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Thursday, November 26, 2015

India: Pending reforms

Why have committees at all...


...if the government has no plans to follow their recommendations?
MRINMOY DEY | Issue Dated: February 24, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : National committees | Higher Education | Yashpal Committee report | Nanjundappa Committee | Industrial reforms |

The 1992-93 Mumbai riots timeline is a good place to understand the government's attitude towards commissioned reports. Acting in uber haste, the government had then set up the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission. The objective? To show that the government really meant business. Cut to the ending months of the commission's enquiry, and Justice Srikrishna himself reportedly joked that his report could perchance be thrown into the sea during Ganesh Chaturthi, a key festival in Mumbai. Reports now confirm that his conjecture could have been close to the truth. The commission's recommendations were either rejected or accepted as per one's convenience. None of the governments since the Mumbai riots have had the gumption to implement the commission's recommendations, which have been considered to be some of the most insightful.

Putting on hold recommendation from various national committees is almost a norm in India. For instance, various administrative reform reports (presented by Administrative Reforms Commission) with respect to reforms are lying idle since the last 12 years. The reports suggest transformative reforms in Indian administration, taking a cue from the best practices around the world.

The 2009 Yashpal Committee report on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education gave brilliant suggestions to restructure the Indian education system. One of the critical suggestions applauded by both academia and industry was disbanding UGC and AICTE, who have a history of being corrupt and shamefully incompetent with respect to setting education standards. Till date, this has not been done, despite promises to the contrary.

In some cases, even accepted reports are not implemented due to plain financial reasons. For instance, recommendations of the 2001 Nanjundappa Committee (a high-powered committee on removal of regional imbalances in Karnataka), for example, could not be implemented in totality or even in a significant minority for many years because, as one Chief Minister put it, there were not enough finances to implement the recommendations.

Beside the political cat-fight with respect to implementing reports, especially those related to economic development or industrial reforms, there is one other reason why these suggestions are not being implemented – and that is the complexity of the reports and their presentation. Very few policy makers in India have formal academic backgrounds in economics or finance to have the capacity or competence to understand what the intellectuals authoring the reports are alluding to. In a related story, one of our sister magazines (Business & Economy) had documented that while administrations like those in the US have ministers and bureaucrats who are formally educated with advanced degrees for their jobs, Indian ministers were simply political appointees than chosen due to their competence. This needs to change immediately.

One waits for the day when reports are accepted and implemented without public pressure, as happened in the recent Verma Committee report.


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Issue Dated: Apr 27, 2014