கடந்த பத்து வருடங்களில், நான் இந்த கட்டுரையில் சுட்டிய ஊழல்களை எல்லாம் அசுரவேகத்தில் வளர்த்து,
நாட்டின் செல்வத்தை சூறையாடுகிறார்கள். அதனால் தான் சிவப்பு மசி. இதை படித்தவர்கள் தங்கள் அனுபவங்களை/கருத்துக்களை/ஆலோசனைகளை பகிர்ந்து கொண்டால், நலம். என் நன்றி. தனிமடல் அனுப்புவோர்க்கும் பதில் அனுப்பபடும்.
Most governmental activities throw the metaphorical pencil away, as premeditated subversion. Private sector is no paragon of virtue, debiting philately to postage! Nevertheless, the immediate concern is on public money. Unburnt coal is deliberately heaped with coal ash for sharing the loot, in some power stations. The top managers in one case sat up and took notice only when it was shown that gold prices rose less steadily than the bids for coal ash! Dhanbad mafia is a direct product of waste and malpractices in mining and dispatching coal. Floor sweepings in factories command a premium in auctions as a rich pick of tools, products and raw material can be salvaged. Ingenious are the ways of those who thrive on waste. The story goes that a Soviet factory was losing wheelbarrows daily. Having failed to solve the riddle, the management adopted a capitalistic stratagem; they announced a reward and immunity. The culprit confessed to heaping a barrow daily with waste and walking away. Security guards let him out after checking the contents!
The limited focus is here on the deliberate waste for illegal gain. The national Common Minimum Programme will meet its nemesis in the hardcore waste-taker in all spheres, if the government does not watch out. Primarily comes the inefficiency of services and wasting of working time. Employment guarantee is welcome. However, employee obligation in the form of discipline and reasonable obedience should be defined and enforced. Legislation in the U.K. protects the employee jealously in many respects, including maternity, rest, safety and whistleblowing. However, there is no protection to gross misconduct like rifling the till. We had been exposed to malpractices long enough to spot them, if there be a will. Hawala and black money are examples of Frankenstein spawned and nurtured by the wasteful system. They are open gutters and are not submerged tunnels.
A few examples are mentioned to signpost the rocks on which governments founder. It is but the tip of the iceberg. Government apparatus jealously guards some myths. The public works department, which Rajaji famously declared as his enemy No.1 (ranking the communists next), awards contracts, based on schedule of rates, derived from rate analyses. A multi-purpose dam project had schedules only for buildings, one per cent of its outlay. When the project digs canals, the wasters dig gold. The digging profile consists of overburden (sand or equivalent), soft disintegrated rock and hard disintegrated rock. Deeper the cut, higher the rate. It is fair. However, in one geological zone, hard rock could not be built into the rates, as it was of alluvial soil. The masterstroke was to adopt the schedule of an adjacent district, for enriching the contractors. This was stopped, but the honest man got the sack. The tribals in Phulbani district of Orissa touch neither sugar nor wheat. The public distribution system routinely drew those commodities for that district. This happened decades ago. Nevertheless, the moral is still valid.
Another myth is the sanctioned estimate. Overdesign is the trick. Most culverts need non-pressure clay or at the most, cement pipes. One estimate provided for electronically welded steel pipes (used for tube wells) costing hundreds of times more; the stock reply was that the estimate was a sanctioned one. A highway division had large quantities of thick twisted steel rods, when they needed none. The bridge divisions had enough on their plate. Unable to defend that purchase, they planned to convert them into mild steel rods (which also they did not need), a physical impossibility. Bitumen is one item, which is pilfered on paper and on site. The unedifying spectacle, euphemistically known as March rush of expenditure, is hoarding time for the rogue elephants among government officials. The litany is endless.
Whenever the government is on the threshold of launching large spending programmes, deliberate wasters spend sleepless nights scheming in mind as to how to subvert the system. They form a ubiquitous and unscrupulous community of shared interests, and, of course, the booty, among politicians, officialdom, contractors and middleman. They operate in secret in the beginning and become brazen after some time, as mutual protection gets set, unlike the sand they mixed with the cement.
Apart from vigilance machinery — in-house and external — the government must evolve alert preventive measures to stop this Barbarian (vested interest masquerading as a mere waster) at the Gate. Such measures can be as simple as a log of what was done, a quick reporting mode and the surprise inspections. The colonial rule had a system of district inspection by members of the Board of Revenue, a sinecure establishment. It used to be as instructive as the gazetteers and performance was measured and ranked. There are many other dimensions to waste as a phenomenon. All those who are aware should share and the government should take care.
Former Additional Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India