India is one of the two largest democracies in the world where Governments are of the people, by the people and for the people. In all the years of growing up, our social sciences text books told us how large and diverse India is and yet we stand united against all odds. Our constitution, the administrative services, the lower and upper houses of the parliament, the judiciary system and a plethora of Government-held, aided or partnered institutions and agencies are a force to reckon with and help keep India alive.
Now, to be completely honest, at 38, I still don’t completely understand the intricacies of this large and complex structure of the Indian political administration, let alone the working inside these tall towers. I suspect I am not the only one with this disadvantage. There are many who are struggling to make ends meet and may not like to dive into these deep waters. Others are simply not interested, until they need to get something registered, recognized or seek permission from Government. Some others recognise this formidable bastion along with its crevices to sneak inside. Over the years, they have mastered the art of identifying and exploiting the loopholes, if you please, that exist. And they have formed an entire network parallel to the grand Indian political administration.
The touts, as individuals in this parallel network are popularly known, have spent years mastering this. The otherwise antediluvian jargon and labyrinthine procedures of getting simple things done like applying for a passport or opening an account in a nationalised bank are a piece of cake for these masters of ceremonies. I reckon greasing of palms of babudom (Babu- native Indian clerk who knows English) has something to do with the simplicity of procedure as adopted by these touts in the betel-spewed galleries of political administration. It is indeed a well-oiled machinery and serves a lot of hearths. An unholy matrimony of the touts and the babus is present in the cracks in the system!
But now, all this is at threat. The growth of e-governance has aided some transparency and accountability through a mere click of the button. Social networks are proving more lethal. If the touts and babus had their way, they’d probably forbid new age technology from intruding since all their lies stand exposed. The citizens may soon be saved the hassle of standing for hours in the sun trying to figure out their driver’s license forms or notary registration procedures amongst others. But seething with betrayal and in an attempt at garnering sympathy, the unholy union of the tout and babu may try to hit back. Their last resigned thoughts could well be on how thankless citizens question the very backbone of red tapism.
It’s not just the touts or the babus’ income that is under threat thanks to e-governance and social media. A whole lot of government employees may need to reinvent alternative revenue earning models. The discretionary powers may be taken away from the ever-obliging cop who now settles for Rs 50 and lets people off for jumping traffic signals or the Delhi Development Authority official who helps build an asset for the family through a little manipulation of the lottery of houses.
Close to 50,000 people already 'like' the Delhi Traffic Police page on Facebook. That means these people are regularly exposed to the information sent out by DTP and many of them actively participate in various ways to aid its functioning.
The Planning Commission (twelfth plan), Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Commonwealth Express, National Population Register, National Highways Authority of India, Tihar Jail, National Knowledge Commission, Jaipur Municipal Corporation are organisations which have already made their presence felt on social media. The Public Diplomacy Division of Ministry for External Affairs, Staff Selection Commission and politicians like Shashi Tharoor, Omar Abdullah, Sushma Swaraj are active on Twitter. The Awareness Division of National e-Governance Plan hosts a YouTube channel. And what’s more leaders like L K Advani, Narendra Modi and Amar Singh are active on multiple social media platforms and regularly blog to reach out to the citizens.
It seems Government is increasingly feeling the need to reach out to the citizen directly, to take her inputs and feedback, so that the policy making becomes inclusive. Which means the slow but sure demise of touts and a decline in unaccounted income of the babus and other officials. Government now may truly be edging towards being of the people, by the people and for the people. And of course very socially apt!