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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 12, March 18, 2023

Nation Fails When the States Fail | Srinivas K. Saidapur

Saturday 18 March 2023


by Srinivas K. Saidapur *

 Human development is making of a man for harmonious living with fellow human beings, animals and plants. The overall ecosystem must be congenial for all living beings including the microbes- lest they become virulent! Whereas, national development pertains to overall welfare of the citizens, material prosperity and economy, business and trade, security of the nation, maintenance of law and order as well as good international relations. The human/national developments depend upon quality education. For many centuries India was ruled by the invaders who derailed Indian education, ethos and bred the culture of divide and rule, and other disdainful attributes. Now, after 75 years of its self rule India has woken up and striving to rebuild itself on the foundation of its long cherished cultural ethos, moral and social values and heritages; clearly a difficult task. Also, people aspire for global citizenship through global standard of education as they have the potential.

The Central Government is chiefly concerned with the national issues while the onus of running the various States and Union Territories rests with the Chief Ministers (CMs) and fellow legislators. The opposition parties are to provide creditable inputs in shaping the policies of the State/nation. 

However, in recent times, engagement in protesting, shouting and disrupting the proceedings has contributed much to: a) national exchequer and wastage of time and b) erosion of credibility and relevance of opposition parties.

Here, I focus on the value of quality governance in shaping the Indian States for building a new India. Poorly managed States contribute little to their own growth and prosperity leave alone the country. Therefore they need to take on board many transformational and transactional changes with visionary leadership with commitment to implementing the plans with timeframes.

Seventy-five years of self-rule should have eroded colonial mindset, archaic rules and regulations, bureaucracy and pave way for restoration of Indian culture, its true history, ethos etcetera and mark making of a New India. For instance, premier institutions like the universities, IISERS, IITs, various science and social science academies are still to follow the Central/State government rules rather than have their own finance /service codes. Failure to espouse vital changes in the governing processes has kept many institutions and the States in a state of misery. Indian States need to catch up with the lost time. During the colonial period, administration was based on mistrust; we now need it be based on trust.

Clearly, there is an urgent need for all State governments to earn credibility through good governance. Today, deterioration of law and order and associated mafia culture has reached zenith as a consequence of leniency, incompetency, corruption and poor governance. Additionally, the States have succumbed to Peter’s Principle inexorably.

Gratifyingly, the working of the Central Government has become laudable ever since Shri Narendra Modi took over the reins as Prime Minister (PM); India is in the lime light globally thanks to his vision and commitment to modernize India. His ceaseless hard work is visible when we see improved economy, infrastructure (highways, water ways, airports and ports etc.) and easing the lives of poor, down trodden and farming community, massive push to indigenous production (Make in India) and export of merchandise, and entrepreneurship to name a few. So much so, the world sees India as an emerging global leader. Sadly, however the higher education sector remains ailing.

Lack of leadership acumen and attributes for good governance, and commitment among the elected leaders is the root cause of poor governance of States. This is excruciatingly visible in most States and seems to account for the perpetual backwardness, unruly law and order and rampant corruption. Understandably, poor governance, bureaucracy and corruption dissuade the investors and impede development and promote unemployment, poverty and overall unruliness in the society. If this trend is to be reversed, the States need CEOs in the form of hardworking honest CMs with vision and competency and capable of heralding transformational as well as transactional changes in the governance processes. Governance and leadership must go hand in hand. Dong so will combat anti-incumbency sentiments and ensure winning elections without having to distribute freebies or use divisive tactics. An ideal CM will decentralize administration through delegation of powers all the way to district administration, and involve prominent citizens / intellectuals in furthering the interests of the given State. Sadly, the CMs (with the exception of a handful) have yet to match the PM’s vision, concern and commitment to the cause their own States.

On the whole the culture of governance / administration needs to change. It needs streamlining and transparency. The governing bodies must realize that they are facilitators and not the rulers. To make the point let me cite an example. After a long-lasting public ordeal and often before the ensuing elections road repair works are undertaken that follow erection of huge hoardings with pictures of local politicians, CM and even PM thanking them for road repairs. What is the justification in erecting such hoardings? After all the PWD engineers have only done their jobs for which they are paid. If at all the hoardings are needed we should use them to thank the taxpayers whose money was used for undertaking such works. At the least it will bring awareness among the public about the importance of paying taxes and know how such funds are used in the public interest. The CMs should at once come out of their colonial mindset and discourage exhibition of such demeaning acts.

Enforcement of law and order is a serious challenge in many States. Lenient actions encourage unlawful activities. Further, corruption culture incentivises leniency. A classic example is the seemingly ubiquitous and cancerous hafta collection culture. This has ruined the States in more than one way.

Therefore, the States would prosper only if such cultures are dealt with iron hand. For good of the State and the nation CMs should relentlessly strive to enforce law and order, recovering illegal encroachments of public spaces, regulating proper traffic flow in cities and highways and, make sure that the roadsides are plastic and filth free.

In closing, good governance is the key for development of the States and in turn the nation. This is possible when the States change their governance structures and strategies. Lethargy in evolving transformational and transactional changes is a death blow to developmental processes. Many officials are well-meaning and competent. Given an opportunity they will contribute to all round development of the region and the nation. Lastly, both Central and State governments must work in sync as inseparable partners to build New India. This is possible by the cooperation of all concerned, and not by conflict. What is the bottom line? Nation fails when the States fail. 

* (Author: S. K. Saidapur, Former Vice Chancellor, Karnatak University, Dharwad, India. Email: saidapur[at]

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