Cooperatives Clean up the mess first; help later

The call of the prime minister to depoliticise, debureaucratise, democratise and professionalise the cooperatives has come not a day too soon. From Gorwale committee (1950’s) to Khusro committee (80’s) and now the Task Force on cooperatives led by Jagdish Capoor, there is no dearth of expert bodies and reports on the role and health of cooperatives. As usual, what is lacking is resolute action. The state of cooperatives is a classic illustration of bad governance affecting economic institutions.

Social Entrepreneurship Local Successes and Mass Replication

Charity has been integral to our society and culture. But much of charity has traditionally been for pious causes - like temples and choultries, or to help indigent individuals. Most often there is a perceived link between charity in this world, and the rewards awaiting you in the othe rworld.

Plundering the Poor and Protecting the Rich

Exactly a decade ago the Narasimharao-Manmohan Singh duo initiated the economic reform process under severe fiscal compulsions. The process has been incomplete and there have been many problems. But even the worst critics of economic liberalization would admit that there are many successes. Moderately high growth rates have been sustained for a decade. Inflation has been under control. Consumers have far greater choice now, with quality of goods improving, and prices declining.

A Time to Applaud and Follow the Lead

The gruesome tragedy in Nepal and the excitement of the Indo-Pak summit have pushed other potentially far reaching developments from the front pages.  The 9-member committee report on Congress Fund Raising by Dr Manmohan Singh is of fundamental importance to the polity.  The Singh Committee recommended raising a corpus of Rs 50 crore to meet the recurrent party annual expenditure of about Rs 5 crore.  The Congress Working Committee accepted the suggestion and decided to raise money only by cheques hereafter.

Campaign Finance Reform - Civil Society Should Act

For a few fleeting days after the Tehelka revelations, our somnolent political class actually raised some hopes of reform. There were early signs of responding to people’s urges to cleanse the system.  With a few resignations and some withdrawals of support the government seemed shaky.  The prime minister characterized the episode as a wake-up call. He pleaded for electoral and other reforms.   And then, as suddenly as it all began, the issue got sidetracked. Our politicians promptly went back to what they are good at – petty power games.

The Real Lessons of Tehelka Exposes

Tarun Tejpal, Aniruddha Bahal and Matthew Samuel of have done a great national service by exposing the pervasive corruption in the establishment. But it will be a great national tragedy if these exposes are regarded as a juicy scandal to embarrass the ruling combine or promote the prospects of the opposition. That was how the political establishment responded to the Bofors revelations in 1987. Fourteen years later the system reeks of corruption, and none of the culprits have been brought to book. Jain Hawala and other scandals followed the same pattern.

Fiscal Crisis and Governance

Ballooning fiscal deficit is the major problem plaguing the minds of policy makers, economists and thinking citizens.  Shorn of all jargon, fiscal deficit is nothing but the excess of government expenditure over revenues. The finance ministers of the past effortlessly bridged this gap by resorting to two ‘simple’ measures – deficit financing or borrowing.

Election Expenditure and Corruption

The problem of corruption enters every citizen’s daily life. Almost every interaction with the government — be it for a birth certificate or ration card, electricity connection or water supply, for filing a police complaint or approval of a building plan – requires a bribe. All the eloquent sermons on the scourge of corruption by every party seeking power have provided no real relief to citizens. If anything, both the scale and spread have escalated.

Poverty not cause of problems but result of misgovernance

EXCLUDING the local governments’ expenditure and inter-governmental adjustments, the combined total expenditure of the Union and state governments, according to the Budget estimates for 1999-2000, is a whopping Rs 524,000 crore.

The actual expenditure was in excess of Rs 550,000 crore. Judging by past experience, next year it could well be Rs 600,000 crore. This amounts to Rs 1,644 crore a day, or in terms of purchasing power it is equivalent to $2 billion a day!

Agriculture: Short-term Sops vs Long-term Solutions

The beauty of a democracy is that every election gives us an opportunity to reexamine policies and change course. The agriculture sector which was untouched by economic reform, is now in grave crisis. The recent electoral reverses in most states has forced governments to focus on agriculture.

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