Odisha’s Mo Sarkar Can Be A Global Model

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‘Integrity and working together as one united service’ has turned around Singapore to a dynamo, though pocket-sized. Rwanda is manifesting to be a global leader in change management.

Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) is an autonomous body in Rwanda with a broad-based mandate to improve service delivery in the country and build partnerships that are crucial for the country’s determined growth motive. Odisha with Mo Sarkar has the potential to recast the state to an economic juggernaut, emerge as a strategic powerhouse serving India’s ‘look east’ policy and play a significant role in South Asia geopolitical equations.

Mo Sarkar could strengthen the state from ‘inside’. It is change management – a drive to reform Odisha from a low-income economy to a high performance-high growth system for equitable socio-economic development. So, Mo Sarkar needs to be owned by the provider and the consumer equally – by the government and the people equally and on a mission mode. The big dream of $1 trillion economy would not be an unassailable target.

By now, it is certain that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is less than adequate as a measure of the economic health and welfare of our societies. Alternatives like Gross National Income (GNI) are being expounded. Whatever the measure, governance and growth are inseparable. Without improved governance, the economy of a state would flounder in spite of short-term capital infusions or trade incentives. Long-term economic development is unfeasible without an effective and efficient governing system. Introducing performance measurement systems in public services of the government is a mammoth and complex issue. Before it is imbibed into the system, the initiation is expected to generate some backlash and ire among last mile service providers and the clients (the people or citizens). With growing assertion of the clients (people), public services would need to brace up to be more accountable and open to be accountable.

This is going to change the face of bureaucracy in any state. Odisha has silently and without much hoopla rolled out the 5T mantra of management. If implemented strategically and consistently, 5T has the potential to charge up and rejuvenate the entire state machinery like never before. Teamwork, Transparency, Time, Technology & Transformation are the tenets to prepare the state to introduce and execute performance measurement systems, which could place Odisha as the top contributor to national GDP. It can be done.

Odisha has launched a new governance initiative called ‘Mo Sarkar’ (literal English translation: My Government). This initiative took off in all police stations across the state along with 21 district headquarters hospitals and three government-run medical college hospitals at Cuttack, Berhampur and Sambalpur. The programme will be effective in all the 30 district headquarters hospitals of the state by October 30. Health & Home (Police) Departments would start making their services better, targeted-oriented and consumer friendly. Because there is a feedback system built in, the monitoring and evaluation can be done by the higher ups randomly. The phone numbers of people coming to government offices will be collected randomly with the purpose to improve the governance system by collecting feedback on behaviour and professionalism of government officers.

The objective of the programme is to provide service with dignity (for both the provider and the beneficiary – the state and the people) to people who go to government offices with different grievances and needs. They should be meted out the ‘best’ services. I have worked in innovative governance programmes in a few places and have noticed that lack of utilisation of government schemes hits the growth of the community and renders it less productive, downscaling by about 30%. What is the point in having government schemes when they do not reach the intended customers? Or they reach inefficiently or are offered unprofessionally.

‘Mo Sarkar’ if administered with active participation of the Collectors, would transform the state like never before. Big ticket investments are flowing in and many are in the pipeline. Investment needs a basic core or a foundation to help it achieve triple bottom line. Odisha should exhort the investing corporates to work sustainably in the state. The three bottom lines or the three P’s: people, planet and profit have to be assured. With the auction of mines, growth in manufacturing, specifically in the SME sector, implementation of Kalia scheme to cover more than 16% of the population, we need efficiency in governance.

The PRI (Panchayati Raj Institutions), Zilla Parishads, Panchayats should take the responsibility of driving Mo Sarkar with the help of the police and health department. These institutions, thought themselves are clients, cannot absolve themselves from the task of assuring quality services. They are equally responsible. The Mo Sarkar drive should not result in ‘passing the buck’. To achieve ‘ownership’ of Mo Sarkar, the front-ending delivery personnel, departments and desks need to be trained, coached and handheld. Their capacities need to be enhanced with the help of government training institutes, academic institutions and district authorities. How do you expect the line departments to align their own personnel on citizen satisfaction, performance score cards and feedback mechanism, which they have never been exposed to?

The HR implication of Mo Sarkar is the clinching factor. The feedback received directly from the customers (read people) will be used to rank employees in the order of their performances. Those with good rankings will get out-of-turn promotion and action will be taken against employees with negative rankings. The performance-based reward system is hoped to sift the good from deadwood.

This sounds like a death knell for the poems (kabitas) and musicals, which many of our officers, I am told, churn out during office hours. Every paise of the tax payer’s money is accountable and the concomitant development it spurs has to be properly executed by the state machinery.

The responsibility of implementing Mo Sarkar, a gamechanger for Odisha, lies with the civil society too. The onerous task of sensitising citizens, mobilising their collective thoughts, assessing ground realities have to be undertaken by you and me. Officers need support in rolling out programmes, they need data, feedback and last mile help in management. Citizens need awareness of the schemes, their rights and responsibilities. Currently there is no ‘third sector’, which speaks to both. This third sector is the civil society.

Mo Sarkar can be a global ‘good practice’, which can showcase the resilience of a small economy and the determination of a state to develop an ‘answerable public system’ despite formidable odds.

Increasingly, our societies should seal and are sealing space for freeloaders.

Perform or perish!

(The writer is a columnist based in New Delhi. The views are personal)

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