Dana Majhi is a poor tribal living in village Melghara in block Rampur of district Kalahandi, Odisha. His wife Amang Dei died at the hospital at the district headquarter Bhawanipatna, 60 km away from their village. The hospital did not provide any van or ambulance to carry his wife’s body back to the village for last rites. Poor Dana had no option but to wrap his dead wife in a cloth and walk back to his village 60 km away accompanied by his 12-year-old daughter. This is how citizens of India live.
Local journalists spotted Dana on the way. They approached the district collector who arranged for transport and also apologised for the pathetic treatment meted out to the poor tribal. The fact that the district collector could help illustrates the apathy of the superintendent of the district hospital. Clearly, if the hospital did not have a vehicle available, it could have approached the collector’s office. But the fact is that it did not and opted to remain tied up in their self-created red tape. This is how citizens are treated every day at every corner of the country.
B K Bansal, Additional Secretary was DG in the Corporate Affairs department of Government of India in Delhi. He was caught accepting bribe. Reportedly, the CBI had searched in eight places and recovered cash. A few days later his wife and daughter committed suicide in their flat. While there was strong evidence against Bansal, the manner of investigation – the fanfare with which investigators detained the entire family – had shaken the women so bad that they decided to end their lives. Was Bansal’s guilt so heinous that investigators in effect abetted suicide of his wife and daughter? Does the administration have a right to pressurise the family members of a presumed guilty?
If your driving licence is due for renewal and you are over 50 years of age you need a doctor’s certificate. In addition to that, for driving licence in Delhi, all documents must be attested by a gazetted officer or notary public. So what do you do? There are enough touts who procure the relevant documents for a fee and help you complete the formalities. The government had with much fanfare announced that photocopies of documents need to be self-attested only. This is yet to reach the transport department of the national capital. Nobody cares to find out the relevance of the medical certificate when the doctor giving the certificate or the person applying/renewing his/her licence have not even seen each other. This is how rules are framed and implemented in India.
Now try for renewal of passport. Your passport is about to expire. You have a valid PAN, aadhar, and voter id cards and your address has not changed. So what do you have to do? Fill up the same form needed for applying for a new passport. There are several detailed notes on what document to bring what is missing is if while getting the last passport you did not qualify for ECNR (emigration check not required) you have to carry proof that you have the desired qualification to have it now. This will be told when you reach the officials of the passport Seva Kendra and obtain another date for appointment. Ease of getting documents for Indian citizens? That does not get the Government any World Bank ranking hence, does not matter.
Take a look at the Indian Olympics squad. Athletes, including the lone gymnast Dipa Karmakar, were not accompanied by physiotherapists. The expenditure was deemed wasteful. O P Jaisha, the female marathon runner, saw the Indian stalls meant for providing water and drinks at every 2 km empty. Athletic Federation officials said that organisers provided the same at every 8 km intervals and the runner and her coach did not want energy drinks earlier. What they missed to admit was that the contingent of technical officers had probably been busy sight-seeing and curio shopping, the event being on the last day of the Olympics. In any case, the fault lies with the competitors since they did not pay much attention to the fine prints of rules. India, nobody can deny, is a law abiding nation – at least its officers are.
But can we say Indians do not know how to shower accolades and awards? Certainly not – look at the prizes given to Sindhu, Sakshi, and Dipa. Indeed, they deserve the welcome mat rolled out for them and also the awards but shouldn’t there be an unwritten code that academies will be set up and funded in their honour to help thousands who will give the nation many more occasions to celebrate in future? Neither our leaders nor the well-heeled critics care to plan ahead and fund an effort to groom future champions. If at all the sports ministry engages a committee to enquire the complaint of the marathon runner Jaisha.
The effectiveness of an administration is judged not by the big ticket announcements from the national or state capitals, millions of social media posts, and the publicity received in media but by how an ordinary citizen lives life without harassment. Dana Majhi, the family of Bansal, applicants for driving licence or passport, athletes competing for the nation are all made to suffer at some point or other. Decency is absent in the last mile coverage between the citizen and the State. This will continue to be since the connectors – be it in Government offices, investigating agencies or sports federations – are all rent-seekers. The higher their capacity to harm a person, the bigger is the rent they can collect. Only some like Bansal suffer in the process which may be termed as “paid back in his own coin”.
More than ease of doing business what the ordinary people seek from its elected leaders is ease of living their lives. Or to put it more bluntly, as Dana Majhi will perhaps say, the ease of carrying one’s dead wife back home.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)