WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR DEMOCRACY?
ANNA'S CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Unfortunately our democracy is designed in such a fashion that it recognizes and respects the sheer number, and not the quality. Only headcount is what that matters in the business of governance. Aware of the fact, a section of a particular community, soon after Independence, consciously got down to multiplying furiously with a view to drive a hard bargain for political gains and ascendancy and stake claim to and grab all manner of due and undue benefits, on the sheer strength and solidarity of its number. So far and so long, no govt. could dare even to think of checking the menace, let alone imposing deterrent and harshly punitive disincentives, that only can work effectively to arrest the burgeoning growth in the numbers. The common man is left with no option but to accept the inevitable urbanization that ensued.
Further, as stated above, for the obvious reasons, the clever politicians would tout this urbanization as ‘development’. The canard- the dubious claim- is so vigorously advanced and advocated by the ever-obliging media that a common man starts doubting his own intelligence and his conscience pricks if he harbours any doubt about the government’s version of the ‘so-called development’, even though, he knows for sure, that this (development or growth) is tantamount to robbing the 90% poor for making 10% filthy rich- the richer. This is what our democracy, run by them- the filthy rich, business corporations and wily politicians, is all about.
While the king walks naked, the crowd cheers him for donning ultra –fashionable, fabulous dress! There is no child around to shout the truth. For the simple reason that it requires enforcement of heavy-handed birth-control measures to make it happen, no politician worth his name ever talks about ‘sustainable development’ while they incessantly shout the word ‘development’ from every roof-top. The democratic systems of governance in France, America and many other countries have built-in mechanism which inhibits this type of political expediency. The route to ‘sustainable development’ goes through the effective population-check, in no case allowing the population to go beyond an optimum level (determinable through the scientific assessment of the several interactive parameters such as the land area of the country , its natural resources and wealth, land under cultivation, forest cover etc. etc). Any scientific study in this respect would conclusively establish that for attaining and steadfastly maintaining sustainable development, our population should not go beyond one third of its present number, and remain steadfastly stabilized at around 400 million-an optimum number proportionate to land area, natural resources, etc. of the country. Further, a fool-proof mechanism to ensure equitable distribution of the national wealth and resources among all the sections of the society should be put in place.
FAULTY DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM
The economic growth achieved so far and so long has benefitted only the ten per cent upper crust elite of the society, comprising of filthy rich, business corporations, tycoons and clever politicians. A major portion of the huge amount of black-money and ill-gotten wealth earned by this section through dubious means, is stashed in foreign banks. The rest, more than 90% are left to cry foul, bellowing in perennial despair and impotent fury as articulated by the Adman Prahalad Kakkar, who says:” Everyone today is filled with rage, an internal sense of inadequacy of being unable to do anything about the corrupt system, bad politicians, bosses and cops…”. Anything from road-rage to active participation in Anna- Ramdev led mass agitations and campaigns are good enough for them to give vent to their deeply imbedded frustration and impotent fury. No wonder, quite a few Ramdevs challenge wily politicians in frequent matches of mud- slinging laced with abuses and chosen invectives. While it’s the system which has been corrupting us, and corrupting us absolutely, we go about blaming this or that individual politician or political class, group or party in a purposeless, self-defeating witch-hunt which, leads us to no-where and, to say the least, is in the bad taste. In the ultimate analysis, the main culprit for all the ills, miseries and misfortunes, economic or otherwise, that make life miserable for a common man in our country, is our faulty system of governance. We need to affect quite a few big radical changes here; in fact, we need to revamp the entire system, failing which the common man will continue to suffer as hitherto. Indian democracy perfectly fits in the oft-repeated adage: “Democracy is the worst form of tyranny.”
Put the politicians on minimum wage and see how fast the things change!
As of now, the politics has become an extremely lucrative family-business in India. To curb the practice affectively there should not be more than one term for any M.P. MLA or political functionary. Apart from a fixed salary, no political post should carry any other perks, freebees, pension, housing facilities etc. Public servants must live with the general public. The cocooned shelter of an exclusive palatial Bunglow, sitting on acres and acres of prime land in the Capital, distances them from the general public (as also from Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation), who they are supposed to serve. After his term is over, or in some cases even before that, a politician must bow out of politics, never again to be considered eligible for any political post, whatsoever. He/she may go back to doing whatever (s) he was doing before becoming MP, MLA. Etc.
ADOPTION OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL MODEL
For the best results, AND IN THE LARGER NATIONAL INTERESTS, we must, mutatis mutandis, adopt American Presidential model of democracy. Not even for a single day, after the expiry of his term, the hitherto most powerful man in the world, is allowed to occupy the White House. In the best American traditions, and in terms of the provisions of American Constitution, he joins the ranks of commoners. While we only preach the celebrated Vedic dictum: ‘Punah Mushko Bhava’, the American democracy translates it into practice and reaps the best results conducive to the larger interests of America and American people. Exactly after the expiry of the fixed term, they get a new President with fresh vision to preside over the destiny of their nation, again strictly for a fixed term. Unfailingly and invariably, as hitherto has been the case, he proves to be a better Chief Executive Officer for conducting the affairs of their nation in the changed circumstances, and answers the needs of the changed times, circumstances and challenges with a refreshingly dew-fresh vision. Exactly after the fixed term, which is rarely extended to another fixed term, they put a new face brimming with the renewed zeal, vision and vigour in the driver’s seat. This constitutional prescription, strictly followed in practice, obtaining under the American Presidential model right from day one, has been yielding laudable results to them. While in other countries like India there is huge public discontentment, unrest and wide-spread public outrage against the establishment and those running it, America goes from strength to strength, emerging stronger than ever before, after effectively dealing not only with national but also the world problems far away from American shores. The reason: their democracy fully ensures that affairs of the nation, at any point in time, are managed only by the best among the lot. Their system fully ensures that the corrupt and mediocre do not figure anywhere in the governance of the country nor are they given any berth in any of their democratic institutions. After all it’s the nation that is important not any individual or family. If a doctor’s son becomes a doctor, does it mean that the post of Prime-Minister should also go to a son of the Prime-Minister? What a strange logic and that too in a country which swears by democracy!. One gets painfully reminded of Mr. Winston Churchill’s prophetic prophecy, he made on the eve of India’s Independence:
“ Power will go to the hands of rascal, rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight among themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles.”
The formula of Fixed term should be adopted and made applicable to all the political posts here as well and, to that end whatever amendments in the Constitution are necessary should be incorporated in it without any further loss of time. ‘ Five years’ is a long enough period for anybody to show results and prove his mettle. There is no dearth of competence in India. Far more qualified persons will always be queuing up for the top jobs. “Kursi Sab Sikhaa deti hai”, (You will automatically be up and about doing everything efficiently once you occupy the chair). “It won’t be a problem to learn the ropes”, said Dr. Abdul Kalam, our ex-President, on being elected to the post. American Presidential model of democracy could be the panacea for all our ills. Nothing short of it is likely to provide lasting solution and respite from the evils like corruption, mal-administration and political expediency- the evils that characterize our political culture, and feature prominently in it. A really strong and independent Jan Lokpal, as proposed by Shri Anna Hazare and his team, if adopted in its totality, may provide a semblance of respite, but no lasting cure. However, it could be a very good and solid stepping stone towards the ultimate goal when created and institutionalized by an equally independent, non-political agency-completely inoculated against political overtures and pressure . No wonder, the vested interest is up in arms against a really strong institution of Janlokpal, as proposed by the civil society led by Shri Anna Hazare. Instead, they root for a dummy, deceptive institution ‘Lokpal’ to fool the gullible.
As of now, elections in our country are farcical. Our Electoral system is so defective that it would require many more reforms to make it egalitarian, near perfect and almost fool-proof, such as 1.'None found suitable' provision in the EVMs, popularly known as ‘Right to Reject’,
2. Provision for recall of non-performing or corrupt MP, MLA, popularly known as ‘Right to Recall’ 3. Taxing criteria for the selection of the correct candidates such as a mandatory minimum experience of military, para-military or social service etc. etc. popularly known as “right to select the fittest’ and so forth. The team-Anna should also, simultaneously, campaign for urgent electoral reforms, such as, ‘Right to Reject’, ‘Right to Recall’, ‘one-person-one-term’ formula applicable to all M.Ps & M.L.As and other political functionaries across the spectrum.This would enable electorate to choose their representative out of a few most deserving candidates for the exalted positions. In the ultimate analysis, it is the quality of the candidates fielded that would reflect upon the quality of the people's representatives, which in turn would determine the quality of the democracy we practice. And the corruption-free democracy is sure to accelerate our growth
This will go to abolish politician as a class apart leading to the emergence of a polity-sans-politicians, as is the case with U.S of America. Automatically, the corruption will be wiped out, and we will have a corruption-free society and polity. Replaced by the statesmen, the politicians will, then, cease to exist as a distinct class-widely perceived as ‘ruling-class’ by the common citizenry. This would fast-track the process of smooth switch-over to the American Presidential model in the best interests of our people and democracy.
REVAMPING THE SYSTEM
The President, under the present dispensation, is merely a ceremonial, titular Head of the State with only a few ceremonial powers vested in him. The E.C is entrusted with the duties and responsibilities with regard to the superintendence and control of elections only. He cannot, suo moto, affect any reforms in the electoral system. Some CECs, do occasionally talk of electoral reforms, only to be silenced soon, and reminded of their own business, and, thereafter, nobody ever after hears any of them talking about 'what is supposed not to be his business' ,and a mysterious silence ensues from that quarter. Pegging hope for any reform in the system on these institutions would, plainly, be an exercise in futility, a pointless Don Quixote like adventure, even if angels come down to take charge..Our salvation lies in revamping the entire system; replacing this system with the American Presidential model, and sooner we replaced our Westminster type Parliamentary form of governance by the Presidential model, the better it would be for the health of our democracy.(Why can’t we do some out-of-the –box thinking?). Whether we like it or not, nothing short of this is going to deliver. The people will one day realize it. Some initial steps towards much overdue electoral reforms, as stated above, if taken with due sincerity, could enable the electorate to send persons with sterling qualities to manage the affairs of the State and make eventual switch over to the egalitarian American Presidential Model a reality of Indian democratic system. While I have been advocating the cause for about a decade now, it has been very comforting for me to suddenly find myself, only the other day, in the august company of the celebrated writer and thinker, Mr. Khushwant Singh, who shared the idea on the subject in his H.T. 'Malice' column in his most inimitable style. I take it as a sure sign of increase in our tribe and, the idea will take root with the masses. If Mr. Khushwant Singh gets wiser about it now, SHOULD Team Anna be far behind? As stated above, once Mrs. Indira Gandhi, our former P.M, also harboured the idea of switching over to the Presidential model, but before she could give shape to it, the icy hand of death took her away from us. The 'Executive', unless it is neatly and clearly de-linked from the 'Legislature' and made completely independent won't be able to do anything worthwhile.
KILL THE STATUS QUO
For the obvious reasons, the votaries of the status-quo, whose number is legend, won't let the change happen so easily. Jesse Owens observes:"To make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort". Still, "When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope?' How can you ever expect any person, who is reaping a rich harvest of all sorts of due and undue advantages, power and wealth only by being a part of the system, be a party in toppling it (drying up of his/her Kamdhenu)? It's history when Indians used to place national interests above their personal interests. Persistent goading could, at best, get them to do perfunctory dressing - a remedy worse than the disease- of the septic wound requiring surgical incision! Recent history tells us that when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was harbouring the idea, a concerned Atalji, who then had been eying the post of the P.M. for sometime, wrote an article in the Hindustan Times, deprecating the Presidential model. One can only hope to build up sufficiently strong public-opinion in favour of American or French Presidential form of democracy which, mutatis mutandis, may suit us admirably well. We have already experimented with the Westminster type of Parliamentary form for more than six decades now, getting bad to worse results ever since then. It’s common knowledge that the things, under this system, are getting bad to worse by the day. The building-up of a very strong public opinion in favour of the Presidential model may take time, and require most persistent and relentless efforts on the part of the intelligentsia of the country, of which Team Anna, is an important integral part. Anything short of this, would allow the status-quo to prevail. After all, the people get the government they deserve. Only leaders make the difference, and not the crowd.