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What We Have Here is a Failure to Govern!
by Dr.Gopal Singh Bookmark and Share
In the movie Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman there is an immortal dialogue “What we have here is a failure to communicate”.

In our country we can restate it What we have here is a failure to govern”!

I spent most of the day today reading the Verma Commission report.  I must admit that based upon the past history I was skeptical for any of these committees to meet the task and beat the deadline.  Obviously these three judges were not interested in asking for extensions and increase in the committee budget and their personal remuneration.

It appears that they have not only surprised me, they have also surprised the very people who commissioned them to begin with.  Instead of rewarding them for this “opportunity” by exonerating them of any wrong doing they have turned on them and blamed them squarely for the Delhi Rape Case and whatever else goes wrong elsewhere in the country.  To our surprise they stated the obvious that we all knew.  You might find it a redundant statement (particularly if you do not know the Indian politics) but it is indeed a departure from status quo.

I must congratulate the former Chief Justice and his two colleagues – hats off to them!

Now, what are the obvious things they stated in their conclusions and recommendations?  They are too detailed to mention here, but a few excerpts are noteworthy.  See if you can relate to them:
  1. The existing laws, if faithfully and efficiently implemented by credible law enforcement agencies, are sufficient to maintain law and order and to protect the safety and dignity of the people, particularly women, and to punish any offenders who commit any crime.
  2. Available personnel of the judiciary and the infrastructure, with a few systemic changes can, at least, reduce half the burden of arrears in courts contributing to delays in enforcing the law of the land.
  3. Law enforcement agencies must not become tools at the hands of political masters.
  4. Practically every serious breach of the rule of law can be traced to the failure of performance by the persons responsible for its implementation.
  5. The apathy of civil society is evident from the inaction of passers-by and bystanders in the Delhi Rape Case. The misbehavior of the police towards any samaritan is often the cause for such apathy.
  6. The lathi charge on peaceful demonstrators after the December 16 gang rape has scarred the Indian democracy.
  7. Recent events indicate that the patience of the disillusioned youth is running out.
  8. The equality of women, being integral to the Constitution, its denial is a sacrilege and a constitutional violation. Sustained constitutional violations mean that governance is not in accordance with the Constitution.
  9. As a primary recommendation, all marriages in India (irrespective of the personal laws under which such marriages are solemnized) should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate, which magistrate will ensure that the marriage has been solemnized without any demand for dowry having been made and that the marriage has taken place with the full and free consent of both partners.
  10. The insensitivity of the police to deal with rape victims is well known. The police are involved in trafficking of children (including female children) and in drug trade.
  11. Reforms in respect of the political establishment:
    1. Reforms are needed in the Representation of People Act, 1951 to deal with criminalization of politics and to ensure true representation of people by elimination of those with criminal antecedents. This is also essential to avoid any conflict in the discharge of their legislative functions.
    2. Having regard to the fact that there is no verification of the affidavits which are filed by candidates under Section 33A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, we have suggested amendments to the said Section 33A requiring the making of a declaration about the pendency of any criminal case, whether cognizance has been taken of it. A certificate from the Registrar of the High Court should be necessary for the validity of the nomination.
    3. We also suggest that, in the event cognizance has been taken by a magistrate of an offence mentioned in Section 8(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, the candidate ought to be disqualified from participating in the electoral process.
    4. We further suggest that Section 8(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 be amended and should include all heinous offences as suggested.
    5. A candidate who fails to disclose a charge or the commission of an offence should be disqualified subsequently.
    6. Scrutiny and verification of the disclosures made by candidates in respect of their assets may be made by the CAG with necessary follow up action in the case of such disclosures being found to be incorrect or false. Such discrepancies should be a ground for subsequent disqualification under the Representation of People Act, 1951. 
    7. If all those in Parliament and State Legislatures, who have any criminal case pending against them in respect of heinous offences, vacate their seats as a mark of respect to Parliament and to the Constitution (which they have sworn to uphold), it would be a healthy precedent and would raise them in public esteem. This would be consistent with the principle of institutional integrity emphasized.
    8. It is the least to expect that political parties do not nominate any candidates for election that have any criminal antecedents. Failure to do so is likely to set in motion social urges of inestimable dimensions.
  12. The recommendations made in this report, unless urgently implemented, will end the exercise conducted by this Committee in futility.
If you cared and had the patience to read through these 12 salient points in this article, here is what I ask you: 
  • Is there anything that you did not know? 
  • Are there any surprises?
  • Did a Verma Commission need to be formed to enlighten our “revered” politicians and leaders about them?
Here is the next question to ponder the obvious: 
  • What do you think our leaders are going to do? 
  • Shoot themselves in the foot as Verma Commission is asking? 
  • Give the report to a Parliamentary Standing Committee to further “refine” it, make it more “implementable”, “practical” and “consistent with the Constitution”?
  • Appoint another Commission to verify the claims of Verma Commission?
What do you think we should do: 
  • Give up as in the past knowing that nothing will really come out of it?
  • Write more articles about it?
  • Just plain forget about it?
Our colleague Dr. H.N. Bali just wrote an article in these forums titled “Nehruvian State: The Curse of Indian Polity” in which he quotes Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal.  Myrdal talks about the “soft state” with impeccable constitution and democratic government but no strength and courage to implement it.  Each time we come across a crisis we back down from our responsibilities and accept the consequences.  Before too long it gets into our genes to tolerate everything and continue living without any purpose and without any dreams.  What we have here is a failure to govern!
Should the Verma Commission recommendations be implemented?  If your answer is yes then do something about it.  Hold this government’s feet to the fire until it implements it. 

I only hope that all our Civil Society activists wake up and unite to make it happen.  To let this opportunity go without making any progress would drive another nail in the coffin of our democracy!

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More by :  Dr. Gopal Singh
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Comments on this Article

Comment Dear D K Bohre, the modern raj Panchayat, introduced under British Rule, is a democratic body – note the description; if you go back in history, as you do, the khap panchayat was caste based, therefore not democratic in the modern sense of the word. It's true, even Greek democracy was restricted to male citizens, excluding slaves and women; but the idea was later idealised to include all individuals in modern society.

It is one thing to have the vote for each person in a democracy, but as the article is at pains to show, democratic values are still overshadowed by traditional prejudices particularly those of a sexist nature; and by the grand malaise of apathy in government, failure to implement reforms to effect democratic change. The columns of Boloji bear witness to this, and it is what Dr Singh bemoans as putting 'another nail in the coffin of our democracy'

To the new democracies of the ex-Soviet Union: they too, like India, may have an 'impeccable constitution and democratic government’ but do they have ‘strength and courage to implement it'? applying Myrdal’s words in the article. It is a perpetual learning curve for an elected democratic government, not merely 65 or 100 years from now; it is the courage of an Angela Merckell to make decisions to bail out failing economies in the European Union; it is David Cameron’s measures to hit erstwhile tax-dodgers or undeserving benefit claimants judged by democratic standards of fairness. Democracy is a dynamic, never an arrived at state; or else it slumps into apathy in the face of fresh demands for action, which is the sorry state of India’s democracy by all accounts.

It would be rude not to respond to your final one-liner regarding 'the scale of a religious conversion' (is what I said) meaning widespread.

01/28/2013 19:47 PM

Comment Dear RDASHBY,

I am sorry, your understanding is misplaced.

Indians have been dealing with democratic system since much before Greeks, for thousands of years. Most of our population resided (and still resides) in self-sufficient villages, where governing body 'panchayat' is elected by people. You can search google and find out simple and very effective rules that were followed on candidature of people contesting elections some one thousand years ago - there are research articles available.

And to burst another conclusion that 65 years are too less for a democratic system to evolve - what about the new European nations that appeared from ashes of former Communist republic - the Soviet. Going by your logic, they are still maturing in democracy and will keep maturing for another 100 years !!

And one could not understand what is ment by 'religious conversion' in your comments.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
01/25/2013 08:10 AM

Comment In India, the workings of democracy are manifested in the outcome after over 65 years of it. The 'coffin of our democracy' is the coffin of the ideal. One must bear in mind that democracy is a Greek idea, alien to Indian tradition, the latter's whose compulsive tendencies are high-lighted in a democratic context as corrupt practice, necessitating a conversion of modern India on the scale of a religious conversion to a totally democratic frame of mind, which 65 years later proves early days to expect.

01/24/2013 21:52 PM

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