THIS issue of gfiles features five pivotal stories on the mismanagement of governance. Our cover story is an expose on BSNL, unearthing a Rs. 13,382 crore scam. Another expose has been written by MG Devasahayam titled ‘Tale of a Duplicate Highway’. The third mind-boggling story is on ‘Oil Policy’ by Ravi Deka. The fourth story is explores the strength of the enigmatic Chinese Army. Lt Gen Balwant Singh Negi has written a book on China’s military modernisation and gfiles is publishing excerpts of a chapter to let our readers get an understanding of ‘China’s Current Military Doctrine’. gfiles is also carrying a detailed story on the rise and fall of India’s government performance management system written by non-other than the former Secretary of Performance Management in the Cabinet Secretariat, Prajapati Trivedi.
How the CMD of a PSU can advocate obsolete 2G technology is not logical. The story of BSNL states, “No private operator in India is making any fresh investment in 2G service. In Taiwan, all 2G mobile customers have been asked to upgrade to 3G/4G by June 2017.” Devasahayam has raised an alarm in the story of ‘Dulicate Highway’, “Duplicate NH 47 envisages totally new right of way as against the ToR specification of “existing right of way” which is gross violation of ToR clauses.” This new alignment cuts across several sources of water, paddy fields, hundreds of hectares of coconut groves besides the habitat of migratory birds. All these precious natural bounties will be permanently destroyed. Why petrol and diesel rates in India have not reduced at par with the all-time low in international crude prices is explained by Ravi Deka in the story on oil policy. He writes, “The deregulation of petroleum prices and the removal of subsidies has for all practical purposes also proven to be another eyewash as every time global oil prices take a dip, successive governments jack up taxes, justifying their action with nicely padded words about making a reserve for offsetting future price increases. However, anytime, crude prices go uphill, domestic prices of petroleum products invariably follow suit.’ How long will the people of India be befooled? The strategic concept of ‘active defence’ which is the essence of modern China’s strategic thought is explained as new age dictum of People’s Liberation Army by Lt Gen Balwant Singh Negi in his book, “It has now been made amply clear to all that the PLA will not initiate offensive action but shall take aggressive actions at the “tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war” according to the principle, “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked.” This was witnessed when on the Chinese government decided to withdrew its troops from Doklam. What a sigh of relief! Beginning in 2009, the Government of India undertook a bold, and massive, initiative to put in place a government-wide performance management system. However, with a change in government in 2014, that system has fallen into disuse. Prajapati Trivedi explains, “India has no formal system for government performance management and all performance reviews are done in the office of the Prime Minister in the old-fashioned way. The focus is not on the whole-of department performance but only projects within departments that are closer to Prime Minister’s heart.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been talking about systems and performance, and is continuously striving for a corruption free India. But he can’t be supervising every nook and corner. A mechanism of checks and balances has to be developed and followed through; a system that builds in accountability.