Anna Hazare has said that his movement will not end after creating a Lokpal. He announced intention to take up other grievances related to farmers, workers, students and the rest. Addressing grievances piecemeal is not the answer. What India needs is a system and structure of governance that redresses problems in the natural course. That is what lasting reform of the system implies. That is what a functioning democracy must deliver. What might be the agenda that can reform the system to deliver effective governance in the natural course?
This is what young people inspired by the desire to end corruption might consider. The suggestions outlined below reiterate ideas that have been expressed through these columns earlier. Diverse suggestions have been lumped together to attempt a cohesive agenda that addresses the system and structure of governance and not merely specific current issues.
|Over the years the role of legislators has been distorted to empower them with executive responsibility in addition to legislative work. The discretionary development fund allotted to each legislator that is spent in each respective constituency is one example.
Consider first the structure of governance. It needs to be streamlined and simplified. That can be accomplished by creating a five-tier system. The five tiers would be federal, state, district, block and primary. The present districts should be delimited so that each district conforms to each parliamentary constituency. Similarly, each block should conform to each assembly constituency. The primary units would be the rural village and the urban (Mohallah) colony. The number of polling booths required to create a primary unit may be specified. By such delimitation the multiplicity of authority would be reduced. The jurisdiction of legislators would be better demarcated.
As for the system of governance the Constitution must be viewed afresh in order to fulfill the intentions of its framers. Ours is a written Constitution. Its text leaves little room for ambiguity. Distortions were created in its interpretation from its very inception. Our Constitution is neither Westminster nor is the elected President a titular head. Unless the huge gap between precept and practice is removed there is little scope for either delivering effective governance or curtailing corruption. Indeed, all the amendments to the Constitution need to be reviewed. Many were introduced through political expediency and not for real legislative compulsions. All superfluous amendments need to be ruthlessly scrapped.
Also, several provisions of the Constitution and some of its directive principles have been virtually ignored over the past six decades. That has eroded the federal character of Indian politics. Broadly, we must decentralize power to offer self rule and democracy to the people. At the same time we must allow the President to exercise the powers assigned to the office by our written Constitution. That would help create democracy at the grassroots and through a President exercising executive responsibility create unity and cohesion at the centre. It might be observed that in America the states have more power than states in India, at the same time the US President has more powers than the Prime Minister in India.
Over the years the role of legislators has been distorted to empower them with executive responsibility in addition to legislative work. The discretionary development fund allotted to each legislator that is spent in each respective constituency is one example. Keeping in mind this distorted view of the legislator’s role that has already got deeply embedded in the consciousness of the electorate a modification suggests itself. Each primary, block and district level should have elected executive councils accountable to local residents empowered to deal with all problems accruing exclusively to each respective constituency. The development fund should be used by the respective executive council and not singularly by the legislator.
The local MP might chair the district executive council and the local MLA could chair the Block executive council. The primary level at both the rural and urban constituencies should have an elected headman presiding over the executive council. All the adult residents of the primary unit would comprise the general body having voting rights. There should also be created a new primary tier of the police that would be accountable to the primary executive council. It might be mentioned that such a primary tier of police could prove to be an invaluable data source for federal counter-terrorism Intelligence. The permanent residents of each district would be considered owners of the land and natural resources that fall within its parameters. They would have the constitutional right to have a say and be consulted in the exploitation of such resources by either the government or private parties.
To address various demands for new states there should be constituted a Second States Reorganization Commission empowered to create smaller states preferably to be carved out from within the borders of existing large states. It should also consider the conversion of all major metropolitan capitals into city states that might host space and facilities to the newly created small states that fall within the original large state.
The Planning Commission should be replaced by the Peoples’ Planning Commission that would be accountable to the empowered Inter-State Council as envisaged in the Constitution. The President with a mandate from both Parliament and all State Assemblies would preside over this Council. . This Commission should ensure that the bulk of public funds, including those realized from public sector disinvestment, are deployed to provide rural development including new roads, management of drinking and irrigation water, power generation, healthcare and literacy.
Public investment in these sectors would hugely expand employment and create purchasing power in rural India. In industry there should be created in addition to the public and private sectors a Workers’ Sector in which all employees would have a share of profit and ownership, and in floor level management. All board decisions of Workers’ Sector units would be transparent to workers. In short, the proposed People’s Plan would help develop India’s richest natural resource – its human population.
Finally, the new agenda should seek the introduction of a clause in the directive principles of the Constitution that commits the nation to strive for the goal of a South Asian Union comprising all nations of erstwhile British India, plus other SAARC nations that might want to be included, that delivers a common market, joint defence and free movement of goods and people across borders. The realization of this goal alone would enable India to play its rightful role in the comity of nations.
Thus, decentralized administration, an empowered President, smaller states, a South Asian Union and a People’s Plan constitute an explicit five-point agenda that Young India might consider. After the creation of an acceptable agenda , either this or another, young Indians might proceed to create a political party on its basis, contest the general election, form a government and create a New India of their dreams. That is the real challenge facing young Indians seeking genuine change.
On April 14 2011, I wrote in the column "It's India's Jasmine Moment":
“These days many young Indians are displaying formidable talent and enterprise in the world of commerce. Well, the challenge of creating a political party is no more daunting than of creating a business corporation. Both enterprises require communication, organization and marketing. Only, parties deal with ideas and policies and not with products and services. It is a tough task. But the national mood revealed by the countrywide reaction to Anna Hazare’s fast indicates that the time for it to succeed has arrived.”
The media is full of the young enlightened middle class that has got drawn into India’s Second War of Independence. Well, implementing some such agenda as this would be the real challenge facing this class.
The creation of a Lokpal would be just the first immediate small step. For the Lokpal to be incorporated in the proposed agenda it would be a constitutional body accountable wholly to the President without reference to the Cabinet. Likewise the CBI converted into a constitutional body would, like all other constitutional bodies, be accountable wholly to the President. The Lokpal would be confined to dealing only with political corruption in both the centre and, through its branches, in the states. The Central Vigilance Commission would continue to look after the rest of the corruption cases. To imagine that an instant solution to end corruption exists is delusional. Fighting corruption genuinely would require dogged effort. Is Young India up to facing the challenge?