I came across this interesting article in Liju Philip’s blog , which in turn linked to a post on Amit Varma’s. The post was an appeal to abolish victimless crimes (such as consensual sex between two adults of the same sex, prostitution and sports betting, for instance). I completely agree with Amit’s point of view, and believe that such ridiculous laws ought to be scrapped.

Something else Liju wrote in his post got me thinking. He wondered why it is that “the governments are so hell bent on ruling us rather than serving us, which is what they are supposed to do in the first place?”

Good point. Why is it that governments (at all levels) don’t do what they are supposed to do, and seem very good at doing everything that they’re not?

These laws just mentioned are a good example. We are being told what to do and what not to do. Perhaps – and that’s a big perhaps – we wouldn’t mind this almost Big Brother attitude if the government performed in other aspects. Unfortunately, as a perusal of any indicator will show, it has failed miserably. Let’s look at where India stacks up when it comes to some very critical aspects:

Food & Nutrition? (Still alarming, especially in children)

Primary education? (Ha ha)

Universal Healthcare? (You’ve got to be kidding!)

Sanitation? (What’s that?)

Crime? (The cops seem to be committing most of it)

Infrastructure? (Some improvement, but still in a very, very dismal place)

I don’t think India’s performance on each of these indicators is anything to write home about.

There can be only two reasons why governments perform so dismally. (1)They are incompetent and incapable. (2)They are competent and capable but suffer from constraints –for instance, not enough bandwidth, not enough specialised talent, not enough money, not enough time.

The first option is a little scary to contemplate. So I shall pretend to be an ostrich and bury my head in the sand as far as (1) is concerned. (Should any of you feel otherwise, please do leave your comments).

If one takes (2) as the reason, doesn’t it make sense for the government to jettison the unnecessary, focus and apply its limited resources towards these more important aspects of governance? Shouldn’t the government be concentrating on providing at least basic healthcare, facilitating minimum nutrition levels (especially in children), facilitating the provision of basic sanitation, concentrating on making safe drinking water available, and trying to make the ordinary citizen feel safe and secure? I think these are some of the government’s most important jobs – the rest, while important, come after these basic levels of a citizen’s needs are met.

Seems sensible enough, right? Apparently not for our governments, for whom the more critical matters of governance are deciding for us what we should or shouldn’t watch on TV or film, banning dance-bars, banning cheerleaders, banning smoking on screen and banning alcohol on screen.

Call me a quirky Indian, but before being taught how to eat bread, shouldn’t one have the bread to eat?