Imagine an old bus. The engine oil needs replacement. The brakes are broken, fuel tank leaks. The bus still runs somewhat but frequently breaks down. Passengers are often late for work. Sometimes, they don’t make it at all.
To fix this problem, the passengers decide on a solution – changing the driver. A new driver is employed for this rickety machine. He does understand the bus better and manages to reduce breakdown rates. However, there are still problems. Another driver applies for the job. The passengers come up with another solution: change the driver yet again.
This illustrates how we citizens are unable to focus on the real solutions to the problems facing India today. We believe one leader can fix India’s problems. Well, when the bus needs brake replacement, fuel tank repairs and new engine oil, changing the driver won’t do anything long term.
When the Modi government came to power in 2014, there was euphoria on the streets. But today, in 2018, we still have problems. Banks are being cheated of billions of dollars. Farmers are on the streets, unable to make a proper living. The middle class feels taxes are too high.
Aadhaar card linkage seems to have become a government obsession. CBI isn’t independent and there’s no independent Lokpal either. Students are graduating from colleges in the hundreds of thousands, with over half of them without decent jobs. Karni Sena, gau rakshaks and all kind of Hindu supremacists are bolder than ever.
This is not to say the Modi government hasn’t done much. We have done well on foreign policy. Stock markets have had good returns. Economic growth is decent, even if not on fire. GST is finally here, as is Aadhaar and new sleek banknotes after demonetisation. People at least like the idea of a Swachh Bharat, even though they may not be ready to do what it takes for it.
However, a lot remains to be done. Fixing the bus is what Modi government can do, given the mandate and the opportunity it has.
Sure, being a better driver helps. However, true change will never happen until certain key Indian institutions and processes are fixed. Here are seven areas that need a major overhaul to improve our economy, fix corruption and create a better society.
One, update the civil services. Right from selection processes to promotions, assignment of responsibility and tracking work, the current system is too outdated. The way babus think, operate and communicate is not in line with what India needs at the moment. They run our country. If they don’t reform, things won’t change. The government can take the bull by the horns and fix this one.
Two, fix our banks. From Nirav Modi to the guy who took a $200 forex card from SBI and spent a million dollars on it (yes, this really happened), our PSU banks are broken. At the employee level, there is little bandwidth to add on more work as they are dumped with more responsibility. The lack of modernisation causes scams as well as inefficient and tedious processes. The banks need an overhaul as they are costing us at least 1-2% in GDP growth, apart from the actual losses in these scams.
Three, make agriculture work. No amount of farm loan waivers or sops in budgets will address the core issue – farming just doesn’t seem to be a great way to make a living. This at a time where organic, fresh and natural foods are witnessing a worldwide boom. Why don’t we ensure our farmers can reach say, a Whole Foods in the US? Why isn’t there more private sector participation? Major reform in agriculture is long overdue.
Four, ease doing business. The government keeps saying it, but the fact is it is still hard to conduct business in India. Add to it policies and tax rates that seem to change every year. The government behaves like an uncle with a stick who wants kids to come in a park and play. Keep the stick away. The kids will come. The laughter will be worth it. Just let go and trust people. Really.
Five, education reform. Part of the jobs crisis is due to limited economic growth, but the other part is due to lack of good colleges or employment ready workforce. Our regulations encourage shady operators to open private colleges, while the good people would stay the hell away from the sector. Again, this calls for major reform.
Six, an independent anti-corruption authority. Until this comes, true change with regard to corruption will never happen. Enough has been said about this. It is now time to walk the talk.
Seven, a better judiciary. Cases take forever in courts, and the system could do with a heavy dose of technology and human resource reform. This is key to a modern democracy.
The above are only a few of the biggest problems in the Indian bus that need to be fixed. No change of driver will help until these are addressed. If Modi government can focus on fixing this monstrous bus, they will achieve far greater glory. If they can indeed fix the bus, this government has a chance to be termed the best ever India has had and Modi could be seen as India’s greatest leader. If not, it will just be a case of a better driver.
The government has the keys to the bus. It is time they took it to the service station.