India will Need to Carry Out Big Structural Reforms to Endure in a Post-covid World

The System which is marked by rigid hierarchies, hunderds of departments at work will never be able to achieve desired level of interoperability which is required to produce cost-effective results in limited time.

Article by Shantanu K. Bansal

As the second wave of Coronavirus surges we find ourselves back to zero where all this started last year when in March-April 2020 coronavirus started affecting most of the major countries in the world in a big way. As a result now a series of lockdowns will be declared, containment zones will be made, travel will be restricted and so on, the ill effects of these policies is well known to the public by now.

Experts believe that any Pandemic goes through at least 3-4 waves as the viruses by nature mutates very rapidly, sometimes they even mutate in such a way that they harm themselves hence making itself harmless to most of the beings.

However, what has not changed so far is the typical style of Indian governance which is full of kneejerk reactions. After an year of India fighting the pandemic there is still the scarcity of beds, oxygen, life saving medicines (E.g. remdesivir), besides many other essential facilities which have been considered as priority since day one. Even the graveyards have fallen short!

There has been no example of a country at the stature of a country like ours where mass gatherings been conducted in the mid of a country fighting a pandemic. Be it the Bengal elections or the Maha Kumbh, the governemnt has shown acute level of carelessness and mismanagement for which they may not ever be found guilty for. Public covid inappropriate behaviour is also a major reason behind the surge.

It is also true that country as big as India may not ever be able to achieve equilibrium in allocation of resources given the size and the population but the government at least can ensure that there are better structures in place to serve the people more effectively and efficiently. A system which is transparent and forward looking. A system which can preempt and take corrective measures on time. A system which is as agile as possible.

In the age of 5G, the Indian system is still grappling with the culture of ‘passing the file’. Most of the Indians know how many loopholes this file culture has, from red taping to corruption the dark side of the Indian governance system is well presented in common bollywood films. Marked by the 18th century bureaucratic structures, India was and will never be prepared to takeup the challenge of becoming post pandemic ready country.

Also Read by Author: Embrace a War Against Bureaucracy, The Hidden Enemy of The Nation

The System which is marked by rigid hierarchies, hunderds of departments at work will never be able to achieve desired level of interoperability which is required to produce cost-effective results in limited time.

In order to curb corruption the CBI was considered ineffective, so India added the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). India also added the Right to Information (RTI) and the Central information Commission (CIC). As if these were not sufficient, then comes the Lok Pal. There are too many rules, regulations and orders, from too many government departments, making compliance an expensive headache at best and impossible at worst. This is the root cause of corruption. The only people who can prosper in such circumstances are those who know how to get away with non-compliance.”

– Nitin Pai, Director of the Takshashila Institution

We are seeing even the most powerful bodies in India like the Election Commission falling short at a great level to execute covid appropriate measures during the elections. In such a compartmentalised isolated old structure it is not only difficult to come-up with great ideas but even more difficult to execute such ideas in reality, take for example how much time India got to sanction a post of Chief of Defence Staff. The post was first recommended by the Kargil Review Committee. The story of police reforms in India goes as far back as 4 decades now.

As lockdown is seen as the most effective step to cut the chain of virus spread across India before majority of the public is vaccinated. If one imagines, that a pandemic has to go through at least 3-4 waves, why couldn’t we have deviced a systematic lockdown guidelines yet after an year of facing this Pandemic? for E.g. if a state sees this much spike in corona cases it should call for a lockdown on its discretion.

Why couldn’t we work on an idea of systematic lockdown all over the country where state by state there shall be few days lockdown to slower the rate of infection, especially those states which are contributing most of cases in the country?

One may ask is the only thing most of our governemnt departments and so called ‘expert committees’ know is to copy paste foreign models of tackling virus and not coming-up with it’s own, more sensible one? Exceptional times require exceptional steps to be taken.

The future is uncertain and the future will favour those countries only who have the ability to adapt changing circumstances rapidly. Take it as a race. The system which can robustly innovate and come-up with the opportunity, convert it into an idea and execute that idea in the shortest possible time with limited resources.

There are alot of things which we can learn from countries like US, China and many EU states. How the Chinese execute mega plans in limited time period while India struggles to reach deadlines in mkst of the cases? How a small country like Israel has one of the most innovative ecosystems in the world? Of course, there are many things to learn from them and adapt and innovat based on our requirements.

This is the time for deep realisation, can we afford to enter post Pandemic world with such a fructured structures in place? But most importantly we need to ensure an ecosystem where we are open to accept our weaknesses and failures. Only then we will be able to come-up with better mechanisms to deal with the issues like such rather keep sweeping things under the carpet and one day it will be all mess around.

Image credits: Shutterstock

Views are of the author.


  • Shantanu K. Bansal

    Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at:

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