Role of the State in Providing Public Services

For the first time in nearly five decades, political parties are fighting the general elections almost entirely on the basis of developmental and governance issues.   It is therefore not surprising that the role of politicians and the government in providing public services became the focus of electoral debate.  This is definitely a good development and indicates the maturing of Indian political process.  At the same time, we should also understand the relative roles of the citizens and the governmental service providers.

Plundering the Public Exchequer

Throughout history, plundering the public exchequer for private gain has been the favourite pastime of unscrupulous crooks. No society, or no age is an exception to this. Sometimes such fraud is by misrepresentation and deceit, but often in collusion with officials entrusted with the responsibility of protecting public good.

Public Health Expenditure and Inequity

That economic prosperity and the state of health of a community go together is a self-evident proposition. As global prosperity improved after the Second World War, there has been significant improvement in health indicators. According to the Economist (Dec 20, 2001), between 1960 and 1995, life expectancy in poor countries rose by a remarkable 22 years. Infant mortality, which was around 150 per 1000 live births, fell to 40 on an average.

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.

Politics of Plunder vs Politics of Service

This week the Indian Parliament completed 50 years of its existence. While we had central legislature during British times, the bulk of membership was nominated. In 1946, elections were conducted to the central legislature, but franchise was limited, and only a fraction of the adult population could vote. The first Lok Sabha election of the Indian republic under the new Constitution was held in 1952.

Joy Of Community Service

We are surrounded by myriad problems - minor irritations to crises of great magnitude. We are often upset about the way things work or don’t work. Many of these could easily be set right – like the traffic problems at intersections. All these problems bother us a great deal everyday; we talk about them at length and maybe hope that someone else will take care of them. But then their sheer number and complexity is enough to deter many well-meaning people from trying to do anything. And there are always the ‘cynics’ who dismiss the small individual efforts to make a difference.

Philanthropy and Social Capital

A friend repeatedly tells me of the many people he personally knows who wouldn’t even miss if a lakh of rupees was stolen from them and whose life style wouldn’t change one bit if they should suddenly lose 10 lakhs or more. But these very people would wince if approached to support any worthy public cause or activity. People who brag about their financial successes clam-up and withdraw like snails when anyone suggests such contributions. But they are ever willing to fund monuments to their egos.

Stake-holders Must Become Power-wielders

With MCH elections round the corner, many people are wondering what all this fuss is about. Roads will only receive periodic make-up, garbage will not be cleared and streets will not have lights. We will continue to wait endlessly at MCH office for simple services or shell out a bribe and people will be figuring out ways to avoid taxes for services they do not receive. The Mayor and Council have no real powers. So what can we the citizens do?

Can We Keep Public Places Clean?

Indians follow rules. Indians are law-abiding citizens. Indians keep their homes and surroundings spic and span. Indians don’t throw orange peels or papers from moving vehicles, nor do they litter public places or spit on the roads. Where do all these Indians live? In countries where importance is given to rules and where norms of community behaviour exist more in the practice than in the breach. The Indian whose civic behaviour abroad is exemplary does not think twice about littering public places once s/he reaches India?

Public Defecation

She hurries-on before the sun is up or waits until dusk to avoid being seen by a host of passers by. Even at that time there is an occasional late returner or a bicycle rider passing by, when she instinctively stands up and covers her face in shame. Such is the plight of every young bride in villages of India. Our thousands of years’ old Indian civilization while touching on every facet of life seems to have strangely passed by one vital area – the scourge of having to relieve in public.

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