The Big Story: Dangers of unofficial governance

One of the central devices of ensuring accountability in a democracy is the maintenance of public records. This isn't just a convention: it's a legal requirement. The Public Records Act of 1993 provides an exhaustive list of conditions for creating and maintaining records of government communications so that they can be called upon for reference either by the legislature or the judiciary if the need arises.

As a consequence, it is alarming to learn that senior officials of the Rural Development Ministry sidestepped these rules and have resorted to using unofficial channels such as WhatsApp to disperse crucial policy decisions to the states on the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, as the Business Standard reported on Monday. The paper said that despite drought conditions prevailing in many parts of the country, the ministry asked states not to generate more jobs in September under the programme, which guarantees 100 days of work to rural families.

This decision could have far-reaching consequences for the rural poor, especially since the monsoon has concluded in large parts of India and the next harvest is months away.

There are two immediate conclusions to be drawn from this episode. To begin with, it demonstrates that the Bharatiya Janata Party government's attitude towards the employment guarantee scheme remains conflicted, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi famously said in 2014 that his government would keep the programme alive as a reminder of the United Progressive Alliance regime's incompetence.

Despite his rhetoric, the utility of the scheme became obvious in 2015 when many parts of the country faced drought conditions for the second year in a row. The Centre was forced to maintain the programme to alleviate rural economic distress. Even though the benefits are clear, the BJP government seems to view the scheme as something that bleeds a lot of money. That is why officials are, in whatever way possible, trying to limit the spending under the scheme.

More significantly, the practice of officials using WhatsApp to communicate with their counterparts could have an adverse impact on governance and transparency. There is no guarantee that this was a one-off case since government departments tend to replicate what they believe are convenient models. Such unofficial channels of communication will end up undermining transparency and laws such Right to Information Act that ensure accountability to the public.

The Big Scroll

Over WhatsApp texts, Centre instructs States not to generate jobs under MNREGS

Political pickings

  1. The dramatic day in Samajwadi Party ended on Monday with the patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav getting his son Akilesh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav under the same roof and pleading for peace.  
  2. Speaking at a BJP rally in Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the "triple talaq" custom of divorce among Muslims and called for gender equality. 
  3. In Kerala, former Chief Minister Oomen Chandy is in trouble after a court ordered him and several others to repay an alleged bribe they took from a businessman in the now infamous solar scam. 


  1. Hassan Hassan in the New York Times takes stock of where the ISIS stands as security forces up the offensive to retake Mosul in Iraq.
  2. Making a comparison between family-run businesses and family-run political parties, Sanjay Baru argues in the Indian Express for more transparency in matters of leadership transition.   
  3. In the Economic Times, Rajiv Kumar weighs in on the factors that could have led to the ouster of Cyrus Mistry as Chairman of the Tata Group. 

Don't miss

Based on a new World Health Organisation report, Sachi Satapathy writes on the alarming trends in the fight against tuberculosis in India.

The new report strongly highlights the lacunae in testing for TB and reporting new cases. Only 6.1 million of the estimated 10.4 million new cases every year have been detected and officially notified, leaving a huge gap of 4.3 million undetected cases. This problem is due to under-reporting of TB cases, particularly in countries like India, where high numbers of unregulated private healthcare providers do not report TB cases. Moreover, there are many instances of under-diagnosis simply because of inaccessible healthcare.