By: Dr. Satywan Saurabh
(Covid has created a place of smart governance, through cooperative federalism, the Center and the states should overcome the lack of trust without delay, it is a matter of life and death. )
n the brutal period of Corona in the 21st century, we urgently need to ensure citizen-centric governance, serious and unprecedented problems facing humanity today. In the current century, the super cyclone to the mutated virus is likely to face ever-daunting challenges. In such a time, we need smart governance.
In times of pandemics, it was imperative to make expert decisions keeping in mind the citizen-centric governance, an autonomous fully empowered task force of top doctors, epidemiologists, scientists, even logistics experts to track the virus. There was a need to lead India on genome sequencing, oxygen transport, and vaccine procurement.
Decentralization and allowing facilities to open wings was also extremely important and further, the Center not only needs to oppose the centralization of power but also needs to facilitate the states. Decentralization does not mean that states should be left to themselves as has happened with misleading vaccine policies.
Through cooperative federalism, the Center and the states should overcome the lack of trust without delay, it is a matter of life and death. Stop mutual tussle as seen in Delhi and West Bengal.
In India through continuous communication, when a semi-literate population can be a victim of fear, superstition, and irrational panic, a fact-based communication campaign is needed to inform the public and prevent panic.
Accountability has to be fixed so that lower ‘bureaucratic cholesterol’ and elimination of red tape means a better targeted, focused, and efficient system in which responsibility and accountability can be fixed. Thus, small government, the leadership of domain experts, decentralization, staying away from over-politicization, and a communication campaign can become the building blocks of smart government.
The need of the hour is that now cash transfers to the millions of toiling poor will save them from slipping further into hunger and unemployment and also accelerate development, as all this will be spent for ordinary, domestically produced goods. Therefore, the ‘multiplier effect of this public expenditure would have been much greater than that spent on infrastructure projects.
Free rations and food, as mandated by the Supreme Court, although beneficial, have a little expansionary effect on the economy, as the bulk of essential commodities come from the disintegration of the existing stock of food grains.
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Thus, both the need to provide relief and the imperative to revive the economy demand that in addition to the provision of free food to the people, a monthly cash transfer of around ₹ 7,000 per family (equivalent to the minimum wage) is made.
What the state urgently needs to do is to take a number of measures that prioritize the right to life, which is still the safest way to initiate ensured (and equitable) economic reform today. Among them include enabling expanded production and central procurement of covid-19 vaccines, and distribution to states for free immunization to all.
Universal access to 5 kg of free food grains per month to all those who need it for the next six months; Cash transfer of ₹ 7,000 per family for at least three months without regular formal employment.
Increase resources for integrated child development services to enable the revival and expansion of their programs; Make MNREGA purely demand-driven, with no limit on the number of days per family or the number of beneficiaries; And covering urban India with a parallel scheme that would cater to the educated unemployed as well.
A smart government is polite, works with evidence-based data, focuses on the lives and livelihoods of citizens, and works in partnership with citizens at all levels, from bottom to top rather than the top-down approach in the interest of the country is obstructed.
Author is a Research Scholar in Political Science, Delhi University. He can be reached at email@example.com