Perils of India’s Laissez Faire Governance
India’s laissez faire model of governance is proving to be a prescription for anarchy in which rebel groups, non state actors, swindlers of the state and ministers prioritizing personal rather than national interest are ruling the roost. This is a sad spectacle on the nation’s Independence Day, 15 August, when possible portends are that of doom rather than hope what ever the Prime Minister may say from the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi. The past week was witness to the worst spectacle of disorder in an electoral democracy heralded by many as a model but one that presented a situation short of anarchy.
Witness the widespread allegations of corruption made in a prestigious project the Commonwealth Games apart from serious doubts of whether the Games can be held in the country given the present lack of preparedness. In Kashmir the Prime Minster’s appeal for calm made to an all party’s meet in Delhi has gone unheeded as mindless violence continues to take the lives of youth. To top it all an important minister of the central government challenged its policies on countering Naxalism playing politics in a pocket borough in West Bengal to woo the electorate in a Maoist stronghold.
Taking the Naxal issue first, Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Railway Minister attempted to play peacemaker at a rally in Lalgarh arranged by a Maoist supported formulation the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) and attended by a group of peace activists such as Swami Agnivesh and Ms Medha Patkar. While there are no reasons to question the rally per se, the Minister’s pronouncements directly contradicting the government’s stand and her apparent presence at a meeting arranged by a group which is alleged to have been behind a rail sabotage which had led to over 147 dead is to say the least strange.
Ms Banerjee called the killing of a Maoist leader, Azad as, “not right,” and claimed that the Maoists have agreed to come back to the talks table thus, "The murder of Azad was not right. He was trying to come back to the democratic fold. But the Maoists have agreed to talk again." "I don't want deaths. The peace process should start. Whoever is killed — be it a villager, policeman, a CPM supporter or a Maoist — has a family. Don't kill anyone. Stop the murders. The politics of violence should come to an end. Lay down your arms and come for talks. Give me a time and place, I'm ready," Mamata said.
The indulgence of the PCPA by the mainstream Trinamool Congress chief and railway minister Mamata Banerjee put the anti Maoist space in a tizzy. This is certainly embarrassing not just for the Trinamool Congress but also the government with a Cabinet minister directly involved in a rally which had Maoist support. The Maoists have taken advantage of the flux and have accepted the peace call given at the rally by the Railway Minister and offered to talk with the government.
While the Railway Minister may have good intentions apart from breaching the vote bank in this area where her party has limited presence, there are concerns that this is a ploy by the guerrillas to weaken the security forces drive to weed out Naxals and gain time to renew their struggle. As for the Railway Minister how much mileage politically that she will gain from these rallies remains to be seen.
Has the Minister being admonished publicly or in private by the Prime Minister or any other governing or political authority for working at cross purposes with government policy? The answer so far is plain no.
At the other end of the spectrum the Kashmir Valley saw renewed violence on Friday, after a lull of about a week which indicates that the anger of the people remains and the appeal by the Prime Minister in an all party meeting on 10 August has not assuaged the sentiment. While pro government nationalist parties had welcomed the speech of the Prime Minister others including the opposition People’s Democratic Party [PDP] gave an ambivalent response and their level of commitment to a political solution was doubtful given that the Party did not even choose to come and join the all party meet on Jammu and Kashmir held by the Prime Minister.
This response was largely unexpected given that the PDP patron, Mufti Saeed is seen as close to the Prime Minister personally but that has not possibly swayed him from asking the party leadership to join the mainstream political leaders in Delhi. This non cooperation of the PDP is likely to remain one of the sore points in the days ahead as it is dabbling in separatist and nationalist politics almost concomitantly thereby causing more political confusion than would not benefit the party in the long run apart from widening the current cleft.
There are some reasons for concern but there is also indication that there is an element of incitement given that some of the killings have taken place as local youth possibly at the instance of the extremists have attempted to storm the CRPF camp and have also been attacking their pickets thereby forcing the police to retaliate. One option is to have non lethal weapons available with the police and the paramilitary.
On the Commonwealth Games the less said the better, a Group of Ministers and the Cabinet Secretary are supposed to be supervising the progress of work of the Organising Committee which is alleged to be involved in misappropriation of funds apart from delays in preparation of Games venues. Hopefully the meeting of the Prime Minister on 14 August should put the preparations on a firm trajectory.
The Laissez Faire model’s success is dependent on contribution to society of individuals with public spirit and devoid of self interest. In the current Indian environment, while Dr Man Mohan Singh is personally impeccable, the Laissez Faire model has limited relevance when he is surrounded by those who are out, ‘to make hay while the sun shines.’
Moreover governing a large multi dimensional country as India requires a firm guiding hand at the top, sadly today all we see is petty political dabbling to stay in power managing numbers in the Parliament rather than public interest dictating policy.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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