2013State of Governance

Balance is the Key to Better Delivery

“Coordination is another area we intend to work on. We should, maybe, set up round-tables where the ministries talk to each other on a regular and structured manner”
Zohra Chatterji Secretary, Ministry of Textiles

The very first imperative of smart governance is to be able to step back and objectively view our actions, set course corrections and set our vision depending on the evolving dynamics of the situation.

In the context of the textile sector, the task is humongous. The sector is extremely diverse – from growing cotton to the ginners, the pressers, the spinning units and weaving; from the mill sector to the powerloom sector and the handloom sector and technical textiles; from the diverse nature of fibres from cotton to silk, wool, jute and man-made fibres; and, from the geo-textiles to agro-textiles, medi-tech, pro-tech, sport-tech and so on.

The first challenge or imperative for sustainability is to understand the need of the diverse sectors and how to balance them so as they deliver the best results for the long-term growth of the nation. What are the factors that affect this? In the textile industry, pollution is a huge concern. No industry can be allowed to continue if it is damaging the environment. That is one major consideration. Then there are economic, political, social and cultural factors. These will determine which actions and which systems will be sustainable in the long run. Therefore, for sustainability the long-term goal has to be always in sight. To manage all these, we need to realise, appreciate and promote the synergies between sectors.

In the textile sector, for example, we have a scheme to integrate different parts of the sector – various players along with value chain can set-up shop in one place and then realise the synergies that exist. Where the SPV has been imaginative, innovative and responsive, the system takes off; where it fails to do so, the progress is not so good.

Accountability and transparency are the most important imperatives for smart governance. We already have the concept of Citizens Charter and now we need to fix delays and have accountability for delays

We also manage conflicting interests in the cotton distribution policy. The spinners, weavers and farmers may have different interests, but we have to constantly balance their concerns. We do this by keeping the ear to the ground, having extensive consultations, and then responding on that basis. We also need to forge partnerships. Equally important are feedback and monitoring as these keep the pressure on for better delivery. Coordination is another area we intend to work on. We should, maybe, set up round-tables where the ministries talk to each other on a regular and structured manner.

Technology is a major factor by which we manage our systems and provide good, better governance. In textiles, the great example is introduction of BT cotton which helped India transform from a cotton-deficit country to a major exporter and a world player. Technology makes the system manageable and helps give it a direction. Above all is innovation, which helps in doing the old things in a new way.

Accountability and transparency are the most important imperatives for smart governance. We already have the concept of Citizens Charter and now we need to fix delays and have accountability for delays. Budget expenditure – outcomes and efficiency in training and the judicious use of resources – is another important area. Though it is left to the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) to point out what is being wasted, but it should be an ongoing concern and there should be accountability on the utilisation of resources. Innovative tracking systems have to work on real-time basis with escalation to next higher supervisory levels, so that we can monitor what is being done in real time and set the course-correction as and when required.

Then there is the question of flow of information and publicity. To give a focused and targeted publicity becomes difficult in the textile sector as resources are spread scheme-wise across the sector. In absence of adequate funds, it is difficult to build a campaign and convey a strong message. We need to think a little more on this issue. The whole objective of transparency is to make it easier for others to see what actions are being performed. So, we should not only be doing things, but also telling people about them so that they can avail of the benefits.

The RTI and the online culture have improved the way and ease of doing business. And, as all know, the media is hyperactive about it. In this context, there’s a need to balance transparency. Transparency is good, but too much of it leads to inaction. Everybody has an opinion on everything and we should not be paralysed into inaction because of that. Today, everything is being watched with media’s spectacles and this has produced intense anxiety in organisations. This, in turn, has led to increased defensive practices among the managers and the staff, resulting in a kind of action paralysis. We need to be a little careful about this collectively as transparency can act perversely to undermine ethical behaviour, leading to organisational crisis and even collapse.

Clearly, balance is the key; we have to balance all segments and have an overall view to sustain and deliver smart governance.

Zohra Chatterji

Zohra Chatterji is former Secretary, Government of India
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