Rama Krishna Sangem
Dear Chief Minister Revanth Reddy,
Hearty congratulations for taking over as the second CM of Telangana, after a clear mandate in the November 30 assembly elections. It’s just a week since you were sworn in as CM and the day-to-day administration is yet to fall in the groove. Most of your ministers are yet to take charge and official transfers and postings are still in pipeline. First assembly session is still underway.We know you need some time to settle down.
Your first moves like offering free bus rides to all women in Telangana and meeting the public on a regular basis under the name of Praja Vani are good. People are talking positively about them. They are part of your Congress party’s six guarantees to people before the elections. It will take a few more months – maybe three or four – before all the six promises are implemented.
Here are a few suggestions to you on the way the government can run. Being a senior journalist who has put in close to three decades of experience closely watching the CM office and our Cabinet system in Hyderabad, I would argue for allowing our official machinery or systems to work on their own. Our executive wing in general is efficient and alert. Most of the officials are helpful to people. This is contrary to our general negative perception of them.
Most of the time, our ministers, MLAs and other political representatives create hurdles to the executive wing’s work. For example, every year, there will be a process of recruiting teachers, nurses, doctors and other staff. But, what our political leadership, at the CM or ministers’ level, does is to stall the process, in the name of lack of funds or to tinker with the very process to favour one or the other group or to display their influence.
You know what? We all thought former CM K Rosaiah, as weak or indecisive and incapable of good administration. But, when he was the CM of AP, we had a teachers’ recruitment through DSC (District level selection committees). When we asked how he could do this, he simply replied: “That is a routine process, I don’t have to do anything”. This is the essence of our governance. This applies to recruitment of other jobs too.
In one of your recent interviews, you said: “I am a team leader (gumpu mestri- to be precise) and my job is to get things done by experts who know things”. This is the right approach. As CM, you don’t have to take the entire burden of giving green signal to each and every minute activity. Most of the time, timid or opportunistic officials throw the burden of their decision making on the CM, so that they can escape from responsibilities. This is not wanted.
Take the case of our departments. The Agriculture department sends proposals for seeds, fertilisers and implements, much before the onset of monsoon. We have seen the files get stalled because of the delay from the CM office or minister’s office. A sportsperson waits for a scholarship to participate in an international event, just because our minister won’t clear his or her file. A health department file to procure medicines gets stalled, just because the minister concerned is busy otherwise.
There are several examples on how our CMO or ministers turn stumbling blocks for routine administration, instead of speeding up the process. We have seen how hundreds of files get accumulated on the table of CM or ministers for want of proper briefing or clarity. If you allow such files to be cleared at the lower level – for example, a file to launch medical ambulances in agency areas to the local officials – RDO or collectors – your burden will be lessened.
CM need not be a ‘Bahubali’
A CM is the head of the state’s executive. He or she is the first among equals of our Cabinet system. A CM need not or shall not be a Bahubali. However, due to efforts made by some previous CMs, people started thinking that whatever happens in the state is because of that CM. This goes well as long as things are fine. But, once something goes wrong, the blame too goes to the CM, though he is not responsible for it.
Access to a CM is the privilege or prerogative of people in a democracy. Whether their works are done or not, people would like to meet the CM and represent their issues. Your initiative to start public interaction is commendable. Earlier, the late PM Indira Gandhi used to regularly meet public in Delhi. But, due to security reasons, that practice was stopped for PMs.
Except for a few, most CMs in our country are easily accessible to all. Meeting the CM is not an issue in many states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan or UP. But that’s a problem in some states where regional parties are in power, it’s difficult to get an appointment with the CM. These CMs may be right. They think they don’t have to waste their time by meeting all and sundry.
Some CMs think meeting everyone would encourage middlemen or lobbyists. When the routine administration is working well, where is the need to meet the CM, they ask. That maybe true, but cutting access to CM would boomerang in the long run in politics. Moreover, such CMs should have to depend on the very middlemen or lobbyists who they dislike. Finally, denying access would cost CMs dearly.
Remove corruption at MLAs’ level
There are certain practices in our Telangana. For example, any police officer – right from SI to DSP or ACP level – will have to get a recommendation letter from local MLA for the posting. This has created a lot of scope for corruption. Not just these MLAs demand huge money for the favour, but also use these police officials for their misdeeds later. You can end this bad practice. An officer can meet the local MLA for courtesy, but need not bring a recommendation letter.
Similar is the case with supply of sand and other minerals. The Government gets a bad name because of the corrupt practices of MLAs in allocating sand for building construction. This has become a vexed headache for governments in both AP and Telangana. You should do something to remove politicians’ – right from sarpanch to MLA – role in sand sales. Some transparent mechanism should be put in place.
As a senior MLA you know many more areas where transparency and efficiency can be brought. During electioneering, we encountered instances of some ruling party MLAs collecting money from even street vendors, in the name of offering protection from the police and civic authorities. You should tell your MLAs to stop such cheap methods, which defame the entire government. A bad MLA can spoil the winning chances of a ruling party.
Communication with people important
In our democracy, it is just impossible for any CM to solve all the problems of the people. But, you must maintain good rapport and communication with people and explain what can be done and what not. In the early days of our independence, late PM Jawaharlal Nehru used to write to CMs on his thoughts about the governance and policies. That gave the CMs some clarity on how things were going. Later, communication gaps have come up.
You too should develop regular contacts with people through public meetings or media communication. Inform what has been done and explain what you couldn’t. Regularly interact with the media. Media per se is not bad, to avoid. It all depends on how you communicate through the media. Of course, social media has emerged as a reliable tool of information for the public. Be aware of what’s being talked about the government in social media.
Social media gives you a more accurate perception of your government than what your Intelligence wing can give.
Rama Krishna Sangem Chief Editor Excel India