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India’s ‘Ease Of Doing Business’ Rank Improves But Ground Level Change Still Missing

Clutches of “licence permit Raj” may have eased for big businesses but lives of common people remain unchanged.

The news of 13 places jump by India in the in the world ranking in the ease of doing business must have brought some cheer to the ruling party in the midst of much diminished election victory in Haryana and Maharashtra.

However, whether the benefit of this improved ranking is actually being experienced by masses? My own experience is in the negative.

My father–in–law breathed his last recently and it was a tedious exercise to obtain his death certificate. Firstly, it wasn’t easy to locate the “Registration and Issue of Birth and Death certificate” page meandering through the Home page of East Delhi Municipal corporation and its Health department page. Secondly, there being no provision for online submission, the form has to be downloaded, printed and then submitted physically to the concerned office. At the Karkardooma office where the form was submitted, we were informed that it will take a month for the Certificate to be ready after it is “approved” by a competent authority! Query that how will competent authority approve a death was answered with feeble attempts to invoke procedures.

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In-spite of the form clearly stating that submission of the form simply amounts to “informing” about the death, in our presence, the clerk refused to take the form from a lady whose father had expired, citing reason that the deceased has a living son and he only should apply. This in an era of “women empowerment” and “beti bachao beti padhao” sounds ironical.

The death certificate was finally issued after several visits to the office. However, the delay gave rise to multiple problems like non-accrual of family pension to mother- in–law.  Nor was she able to operate the bank accounts even though she is the nominee. The family pension has not been sanctioned even till now even after submission of the death certificate to ITO New Delhi Branch of Syndicate Bank over two months ago. Every query is answered with a bland “we have forwarded the case to head branch but have received no response so far”. Mercifully, she has a son to support her, but for which she would have found it difficult to survive.

Another recent experience relates to my efforts for updating address in my “Aadhaar Card”. I made three unsuccessful attempts at it by visiting the Aadhaar Centre at HDFC bank in Sector 50 Noida. On one occasion upon reaching there at 11: 15 AM I was told to come back next day at 09: 30 AM. My assertions that this government was supposed to have streamlined procedures must have touched a raw nerve as the person at the counter retorted that “It is Modi only who has asked banks to open the Aadhaar centres for convenience of people”. However, no explanation was forthcoming for sending me back except muttering that “bahut bheed ho jati hai”, notwithstanding the fact that there were only about a dozen persons waiting. During next two visits I was informed that the servers being down nothing told that nothing could be done. My tweets to HDFC and UIADAI were responded and finally I got my Aadhar updated at another HDFC branch located far away.

aadhaar ordinance
Representational image

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I had faced similar bureaucratic sloth and unimaginative practices to get my car registered in 2017. The exercise involved visiting RTO office at Mayur Vihar to obtain information about the amount to be deposited. Locate a place from where I could deposit it electronically since the RTO did not have arrangements for payment through Credit/Debit Card and they would not accept cash or check. Thereafter one had to go back to RTO with proof of deposit and then await patiently for almost a month to get the registration card. Hope the system has been streamlined during last two years.

Mayur Vihar RTO
(Photo: Facebook)

It is common for the media to cover hunger deaths due to non-availability of Aadhaar, etc. but there is no reporting about daily inconveniences faced by people during their interface with public servants. No wonder a tribe of Middlemen and touts thrive at all these places leading to corruption.

Defensive mindset, inability to positively interpret rules and lack of delegation of authority to the persons interfacing with the masses are major causes of inconvenience faced.

I am reminded of then Secretary DoPT in 2015, proudly hailing introduction of “self-attestation” of documents as a ground breaking reform. The initiative had received a lot of attention by media. That indeed was a good initiative but is that enough for an entire “Department of Personnel and Training” to rest their laurels upon?

The NDA government after assuming power in 2014 had given the slogan of “Minimum Government Maximum Governance”, but this hasn’t actually translated on ground where the common man continues to face difficulties. It had promised to abrogate redundant laws. What were the recommendations of the committee appointed to look into this aspect and what has happened to their recommendations if any? At least this is not available in public domain. To the contrary things appear to have become more complicated.

Clutches of “licence permit Raj” may have eased for big businesses but lives of common people remain unchanged.

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It is high time that the government look seriously into these issues to ease the life of masses. Simplifying rules and procedures is extremely important as is to ensure that most financial transactions are done online. For this to happen, necessary wherewithal will have to be put in place. This will also eliminate touts and thus reduce corruption to a large extent. Multiple layers of decision making need to be rationalised as these cause delays without adding to the quality of decision making. Adequate delegation of authority is the key to ensure this.

It must also be realised that reforms are not the responsibility of government alone. Large bureaucratic setups like ours are prone to inertia and resist change in order to perpetuate their hegemony. The push for reforms therefore also has to come from society too. Several NGOs and interest groups have come forward in bringing awareness among population about their rights and duties through several petitions which are floated for online support. This augers well for improving the systems.

Reforms are a continuous process and every government tries its best to implement these. What the government must realise is that with spread of education and awareness, we are witnessing onset of a society which is aspirational and impatient. It is therefore extremely important to carry out reforms in an acceptable time frame.

SK Sood
Sanjiv Krishan Sood

Sanjiv Krishan Sood is a Retired Additional Director General of Border Security Force. Having put in over 38 years of meritorious service he has served along all the borders of our country with Pakistan and Bangladesh including 8 years on LC and in sensitive Samba Sector of J&K.

A security analyst his interests include Border Management, issues of topical interest, role of security forces in Security Matrix of India, politics and humour.

Several articles on above topics have been published in Newspapers like Hindustan Times, Strategic Journals like World Focus, Force and Geopolitics and E portals like Quint, Scroll, DailyO, The Leaflet, NewsCentral24x7, etc. He tweets at @sood_2

Views expressed are his own.

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