Blaming the government is a time-honoured pastime in India. As has been the portrait of the government as a bunch of individuals—elected or appointed—who hold sway over our lives even as they continue to harm the nation’s interests by their arrogant, arbitrary and entitled actions. In this narrative, the saviour is the Supreme Court—sometimes populist, sometimes moralist, all this while being always legalistic—a stern ringmaster making the other recalcitrant arms of the government dance to the tune of its whip and whims. While this picture does tell its own story, it is not the whole picture, just a conveniently guilt-assuaging one for people who live in places like Malabar Hill and Poes Garden—the largely non-voting khaas janta.
The truth is that governments do work, that in spite of corruption and red tape, they manage to do quite a job. This is a special issue on some success stories of government-run schemes and initiatives.
In Andhra Pradesh, a state government-run chain of residential schools aimed at children from underprivileged sections of society has been stunningly successful. Under the guidance of a visionary officer, the schools have helped students, many of them first-generation literates, find their place under the sun, writes Govind Krishnan V in his story “At home, at school”.
Neha Dixit’s powerful account “Free to fly” of a 17-year-old who was rescued 13 years ago along with his parents and siblings from bonded labour, and who is now studying law, is an example of the inherent power to do good that vests in the state. In this case, various government programmes designed for the rehabilitation of bonded labourers worked: no bribes were asked, there were no undue delays, and a family found the means to start over again as free individuals.
The cradle baby scheme in Tamil Nadu, a government intervention meant to save the girl child in areas with high rates of infanticide, is a far from perfect scheme, plagued by incomplete documentation and other administrative ills. Yet it has changed the lives of many children, some of whom have been adopted and found families in places far and wide. The other narrative this month is about Karnataka’s “Bhoomi” project, a pioneering scheme of digitising land records, a move that has checked rampant corruption.
We interview Vikas Sheel, the IAS officer in-charge of Chhattisgarh’s PDS system, who talks about how a corrupt system with siphoning and delays at every level was fixed. India has been officially declared polio-free, a feat of administrative and planning genius. The photo story “Drop by drop” chronicles a pulse polio drive, a fine example of what’s possible when the government works.
Saurav Kumar, Editor