India: Centralize or Decentralize?

India is the only country I know, apart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where after arrival and having done immigration, you need to show the immigration stamp on your passport to another agent seated a mere fifty meters away. When entering the airport, you must show your ID and boarding pass several times to the security personnel. Why should the same thing be done again and again?

In January 2021, India instituted the system of PCR testing for covid19 on arrival. It had to be immediately made more complicated, with a requirement to get the test done at the departing location added. 

Perhaps the above needs to be done for security and safety purposes. Any complex Indian system, if it needs to reduce corruption, must have many checks and balances, for Indian bureaucrats are universally corrupt. 

There is a check for the stamp after immigration because people who arrived could, after paying bribes, avoid getting their passport stamped and then live in India without the government knowing about it. 

The reason boarding passes are so often checked at the airport is to avoid bribes getting paid to security personnel by those who might want to access the secure areas illegitimately.  

PCR tests had to be required from departing locations because, after arrival, bribes started changing hands. Those who were positive or those who didn’t want to wait for several hours at the airport for the results were let go for bribes. 

When my flight arrives in India, often there is someone who comes to offer “help” with customs. 

Anyone designing India’s public policy must consider the inherent irresponsibility, self-serving and corrupt nature of India’s politicians, bureaucrats, and, indeed, citizens. Any policy that does not take this into account is far removed from reality and has no practical use. 

You cannot wish corruption away. What is and what ought to be are two different things.  

In the private sector, in small companies, and even at people’s homes, those who work steal, cheat or book improper expenses. 

Corruption is inherent to Indian society. It must be taken into account. You cannot wish it away. You can even have large, nationwide anti-corruption protests, the kind Anna Hazare started. Still, they fizzle out without an outcome, for those who participate in such protests are particularly corrupt.  

India instituted the most atrocious lockdown in the world for over two months from March 2020. The government created an extremely ivory tower policy that had failed to account for even the first-order problems. 

At best, the policies are too idealistic, made by those who have no clue about the real India. Or they are made to post-facto pass the blame to others. Or the policies are designed to collect bribes. Compulsory wearing of masks has become just that.  

India, as a declared policy, should conduct contact tracing for covid19. The only problem is that those who turn out to be positive, even if they voluntarily go to the hospital to be isolated, are told to run around. Even if they don’t want it, they move around, travel in public, and end up in congested homes with their families. Those in government-run hospitals don’t care. 

Anyone sitting in leadership positions should realize that the Indian government does not have the skill-sets to do contact tracing or behave responsibly. Why create distractions and waste time on what cannot be done? 

Their atrocious lockdown and picture-perfect policies are nothing but a show for the gullible voters, not for practical applications. 

Can India change? What should India do?

Indians, when given a chance, will be corrupt. This must be understood by everyone, without understanding which all policies are magical thinking, far removed from India’s realities of life. 

Big, complex organizations can only exist in a society that gives a very high value to self-responsibility, honor, honesty, and integrity. As these values are not expected in India, the only alternative is to decentralize as much as possible, not just to the states but down to villages and cities to the greatest extent possible.

The more decentralized the organizations are, the more competing interests and short-duration feedbacks would keep corruption minimized and those in positions more accountable. This is the best that is possible in India. 

Alas, under Modi’s government, state and local governments are rapidly losing power to the central government, precisely the opposite of what should be happening.   

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