OPINION: What if Noah had to build his Ark today?

Author(s): Joginder SinghThe Author. He would struggle to get building permits and environmental clearances, while animal rights activists would hound him and the labour union would prohibit his sons from helping him. No work would ever...

OPINION: What if Noah had to build his Ark today?
OPINION: What if Noah had to build his Ark today?

The Author.

He would struggle to get building permits and environmental clearances, while animal rights activists would hound him and the labour union would prohibit his sons from helping him. No work would ever get done
Our Government is on an institution-creating spree, no matter whether there is work for those institutions. It has also been busy passing laws, without providing for their enforcement. The Government’s efforts to set up these bodies and pass new laws may seem like governance, but in effect, the UPA regime has given up all efforts to govern. Instead, it has delegated its functions to an umpteen number of advisory and regulatory bodies. The recommendations made by these bodies are only suggestions  that have no force of law.
For instance, in 2007, the Government set up the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The Commission is essentially a white elephant. In the past five years, it has received only 51 complaints of sexual and physical abuse of children from across the country. And out of those cases, it referred only eight to the police. The rest were sent to the local administration for further investigation. Yet, the gravity of the issue of child abuse cannot be undermined. According to a 2007 Government study, 42 per cent of Indian children face some form of sexual abuse. Also, in most cases, the child had been abused by a person known to him or someone he/she trusted.
The NCPCR’s mandate was to initiate action against those who violate child rights and take remedial action. But the data shows otherwise. Instead of verifying the case details and ensuring that the perpetrators are punished, the Commission has been closing the cases and doing precious little to improve the situation.
This then leads us to the question: Is there any purpose in setting up such bodies, except to rehabilitate the unwanted from both politics and bureaucracy? The answer is self-evident. Worse still, once such a committee, commission or even a job position is created within the Government, it exists indefinitely. Nobody wants to change the status quo, even if it means letting crores of rupees go down the drains.
It comes as no surprise that nobody in the Government has effectively reviewed the work done by such bodies. Moreover, there is rarely any research done to find out if such a body is needed in the first place. Depending upon the influence one wields, the tenure of a person serving on such a committee can range from three to five years, and then it may also be extended. This simply means that people are being paid to do work that doesn’t exist and for which there is no accountability.
It is the Government’s job to look into the functioning of such bodies. But as most of our ‘rulers’ are novices, surrounded by hangers-on, nothing ever gets done. This is true not just for Ministers but also in the case of bureaucrats who sometimes make notings that read as such: “The Minister or Secretary need not be troubled with this matter”.
Good governance and leadership are the essence of a successful and public-friendly administration. What is required is qualitative governance rather than a quantitative one. This is something which has be part of our existence. It cannot be imported from outside. We have plenty of laws on every subject, but hardly any are implemented. Also, until the water reaches our head, we do not even care to change or reform outdated laws.
A young girl was gang-raped in Delhi on December 16, 2012. This lead to a thunderous and deafening protest from the public, which eventually forced the Government to bring about a strong anti-rape law. I received the following mail, which illustrates the position in India with regard to governance:
“In 2012, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in India, and said, ‘Once again, the earth has become wicked and overpopulated and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save two of every living thing along with a few good humans.’ The Lord gave Noah the blueprints, saying, ‘You have six months to build the Ark before I will the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.’
“Six months later, the Lord looked down onto Earth and saw Noah weeping in his yard where there was also no ark. ‘Noah’, the Lord roared, ‘I’m about to start the rain. Where is the Ark?’ Noah begged, ‘Forgive me, Lord. But things have changed. I needed a building permit. I’ve been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbours claim that I’ve violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to Development Appeal Board for a decision. Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I argued that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.’
“Noah continued: ‘Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls. But no go! When I started gathering the animals, I got sued by an animal rights group. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They also argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space. Then the Environment Ministry folks said that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on the proposed flood.’
‘I am still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I’m supposed to hire for my building crew. Also, the trades unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only union workers with Ark building experience. To make matters worse, the Income Tax department has seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species. So forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark’, said Noah.
“Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, ‘You mean, you’re not going to destroy the world?’
‘No’, said the Lord. ‘The Government beat me to it’.”I am still optimistic that the Government in the interest of our countrymen, will simplify the laws, and not make life miserable for anyone who has to compulsorily deal with the authorities for getting umpteen permissions for doing even the most innocuous of things

Monday, April 15, 2013