Delay is a constant road block to development in India. It plagues almost every area of the life of a common man – whether it be getting permits, licenses, justice in courts and so on, and also impacts administration, governance and the effective implementation of development programmes. We, in India, have become used to waiting. We even see it as a sign of spiritual strength; of patience and acceptance. And while these may be good qualities in an individual, they are detrimental for the growth and development of a nation.

Corruption usually takes centre stage in most debates and discussions regarding serious issues plaguing India, however, bureaucratic inertia accompanied by a culture of procrastination and delay, must also be placed on the same level. Lant Pritchett, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, rightly likened India’s bureaucracy to a brain working with poorly functioning limbs, leading to poor service delivery. India’s bureaucracy moves at a snail’s pace, taking an inordinate amount of time to complete even the smallest jobs. Delay can take place even if what the citizen is seeking is very much within his or her rights, documentation is complete and requirements have been fulfilled. Inefficiency and delays in public service delivery leads to an increase in direct and indirect costs, uncertainty, lack of transparency, corruption, mistrust of officials by citizens, ill-treatment by officials, and decrease in the productivity of citizens and businesses. It also results in a waste of public resources. The results of this can be seen all around – in the road that lies un-repaired for years, or that which has been sanctioned but not completed for years, the town without adequate drains despite the provision of funding, old train tracks left without maintenance leading to accidents, and so on. The continuing polluted state of the Ganga despite years of Action Plans, National Missions and thousands of crores spent, is a case in point.

This culture of delays has become such an integral part of the administration and governance that even honest parliamentarians and officials have trouble breaking it. This fellowship has put this culture of delays into sharp perspective for me, as I find that several projects that I am working on are caught in the waiting game. But I am hopeful as well, because of tools being developed by the Swaniti team and the determined efforts of MP’s that are a part of the SPARC programme, to create applications through which it would be possible to track the progress of projects and funds. The MPLADS tracker will enable the tracking of projects initiated under the MPLADS scheme. The DISHA tracker, which I have become involved in streamlining along with some colleagues, will allow the MP and his office to track the meetings of the District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee (named ‘DISHA’ committee). This is a new committee, set up for the effective monitoring and coordination of schemes of the Central Government, in the area of infrastructure, social and human resource development. As several districts are yet to hold DISHA meetings it is possible to start the DISHA process on a positive note and set standards for the monitoring of programmes and schemes at the district level across the country. This tracker will enable effective monitoring of various elements of central government schemes, allow reminders to be sent to key stakeholders such as district officials, and keep a record of proceedings, targets and achievements. As a pilot these trackers will be used by the consortium of SPARC MP’s, and thereafter we hope will be widely applied, leading to greater transparency, accountability, and in time more efficient implementation of projects and schemes.

India needs a renewed commitment to a better work ethic. The coming together of MP’s such as Mr Dinesh Trivedi and organisations such as Swaniti, heralds India’s move towards more sound governance and administration.

Written by Tarini Mehta, SPARC Associate, Swaniti Initative