03-Oct-2005

We The People

This column by Ramesh Ramanathan of Janaagraha was lying in my mail box for some time before I read it today. In it he tries to draw some lessons from the recent confrontation between the Delhi government and the people. Stressing on the importance of getting people to participate in the process of decision-making he says:
Lesson 4—It is better to work from the front foot than be cornered into these positions: allowing participation is not only morally right, it is also strategically useful. Citizens today are getting away with taking pot-shots at government, with no accountability of their own, either in taking tough decisions on reforms, or in being honest participants in public services. For example, one of the sore points in the power crisis is the 50% power theft. While the responsibility to ensure compliance is the service providers’, in a society where contractual enforcement will take time, local stakeholders can exert far more pressure than a discom. Being completely open also allows the government to demand responsibility from citizens and constructive solutions from critics, rather than allow procedural criticism to obfuscate fundamental reform debate.
Exactly. Someone has already said it - we get the government we deserve. We as a people are challenged (as in mentally challenged, visually challenged) when it comes to doing the right thing - we break traffic rules, building rules, evade taxes, steal power, sell borewell water on the sly, dump waste at the street corner. Who knows, many a politicians may be saying: "Look at these people, they break rules themselves, and they expect us to be upright. People are all inherently bad, corrupt, and interested only in themselves and their families. They have no time to think of the public good. I've completely lost faith in them".

Maybe we as people need to change along with or before the politicians change.

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