Friday, September 09, 2005

Our Constitution, A Case of Diminishing Returns...

Its almost 60 years past Independence...the world as we know it has changed and so has India...we have become servile creatures yet again...not to any foreign power this time but to the political class...the people who have made a profession of serving us have turned the tables...it increasingly looks like they are our masters! Any institutuion be it a democracy, monarchy, school, corporation,etc will stagnate if it stays resistant to the changing times. Isnt it time to revamp the whole Constitution??? 58 years back when B.R.Ambedkar and his men set out to draft the Constitution the politicians they saw around them were leaders of the caliber of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Shastri, Abul Kalam, etc...the charter they created was in tune with the times in an India abounding with freedom fighters and men who seethed with optimism and idealism to architect modern India...the rot that set in with the passing of these men has gone unchecked for years and years and the Constitution has been left with too many loopholes to effectively curb these traitors to the Nation and to the Constitution from taking advantage of us. It is not the Constitution that failed us...but we who failed the Constitution. Once a passionate student of Civics in school, the interest got reawakened seeing another democracy evolve, rectify and move ahead with the times.

1977 paved a great opportunity for being called a second freedom struggle, but the anti-emergency protests under a great leader like Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan deteriorated into an effort to supress Indira Gandhi rather than become a correctional force to rectify many of the things wrong with India. Maybe if JP was not at the fag end of his life and had chosen to take reins of the govt instead of a morbid Morarji Desai he would not have lost sight that he had a once-in-a-liftetime chance to reinvent India's democracy. Today many criminals go scot-free with offences, many a time our courts failt to provide justice in time or over-time except for the ones which come with a push from the Law Ministry, the legislature has made a mockery of passing laws with debates in parliament and assembly that reek of politics, the executive tier has become a tool for men seeking power to armtwist corrupt deals, manipulate people in the name of religion and votebanks and the bearaucracy has swollen to become a behemoth lacking guidance and often going wayward like the political masters they serve. Just a casual thought and i felt i had several top-level ideas that could easily give us a better way of government - but like all others this is gonna remain on paper or on this blog until all our politicos suddenly wake up one fine morning and feel its time to reform themselves and our government - highly unlikely, well the other hope is the arrival of a charismatic leader, who draws enough supporters to capture the seat of power at Delhi and puts this idea into practise - highly unlikely again, just as unlikely as another freedom struggle for a new India in a country vying to be a major player in world trade without setting its internal affairs in better order.

The Executive - Do we really need ministers??? We all know its the senior beauraucrats under these ministers coin, draft and spin out all policies...so why do we need these men in khadar, who indulge in scandals, whose eyes are entirely on garnering votes and money. I feel a system akin to the US where only one or two elected officials are part of the govt would be an effective solution...we have highly qualified IAS, IPS and IFS officers who should make up the core of the government and execute their ideas and policies without short-sighted, ill-educated politicians hampering them.

The Legislature - So where does this put our MLA's and MP's...they are our representatives in the indian constituion...but why do we they have to run our government...this system has failed miserably! What we need is several house committees say for eg, Home, Finance, Education, etc in which these esteemed men/women would be members and where they deliberate, vote and finalise policies to be implemented...leaving the execution to the higher beauraucracy who are answerable to the House...unlike the parliamentary committees of today which merely perform an advisorial role and have been reduced to puppets! Anti-defection wuz one awesome rule passed...i'd like to see a law come up which prevents parties without a certian percentage of vote be derecognized by the Election Commission...that would certainly put an end to many regional eerkili parties in India! As for the Rajya Sabha imagine populating that house with 250 members like APJ and Manmohan Singh instead of over-the-hill, discredited politicos who dont have the guts to face the people's verdict and one from among whom becomes the esteemed president of india...so that an highly esteemed person like APJ becoming the president doesnt become a once in a 50 year event!

The Judiciary - Though its the third tier of our constitution and the one which protects our democracy, our founding fathers were flippant in their focus on this pillar of our system...as a result we basically inherited a flawed, outdated structure from the British, who had drafted many of the laws or the precursors to them, we have now, to give a semblance of order to a country, they only intended to squeeze financially and not to govern with justice. With independence and a larger number of people having access to courts and the lawlessness which accompanies a free society, in no time the courts filled up, justice had to wait for years, the corrupt got off scot-free, rapists abounded, criminals have thrived...its only recently fast-track courts have opened up...that the judiciary is not free from corruption has been proved by several recent self-contradicting judgements passed in recent times. Its time to rewrite many of our laws...and cut down on gestation periods...no more court adjourments beyond a few days...its so frustrating...just when a sentence is laid down, an appeal goes to a higher court, or a stay and its years hence that justice is finally delivered!

The Police - Our policemen badly deserve a facelift. Its high time they are reorganized as a modern, professional force akin to the Indian Army, free of intrusion from politicians. Improper, unscientific training and laws which lack clarity have marred their maturing into community leaders - to protect and serve us, as only tales of their bigotry and misuse of powers reach our ears. LAPD officers, here garner so much awe as they treat us with such respect if caught breaking traffic rules, arrive to help people at any time of the day, work as community leaders and though tales of corruption emerge once in a while...it hardly ever affects the common man.

Reservations - Why cant reservations be based entirely on an economic basis??? How long will parties pit people against each other promising more reservations? And are these seats kept apart for reservation ever filled? The reservation of seats for women at the Panchayat level needs to be broadened to state legislatures and parliament...they certainly will make a difference to a male-infested field .

Bureaucracy - Our bureaucracy is bloated...admitted! Most of the red-tape and corruption that affects common people happens at the lower-levels...computerization can save us a lot of grief as it will keep babus who interface with the masses at a minimum...i wonder why our govt which promotes IT in such a big-way doesnt commission an e-governance ERP package from one of the tech majors! As for the upper tiers of IAS, IPS officers - cut them loose of politicans and we can have some of the best brains in the country unleashed to put to practise all the schemes, policies and measures which they now draft for politicians to take all the credit! To cut the beauraucratic flab disinvest from all PSU's, stop creating new government departments.

Local SelfGovernment - Kerala's much hyped People's Plan Programme was a step in the right direction but the men behind it failed in their planning - the people who got loans to start self-employment invested in perishable goods like chickens and goats, etc who finally ended up as chicken fries and lamb stew and defaulted on their loans landing the govt at the doorstep of bankruptcy. The lessons from this misstep seemed well-learned as new welfare measures like Kudumbashree have become models in constructive development. Ultimately LSG can achieve desired results only if devolution of powers to these bodies is better executed. Talking about Corporations and Municiplaities its high time they synergised their activities better with public departments as fast improvement of urban infrastructure is a must to keep pace with the spurt in IT investment thats going to be witnessed in our cities soon. As I write this the preparation for Kerala's LSG polls are moving ahead in full steam with reams of space taken up by political alliances but not a single column dedicated to the development agenda for the next 5 yrs...I sincerely hope the people ask the candidates if they read their parties' election manifestos when they come seeking votes!

Last post had mention abt a fr.pulickal....he taught me history and civics for three years and for many of us that was when we started looking at polity from a different light...my bad that i didnt capitalise on what would have been a great start for any civil service aspirant...if this was one of the expositions he would makes us deliver in class or his history answer paper, whatever blunders i have written here would have made it to the school notice board for juniors and seniors to laugh at us...i am giving away too much material that would have made a great post about him! I feel a little odd writing abt improving india when i am perched elsewhere...realize there are too many holes in my arguments but it feels nice to casually put on my political thinking cap on occasionally...i know all i wrote is impossible to achieve against a political class so well-entrenched, whose bills to increase their salaries and pensions are passed unanimously...men and women like Gandhi, Netaji, Patel, Nehru and Sarojini Naidu who once served and sacrificed so much for India must surely be born every day in some village or city but they will never make it to the political frontlines...they are ordinary people whose acts of everyday heroism are seen only when a tsunami or an earthquake strike or a city goes under water. Time is due for a constitutional review which happens every 10 or 20 years...but where is the political will to usher in change...havent these men heard our IT czars voice the same words..."better business processes"...in every interview they give?? The day we can confidently call many more of our politicans statesmen, we'll have an india that can become a model to world nations!

P.S - I apologize for the length...if you have scrolled down this far! Forget all I wrote. Indepedence Day is over...for those like me who almost missed this article let us all belatedly pay tribute to another unknown indian freedom fighter. The Forgotten Spy

6 comments:

Kuttan said...

Great post. The need of the day is more of the youth thinking like you. Keep it up.

Bipin said...

Jabba, Good post.
I could see from the title itself that this one could not go without a mention of Fr. Pulickal.
Do put in a separate post for him. It would be great to recollect those posts that he used to put up on the noticeboard :)
I am sure we have enough material for a couple of posts when it comes to the 'Man with the golden rod'.

About your post, some thoughts that came to my mind
-The constitution is not at blame. It is only a framework to make laws. The laws are made by the politicians.

-The need to change our system was realized by some good politicians long back. Remember Fr. Pulickal talk rather fervently about the Lok Pal bill that still lingers in some dark dusty chamber of the parliament 37 years after it was first introduced. Some day i hope it will be get a fresh breath of life and create a new system of accountability. With governments becoming dependent on king makers the chances of the bill being smothered are too high.

-On the other side there is hope.
The wise decision to keep the 3 branches of our democracy (executive, judiciary and legislature) has paid off pretty well.
We see the judiciary becoming the ad hoc Lok Pal when it comes to issues that affect the public.

- Also as the enterprising indians continue to innovate to bring the rural populace up-to-speed with the rest of India, we will see waves of change. Some day politicians will realize that being honest and accountable and not making crass jokes would win ballots. That the vote can no longer be bought for that bottle of toddy and a 'mundu'. Hopefully that day will be soon.

Check out this site when you have time.
www.goodnewsindia.com
I am sure it will inspire ideas in you for your future posts.Every time i go to it I feel a bit more optimistic about India's future.
A bit more happy that we have thousands of Indians who are battling in small but sure ways for better conditions for our brothers and sisters back home.

It was great to read a self introspective mail like this on your blog rather than waste my time reading why India is so great because less number of people died in the mumbai floods.

Keep it up Jabba.. :)

silverine said...

Took me two reads and some time to absorb the aftershock of this post. I have always been totally apathetic to the politcal mess that is going on around and I have even stopped reading the various articles in the media decrying our system. In fact like most Indians only a Tsunami or an Earthquake grabs my eyeballs. You remind me of my civics teacher. I remember taking one look at my Civics book the year History got divided into these two seperate subjects and making gagging noises. I hadn't seen anything more boring than a Civics book. Then came along this amazing lady civics teacher ( I feel so ashamed that I do not remember her name) into the classromm and to cut a long story short, Civics baceme my favorite subject. I always scored high in the subject and I started reading newspapers with a renewed zeal. Hats off this Civics teacher because she succeeded like you have done here to simplify and present so beautifully a complex subject and generate interest in her students.

You are so right when you say that our Constituion had been framed during the time when we had great leaders. Ambedkar couldnt have in his wildest dreams envisaged the rot that would set in the system and the people who would take over the reins of the country when he drafted the Constitution. Our Constituion is like a seive that lets in the bad and lets out the good. Its time we plugged the holes.

Agree totally with your what you have penned here, But I am afraid I am not qualified enough to even attempt a comment. Guess with people like you around, there is hope yet.

Apologies for the long comment.

Jiby said...

kuttan cheta, thanks for the praise...i always wonder if i cud do more than my thoughts...i guess time will tell.

turkeycha,now now why didnt i think puli's fave pupil wud have something to say on a subject that saw u pile up knowledge and marks by the nineties while the rest of us either failed or barely scraped thru! ur comments are all moot points man...thanks for the goodnewsindia link...its so feel-good and i share ur feelings abt the great indo-american flood comparisons! when u displace bill gates uncle as CSA some day in the future, u shud lobby for the lok pal bill.

anjali, thanks for leaving comments for every post of mine...like u said only an extra-ordinary teacher wud have been able to raise a mundane subject like civics to a level that carefree high school kids cud relate with...your comments have always been a great source of encouragement...i really appreciate it.

Nagu said...

Vazhara cheriya post ;)

Jiby said...

oops mr.nagraj...i cudnt do anything abt the length other than apologize... kai vitta ayudhavum vaa vitta vaakum pole thanne ee blogile posts...once out here it kills me to chop it off for the sake of concision.