Bunny was filling in an online application form for a piped gas connection that a government agency in Gurgaon is providing. The application was in my name, so under ‘Title’, which gave three choices – ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ – she ticked ‘Mr’.
The next question was ‘Gender’, and the options given were ‘Male’ and ‘Female’. People titled Mr generally belong to the male persuasion. Were the Gurgaon gas people being politically correct and gender-neutral?
Not really. It was just another minor example of bureaucracy at work. Or, rather, not at work, but instead making a member of the general populace do time-consuming and senseless, extra work on its behalf.
India inherited its bureaucracy – its all-pervasive redtapism – from the British who devised it as its strategy of ‘Distract and Rule’.
The idea was to keep the natives so perplexed and puzzled by an endless maze of meaningless rules and regulations (Bye-law 27C, Subsection 17e, Clause 9h) that they’d have no time or energy to spare on subversive things like Independence, and Purna Swaraj, and suchlike bolshie stuff.
When the Brits departed they left behind the legacy of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy which continues to rule us by distracting us from disruptive diversions like Progress and Getting On With The Job.
For every momentum-generating incentive like ‘Make in India’ – which seeks to propel our agriculture-based developing economy into a fully developed, industrialised $5 trillion economy – there is an equal and opposite disincentive which might be called ‘Brake in India’ which is applied by an entrenched Redtape Inc.
Despite this bureaucratic bottleneck India improved its ‘Ease of Doing Business’ international ranking from a lowly 142nd position in 2014 to the 63rd slot in 2020. But India still remains below much smaller countries, like Kenya, Rwanda, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.
We still bow to the Big B of Bureaucracy. Our Mr Redtapes who aren’t in seat/ ‘Harassment’ be your name./ Give us this day our daily dread/ And forgive us your lapses, as we forgive you the lapses you foist on us./ Lead us not into efficiency, but deliver us into delay./ For yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Red Tape, for ever and ever./ Hey Ram.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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