Posted by: pgprm08 | December 5, 2009

Review of the book “Making India Work”-by William Nanda Bissell-by LG 2


This book ‘Making India Work’ tries to suggest solutions to important problems that India faces. The assumption that the writer has made is that most of the problem India faces today is a result of the government’s criminally inept management.  The writer has the belief that with better management, political will and a mandate from the people, another India is possible. The writer describes this book as a proposal for rapid environmentally sustainable and democratic growth. The book is divided into various chapters where the writer has put his views about the problem that India faces their causes and has suggested his solutions for it. Hence it is convenient to divide the book as per the chapters and discuss one by one.

‘Case for change’ focuses on the need to bring about a change in mindset of government that the current economic model i.e. resource-intensive consumption driven growth which it is following would lead to India’s development. Over the years, chronic mismanagement and corruption has generated needless sufferings and ensured that the access to basic resources is in peril. Now is the opportunity to introduce a model of development that is in harmony with our future rather than a copy of worn idea of the past.

In this part of the book titled ‘Markets for all’, the writer suggests that an economy based on true market (both in letter and spirit) will allow India to create a system for a rapid environmentally sustainable growth. The writer has a view that currently the market is being distorted by our limited view of what constitutes an asset and government overregulation.  The writer suggests  a new economic system where government role changes from a regulator to an oversight; having standards authority meaning all having access to close to perfect information; having a credible system of exchange; an invisible but active regulator acting as a watchdog, monitoring the ownership of goods and service providers.

In this part titled ‘Ending Poverty’ he introduced three key ideas to counter the problem of poverty: Targeted Catalyst (a ground breaking system of in which the very process of eradicating poverty will build quality public services); Dematerialized cash economy (cashless economy which would eliminate cases such as Hawala and make economy more transparent), Tax reform (to accelerate growth reduce inequality without penalized in productive activity). Author shows financial projections to prove applicability of his suggestions.

In ‘Power to the People’ the writer has tried to put forward the drawbacks of our present form of governance like “the democratic deficit faced by the citizens of this country”, “the dangers of over centralization of governance”, “the govt. which is acting as an amorphous beast sucking up huge resources and achieving little for its citizens”, “huge amount of ministerial overlap”, “huge disparities between Indian states in terms of population and area”, “flawed institutions representing rural areas and cities”. The writer proposes a new structure of government (citizen → community → area → region → nation) that would restore power to India’s citizen.

In this part titled ‘justice for all’ the writer puts a straight forward argument that India’s legal system is riven with corruption, blindingly complex, and excruciatingly slow. He therefore proposes a new legal system, a simple system having four broad categories of law: Laws intended for protection of citizens, laws intended to raise the revenue of the government, laws intended to protect national interest, laws intended to redress social balances.

In this part titled ‘the new organization’ the writer has suggested a series of options/ideas with the purpose of making all types of social organizations more responsive to their members and more accountable to those who are affected by their work, need for balancing the two competing interests without sacrificing economic development. Shareholders interest, Adequate safeguard so that the effects on the local population are minimised. The writer has identified few problems in the corporation, trusts. So for increasing accountability in the corporations and the trusts the writer have proposed for a single legal entity which will take care of the two forms and the removal of the taxes will remove the major distinction between these two form of organizations. The writer have shown pretty optimistic scenario in which the Government will become less corrupt, less amorphous and less greedy. Social censor would become a powerful force in encouraging honest and ethics amongst the citizens of India.

In this part ‘Sustainable living’  the writer has tried to give a fair idea on how the overcrowding of the metros ultimately lead to scarcity of reliable water, roads, electricity and other basic amnesties. The writer sees dense development as the solution to overcrowding. He has proposed that every Indian citizen possesses a set of ‘habitat rights’ relating to air quality, water supply, sewage, power, transport, and access to open green spaces. In the end of the chapter the writer has done zoning for the model he described earlier where he included Habitat, Forest, and Biosphere. He suggested that the biosphere will be regenerated by environmental per capita quotas (EPCQs).

With a view to overcoming the quagmire of epic poverty and its progeny India is beset with, the author in this part ‘the transition’ suggests some bold steps which will bring about radical change. These changes are such that they uphold India’s strength while avoiding the traps of the West. At the outset, he proposes a complete transmutation of the Society for which a strong conviction is required among the denizens of the society. In order to manage the ‘transition’, the author evokes three major reforms: Dismantling all the ministries except defence and foreign affairs; this will reduce the government size and employment; replacing the 28 -states & 7-UTs system by a 48-Regions system; Replacing the District Administration and Panchayati Raj with Area and Community administration at the local levels. For this ‘Transition’ a National Asset Corporation should be setup which would function as a Sovereign investment fund called National Asset Fund. The NAF would be a valuable resource to help cover long term investment in public interest. Apart from these the author also suggests changes to the constitutional authorities, commissions, legal system, boundaries and puts forward his theory of standards, exchange and regulations for smooth functioning of the new economy.

In this last part ‘citizen’s republic’ the author ideates the changes that could happen in the three communities’ i.e.  Region, Area, Community. Each of these having its clear cut role and responsibility assigned to them.  The author concludes that the future of India is at stake where the rich and the poor have their own ideologies of separatist threatening the integration of the country. It is at this juncture that he calls for the adoption of a new framework, a self-regulating system which will facilitate true democracy in its essence while chucking out the old dysfunctional policies. The writer ends with an appeal to the leaders of India to take up the challenge of managing India in a better way on a new balanced development pathway so that the future of our country and world lies in balance.

The author in this book has been very effective in proposing a well thought of alternative system of governance to manage India. The book is full of examples explaining every problem and its proposed solution. The book has been very reader friendly. However at many places the link in between the chapters is not so obvious. Also it seems that not all problems have been given due importance, the solutions seems not that practical. The timeframe in which this needs to be done and who needs to take the lead is not very clear. In the end, this book looks like a man’s ideas based on a limited research on various problems. The author also needs to understand that bringing such wholesale change in current form of governance is not possible. Hence how to go about bringing this change is still unanswered?

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