In this age of catchy sound-bites, sensational reporting and media trials, public perception of reality is equally, if not more, important than the reality itself. Managing public perception through truthful representation is, therefore, as important as governance.
As reported in a section of the media1, secretaries to the government of India have been asked to furnish their action plans for the next five years. It is a step in the right direction, though it might be a tall order to furnish an action plan for the next five years without the new government revealing its vision and priorities.
Be that as it may, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which accounts for 13-14 per cent of the central government expenditure, if one also takes into account the expenditure on defence pensions, could come under some pressure to prepare an action plan as the outcome of what it does is often intangible, undisclosable, or simply unmeasurable. This is a challenge but it must be met with a view to not simply moving on but also being perceived to be moving on.
Here are a few suggestions for evolving an action plan. First, there are things that need to be done immediately:
The steps mentioned above could show immediate results and make a positive impact on the public perception, apart from doing some real good to the defence establishment. However, this cannot be the end of the endeavour. Some more steps would need to be taken in the medium to long term, stretching up to next year’s budget session, to make a lasting impact. Here are a few suggestions:
The key to succeeding in the effort to make functioning of defence more result oriented lies in evolving roadmaps with full participation of the stakeholders, removing the hurdles in achieving the objectives as and when they arise and monitoring the progress in terms of outcomes. It would be counterproductive to waste precious time in highlighting what went wrong in the past few years. That is a no brainer.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.