Political and bureaucratic accountability in Public service


Recent tragedy at mumbai train station in which 22 people lost life due to rain & congestion induced stampede has raised some important issues of governance. Former railway minister who is otherwise a very efficient minister in every role so far, has blamed bureaucratic inertia fr the death. He said in a signed article that his decision of 2015 to widen the bridge was not implemented by indifferent railway bureaucracy. I admire Suresh Prabhu but here there is a fundamental issue of governance and public policy is involved.

When PM wanted millions of new bank accounts to be opened, it was done in a record time. When government wanted these accounts to be linked with aadhar number, it was done. When people were asked to forego subsidy on cooking gas, millions did to enable million more women to get the connections. One can go on. The point is that when there is a political will, bureaucracy gets aligned. What might have happened in this case that while decision was taken, implementation of the decision was not tracked.

As I have often argued for over four decades, “a change not monitored is a change not desired”. The former Railway Minister tracked many decisions, got a lot of decisions taken but this decision was not tracked. Bureaucracy look at the mood, meanings and monitoring signals of the leaders. May be we need a proper ERP in each ministry to ensure that any decision not implemented within a given time will block flow of further funds including salary to that team or division. We can not forget this decision. Similarly, those who delayed action must also be held accountable. But generally we also pass on Blame downwards and credit upwards. This is not the culture on which New India can be built.

What should be done? All decisions affecting public safety, such as replacement of worn out rails, repair of bridges, widening of stair case, making platforms wider, regulating crowding in trains etc., must be tracked online and people should be enabled to ask questions about delay.
Performance of staff at all level be monitored on the basis of results, innovations, frugality and far sightedness. Members of railway board must be selected on the basis of proven track record and not lobbying. I m aware of how certain corrupt officers managed to stay in position through various means. New minister Piyush Goyal must decide if a trade off is needed between speed and safety.
There is not much to choose from. Safety always first. Railways must recalibrate its priorities. No civilised society can persistently ignore safety of people. It is time We develop a new work ethics, new decision making and tracking culture so that New India is Safer India, sustainable india.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place