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Last Updated Saturday April 21 2018 09:41 AM IST

Time for governance

K Roy Paul
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Government files

Monsoon has finally arrived in Kerala. There is no sight that a Keralite loves more than the downpour from heavens and no sound more than that of the rain drops falling. Yet, monsoon also creates problems in day-to-day lives of everyone because one has to manage many chores during the dry interregnums. This needs intelligent planning.

The short period of time immediately following the general elections is like these dry interregnums.

This is the time to plan for the future and place the right people in the right places. This is not to say that political parties do not think of an action plan in advance. Certainly they do and the LDF manifesto is an excellent document detailing the roadmap to follow in the next five years.

Nevertheless each of the simple sentences in the manifesto is pregnant with a vision that needs to be spelt out in much greater detail as the implementation process unfolds.

Equally important prerequisites for success are creating a congenial environment and building appropriate alliances with apolitical actors.

Time and conditions do not stand still for anyone. India has changed and so has Kerala. India of 2016 is not India of 1996 and Kerala of 2016 is not Kerala of 1957.

Senior citizens of today belong to the fading generation that is, however, entrusted with the responsibility of taking the lead for creating the conditions needed for the younger generations to realise their aspirations and for building a modern Kerala.

The Communist Party of India came to power in 1957 because its programme of action appealed to the majority of the people of Kerala, whose overriding concerns were sought to be addressed by it.

These concerns were primarily an end to the socio-economic exploitation of the weaker sections of society, protection of basic rights of citizens including the right for collective bargaining and creation of a society that recognizes the importance of equality and equity.

Most of the objectives of the revolution set off by the first Communist government of Kerala have been achieved by now because changes in the political complexion of the state government did not change these basic objectives or basic policy thrusts.

Even those who had initially opposed these gradually, if grudgingly, came to recognize the need for such a socio-economic transformation.

Over the years, however, people at large have become more ambitious and their aspirations have undergone a sea change.

On the other hand, some of the organized sections have been crossing their legitimate limits and intimidating the larger public for realizing their narrow and selfish desires.

The public resentment against politically affiliated organisations engaging in activities that are against the wishes, convenience and welfare of the public cannot be ignored by political parties.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for building a consensus on what is permissible and what is not.

The NSS and the Christian Church had been at the forefront of the agitation that brought down the first Communist government in Kerala.

Both do not wield the same influence in society now as then and had little influence in deciding the outcome of the recently held elections.

Just as the Communist parties of Kerala have moved on, NSS and the Church too have changed a great deal in the intervening years. It is now time for LDF to reach out to them to address their genuine concerns.

One major area of concern to them is the government policy in the field of education.

In all fairness it must be said that their approach to education is not comparable to the profiteering manipulations of the newly emerging education mafia and they are genuinely interested in working with the government for improving the quality of education.

It will not be very difficult to develop a commonly acceptable plan of action in this area for the benefit of all the people. The SNDP and MES too should be involved in developing this common agenda, which should be driven by domain experts.

Building a reliable data base is as important as creating the right environment for action. Perhaps government should start with updating the land records.

Presently only an expert can read and understand what is written in the land records and it requires the assistance of a researcher or a huge bribe for a landholder to establish his/her title to the land he/she owns.

In the era of citizen-friendly governments this is anachronistic as many offers of governmental assistance such as housing loans can be availed of only if the applicant is able to prove title of land.

Unless this system is changed once and for all the corruption in the field offices of the Revenue Department and harassment of the ordinary landholder will not end.

The starting point for transforming the land records should be an aerial photographic survey that can be completed within three months at reasonable cost.

Technological advancements have made it possible to ensure amazing accuracy in the end product.

Using cameras mounted on a low flying aircraft a very accurate picture of the actual status of the land can be created and superimposed on a cadastral survey map. This will need some coordination with Survey of India authorities because of the security implications.

It was done all along the Indian coast only last year with permission from the Ministry of Defence. The government, of course, will have to have a suitably modified procedure for assigning ownership of each plot of land so that the work of preparing an error-free and easily readable land record can be completed within one year.

The same aerial survey map can be used for creating an environmental base map that will show the status of every inch of land as it stands today.

Instead of encouraging endless controversies the government should freeze the ground reality as of today and work on an environmental target map so that there is a clear idea about the areas where original status needs to be restored.

Where the changes are not in conflict with the environmental targets of today, such changes can be recognized after imposing a suitable penalty.

We need to recognize that a lot of damage was done to the natural environment of the state in the last 60-70 years more out of ignorance than anything else.

These changes have produced a new habitat pattern which cannot be totally reversed. We must accept that all the historical wrongs cannot be corrected. What we can do is to work out mitigation plans and strictly adhere to these.

No government can totally ignore the construction demands arising from growing population, increasing urbanisation and greater prosperity.

Environmental plans will have to be redrawn to meet these. Mechanically harping on ‘no change’ will not help. Government’s ostrich-like attitude to the fundamental issues involved in this has resulted in creating an atmosphere of uncertainty that breeds corruption. This can only be ended by a detailed environmental mapping that is declared final for all time to come.

Economic development requires good governance, a good data base and an environment that is conducive. This means that government will have to reach out not only to apolitical social forces but also to political opponents and recognize ground realities.

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