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The Delhi durbar – like Britain’s Westminster Court and the Congress in Washington – has long witnessed government ministers and bureaucrats feted by entrepreneurs, executives and well-paid lobbyists.
Both have been “lubricated by lavish parties hosted by loquacious power brokers” as the FT’s Amy Kazmin puts it – frequented by cabinet ministers and the city’s financial and commercial elite.
Ministers have been told they should receive entrepreneurs and corporate executives in their offices rather than the lobbies or dining rooms of five-star hotels.
Business people have received the message that they shouldn’t come to Delhi to petition personally or argue their cases with officials; they should merely email their problems – and that they can rest assured of a timely response.
Making government more responsive to all – rather than simply to those with the right connections – would mean a dramatic change in the working style of British and Indian politicians and civil service.
Ms Kazmin adds that ministers have carried out spot inspections at 9am to see whether staff – at all levels – are turning up on time, and there is talk of biometric scanners and disciplinary action for habitual latecomers.
Further lessons for the British government from the new man in Delhi are the expressions of a practical concern for poorer people – their food security, access to water and sanitation – and also for the environment – a very cautious approach to those lobbying to increase the genetic engineering of crops.