There has been a surfeit of articles giving ideas to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on how to renew and revive India. I have read them with care and found that one simple theme that is close to his heart is not getting much attention. It is the concept of unclogging India. I list 10 ideas to unclog different parts of our nation in increasing order of difficulty. Here is my list.
First, a serious attempt should be made to unclog our jails. Even though jails are a state subject, the BJP could lead with jails in the states that it runs. Currently, the government spends about Rs 3,500 crore on jails housing some 3,80,000 inmates, about 60,000 more than the capacity of the jails. More than 60 per cent of the inmates are under trial. Many of them have been picked up for no apparent reason and have often served even more than the full term of the sentence they would have received had they been convicted for the crime for which they had been booked.
Many are street kids. This is not alright in a just India. In 2005, there was a proposal to amend Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code to free undertrials who had served 50 per cent of the term they had been charged with, but to no avail. Implementing this proposal would be a great start.
Second, our ability to provide justice in India requires quick adjudication.
Cases in our courts take too long. There is, of course, the need to create more courts and appoint more judges. But can we begin by applying Peter Drucker’s famous line, “whatever gets measured improves”, to our courts? Can we get all high courts and the Supreme Court to share some statistics in Parliament publicly? Simple statistics, like how many cases they adjudicate each year, how much time, on average, a case takes to reach a judgment. We can go farther and seek an inventory of cases at the start of the year, the number of cases added each year, the number closed and the end-of-year statistic. We could also separate cases into issue-based categories and track their progress by court. The nation needs to know how efficient our courts are.
Third, we need to broaden our tax base, introduce the goods and services tax and simplify our direct taxes, but we should also consider cleaning up the number of tax cases under litigation. A few simple steps could be taken. First, the department could conduct an assessment of past collections from litigated tax cases. What was the number of cases they were successful in and what was their collection percentage, on average, using a simple segmentation of cases? Could the tax department offer the past collection rate as a one-time offer to pending cases by segment to bring them to rapid closure? The other simple suggestion for continued…