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30 Dec 2019: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On study of States on governance: Governance Index

  • The nation-wide comparative study of States on governance carried out by the Government of India, as seen in the Good Governance Index (GGI), is a welcome exercise to incentivise States to competitively deliver on public services to the citizens. 
  • This is not the first time that benchmarking of States has been carried out. Different agencies including NITI Aayog, the government’s policy think-tank, are evaluating the States on different parameters. 
  • The findings of the GGI’s inaugural edition are significant in many respects. Although Tamil Nadu has always had the reputation of being a better-run State, it is only now that it is ranked first in any study of this kind. 
  • Its strength has been the ability to ensure stable and smooth delivery of services without much ado. But it is not the only southern State to have put up an impressive performance. 

  • Three of its neighbours are among the top 10 of the big 18 States, one of the three groups formed for the study with the north-east and hill States and Union Territories being the other two. 
  • Of course, traditionally, the south has been ahead of others in several parameters of development. What is more significant about the GGI is that the dubiously-labelled “BIMARU” States are seeking to catch up with others in development. 
  • Of the nine sectors, Rajasthan, a “BIMARU” State, has finished within the top 10 in five sectors, Madhya Pradesh in four and Uttar Pradesh in three. In agriculture and allied sectors, almost all the “BIMARU” States are within the top 10 category and in human resources development, U.P. and Bihar figure. 
  • In the composite ranking, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are ranked fourth and ninth, respectively. The key message is that these northern States can catch up with others in due course of time, if the political leadership shows the will to overcome historical obstacles and stays focused on development.
  • Any index of this nature is bound to have some shortcomings, at least in the first round, a feature that the framers of the GGI have acknowledged. Some indicators - farmers’ income, prevalence of micro irrigation or water conservation systems and inflow of industrial investment - have been left out. 
  • The indicator, “ease of doing business”, has been given disproportionate weight in the sector of commerce and industries, to the virtual exclusion of growth rate of major and micro, small and medium enterprises. 
  • Moreover, there will always be an unending debate over which indicators - process-based or outcome-based - should get more importance in the design of such a study. Marking States on different parameters can incentivise the performance.
  • Notwithstanding these shortcomings, what is noteworthy is that the Centre has made an attempt to address the problem of the absence of a credible and uniform index for an objective evaluation of the States and Union Territories. 
  • It goes without saying that the GGI requires fine-tuning and improvement. But that does not take away the inherent strength of the work that has been accomplished, keeping in mind India’s size and complexity.


2) On Gen Rawat's comments: Arms and the man

  • If a diplomat should think twice before saying nothing, an army general should not think of saying anything at all. The Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat, should have known better than to offer his views on political controversies and agitations of the day. 
  • In making thinly veiled comments on the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the General crossed the line of military propriety. The egregious remarks on student protests and leadership of agitations constitute a serious error in judgment. 
  • If the task of a leader is to lead by example, and in the ‘right direction’, as he himself put it, then Gen. Rawat, who heads nearly fifteen lakh men in uniform, sent out all the wrong signals. 
  • The Army Chief’s remarks could have been discounted as an unfortunate slip of the tongue or a one-off instance, if it were not for the frequency with which he weighed in on matters he ought to have been extremely circumspect about, in public at least. 

  • Berating students from a seminar podium is bad enough but last year, Gen. Rawat felt compelled to point out, at yet another seminar, that the All India United Democratic Front (AIDUF) - led by Badrudin Ajmal - had grown much faster than the BJP in Assam. 
  • “Finally, what will be the state of Assam, we have to take a call,” he had said, throwing in the politically incorrect word “lebensraum” into the mix for good measure, while referring to migration in the region. On matters such as education in Kashmir too, the General’s unsolicited views have stirred controversies.
  • It is possible to argue that since the Army is so heavily and continually deployed in these areas, the north east and Kashmir, where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act operates, the Army Chief can make comments on other aspects of governance and politics as well. 
  • The argument that the Army has a political voice in these States will not travel far, though. Among other things, it reflects the failure of the political class to keep the Army confined to duties that they are meant to carry out. 
  • If what Gen. Rawat said was deplorable, what V.K. Singh, the Minister of State for Road Transport, spoke in his support was most unfortunate. 
  • Especially since he himself was the Army Chief not so long ago. It is likely to encourage soldiers in the making and those in uniform to move in wrong directions. But it is also notable that not many others have flocked to Gen. Rawat’s defence. 

Allowing chiefs of the three services to make political statements undermines the civil leadership in the long run. It is to be hoped the government makes the lines clear to them so that such incidents do not recur.