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Saturday, February 8, 2003

Some one once asked Archimedes, "People say you are a great scientist, can you move the earth?". He replied confidently “Yes, give me a place to stand on and a long enough lever and I will move the earth”

We all admire great heroes like Anna Hazare or Rajinder Singh for their courage, sacrifice and commitment. There are many such wonderful pioneers whose innovations are of great value to us. But to expect every village and mohalla of India to be transformed through such heroic work at enormous personal cost to tens of thousands of martyrs is unrealistic. What is more, it is for the rest of us to successfully replicate their efforts and extend the benefits to all people. That is what human progress is all about.

Why be heroic and try unsuccessfully to push a huge boulder with all one’s might, when one should be using a lever to lift it? Why expend enormous energies in pushing one compartment only a short distance on a sand track when so many more can be moved with so much more ease, and reach out to far off places and in much shorter time - if only we gave them wheels and put them on a rail track?

We have come a long way from glamorizing Sati, but are yet to go a long way from ceasing to desperately look for saviours willing to sacrifice their lives (and that of their families’) to save the country. We are living in the day and age when the wheel has been invented and tracks have been laid and there is absolutely no need to expend disproportionate energy to achieve results which are but meagre when one looks at what needs to be accomplished.

This is why we need governance reforms. Good governance is the track on which all these different compartments of education or healthcare, water supply or sanitation, public order or justice can reach people across the country. Everyone of the myriad efforts by noble people across the country is necessary but not sufficient. In the absence of good governance heroic efforts are required to accomplish deeds which are but mere drops to fill a bucket. With good governance ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results.

Much as we like to wish away the government, it has an irreducible role in providing basic healthcare, school education, rule of law, public order, justice, social security – apart from natural resource development, infrastructure and defence of the country. All successful democracies across the world are testimony to this. The onus is on us to not allow the government to abdicate its responsibilities but make it perform.

Good governance is about institution building and institution building is about easy large-scale replication of work done elsewhere, which might have to be just modified or adapted to suit to our needs. There are so many simple, sensible and practical solutions to most of our seemingly intractable problems. The flight of many of our promising youngsters is to countries where the track has been laid. They just want to be given an opportunity to move faster and with ease. And everyone of these youngsters is rising to heights they never even dreamed of. Good governance is very well within our reach and it is worth working for. We have to create opportunities for all the 720 million children and youth below 34 years of age, to rise to great heights in our own country rather than surface elsewhere.

Are we going to wait for saviours in every village for every tiny little progress? Or do we want to build institutions which can borrow progressive initiatives anywhere and can quickly adapt and adopt them everywhere? This emulation and adaptation are what human progress is about.


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