Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lokpal and Lokayukta Bills

For the last couple for years, the country has been obsessed with the issue of corruption to the exclusion of several other vital problems afflicting the body politic of India, such as poverty and unemployment, increasing economic disparity, social unrest and insurgency, separatism, ever present cross-border terrorism and above all, degeneration of politics where no holds are barred for power. No doubt, news of corruption at high levels and involving mind boggling magnitudes have hogged the headlines in the media in recent years. Equally vociferous has been the media coverage of various campaigns waged for the purported purpose of eradication of corruption. These campaigns have taken various forms such as mass rallies, meetings and fasts organized at public places, almost invariably in the national capital of Delhi, or country-wide journeys undertaken and meetings held by high stature individuals with some fanfare for the expressed purpose of rousing awareness of the people on the issue of corruption and the need to eradicate it. These activities and actions are euphemistically declared as “battles against corruption”. In this battle, substantial part of energy is devoted to highlighting the prominent corruption cases that have been coming to light one after another in recent years and thereby targetting the government of the day and instigating disaffection with it. As far as strategy for winning this battle is concerned, it is articulated as a “strong and effective” Lokpal bill at the centre and similar Lokayukta bills in the states. While there seems to be near unanimity on all sides on having such bills, differences of perception and views exist on what constitutes, or what is construed to be, such a “strong and effective” bill. On the one side, the view is that the institutions of Lokpal or Lokayukta should be powerful having wide powers for making its own rules and regulations, taking cognizance, carrying out investigation and adjudging conviction, should have sufficient autonomy of action and should have minimum of governmental control and interference in its constitution and functioning. This view is based on the thinking that the government is essentially the patron of corruption and cannot be trusted to deal with corruption impartially and strictly. On the other side, the thinking is that the government being representative of and responsible to the people cannot absolve itself of its duty of ensuring that any institution under it is duly constituted and of overseeing its functioning. While both the views are valid in their own ways, there are also dangers implicit in them. .The first view is flawed essentially on two basic counts. While the institution of government is constituted through a democratic process aimed at ensuring sanction of the people, the institutions of Lokpal and Lokayukta are proposed to be neither themselves being democratically constituted bodies nor constituted with any effective role of the democratically constituted government. Secondly, in order to ensure that the government acts properly, separations of legislative, executive and judicial functions have been duly provided for. No such effective separations of the corresponding functions are provided for in Lokpal and Lokayukta institutions. With such institutions vested with the power to oversee the functioning of the government at various levels, it is bound to affect the functioning of democratically elected governments in all spheres including execution of development and socially oriented programs. There is another aspect of the proposed Lokpal and Lokayukta bodies. As these bodies will be different and distinct from the existing governmental bodies and are expected to perform corruption related diverse functions at all levels, from the bottom to the top, they have to have a centrally controlled huge bureaucracy of its own, parallel to the governments they have to oversee. Apart from the establishment and operational cost ultimately imposed on the people, such an institution flies squarely in the face of the Gandhian concept of decentralized governance. On the other side, while there is concurrence in the view about the Lokpal and Lokayukta institutions being “strong and effective”, the thinking is that the government being duly elected representative of the people and answerable to it must have legitimate roles to play in their constitution as well as functioning. In the ultimate analysis, the elected government invested with state power as well as resources by the sovereign people has to be answerable to the people for all acts of omission and commission even by the Lokpal and Lokayauktas. While this view is unassailable, there are obvious dangers in this. The political party or parties constituting and controlling the government may have a vested interest in selectively protecting or investigating corruption or corrupt practices. Hence any effective role accorded to the government in the constitution and functioning of the anti-corruption institutions is likely to vitiate their actions and defeat the purpose. The proposed Lokayukta bill of the Govt. of Bihar, whose anticorruption credibility has been rather good in recent years, belongs to this category. To some extent, this danger can be avoided or minimized by making these institutions constitutional bodies. This can be done only by amending the constitution. Thus, we end up in a typical catch-22 situation by following the strategy advocated by the present day anti-corruption crusaders. In both the approaches and viewpoints, there are inherent angers due to which achievement of the objective of eradication of corruption from the body politic of India is gravely doubtful. In the first approach fiercely advocated by the Anna camp, there are additional risks to the nation as already pointed out. The moot point now is whether we have to helplessly surrender to the menace of corruption afflicting public life in India, which is now threatening the freedom, dreams and destiny of the nation. It is high time now to think objectively, dispassionately and coolly over the problem. It is easy to be agitated over it and to be facile in suggesting a quick fix for it. In order to do this, we must recognize that corruption is deeply related to the governance of India and is rather ingrained in its system of governance. We must also recognize that this system of governance was inherited by us from our erstwhile British colonial rulers who had ingeniously designed and skillfully operated it to systematically exploit their richest colony. Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of India’s freedom, had clearly seen that the impoverishment, degradation and degeneration of India having thousands of years of rich culture and civilization behind it were due to this system of governance imposed on India and had given a clarion call to get rid of this system rather than of the British people in India as such. He considered that India’s political freedom was a necessary step towards this but not all a destination. In fact, he apprehended that if India stops at this political freedom considering it as the destination of India’s unique struggle for freedom and the same system remains here to be operated by the Indians, India would be doomed to a sorry state of affairs and would be in pitiable condition. Corruption and other degenerative features appearing on the Indian scene with ever increasing intensity demonstrate the playing out of the Mahatma’s deep apprehension and dire prophesy. It was due to a conspiracy of circumstances and the vested interests that India chose to retain the colonial system for governance for a free nation, thus betraying Mahatma Gandhi, short changing the freedom fighters who made sacrifices for attaining freedom under his inspiring leadership and frustrating the post-freedom aspirations of masses of India. On analyzing the exploitative and degrading characteristics of the existing system of governance, it would be apparent that corruption is inbuilt in the system. While exploitation itself is an extreme form of corruption, it breeds corruption and needs corruption to sustain itself. In colonial governance of India, corruption at the lower and middle echelons of the government was rampant, well known and well accepted. At higher levels of the government where decision of governance was made, no doubt corruption in the usual sense of the term was almost non-existent. This was, however, not due to the fact that people at these levels were incorruptible. This was because of the fact that these people were made beneficiaries of the spoils of exploitation, i.e., they were corrupted from the above rather than from below. It is because of the corruption-prone and corruption-breeding nature of the inherited system of governance that corruption has been there from day one of free India not only at the usual lower and middle levels but now even at higher levels. Due to the degrading characteristics of the inherited system of governance, the process of political degeneration had set in after independence, leading to ever widening and deepening tentacles of corruption afflicting the body politic of India. In light of the analysis indicated above, we can see that corruption and culture of corruption are not people-centric or party-centric but is rather system-centric. Let us not delude ourselves that we can eradicate corruption by passing any law, however harsh and powerful, in the existing system. The nation has already experienced futility of such acts in eradicating social ills like dowry and child labour. Let us learn the right lesson from such experience. It is high time to accept that we have to change the system of governance to get rid of the virus of corruption and bring the nation to health, vigour and vibrancy. Lest we think it is too tall an order and an impractical prescription, let us once again recall Gandhi - a practical and ground level visionary. He had said that real freedom would not dawn on India till this freedom was experienced and lived in its villages. This enjoins completely decentralized governance with power emanating from the bottom to the top, rather than its flowing from the top to the bottom. Only in governance based on this concept will corruption wither away and become non-existent. -T. Prasad Convener-cum-Secretary Forum for Change of the System of Governance of India Patna 22 November 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Corruption, Anna and Gandhi

The issue of corruption has emerged on the national scene in a strident manner in recent years. On account of the involvement of high levels of government, an unholy network of actors and huge sums of money in a single corruption incident, it has no doubt assumed giant proportions. So much so that all other problems facing the nation like widespread and widening poverty of the masses, deepening chasm between the rich and the poor, growing social unrest and insurgency, and increasing threats of terror seem to pale into in significance or go out of the focus of national attention and endeavor. It may be appreciated that the suffering of the people affected by, or victims of, these problems is more direct and intense than that caused by corruption. This is not to minimize in any way the immensity or seriousness of the problem of corruption which hogs the headlines in the print and audio-visual media these days. This is only to emphasize the point that one must take an integrated view of all these problems including that of corruption as they are inter-related and interacting. Unless we do this, we are bound to miss the mark in getting over the problem of corruption. All the above-mentioned problems and many other perversities including corruption characterizing our national life are symptoms of the same disease plaguing the body politic of India. And that is the exploitative and degrading system of governance, which was designed and used by the British to systematically exploit the resources and degrading the people of their colony of India, that free India adopted in its Constitution. Let us examine this view based on historical facts and their analysis.

The patent objective of British governance of India was exploitation of the resources of a culturally developed India for the benefit of Britain. Moral degradation of its people was essential for such exploitation to be sustainable and systematic. The colonial system of governance was skillfully designed by the British to achieve the two interdependent objectives - exploitation of the resources and degradation of its people. Corruption at the lower echelons of government was almost inbuilt in the system. It was practiced with impunity by the government servants and taken for granted by the people. Departments of police, engineering, medical, taxation, supply, etc. were notorious for rampant corrupt practices. Corruption at these levels was conceded as part of the spoils of exploitation in the colonial dispensation, which served to make government servants at these levels willing accomplices in the immoral act of exploitation of their fellow countrymen. Those at the higher levels of government, where the real decision making power lay, were not corrupt in the usual sense of the term. These levels of government included not only the highest levels of the Government of British India members of ICS but also the British government itself where ultimate decision making authority lay. They were, however, direct beneficiaries of exploitation of India’s resources and its people in various ways. Their salaries, perquisites and facilities were simply sumptuous. According to one estimate, quoted by Gandhi in his letter to him, the salary of the Viceroy of India, apart from his hefty perquisites and other facilities, was 5000 times the percapita average income of the Indian people paid out of the money extracted from the people through various types of taxes. Thus, the exploitative character of colonial governance manifested itself as corruption, as we understand it, at lower levels of government and fruits of exploitation at higher levels.

This system of governance existed when an interim government was formed in 1946 with Indian leaders at the helm of affairs. When India became free on 15 August 1947 through Indian Independence Act, 1947 passed by the British Parliament, continuance of this system was mandated through the Act till India framed its own Constitution. Due to machinations of the departing British government, vested interests of certain sections of Indians, and lack of real commitment of top Indian leaders to Gandhi’s ideas and ideals, essentially the same system of governance was consecrated by adopting it in the Constitution, thus betraying Gandhi and short changing the freedom fighters who participated in, and made sacrifices for, the freedom movement under the inspiring leadership of Gandhi. The new Indian republic was born on 26 January 1950 with high constitutional aspirations as expressed in the preamble of the Constitution as “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens justice, liberty and equality and to promote fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and unity of the Nation do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.” This solemn resolve was, however, negated by adopting essentially the same system of governance which was designed and used for exploiting India and degrading its people. Thus India started on its journey as a republic saddled with this grave intrinsic contradiction in its Constitution which guided this journey. Various problems and perversities including corruption that have been increasingly afflicting the nation are the logical consequences of this inner contradiction. Gandhi, gifted with his unique insight and foresight, had clearly apprehended this and even warned against this prospect. In his book ‘Hind Swaraj’ written as far back as in 1908, much before he emerged as a well accepted and well respected leader of India’s remarkable freedom movement, he had expressed his apprehension that if India drove out the British but not their system of governance, and the Indians operated the same system in free India, the nation’s doom was definite. What we witness today on the national scene is only the playing out of the Mahatma’s dire predictions.

Corruption characterized the governance of free India from day one. While at the lower levels, it continued and flourished unabated with increasing roles of the government in development and socio-economic activities, it soon appeared at higher levels even when freedom movement leaders with impeccable character moulded under Gandhi’s spell and inspiration were in the driving seats of governments at the Centre as well as in the states. While Mundhra, jeep and several other scandals appeared at the centre, state-specific scandals rocked various state governments in the very first decade of the Indian republic. Since then, leaders at the helm of affairs changed and political parties in power changed, but what did not change was the march of corruption in Indian governance. It continued and grew unabated through all these changes. What is remarkable is that side by side we have also been endeavoring to check and curb the menace of corruption, largely through legal-administrative measures in the same system. Even during the British period, Special Police Establishment (SPE) was set up by the Govt. of India in 1941 to investigate cases of bribery and corruption, particularly in supply related matters in the Army. The scope of SPE was enlarged to include all departments of the Govt. of India and was named as Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) under the Home Ministry through an Act passed in 1946. The scope of DSPE was further enhanced in 1963 to include public undertaking employees as well as state government employees with the consent of the state government concerned and was named as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was set up in 1964 as an autonomous body to deal with all governmental corruption and to monitor all vigilance activities. It was given a statutory status through CVC Act passed in 2003. Several acts have been passed by the Parliament to deal with cases of corruption in government and semi-government organizations such as Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 and Right to Information Act 2005. Several states have set up anti-corruption ombudsman organizations know as Lokayukta to deal with corruption cases at the political and administrative levels in the states as recommended in 1966 by Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Morarji Desai. The recommendation regarding a similar organization at the central level, called Lokpal could not yet be implemented as the enabling bill has not yet been passed by the Parliament in spite of several attempts to do so.

Anna’s agitation against corruption, which has been so prominently covered by the media, must be viewed in the historical and related perspectives indicated above. While the problem of corruption has been present from day one of free India and has been systematically escalating over the years, it has emerged on the national scene like a bombshell with scandals after scandals coming to light, involving high level politicians and mind boggling amounts of money in recent years. Understandably, this has outraged and enraged people who felt they were being cheated out and out by their government.

They are thus ready to ride any bandwagon which is purportedly marching against corruption. They have no patience to deliberate whether the means to achieve the end, i.e., corruption free government are appropriate and valid for the task; nor do the people in the vanguard find it necessary to explain and convince the nation that what they plan to achieve through agitation. i.e. to get the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by Team Anna, is appropriate, adequate and effective to eradicate corruption, the purported objective of the agitation. Let us pause and examine it ourselves. Through Jan Lokpal Bill, Team Anna aims to set up a legal-administrative organ to deal with and eradicate corruption in the country under the existing frame work of governance and is thus in line with other such organs set up in the past which have admittedly failed. Team Anna holds, however, that the proposed organ will not fail as it will be armed with more autonomy, more powers and more wide ranging scope of action. This is patently fallacious. It is too simplistic a view to deal with a complex problem which is essentially systemic. The nation has experienced the ultimate fallacies of such attempts in the past, either in the area of corruption or other social, political or economic fields. Take the case of Anti-Dowry Act, which aimed to eradicate the social ill of dowry, in the existing system of governance. What happened? Whether this Act has made any dent on the dowry problem is debatable, its wide spread misuse is well known. The nation has also the experience of popular agitations against corruption in the past. Corruption at the highest level of government was the dominant issue in the 1989 general elections and the coalition of political parties advocating for a ‘clean’ government came to power under the leadership of V. P. Singh, the prime crusader against such corruption. The government utterly failed to successfully deal with even the single corruption case of Bofors, let alone the broader issue of corruption in government at different levels. This government proved too short lived on account of its strident inner contradictions. Another big agitation was waged in 1976 primarily against corruption in government under the inspiring leadership of Jai Prakash Narain (JP), originally a socialist converted later on to being a Gandhian. For eradication of corruption in government, he called for change of the system of governance rather than a change of the government, a ‘total revolution’ he called it. This call tremendously appealed to the people and evoked an immense response leading to a change of the well entrenched Congress government at the centre and in many states. Due to several factors such as indifferent health and subsequent demise of JP, lack of clarity and any training about ‘Total Revolution’ and the changed system of governance, and the road map for achieving the goal, not only did this phenomenal political change lead to nowhere, but also put the nation into a regressive mode for many years since then. Anna’s agitation must be viewed in light of all these national experiences related to campaigns against corruption which is a volatile but complex issue.

Anna is generally mentioned as a Gandhian and his agitation against corruption is said to be based on Gandhian methods. This is a little baffling as this betrays only a superficial understanding of Gandhi, his ideas and his methods. Perhaps, Anna is called a Gandhian because of his Spartan living. This is truly so. But Gandhi is a Gandhi primarily and dominantly because of his unique ideas and ideals whose validity and value the world is only beginning to grasp now His agitation against corruption being based on the Gandhian methods is only superficially true because it declares to abjure only physical violence. Gandhi’s non-violence was much wider, abjuring all types of violence - physical, mental, even by words. In fact, he believed in the change of heart of the other party. Also, going on fast for socio-political purposes by Gandhi was conceptually different from those undertaken by Anna, which is to force or coerce the other party into doing certain thing. Gandhi undertook the fasts mostly for self purification. But, most of all, Anna’s objective of getting the Jan Lokpal Bill passed by the Parliament in order to eradicate corruption is a complete antithesis of Gandhi’s ideas. Gandhi considered that corruption and other perversities of the nation are inbuilt in the exploitative and degrading system of governance, are its logical products and cannot be eradicated without changing the system and supplanting it with a system which is truly democratic, which is completely decentralized and which is based on our indigenous ethos. Success of Anna’s agitation, i.e. creation of a highly centralized, powerful and autonomous institution would negate Gandhi’s prescription for governance of free India and would lead to dire and frightful consequences for the nation.

We betrayed Gandhi in the Constituent Assembly in the making of our constitution and giving birth to the republic of India. We have been desecrating him since then by using his name, his photographs and even his misinterpreted preachings to promote things which negate his ideas and ideals. And we have also been suffering the consequences of our follies. It is high time for the nation to truly understand Gandhi and his ideas, and be true to this greatest seeker of truth on this earth. Let us make amends for the suicidal act of betrayal of Gandhi in a crucial operation of India’s unique freedom struggle and save the nation from its further ruin by bringing in the system of governance which Gandhi advocated till virtually the last day of his life. This will be the most appropriate tribute to the Mahatma on his birth anniversary.

2 October 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Independence Day of India – A Retrospection

Today, the nation is celebrating its sixty–fifth Independence Day. The day is marked by certain standard, taken-for-granted events – a national holiday, unfurling of the national flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi by the Prime Minister followed by his nationally televised speech in Hindi, our national language, before a gathering of ministers, members of parliament, diplomats and selected groups of school children; similar functions held in state capitals with unfurling of national flags followed by customary speeches by chief ministers as well as in all government offices, educational institutions and other organizations all across the country. All these rituals are mostly held in the forenoon so that traffic and all other related phenomena settle to a normal pace by noon. People celebrate the rest of the day just like any other public holiday. It will be worthwhile to retrospect and reflect on the changing significance of the day over the past sixty-four years.

Many of us living today must have been children or youth when India was declared to be independent on 15 August 1947, which was celebrated with such an upsurge of popular enthusiasm, exhilaration, and jubilation in villages and towns alike throughout the length and breadth of the country that its tinge lingers on with us even now, even though we didn’t quite grasp the political and national significance of the event then. The day began very solemnly and significantly with the famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech at the stroke of the mid night hour on 14-15 August 1947 by the first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in the Central Hall of the Parliament in what was then the Constituent Assembly of India. He dwelt on the larger significance of the event in the context of the grandeur of India’s long march undertaken thousands of years ago in these terms, "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance… At the dawn of history, India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and grandeur of her success and failures. Through good and ill fortune alike, she has never lost sight of that quest, forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of misfortunes and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us…. The appointed day has come - the day appointed by destiny - and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning-point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about. It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!” On this occasion, he mentioned the trials and the tribulations gone through and sacrifices made by those who participated in the freedom struggle lest we forget them in the euphoric celebration that day, “Before the birth of freedom, we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now”. He, however, particularly highlighted the task and the responsibilities brought forth by the freedom to be accomplished by the present and future generations of Indians, in general, and their leaders, in particular in these words, “That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means, the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest men of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over”.

It was a magnificent speech made on the historic occasion when the genius of a vibrant nation with a rich past, which remained suppressed for almost two centuries, was coming into its own - a speech made by a person who had keen understanding of its past, who was in the forefront of the struggle to win that freedom and who was conscious that he was to play a leading role in realizing the post-freedom vision for India. Sixty-four years to the day after that speech was solemnly delivered, it will be of great interest to critically see and objectively evaluate how that vision unfolded over the decades. In the initial years after that momentous occasion, in the enthusiasm, fervor, momentum and dynamism of front ranking leaders of freedom movement, India made great strides in all round development - something which was not witnessed earlier. In spite of the persisting socio-economic problems, the mood of the masses was expectant and palpably upbeat. However, as the years and decades rolled on, the leaders of the freedom movement faded away, and the post-freedom fervor wore off, decline in various spheres of national life began to be visible. Degradation of politics and political morality, corruption in public life, social unrest and insurgency and persistence of poverty became rather obvious. These perversities did not seem to be imposed or imported from outside. Their seeds were there right from the beginning, they were rather systemic. That is why they grew systematically – becoming more and more strident with time, from one regime to another. It is this aspect of our freedom which we should coolly and objectively analyze on this occasion.

For this analysis, one has to go to the very basics of our freedom struggle and its objective. Before the advent of Gandhi in this struggle, the national movement spearheaded by the Indian National Congress (INC) was aimed at securing more representation of the Indians in the governance of India. There was also a section of INC which advocated for total freedom meaning thereby getting rid of the British people in Indian governance, leaving it to the indigenous people. When Gandhi came on the scene, he saw that the system of governance that the British had designed and operated in India was meant to exploit the resources of a colony and impoverish as well as degrade its people. So, initially he agitated against the system and its unjust laws, rather than against the British people as such. Later on, when he got convinced that the exploitation and consequent degradation of the people constitute the raison-d’être of the British people coming to and being in India, he called upon the British to quit India and leave it to its own destiny. The principle of non-violent passive resistance adopted by Gandhi for the freedom movement made the British succumb to grant India political freedom by transferring power vested in the British Parliament to India through Indian Independence Act, 1947. While this Act granted political freedom to India to frame its own Constitution, it provided for continuance of the then prevailing Govt. of Act, 1935 till the new Constitution was framed and enacted. Although mere political freedom was not the ultimate objective of our freedom struggle, it was a necessary step for securing the desired freedom and hence its grant was no doubt a momentous event for the nation. Nehru had acknowledged this fact in his speech by saying that the achievement being celebrated was “but a step, an opening of opportunity to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us”.

While framing the Constitution of India, a conspiracy of circumstances and factors resulted in a Constitution which declared the aspirations of the people for ‘a democratic sovereign republic’, securing justice liberty and equality to all its citizens but it paradoxically retained essentially the prevailing British colonial system for governance of a free nation in the Constitution. Machinations of the departing British colonial government in collusion with the vested interests of India and less than complete understanding and commitment of the first rank followers of Gandhi to his ideas and ideals resulted in this paradoxical flaw in the Constitution. Gandhi, who was saddened to the core by the partition of India and its aftermath, was a forlorn person while the exercise of framing the Constitution was going on in the Constituent Assembly. His ideas for governance of a free India, which he espoused throughout his leadership of the freedom struggle on the basis of which he inspired millions to join it and make sacrifices were subsequently murdered in the Constituent Assembly by adopting such a seriously flawed Constitution in the name of “we, the people of India” on 26 Nov. 1949, less than two years after he was physically murdered. While giving his Tryst with Destiny speech in the Constituent Assembly, Nehru was perhaps intuitively aware of the deficiency of the followers of the Mahatma in fully comprehending his visionary message when he paid his tributes to his Master in these words, “On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the Father of our Nation, who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us. We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility”.

Now that the nation has seen and experienced the various misfortunes that have befallen it and the various ills that have afflicted it over these six decades of its journey as a republic - something that were beyond the imagination of Nehru when he was inspired to make that speech and something that was apprehended by Gandhi in the event of his essential preaching for governance of free India for which he pleaded virtually till the last day of his life being ignored by his very front rank followers - it is high time for us, the present generation of the citizens of the Indian republic, to revisit Gandhi’s message for governance of free India. Change of the system of governance, as advocated by Gandhi from day one of India’s struggle for freedom under his inspiring leadership till his last day and as is truly befitting a democratic sovereign nation, is the crying need of the hour. This is all the more urgent now when the nation is in upheaval on issues like rampant corruption, crushing poverty of the masses, insurgency and terrorism and there is a danger that it may take recourse to a shortsighted short-cut to get out of its present difficulties to be frustrated again later on, like what happened more than three decades ago when it massively responded to JP’s call for ‘change of the system’ but was short changed for merely ‘a change of the government’.

Realization of the eternal and eminent relevance of the Mahatma’s message and making a solemn commitment to implement his prescription for governance of free India by amending the historical error committed during the framing of a new constitution for a nation waking after a long slumber will be a fitting tribute to the architect of India’s independence and an apt celebration of its independence day. Thus, we shall materialize the vision for a free India unfolded on this very day sixty four years ago when India’s first ‘tryst with destiny’ was accomplished. Our second ‘tryst with destiny’ is still to be redeemed.

Patna, India
15 August 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011


In the previous posts on this Blog, it was discussed why the existing system of governance of India needs to be changed; what will be the changed system of governance; and how the change can be brought about. The logical next question is who will do it. The obvious and real answer to this question is we, the people of India, have to do it. Who else? There is no point in faulting the past generations for their omissions and commissions in the matter. Also, it will be inexcusably irresponsible to leave this momentous task, which is crying for action, to future generations in the vain hope that another Mahatma Gandhi or JP or any other similarly charismatic personality would emerge on the scene for the purpose. We must realize our duty as well as capability to do it. In a historic perspective, we are not yet too far removed from the Mahatma’s times to be guided by his far reaching ideas and be inspired by his abiding ideals. When the world is how realizing the relevance of his ideas and the value of his ideals, we are after all their direct inheritors. Not only this, we inherit parts of many great men and women who appeared on this land and shaped the course of history and humanity. Their legends still continue to make impact on the life and living of people. In our spiritual tradition, aren’t we part of the Almighty God? Invoking all this excellent inheritance of ours, we can certainly accomplish this national task.

In the above mentioned context, let us be rather specific about various actors who are to be involved in carrying out different components of the national task of changing the system of governance for India. The first and foremost is the conceptual base of the task. The ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the task, expounded in the previous blog posts, provide this base. Although this has been put forward by founder members of the Forum for Change the System of Governance of India under whose auspices the current and its predecessor Blogs have been created, the real actor in this basic task has been the architect of India’s freedom Mahatma Gandhi under whose inspiring guidance India’s freedom struggle was waged. The practical visionary that Mahatma Gandhi was, he had always in mind what governance system free India must have for which India’s political freedom was the first essential step. In fact, he had eloquently indicated on several occasions that he was fighting against the colonial system of governance and not necessarily against the British colonial masters, thus implying fighting for a system of governance befitting India’s culture and genius. It was on this concept and vision of freedom for India that he had inspired the masses of India to join its freedom movement based on nonviolence and passive resistance. Even the idea that this movement would aim at driving out the British so that the Indians could occupy their positions and operate the same government machinery was repugnant to Gandhi. In fact, he had cautioned and warned against this misplaced idea for India’s freedom.

When India was going through the exercise of framing its Constitution, it had clearly the opportunity of implementing Gandhi’s prescription for governance of free India. Two factors, however, worked against this at that time. First, majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly represented by design the privileged sections of Indians who had vested interest in continuance of the existing system of governance sans the British. Secondly, those members who were in the forefront of India’s freedom struggle under the acknowledged leadership of Mahatma Gandhi lacked in understanding the depth and farsightedness of his ideas and hence in their commitment to them. They were too familiar with the British system and too enamoured of astounding developments in Soviet Russia to appreciate the intrinsic value, sustained relevance and overarching significance of Gandhi’s ideas. Gandhi tried his best to impress upon the Congress Party the wisdom and soundness of his ideas for independent India literally till the last day of his life. He, however, was too heartbroken on partition of India and its terrible consequences, felt too lonely since his prime followers assumed the responsibility of the government and was too short lived to maintain his characteristic perseverance and persistence in the matter. Thus, Gandhi failed in the ultimate mission of his life in his life time; was betrayed in the Constituent Assembly; and the nation, bruised for more than century by a degrading colonialism, lost a historic opportunity for its renaissance, resurgence and rejuvenation.

However, a person may die due to biological limitations or otherwise, but his ideas, particularly of an epochal person like Gandhi, continue to live, inspire and guide mankind forever. This has been in evidence on several historic occasions in the world. As for the instant task of changing the system of governance of India, this is rather an unfinished task left by the Mahatma for future generations of Indians to undertake and complete. The depressing experience of more than six decades of India’s post-independence journey has served only to bring the logic of the Mahatma’s ideas in sharper focus and to highlight the urgency of the task. In fact, in retrospect one may even think that the Mahatma’s thinking on the issue was too visionary for the people of his times. At the present, when people clearly see various ills increasingly afflicting the post-independence nation and they desperately want a change and a way out of the mess, the time is ripe for people to appreciate and accept the wisdom of Gandhi’s prescription for governance of free India. This task of ridding India of its debilitating illness for her revolutionary transformation is of course challenging but since the prescription is already available, it has been rendered rather easy.

For those of us who want and are prepared to contribute to the process of revolutionary transformation of India essentially on Gandhi’s prescription and deem it a duty as an enlightened member of this generation, the task is rather straightforward. Just as for producing any complex and sophisticated product such as a modern air plane or a computer, once its grand design based on scientific principles is firmed up, various component activities leading to the final product are comparatively straightforward and can be carried out by suitably trained persons. Similarly, as the grand design for India’s wellness and greatness commenstruate with her genius is given by a practical visionary like the Mahatma, the follow up task can surely be accomplished by lesser individuals like us. As this transformation is to be achieved through ballot rather than bullet, as outlined in the previous post on this Blog titled “Road Map for Bringing about Changed System, of Governance”, there are two essential requirements for the purpose; one, an efficient and disciplined organization and two, adequate financial and other resources. The task is to be accomplished in two distinct and interactive phases. In the first phase, firming up the conceptual and strategic framework along with a programme of awareness, education and motivation of the people is to be carried out, which will be greatly facilitated through extensive use of all means of information and communication including print, television, telephone, internet and public meetings. In the second phase, which will be taken up at a suitable stage of the first phase, political action and programmes will be taken up.

Thus each member of this generation, man and woman, can verily contribute to the accomplishment of this historic mission according to his or her inclination and capability. Such contribution can come by participating in various ways in the organization committed to the mission and / or by providing financial and other resources to strengthen the organization in order to enable it to carry out this onerous task, which is really the unfinished part of India’s unique freedom struggle. We of this generation must appreciate that the sacrifices called for and made by the freedom fighters under the live leadership of Mahatma Gandhi have rendered the path to be covered by this generation rather easy and tractable. Definitely, no such sacrifices are required for the task now. The most important and critical requirement for this task is perceptional, i.e., perceiving India’s problems in the correct perceptive. An enchanting pitfall in this perception is to hold individuals or groups responsible for India’s problems. This danger existed even in India’s freedom struggle when the popular perception was that the British people were responsible for India’s degradation and simply driving them out was the be-all and end-all of the solution. While Mahatma Gandhi constantly cautioned against this popular perception in his times, the then situation conspired to make India fall prey to this pitfall. Let us learn the right lesson from history, carry out the unfinished task for India’s real freedom. We owe it to ourselves, to the Father of the Nation who laid down his life for this, to millions of freedom fighters who made sacrifices to the cause of India’s freedom, and most of all, to our nation and its future generations.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Road Map for Bringing About Changed System of Governance in India

In the inaugural post on the topic “A Vital and Essential Step for Emergence of a New India” (published on 2 October 2010) under the Blog titled Emergence of a New India, it was brought out that all vital problems increasingly afflicting India since independence such as degradation of political morality, corruption in public life, poverty and economic disparity, and social unrest and insurgency emanate from adopting highly incongruous system of governance, which was designed and used for systematically exploiting and degrading a colony, for a free and developing nation having democratic aspirations. Hence it was argued that change of the system of governance was the vital and essential step for emergence of a new India. In the second post titled “System of Governance for a New India” (published 18 November 2010), the broad outline and the basic features of the changed system of governance for India were indicated, derived from Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj for India based upon which he inspired millions of Indians to participate in the freedom struggle, from the experience of framing the Indian constitution which betrayed Gandhi and short changed the masses of India as well as from the eye opening example of the system of governance of a functioning democracy like that of the USA. A vision of India as will logically emerge under the changed system of governance was indicated in the third post titled “Vision of India with the Changed System of Governance in Place” (published on 3 January 2011). How this change can be brought about and the road map for the same will be the subject matter of the current blog post.

In this regard, the first and the foremost point we have to keep in mind is that the changed system of governance is conceptually and fundamentally different from the existing system of governance which is essentially a continuation of the century old colonial system. While in this system, authority of governance flowed from the sovereign monarch in London to the level of its subjects living in the villages and towns of India, in the desired system, the ultimate authority, i.e., sovereignty lies with the people, a source from which it emanates to various levels of governance. Thus, the desired system of governance can never be brought about by reforming the existing one. It has to be conceptually changed. Thus, what is being envisaged is a revolutionary change.

A revolutionary change need not necessarily be brought about by violent revolutions as has been done or attempted in various parts of the world. However, in India which has evolved through thousands of years of cultural growth and is the inheritor, in blood and psyche, of a rich civilization uninterrupted even by and through politico-economic upheavals, revolutionary changes in knowledge, science, religion, politics or even economics have occurred by non-violent and peaceful methods, such as what has been achieved by Gautam Buddha, Chanakya, Mahatma Gandhi and Jai Prakash Narain. On the other hand, there is hardly an example in the long history and experience of India where any fundamental or revolutionary change has been achieved through violence or violent means. On the basis of this historical experience and cultural characteristics of India and its people, a road map for bringing about the desired change in the system of governance of India can be chartered as follows.

The existing system of governance is prescribed in the Constitution of India, and hence the desired change can be brought about by the constitutional exercise of suitably amending the constitution. The distinguished makers of the Constitution have provided for ample scope for such amendments, realizing the limits of values and vision prevailing at any given time including the time of making the constitution. The Parliament, apart from its legislative powers, has also been vested with constituent powers for which two third, rather than simple, majorities in each house of the Parliament is required. Exercising this power, the Parliament can bring about any amendment in the Constitution subject to its ‘basic features’ being maintained. While legal debates about what constitutes ‘basic features’ of the Constitution have been going on, there is unanimity about the Preamble of the Constitution expressing the aspirations of the people of India and thus containing and defining the basic features of the Constitution. A system of governance is an instrument to realize the aspirations of the people as expressed in the Preamble. Through six decades long constitutional journey, the incompatibility and inappropriateness of this instrument adopted in the Constitution have been grossly demonstrated. All the aspirations of the people, including those of the architect of India’s freedom, Mahatma Gandhi, of the freedom fighters and, most of all, of the masses of India have remained utterly unfulfilled. India has been groaning under the illusions of being a democratic, socialist, secular, sovereign, republic in which justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation are ensured. India’s groan has been getting louder and louder since inception of the Indian Republic, which has been moving off-track from day one. It has to be brought to the right track by the right instrument, i.e. an appropriate system of governance by enshrining it in the Constitution through suitably amending it, using the constituent power vested with the Parliament.

The two houses of the Parliament, i. e., Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are constituted by members elected by the people. While the Lok Sabha consists of 550 members elected directly by the people on the basis of universal adult suffrage normally every five years, the Rajya Sabha consists of 238 members elected indirectly by the people through the directly elected members of the state legislatures for a duration of 6 years with one third of members retiring every two years.

Thus to ensure that the Parliament amends the Constitution suitably in order to bring in the desired system of governance, the people of India have to be educated and motivated about the change of the system of governance. Apolitical party committed to this change of the system of governance with this being its dominant agenda and manifesto has to be brought into being. The Indian people, educated and motivated as indicated above, will surely bring such a political party into power at the centre as well in the states. The parliament and state assemblies so constituted will suitably amend the Constitution to bring the changed system of governance into being. Transformation of the entire structure of government, from the village to the centre, will take place through legislative and administrative actions as per the system of governance enshrined in the amended Constitution. Under this system of governance, the political party that will be instrumental in bringing about this transformation of governance along with the existing political parties in the country will lose its relevance and significance and must be disbanded and reorganized, as Gandhi had willed for the Congress Party on attaining India’s political freedom. A new polity in conformity with the new system of governance will emerge in the country.

Thus, the task of changing the system of governance of India has to be carried out in two distinct, sequent and interacting phases. Education and motivation of the people of India will essentially be done in the first phase. At a suitable stage in going through the first phase, the second phase of the task, which comprises political action and activities, will be launched, culminating into the constitutional amendment and establishment of the changed system of governance.

The task is no doubt challenging but there are many facilitating factors which will ensure its successful accomplishment, given the rationale, logic and soundness of the underlying idea. Among these factors are; (i) sturdy common sense, receptiveness and responsiveness of the Indian masses, which have been demonstrated to come into play on several historical occasions, (ii) general acceptance of democracy as the guiding principle of governance, (iii) firmly established universal suffrage, (iv) a reliable, efficient and effective election authority and (v) explosive and revolutionary advances in information and communication technologies along with their widespread mass penetration and uses.

Facilitated by these and allied factors, the road map outlined above will lead to the destination of emergence of a new India, a vision which was indicated in the previous post published on January 11, 2011 under this blog.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vision of India with the Changed System of Governance in Place

The new system of governance which was in the mind of Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of India’s freedom, and on the basis of which he had called for the masses of India to participate in the nonviolent freedom struggle and make sacrifices as required, is based on the concept that an individual is the ultimate source of state power. All state powers emanate from this ultimate source like concentric circles of wave radiating from the point of impact with a pebble in a still body of water, with the inner circle covering less area but with a higher wave intensity compared to outer circles covering more area but with lower wave intensities. In practical terms of governance structure, this would mean strong village governments or what Gandhi termed as ‘village republics’ with responsibilities and powers to take care of all matters that directly concern the life and living of all the people of the concerned village or town. The next levels of government, at state, national or any intermediate levels, will have the responsibly and powers to deal with matters which are logically considered to be best dealt with at those levels. In any case, there would no duality of responsibilities and powers, which may give rise to conflicts and there would be no question of higher or lower in authority between the governments. The government at each level would be autonomous in its domain of responsibilities and the inter-relationship among the governments at different levels would be well defined by the governing Constitution. The taxation regime and the public finance and economic structure would be revamped from the present one designed for centralized governance to one appropriate for the decentralized governance indicated above. Similarly, the administrative structure of the envisaged system of governance will undergo a sea change from the present one. The economic and administrative viability and validity of the changed system of governance has been indicated in the previous post on this blog.

In such a changed system of governance in place, corruption and scams as a systemic disease will almost vanish primarily for two reasons. In the present system, public money travels from people living in villages and towns to state or national exchequers in various ways and forms and travelling back to people for development works and services, resulting in tremendous systemic and extra-systemic losses. The famous statement of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that “out of one rupee sent from Delhi only 15 paise reaches a village for work” is indicative of these losses, a large part of which is transformed into corruption and scams which fuel the parallel black money market of the country. Another contributing factor to corruption and scams in the present system is remoteness and non-transparency of the government. In the changed system, these two contributing factors of corruption in public life will cease to exist and consequently almost 90% of present-day corruption will vanish. The remaining corruption will be non-systemic, or rather aberrations of the system which can easily be tackled through suitably formulated laws, rules and regulations.

With corruption largely eliminated from public life, the pace of development in the country will be much faster, at least 10 times as fast as it is today. Moreover, most of the developments in the country will originate and take place in the villages, obliterating the rural-urban divide and checking rural to urban migration of jobless people.

In the changed system of governance, insurgency will have no base to stand upon. Insurgent forces are mostly generated in villages and remote areas, growing out of dissatisfaction and marginalization of sections of people and are directed against the far way governments. When a powerful government is functioning right in the villages, insurgency will automatically vanish. This is corroborated by experimental experience. When the state government of Bihar introduced an experiment of “government at your doorstep” in a Naxal infested area, it resulted in a drastic reduction of destructive Naxal activities in that area. Similarly, separatism which also grows out of a sense of alienation will lose its significance. Thus, the changed system of governance will not only bring about truly democratic governance but also truly inclusive governance.

With autonomous governments functioning in the villages and towns, the creative and productive energies of the masses will not be inhibited by arbitrarily interpreted laws, rules and regulations which they can’t understand, much less accept, and thus these energies will come into full play. Apart from qualitative improvement in the life and living of people, this will significantly contribute to the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in various ways. Such a growth will not only increase the rate of economic growth of the nation but will also directly reduce the level of poverty, as distinct from the debatable ‘trickle down’ effect. It will result in progressively less and less poor and more and more equitable society.

In such a decentralized system of governance with strong governments at the village level, the nation will become strong as it will be relieved of many responsibilities which are better taken care of at other and more appropriate levels of governance and of dissipating its energies in dealing with debilitating factors like corruption, insurgency, separatism and even politically motivated demands and agitations for separate and smaller states. The nation will be better able to take care of what are truly national tasks such as defense, developments of science and technology, promoting cutting edge scientific and technological endeavors such as space science and technology, and dealing with international matters in this increasingly interactive global world.

The tenor and culture of politics will undergo a sea change in the changed system of governance. In the present-day power-centric politics, almost no holds are barred in the relentless pursuit of power by individuals and political parties. The strategy of ‘divide and rule’ followed by the British in their last ditch effect to retain their colonial power in India, which ultimately led to division of the country, is also unabashedly used by the political parties in the Indian republic for the same purpose - to gain or retain power, except that the dividing line is not just communalism, but also caste and region. This is no surprise as the logic of such a strategy is implicit in the system of governance. In the changed system of governance, this strategy will be rendered meaningless and the political parties will be based on the political philosophy they hold and their outlook on national affairs and interests.

The above-mentioned changes that the nation will see unfolding in the changed system of governance are just indicative and by no means exhaustive. The momentum of these positive changes will give rise to and bring in many positive actions and activities throughout the country, transforming it into a resurgent nation ever on the path of positive progress rather than on the present course of decline and degradation. Under the new dispensation of governance, India will come out of the evil trance of British colonial culture imposed by design upon its own pristine culture and will come into its own true self. India will then “awake into the heaven of freedom”, as envisioned by Rabindranath Tagore and will emerge as a nation of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams. It will then be India to which the troubled world will once again look for guidance and enlightenment.