Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From Mid Day Maut to Food Tragedy

Since I am on break from work and get enough spare time to do things I have always longed for doing. One of the things that I make sure I do is to spend time with youth around my neighborhood. It helps me to understand more about what youth of a third tier cities these days, at the same time it also helps me share my learning to enrich their experience.

One fine evening I was on evening stroll of the town with one of boys of my neighborhood. While we passed the stinking public garbage, the boy was compelled to think of some solution to solve the problem which erupted an intense discussion among us which I think needs to be shared with others too. The discussion also is significant to other issues of contemporary public policy discourse in approaching election environment. While the boy immediately came out with his hypothetical solution of government doing more to solve to the problem of public garbage, I was more focused on helping him think of an alternate solution. Here is a sneak pick of our conversation:

Boy: The stinking garbage causes so much inconvenience to people. Government must do something about it.
Me: Why government should work on it?
Boy: Because it’s government’s responsibility to clean our garbage.
Me: Isn’t it our responsibility to clean our garbage.
Boy: Yes, but government has taken up this responsibility and has staffs to do so. We even pay for this.
Me: You are right. Government has an entire big department to maintain cleanliness in town and even after paying for this we don’t get satisfactory result. Doesn’t this give us a learning?
Boy: What do you mean?
Me: We usually in our personal life give more responsibilities to the ones who give us good result and curb the responsibilities of the ones who fail to deliver. Applying the same logic shouldn’t we take away the responsibility from government and figure out another way to maintain cleanliness and shouldn’t we even punish the government for failing to deliver? The thing is the moment we say government should do this or that, we must understand that we are making an expectation from an inefficient system to deliver which has never delivered. Can you give me an example of any public service delivery work where government has done really well?
Boy: Well, I am not sure if there is any such thing.
Me: Right. I am not sure whether this big stinking garbage existed here and how it was managed before government took over the responsibility of garbage management but I am very sure that the more you put this on government, the bigger would be the size of garbage management problem here.

While I tried to explain the boy what should be core function of government and what should be put back to civil society to do on its own, I got more examples from recent crisis to substantiate my point. One of the flagship schemes of government to provide Mid-Day Meal to students in government schools happened to prove killer for more than two dozen school students recently. News channels have filled up the screen with numerous stories of how inefficiently the scheme is managed since the incident took place. MNREGA has spread the corruption from big offices in city/state centers to far away rural areas.  Practically, it can be seen as the largest government program in world to decentralize corruption. And now I am wondering what would happen with the attempt of providing Food Security to us. Can anyone guess how this act can kick off artificial food grain shortage, inflation rate, budget deficit, politics entering into our daily personal lives, increase in corrupt practices and most importantly how many lives it would claim? It would be very interesting to calculate actual price that the country would have to pay for few Kilograms of subsidized food grains…

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