Millennium Post

The new three pillars for India

In the wake of the recent anti-corruption movements and the other issues in the country – inflation, violence, farmer suicides and unemployment, it is apparent that the problems we face today are not because of socialism, communism, capitalism, factional politics of region and religion, external global events or coalition politics. It is because of lack of focus on sustainability, direct accountability, professionalism, empowerment, simplification and transparency. Corruption and inflation are only symptoms of these diseases which are caused by a misplaced sense of development and a mindset to look for short term quick fix solutions rather than for systemic and radical ones.

For long we have emphasised on the [in]effectiveness of the three pillars that make our democracy – the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary which are assumed to be standing on the foundation of morality, ethics, and social welfare. If there has to be any real and sustainable change we have to change these pillars and not just how they work.

The new pillars have to be politics, entrepreneurship and volunteerism. No amount of laws, protests, charity or civic activistism can bring about change as much as strengthening these three pillars can do. Good political leadership will take care of the social and regulatory needs of the society by the process of inclusiveness and direct accountability. An entrepreneurial attitude in people and an incentive model of administration will bring in competitiveness, professionalism and value creation at the execution level. A volunteering or giving back mindset will help inject social services deep into society and rescue – relief operations during disasters.

By politics, I mean policy-making and governance. It includes the executive, judiciary and police. We need fewer laws and more enforceability, fewer power hungry and more powerful politicians, fewer rulers and more leaders. We need more people taking up politics and making it competitive, innovative and professional.

By entrepreneurship, I mean not just an activity but an attitude of value creation, professionalism, customer service, wealth sharing, incentives and accountability and a solution based approach which all successful entrepreneurs have.

By volunteerism, I mean a mindset to help out in time of need, assist those who are less fortunate and contribute in those areas where government and enterprises do not penetrate. Social work needs to reduce to an individual level. There might still be few organisations working at other levels but that will be a factor of necessity and not inefficiency and ineffectiveness of governance. We need fewer activists and more active citizens.

For this to happen, we need change in the way we think of these three pillars as of today. We think of politics as highly inefficient, corrupt and only for those with big money. We associate business with distrust, greed and lacking in social concern. We associate volunteering with doing a favour. The highly acclaimed NGO sector was created to fill these inadequacies of political and business class. But how can it be fully effective in doing so when it gets resources – donation, grants, subsidies, land, tax benefits etc. – from the very same political and business class that are the cause of the very same problems that the very same NGOs want to solve. Will it ever be able to change the very system that allows its existence? One need not to be an Einstein to understand this.

Citizen participation towards these pillars is also important. We must vote to get the right politicians and also contribute to their election expenses. We must expect nothing free – pay for what we get thus enabling enterprises sustain. We must volunteer periodically and in times of disaster, participate in discussions and debates over new policies and laws and follow the rules even if no one is watching. Citizen’s participation must be proactive, immediate and direct – not just through NGOs and political groups. We also need transfer traits between the three pillars. We need politicians with an entrepreneurial attitude – bring in accountability and run the government like a business of social services, social security and social support. Entrepreneurs need to develop a sense of responsibility to society not by charity but by process – control greed, focus on sustainability and follow the rules as law abiding businesses. Volunteering needs to be done periodically, professionally and passionately – by voting, taking time for working in elections, assistance during disaster management, assisting the less privileged like differently abled or in other ways.

Does this mean all NGOs will have to close down? A huge part of what is now done by social organisations will be taken up by good governance and entrepreneurs, there will still many grey areas in between these three which will be untouched. This is can be filled by what is now called social enterprises, CSRs or NGOs, but with a different perspective. They will shift away from working at administrative and execution level to working at higher levels such as lobby groups for policy change, advisory groups, special interest organisations, development of arts, culture, sports or into specific grassroot domains like the palliative care, differently-abled, mentally-challenged and other areas in which the affected numbers may be small but nonetheless very important for a holistic secure society. Government will have to provide for an environment to encourage them with specific, measureable and time bound incentives to enable them to set up and function on their own.

Arun Shankar is a Mumbai-based writer and consultant.
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