Muslim majority state (Jammu and Kashmir), Muslim majority districts in Kerala, Assam, Bihar and West Bengal and Buddhist majority districts in Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu &Kashmir. India also has thousands of castes as well as a variety of languages.
Recent Lok Sabha elections have given an absolute majority to the BJP. For the first time in our democratic history, the BJP has won a clear mandate on its own strength under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji. We respect the will of the people and we wish the new government well. However, the victory of BJP had two significant features.
First, this was the first time that a party, which won an absolute majority on its own, did receive a low percentage of electoral support. The BJP got only 31% of the total votes polled.
Second, there was an element of representational imbalance in this victory. No member of India’s minorities, not even one from the largest minority found a place in the tally of 282 BJP members elected to the Lok Sabha. Was this coincidental? Or was this intentional? These are important questions which need to be answered.
The position is somewhat similar, if not worse, in the State Legislatures. The situation in nine states, where the BJP is either in power or in an alliance - Maharashtra, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Goa, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh - is such that there are only 22 Muslims out of 1,359 MLAs. Likewise, at the ministerial level, out of 151 Cabinet and Ministers of State in these nine BJP-ruled states, just one belongs to the Muslim community.
This shows that the representation of the minorities, particularly the Muslims has come down drastically in legislatures as well as political executive. This imbalance is likely to create a sense of deprivation among the minority communities. In such a situation, it could be expected from the BJP Govt that now that it has assumed government office at the Centre, it must stand for the nation as a whole and rise above narrow-minded electoral approach to discriminate people on the basis of faith.
In our country there are gross and apparently glaring inequalities in terms of income, wealth, consumption, access to quality education, healthcare and avenues for dignified employment. These diverse disparities run along diverse caste, religion, ethnicity, region and gender. People belonging to well-off castes go to better schools and better hospitals and are massively over represented in the professional and entrepreneurial circles.
One consequence of market-led economic growth has been the accentuation of differences between the haves and the have-nots. Since rich people get a higher level of education and have greater mobility across India, they are likely to garner the most profitable professions and jobs.
We agree that the Indian economy needs to grow at a steady rate to lift our people out of poverty line by whichever way we define it. However we must look more carefully at the components of that growth and its distributive impacts across and between different income groups. It must also assess different enterprises and sectors according to the kinds of employment they generate and their varying impacts on nature. It should be ensured that all processes of land acquisitions and natural resource allocations are done in a fair, transparent and just manner.
Social inequalities in our country are further widened by corruption. India has witnessed an alarming rise in corruption in high places. During the license permit quota raj, favours were granted to individuals or firms in return of huge monetary considerations. Unfortunately defence-related contracts also contributed to generation of black money.
The era of liberalization, which was expected to reduce corruption, ironically witnessed the demon of corruption eating into the fibre of country’s polity. The last few years will be remembered for an unending wave of corruption scandals at higher levels which have definitely dampened the morale of Indian people.
Good governance is not possible without taming the monster of corruption. Bihar was the first state to put up the property details of CM and council of ministers online. Likewise property details of Group A, B and C officials of the state were also posted online. Special vigilance units were also placed to tackle the cases of disproportionate assets cases. The Bihar Special Courts Act was enacted to allow the government to confiscate ill-gotten properties of the corrupt public servants. Government has confiscated properties of many corrupt senior officers and schools and other public utility centres have been opened in those confiscated properties.
Bihar also brought in a new Lokayukta Act in 2011 which authorizes the Lokayukta to enquire into corruption-related matters. The Chief Minister and other ministers of the state are also under the purview of the Lokayukta. People feel the heat of corruption at lower levels. In any public interface, the issue of corruption becomes a talking point.
In Bihar we implemented the Right To Public Services Act to ensure delivery of public services in a prescribed time framework.
As mentioned earlier, growth with justice cannot be thought of without ensuring the rule of law. Democracy stands on the bedrock of rule of law.
Social harmony envisages fraternity and compatibility among all segments of society. Communal harmony and social amity are essential for equitable development in a peaceful environment. Peace is indivisible.
Inclusive development generates a feeling of oneness and prepares ground for congenial atmosphere for sustainable development. Bihar had seen emergence of left wing extremism in certain areas. The causes are well known. They are social, economical and at times also political. Left wing extremism cannot be contained with brute force. That is why in Bihar we have adopted multi pronged strategy to deal with this menace.
Firstly, participation at panchayat level institutions was ensured by providing reservation to SC,ST, Extremely Backward classes and women. This enabled thousand of persons belonging to the above-mentioned categories get their due share in local governance. This also brought political empowerment to the erstwhile excluded sections of the society. Many who were hardcore extremists left their path and joined the mainstream to participate in developmental processes.
Secondly, inclusive developmental schemes in affected areas were carried out through a programme known as AAPKI SARKAR AAPKE DWAR. Under this scheme the concerned panchayats were saturated with all developmental indices like connectivity, education facilities, healthcare facilities, power supplies, sanitation, drinking water, livelihood, entrepreneurship training and food security. These schemes motivated the misguided people to look upon state as the saviour of their rights and entitlements.
Thirdly, operations were also conducted on the basis of intelligence inputs. Of course, human rights of even extremists were taken care of while dealing with them in police custody. That is why we have succeeded in a big way to contain left wing extremism in Bihar.
The inequalities in access to good education are immense in our country. While on one hand we have world class public schools, on the other sub-standard government schools. The situation of schools in Bihar was appalling. As you are aware Bihar has huge manpower. It is essential that education gets the maximum attention of the government.
When I took over as CM of Bihar, there were more than 12.5% children outside the primary school system. School buildings were in dilapidated conditions. Lakhs of vacancies of teachers had made many schools without a single teacher. There was no drinking water as well as sanitation facility in the schools. We took it as a challenge and have implemented a multi-pronged strategy of improving access to school by opening new schools, adding more classrooms and upgrading primary schools to upper primary schools. We have recruited teachers to improve the teacher pupil ratio and incentivize enrolment, target the hard to reach and improve gender equity.
Due to these efforts, currently there are less than 2% children outside the primary school system. Special and specific measures were taken to improve girl child education. Girls were given cash to buy uniform from class I to class XII. They were also given cash to buy bicycles when they reached class IX. This scheme not only resulted in a substantive increase in enrolment of girls but also brought about a new found confidence in them, starting a quiet social transformation.
The scheme was later extended to cover all students of class IX. This year more than 14.58 lakh students enrolled in Class IX will be given cash for bicycles. We see this as an illustrative example of growth with justice because government intervention brought a sea change in the life of girl child irrespective of class, caste, creed and location.
With the expansion of elementary education demand for secondary education has increased. The findings from the Sample Registration System (SRS) data of the Census of India on fertility clearly establish that irrespective of the State, fertility rates reach replacement level (2.0) in case girls complete Secondary and (1.7) in case of girls completing Higher Secondary Education. For Bihar with a Total Fertility Rate of 3.6 (2011), therefore one of the best way to reduce high fertility is to promote higher secondary education among girls. It will also improve women’s well-being, increase age at marriage, women’s participation in the work force and help in reducing the adverse sex ratio. Therefore we took a policy decision to establish a Higher Secondary School in each panchayat.
Women, who constitute 50% of our population, are still deprived and away from mainstream of governance.
Similarly 50% reservation has also been provided to women in Teacher’s recruitment. For exclusive and effective control of crime against women, a women police station has been set up in each district of Bihar. Two women police battalions have also been raised.
Adequate healthcare system is an important ingredient of good governance. Unfortunately in our country a large section of society, especially the downtrodden, do not get required medical care in cases of illness. Medicines and diagnostic tests are often beyond the reach of the poor. Medical and healthcare facilities in Bihar were in total disarray. We took specific measures to provide healthcare to our people in government hospitals. We provided free medicines as well as free diagnostic facilities.
Earlier in 2006 hardly 39 patients on an average used to visit a primary health centre every month. Nowadays a primary health centre is visited by more than 8,000 patients per month.
Bihar constitutes 8.2% of India’s population and it is one of the most populous states in the country. As a result of good governance the state has witnessed a growth rate averaging 12% in the last few years.
In spite of this spectacular growth, it will take more than 25 years to come up to the national average of different growth indicators at present cost. The fault is not of people of Bihar. During the colonial rule, the British followed a deliberate policy to de-industrialize Bihar. After Independence the Centre brought freight equalization policy which further deprived Bihar of industrialization.
The country’s resources have to be allocated in such a way that all states, particularly the least developed ones, get adequate share. Unfortunately the new government at the Centre has shown only indifference in this regard.
Good governance has to work also toward developing a scientific temper among citizens. It is a fundamental duty under article 51 of our Constitution. It enjoins upon every citizen to develop a scientific temper and rational thinking. These days, mythologies are being invoked to explain history and the evolution of medical and other sciences by a section of influential people, including the person holding the highest political office of the country. It is true that people believe in mythology out of faith but this does not mean that we should violate our constitutional obligation and indulge in irrational thinking.
In the name of good governance, the union government has introduced a policy of self-certification. But self-certification has its limitations. Unfortunately India has a dubious record when it comes to industrial as well as commercial safety. The Bhopal Gas tragedy is a chilling example. The safety of industrial workers and people around industrial areas should not be compromised at the cost of self-certification.
Keeping important and crucial posts vacant in government is bad governance. Posts such as Lokpal, Chief Information Commissioner and Chief Vigilance Commissioner are lying vacant for several months. Can this be described by any stretch of imagination as good governance?
Holistic and inclusive growth with social harmony and justice means balanced growth. To achieve this, it is imperative that all the sections of society irrespective of caste, creed, gender and region are given equal opportunities. Lop-sided development and inequalities breed discord, fear and suspicion and are injurious to the goal of Good Governance.
In a country of great diversity such as ours, social harmony will prevail only when the fruits of development and growth are enjoyed by all. Granting special category status will rectify the earlier wrongs done and would bring least developed states like Bihar to the forefront of development.
At the end, I will sum up that there cannot be peace and tranquillity in the country unless the benefits of development accrue to the most deprived. This is possible only when the Government ensures a model of good governance having the twin objective of growth with justice and social harmony.
(Nitish Kumar was delivering the 35thShri Bhim Sen Sachar Memorial Lecture on, “Good Governance: Development with Justice and Social Harmony.” The above article is culled from excerpts from the address)