Sub-standard education in government schools, delayed infrastructural projects, migration from villages and towns, lack of employment skills in the youth — these were a few problems that Union secretaries cited in their reports to the PMO after they visited the districts from where they had started their Indian Administrative Service careers.
The Indian Express spoke to several secretaries in the Union government to learn how the country has changed in 30-35 years.
However as the reports were to be submitted directly to the PMO, officers did not want to come on record about their observations.
For many, it was a nostalgic trip. When an officer of Rajasthan cadre went back to Pali district, where he had served 33 years ago, he found that the over 200 trees he had planted there now were called by his name.
A Jharkhand cadre officer came back with a copy of a 34-year-old black and white photograph of him as a young officer at the inauguration of a children’s park in place of a garbage dump in Godda district. The findings were not pretty though. A secretary who went to Jaisalmer found that an airport built in that tourist city in 2012 at a cost of Rs 100 crore does not have a single flight operating out of it. The secretaries noted that governance has improved and so as technology, but modest expectations of people, such as a decent job, were not met. There is e-governance, but lack of administrative will remains a roadblock, they said.
“Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and mid-day meal schemes may have ensured that children from at least poor families turn up in school, but despite the RTE, the learning is dismal. Those who can afford, send their children to vastly more expensive and often equally sub-standard private schools. People are just looking for an opportunity to leave for the plains,” said an Uttarakhand cadre officer who visited Pithoragarh. In comparison, he added, the quality of services in the overcrowded government hospitals were much better, even if the patient had to wait for a long time.
Many said villages have developed at a “better pace” than cities, which were overburdened due to migration from smaller centres and lack of governance. They lauded schemes such as MGNREGA but also warned against lack of transparency.
“This L1 system of procurement is really bleeding the exchequer. There has to be a transparent and effective means of awarding contracts, but by making just the cost of it the deciding factor we are compromising on quality. I have mentioned that in my report,” said a secretary who had gone to Kalpi in Uttar Pradesh.
An officer who had visited Haidergarh in Barabanki district said the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has not penetrated into villages.