SALUTE TO A REFORMER S M KRISHNA

by February 4, 2020 0 comments

He was a lawyer and a dyed-in-the-wool politician

Year 2014 saw a changing phase in India’s political history. Fol- lowing that there have been a great  revolutions  in  the  central  and  the  state  governments  of  the nation. The shift in the politics was well received across the nation but for Karnataka.    While  BJP  swept  the  nation through its saffron flag, Karnataka as a state  couldn’t  come  in terms  with  the existing BJP team, instead two parties (JDS  and  Congress)  came  to  coalition to  lead  the  state  as joint  affairs.  MR. Siddaramaiah  and  Mr.  Kumar  Swamy who  were  fighting  the  tug-of-war  for CM managed to rub shoulders together in  forming  what’s  called  “Hung  Government”  in  the  15th  assembly  elections.     This defiance  against  the  BJP costed them the power itself when the public disowned their rule and eventually B.S. Yeddyurappa became the chosen CM for the State of Karnataka.

Whilst  the  happenings  ever  since 2014, Karnataka has seen major deviations from progression. The state that was once  known  as  the  silicon  hub  of the   nation   turned   into   a   politically wretch.  Bangalore  (Bengaluru)  turned into  a  political  slugfest  for  few  weeks and   hence   the   “hung   Government” came to an end with B.E. Yeddyurappa as its current CM.

In all  this  unrest,  there  has  been a void in the minds of citizens caught between too much information or too many confusions. However, the intellectual strata Bangaloreans’ missed the “progressive state” brand that was associated with the State (especially Bangalore)  ever  since  the  dawn  of  2000. This   reminds   us   of   the   technology and the  innovation  that  set  its  foot  in the  then  developing-metro  Bangalore. Until then the last known recall as a reformist and revolutionary Chief Minister of Karnataka was Mr. S M Krishna (Somahalli  Mallaiah  Krishna)  ;  a lawyer by profession and a staunch politician started his political career in 1962 (Praja Socialist Party).

SM Krishna hails from Somanahalli in Mandya district the heart bed of Cauvery studied in the United States, graduating from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and The George Washington  University  law School in Washington D.C, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He was locally called as the “Oxford Krishna” for his academic achievement. SM Krishna belonged to the very popular community in Karnataka, especially from the Mandya region- The Vokkaligas. This community is not just considered as the prime sect but also are the most contributors in Karnataka Politics to this date. SM Krishna played a key role reconciling Praja Socialist Party with the Indian National Congress . This turned his political career and gave him the requisite to cover the political mileage. He joined the congress party post the coalition and server as the minister of state for industry under Indira Gandhi and ministry of state for finance under the able guidance of Rajiv Gandhi. He then served as the speaker of “Karnataka Legislative Assembly” before he adorned to be the deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka under M. Veerappa Moily.

SM  Krishna  was  popular  for  his  diplomatic  yet  astute businessman approach. He moved with a sway that wooed the locals for his intelligence and wit. He too was considered at par with the then CM of neighboring state Mr.  Chandrababu  Naidu  and  thus  found  his  niche  in implementing new technology and cutting-edge innovative solution in Karnataka, Bangalore. While he honored the position as president of Karnataka Pradesh congress committee,  it  is  heard  that  SM  Krishna  kept  his  circle closed and in best of Bangalore classes. He was an open- minded administrator with a vision for the state, hence he  is  also  known  as  the  visionary  CM  in  the  state.  He would always accompany himself with Bangalore’s best businessmen, educated clout and pool of well-educated and exposed civil service seniors as advisors. Thus, he got the brains and the bastion to lead the party and won the assembly elections in 1999 and went on to become the favorite Chief Minister of Karnataka state until 2004. To this day, SM Krishna’s key impetus comes from these hand-picked  advisors,  communities  and  solicitors.  His drive as the chief minister was technology and it is his commitment towards technology that marks his uniqueness. He is considered as the tech-icon of the country to have implemented state-of-the-art civil infrastructure in terms  of building  sub-ways,  flyovers,  cable  bridges  etc. He was instrumental in enabling IT infrastructure in the state, IT biggies such as Infosys and Wipro, biotechnology giant such as BioCon and Indian Institute of Science- flourished under his administration. He was backed by the  best  in  class  intellectuals  who  not  just  assisted  SM Krishna  in achieving  his  vision  but  also  backed  him  in his economic affairs, thus Bangalore became one of the major contributors to country’s GDP through IT and Bio- technology.

The  main  declarations  behind  the  fiscalised  development model were the increase of growth rate and re- structuring of public finance. These declarations should not be considered as means for only economic restructuring  rather  they  have  been  designed  with  an  agenda to ‘redefine the role of the State’. The portion of public expenditure in GSDP got reduced from 23•3 % to 19•45% between the year of 2002 – 03 and 2013 – 14 BE (Gayithri 2014). The decreased public expenditure indicates reducing role of the State especially in the organization of public systems. Karnataka   jumped   into   e-governance   bandwagon to ensure effective service delivery. It is one of the most progressive states in utilizing the benefit of ICT (Information  Communication  Technology).  It  established  a computer center way back in 1971 to computerize govt. departments. various e-governance schemes have been introduced to make information accessible to the people and increase efficiency of the govt. works. Bhoomi (land records), Khajane (treasury system), Kaveri (land registration), Mahiti Centre (IT Kiosks) are few of the exam- ples of successful e-governance projects (KDR, 2007).

Furthering his career from being the CM he served the nation under various administrative roles. He moved on to become the Governor of Maharashtra (2004 to 2008), before  he  returned  to  his  homeland  and  participate  in active state politics. However, upon his successful entry in Rajya Sabha he was drawn as Union Cabinet Minis- ter of External Affairs in the Council of Ministers under Prime Minister  Manmohan Singh on 22 May 2009 until October 2012. He represented India as Foreign minister and visited Israel on a two day in 2012. The Israeli PM deemed this visit by Krishna a historical step forward in developing the relations between the two nations.

Samuel C. Rajiv is Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi wrote “EAM S.M. Krishna’s visit to Israel, marked by both positive atmospherics and substance, was an important political effort on the part of the two governments to further consolidate the burgeoning bilateral relations, which stands on three pegs—economic, defense, and people-to- people contacts. Among the deliverable achieved during the visit include the signing of an extradition treaty and India agreeing to the Israeli proposal for opening a Consulate in the hi-tech hub of Bengaluru. High-level political and strategic engagement as exemplified by Mr. Krishna’s visit is essential to better understand each other’s concerns regarding difficult foreign policy issues as well as conserve the momentum in the bilateral ties for mutual benefit.”

He is considered as the tech-icon of the country to have implemented state-of-the-art civil infrastructure in terms of building sub-ways, flyovers, cable bridges etc. He was instrumental in enabling IT infrastructure in the state, IT biggies such as Infosys and Wipro, biotechnology giant such as BioCon and Indian Institute of Science flourished under his administration.

SM Krishna’s reforms- The chief minister has created many such task forces to help him in the state’s governance. BMP officials say the fund-based accounting system has several benefits-like access to accurate, fast and timely information with an ability to administer the development works efficiently. “The reforms have brought clarity and professionalism within the organization. The successful implementation of the fund-based accounting system would not have been possible without the comprehensive partnership of the task force headed by Mr. Nandan Nilekani.” It included process mapping, designing of appropriate accounting policies and procedures, streamlining relationship with banks through memoranda of understanding, software development  and deployment

Power reforms- ESCOMS

State government project to segregate electricity load in rural areas to agricultural and non-agricultural consumers, in order to supply 24 hours electricity to rural households and small industries,    while    monitoring    quality supply to irrigation pump sets. The Government of Karnataka approved the implementation of the project in two phases, at the total costs of ` 2,123 crore with 40% equity and 60% to be borrowed as loan by the ESCOMs (GoK, 2016)

Digitization of land records (BHOOMI)

A   flagship   project   of   Karnataka State  Government  is  a  Land  Records management  system.  The  project  was inaugurated  in  the  year  2000.  Under this project, all the manual RTCs which prevailed at the time of data entry were digitized and made available to the citizen through Kiosk Centers. All the ownership or any other changes in the RTCs are carried out through mutation as per KLR  Act  using  the  Land  Records  data- base. Bhoomi back offices have been set up  at  all  taluks  of  the  state.  In  each  of these  centers  LR  Kiosk  &  Application Kiosk have also been setup. India’s largest e-governance program has   received   worldwide   acclaim.   The online  delivery  of  land  titles  under the Bhoomi program was chosen for a Commonwealth  award  in  September  2002 in Glasgow, UK, from among Common- wealth’s 54 member states. Shri Krishna is the architect of the program. Bhoomi project  has  also  impressed  the  United Nations Development Program which is keen to replicate it in other developing countries.

A ten-point reform program

Mr.  Krishna,  from  the  very  beginning of his tenure, tried to create a public  debate  on  fiscal  policy;  he launched a  10-point  reform  program  in  March 2000 to promote all round development of the state (Box 11.1).    The reforms are aimed to create necessary conditions for the eradication of poverty through economic   growth  with   equity   (Khuntia, 2003)

Private Sector Development

The third mechanism is a tactical strategy adopted to develop private sec- tor in place of public sector. This component was instrumental in closing/merging the state-run PSUs and promotes deregulation of business. The decision was taken “that investment in Public Sector Enterprises should be restricted to strategic sectors or sectors of social concern and that Government need not continue to involve itself in production of consumer products   and  marketing   enterprises, particularly  if  they  are  not  generating profits  (World  Bank,  2001,  Annex  E, p.2)”. A reasoned argument was that priority of investment needs to be changed from public sector to social sector as per the policies  of  economic  liberalization. As a part of private sector involvement strategy in public systems, the Krishna govt.  constituted  altogether  ten  Task Forces to invite suggestions of non-govt. entities  in  health,  education, Information technology and biotechnology, infrastructure etc. BATF (Bangalore Area Task Force) was particularly important in initiating private sector-led solutions for  Bangalore  Municipal  Corporation (World Bank, 2001). various were taken up  to  systematically  reduce  budgetary support for public enterprises by disinvesting and restructuring. Schemes like voluntary   Retirement   Scheme   (VRS) were  adopted  to  downscale  the  work- force (GOK Finance MTFP, 2002).

The new system (Bangalore Area Task Force) leaves no scope for corruption. It recognizes the complexity of various functions of local bodies (social, enterprise, commercial, fiduciary). The new accounting system lends itself to record the financial transactions under these categories accurately. With the implementation of the fund-based ac- counting system, BMP becomes the first civic agency in the country to adopt the state-of-the-art accounting and finanrefocus the BDA. Apart from distributing house sites and plots for civic amenities, the BDA is also building several state-of-the-art flyovers, knocking off illegal buildings, auctioning recovered properties and transforming its image of a dead organization. It is now one of the few government bodies that have won national fame. BDA is a statutory body which is a cash rich agency and perhaps the only of its kind to be listed on the National Stock Exchange.

Administrative Reform

It is to be noted that this mechanism is   related   to   governance management still  encapsulated  under  the  economic reform scheme. The governance reform has been separately going on in sector- specific  areas,  such  as  health  service, transport, panchayat raj (local governing  bodies)  etc.  and  these  were  few  of the most important reforms in Karnataka. Governance reform has been initiated based on two strategic decisions. The first  one  is  to  rationalize  (or  limit)  the state’s role to deal only with the “most critical public goods and services” that private market is incapable of supplying effectively. Second one is to strengthen the role of the state by increasing its effectiveness, transparency and account- ability (World Bank, 2001, Annex D, p.1).

The main aim behind this mechanism was to strengthen the government bureaucracy for advancing fiscal reform and transform public services (limited to basic needs) to become more account- able. He promised to provide the people of Karnataka with a transparent, responsible, responsive and decentralized government.  The  political  adherence to reform is evident with the introduction of new institutional mechanisms for managing infrastructure better. The government also declared that it was committed to offer good governance to the people of Karnataka. Hence, public dialogue was complemented by legislative action and administrative measures. The government tried to take people into confidence to make them accept the path of reform by creating a public debate and democratizing the in- formation regarding the fiscal position of the state.

Fiscal and Public Expenditure Reform

“Chief Minister S M Krishna, who held the Finance portfolio, presented the medium-term fiscal plan for the coming five years … rationalize and target subsides, enhance efficiency and accountability in public spending and stabilize debt, Krishna said”

Karnataka  Economic  Restructuring Loan 1 (KERL 1) by the World Bank was the first in its kind where the state got a  one-tranche  (one-time)  operational assistance  for  the  fiscal  year  of  2000 It was a conditional assistance based on the four specific mechanisms to restructure the entire economy. The assistance was divided in half loan (INR 3594.75 Cr./USD75 million) and half credit (INR 3594.75 Cr. /USD75 million) form. (1) The mechanisms focused on fiscal and public expenditure reforms, administrative reforms, private  sector  development,  and  poverty and   human   development   monitoring (World  Bank,  2002).  The  Second  Karnataka  Economic  Restructuring  Loan 2 (KERL 2) was also made in line with the KERL 1 to advance the same mechanisms  for  reform.  KERL  2  assistance was  also  equally  shared  between  loan (INR  2283  Cr.  /  USD  50  million)  and credit (INR. 2283Cr. / USD 50 million) support from the Bank for the fiscal year of  2001  –  2002  (World  Bank,  2003). World Bank-guided economic re- form interrupted the legacy of state’s politics-driven planning  The Bank, already a party to the Union govt. for state level reform for long, has a theory behind the state level economic re- structuring. Below is the Bank’s model of fiscalised development in Karnataka which the state has been following since the beginning of 2000. Karnataka received the biggest venture capital funding in biotechnology among all Indian states, observes Entrepreneur of the year award winner Kiran Majumdar Shaw, who is also chairperson of the CII Biotech committee and the Karnataka Vision Group.

SM Krishna’s Government does not view development as something that should be confined to urban centers like Bangalore. Under his guidance some dead agencies have sprung to life. A few years ago, a former state Government report had recommended that the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) be closed following an internal suggestion by a top bureaucrat.

Decentralization of governance: Decentralization   is   also   acknowledged  in  the  World  Development  Re- port, 2000/2001 as a pro-poor solution to  alleviate  poverty  fiscalised  development model certainly uses the state’s decentralized orientation of governance to execute various sector-specific reforms. The decentralization component of the administration  is  used  to  suffice  the purpose of political intervention as well as  economic  restructuring. This  is  an important move to set Taluk as a nodal point for development which recognizes the structure of decentralization as well as the viability of grassroots-based development  politics.  Decentralization  is used  as  a political  choice  for  development practices,i.e. equity (one of the two components of Karnataka Model of Development), the World Bank’s model has  used  decentralization  as  a  tactical choice  to  expedite  the  reform process. The  presence  of  decentralization  component  in  the  Karnataka  development model convinces scholars to argue that Karnataka  development  model  is  derived from   the   “Mysore   Model”.   The foresightedness  of  the Mysore  Modernity  (led  by  Wodeyars  and  their  Dewans)  in  early  twentieth  century  paved the  way  for building  many  academic institutions  to  generate  skilled  human resources  in  science  and  engineering and that eventually helped in developing  a  temperament  for  scientific  and technological   innovation.   Bengaluru’s emergence  as  an  IT  capital  of  India  is a result of these historical proceedings (Kadekodi, Kanbur and Rao, 2008). The fundamental difference between these two models is while Mysore modernity was a state-led development, the modern Karnataka’s development model is a state-supported, private cap- ital-led development. This difference raises question on various governance reforms to know how the state is acting as a facilitator to advance private capital led development.

Poverty Reduction and Human Development Monitoring

The last mechanism is poverty reduction and human development monitoring. This is in-fact the mechanism to measure the impact of the performance done by the above mentioned three interlinked mechanisms. This mechanism helps in establishing Poverty and Human Development Monitoring System by institutionalizing the Human Development Report and enhancing the state’s statistical management capacity. The mechanism holds the theoretical relation of the three former mechanisms. In third mechanism, the tactical alliance with the private sector has been tried to fill the gap in financing (created through fiscal reform)  and  right-size  as well as deunionize the workforce (administrative reform). The main assumption behind the private sector development is that private investment leads to high growth, leading to massive job creation and that ultimately reduce the burden of poverty and thus improve the social indicators. The fourth mechanism is envisaged to capture the success of the very theory propounded by the World Bank; high growth will reduce poverty and improve social indicators. The state govt. echoes the same to accelerate the theory.

Transparency: The govt. has tried to  establish  transparency  by  simplifying the filing system,computerization of accounting  works,  streamlining  of  tax and license systems, introducing single window system for investment stimulus (procedures)  and  setting-up  of  regulatory  authority  (regulations)  within  the government system with an aim to simplify the administrative works and limiting the corruption (KDR, 2007). Similarly, these procedures and regulations were  backed  by  the  legislative  actions. The  Second  Karnataka  Economic  Re- structuring  Loan report  acknowledges the  importance  of  legislative  backing for reforms in India.

Accountability:   Corruption   is   a persistent  crisis  in  Karnataka’s  governance   management   and   that   always affects  the  service  delivery  negatively. The reform period-initiated number of measures  to  curb  corruption. Empowerment  of  Lokayukta,  implementation of Citizens’ Charters, initiation of social audit  in  rural  and  urban local  bodies, public  hearing  (water  adalat)  and  on- line  complain  registry  are  some  of  the reform measures Karnataka has adopt- ed  to  make  public  service  accountable (KDR, 2007).

The ‘Reformed’ Model of Development

The reform has changed the philosophy of the state polity, anatomy of the economic structure and orientation of the governance management.   This   reform   is   celebrated as  Karnataka  Model  of  Development which   professes  that   technology-led (mostly   Information   and   Biotechnology)  growth  combined  with  decentralized  governance can  address  the  challenge  of  achieving  “growth  tempered with   equity”   (Kadekodi,   Kanbur   and Rao, 2008, p. 17). This   model   is   crafted   as   ‘growth with  social  justice’  by  the  state.  It  is acknowledged  by  the  state  leadership that  growth  alone  cannot  ensure  equitable  distribution  of  income  and  other resources (HPCCI, 2002, chapter – 34). Hence, the model mixed the assurance of equity with the prospect of growth to pronounce as a macro-economic statement. Karnataka has altogether made seven laws to fulfil the transparency crteria of reform. Electricity Reform Act, Anti-Power-Theft  Act,   Transparency  in Public Procurement Act, Ceiling on Govt. Guarantees Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act and Industry.

All this and more would not have been possible but for the pro-active supportive role of the Government headed by the scholar-turned-statesman chief minister. Shri Krishna’s image as a tech- savvy chief minister only helped boost the already strong tech presence in his state. Even top industry titans from the world like Intel CEO Craig Barett and GE Chairman Jack Welch, who were in Bangalore to open technology centres of their respective companies, have been wonder-struck by the industrial climate in the state. Most of the cutting-edge technology takes place in this part  of the country. The Karnataka capital generates bigger software exports than any other Indian city.

To this day, SM Krishna is considered Karnataka’s ideal Chief Minister. His efforts to uplift the minority community, develop employment opportunities, enable low budget housing solutions through BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), IT and Bio-Tech industry zones, SEZs, State civil infra- structure, Agriculture, Power and the

list goes on. Despite several challenges posed  to  the  chief  minister,  Karnataka continues to be the flagship of development in the fields of information technology  (IT)  and  biotechnology  (BT)  in India. Some of the world’s biggest leaders have made Bangalore a must-stop on their India itinerary. From global leaders like China premier Zhu Rongji and Britain  Prime  Minister  Tony  Blair  to industry  captains  like  General  Electric Chairman Jack Welch, Intel CEO Craig Barett  and  media  mogul  Rupert  Murdoch. In August 2000, the prime minister of Japan, Mr. Yoshiro Mori, was in Bangalore to hold discussions with Shri Krishna  on  bridging  the  digital  divide. This  was the  first  visit  by  a  Japanese prime minister to India in 10 years. Shri Krishna  invited  big  Japanese  infotech companies  to  set  up  shop  in  his  state. Some Bangalore companies like Wipro already have a presence in Japan.

His efforts to uplift the minority community, develop employment opportunities, enable low budget housing solutions through BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), IT and Bio-Tech industry zones, SEZs, State civil infrastructure, Agriculture, Power and the list goes on.

SM  Krishna  believes  in  all-round development   of   Karnataka.   “Bangalore is the showcase of development as the capital but we have to create many more Bangalores throughout the state. I am the chief minister of the entire state and I want to have all around development,” says he. His resolve is to ensure that Karnataka has a GDP growth of 8-9 per cent, much higher than the national average. Boosting hopes is the Planning Commission’s  observation  that Karnataka is poised to be a major performer during the next five years and its GRO is expected to grow at 10 per cent. Two years ago (2000) when the state hosted the  Global  Investors  Meet  in  Bangalore,  investments  poured in.  The  meet attracted  more  than  250  projects  with a  total  investment  of  Rs  27,000  crore. over   time,  Karnataka   has   attracted nearly Rs 50,000 crore in investments which   is   a   major   achievement.   The Global Investors Meet and the Confederation  of  Indian  Industry  (CII)  Partnership Summit held in Bangalore drew some of  India’s  top  industry  captains and these spurred investments flowing into Karnataka.

Karnataka’s CEO as he likes to call himself, has been accessible to public and their grievances over emails;more than 300 e-mails every day. A special management information system in the chief minister’s office, directly under the charge of an IAS officer, ensures that all the mails find responses from the chief minister. Clearly, Shri Krishna likes to keep in touch with the common man and there are no restrictions in reach- ing him.

In an Interview- Mark Robinson, Author- The politics of Successful Governance Reforms

Q: Why you did not consider taxing rural incomes and reductions to the subsidies on electric- ity?

A: They (especially the rural elector- ate which decides elections) would never forgive me and I would be finished. Ref:  Pani  N.  Public  Affairs  Centre (2004)  A  Report  Card  on  Bhoomi|  Kiosks:  A  User  Assessment  of  the  Computerized Land Records System in Karnataka

His open mindedness, humble attitude and willing to adopt and try various schemes and methods for better governance and improved lifestyle has earmarked Bangalore and the state of Karnataka on the global map.To this extent, he is remembered as the most effective, efficient, intelligent, astute, statesman like administrator.

An able chief minister such as him- self had to withdraw from congress due to lack of like-mindedness and appreciation to leadership; he joins Bhartiya Janata Party to resume politics. However, there had been discerning interest after the financial issues and troubles and eventual death of his son-in-law Siddharth (Founder of Café coffee day). It  is during these politically hard times for the State that the ministers of the hung government were finding resort from him, perhaps! Also, a prolonged personal solidarity from politics and issues concerning his son-in-law’s death might have troubled the aged Mr. SM Krishna. We as Kannadigas would like to ask the government to seek his advice and perhaps put the state governance in order.

People’s opinion

Karnataka CM S.M. Krishna tops charts consistently- the conclusions suggest a marked continuity with Karnataka’s S.M. Krishna topping the charts consistently. An assessment of what does and doesn’t make the state leaders tick with voters

A suave administrator and a firm believer in teamwork, his modern outlook, openness and accessibility have helped put the sheen back on Karnataka’s image.Call it Krishna and the art of political consciousness. For he has a Zen like approach to his job – a calm and a detachment that are reassuring. He doesn’t sound embarrassed about admitting that he enjoys the good things of life.

(Writer: Shakila Makandar, Principle Correspondent Opinion Express)

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