India Is Free- Are Indians?
There have been a few intriguing developments recently which were not much debated in the mass media which true to its name prefers to focus on events of mass interest like Shahrukh khan hugging Salman khan. The first news of interest to us ordinary citizens was the courts striking down a provision of the representation of people’s act – the election law of India- which allowed any politician convicted of any offense to continue in power till all his appeals are exhausted and final judgment comes in – which given the deplorable staffing and amount of workload of our judiciary means just one thing- indefinitely.
This new judgment turns the tables and puts the responsibility on the politician himself- till he is proved innocent he cannot continue in office. So the politicians will no longer be able to dodge the case and would in fact be forced to try and get it finished as fast as possible. All things being equal this is quite an achievement for Indian democracy given that our politicians no longer respect the international convention of taking moral responsibility and resigning office. When they prefer to brave all insults and damaging revelations just to stick on like limpets to power it takes a law like this to dislodge them and show them their limits.
The second recent development neglected by the mass media is the decision of allowing all political parties accounts to be scrutinized under the Right to Information Act. This has sent shivers down the spines of our brave politicians and they are busy trying to frame a new law which gives them and only them- exemption from the RTI act.
If the accounts of all the political parties were available in public, every individual can see for themselves how little the legitimate party funds are and how much the parties spend on elections and calculate the difference amount which is obtained by extorting and doing favors to corporates and criminals. The veil would be torn permanently from the coffers of the political parties and they would be exposed with their hands full of loot. Hence the urgent need to remove this ruling and cover themselves up. Let’s expect soon a midnight ordinance to outlaw the RTI commission’s brave act.
The final news which has caught the attention of the nation is the suspension of the Uttar Pradesh IAS officer Durga for taking on the land mafia boldly. This fast developing issue has been politicized with politicians of all parties and vested interests jumping into the fray to act as pseudo-guardians of propriety. Last heard of, this has even been turned into a states vs central issue of autonomy in a bid to defend the indefensible. And a blogger who dared to comment on this issue has even been arrested by the state government (read here) – which is precisely what i am doing here too.
I agree that the center should not interfere too much in state bureaucratic decisions but when the state government is blatantly in the wrong it is the duty of the center to help out the wronged officer. But as always in India, there are multiple angles to any issue and the fact that the center was ready to rush in to help in this particular case smacks of some sort of inner war between two political parties ruling the state and center and not a transparent attempt to protect an honest bureaucrat from unfair suspension.
As yet again another independence day nears, if we take a critical look at the state of the nation we find that of the three pillars of the Constitution left to us by the founding fathers, the one in the most robust health still is the Judiciary. This I would attribute primarily to the safeguards built into the constitution to protect it from legislative control, guaranteeing its independent status. Unfortunately our Constitution drafting committee neglected to similarly protect the independent nature of the Executive branch- subordinating it to the legislators, an illiberal, illiterate, gang of self-servers, who believe in the divinity of a majority.
Our founding fathers are not really to blame for this apathetic situation and they can only be guilty of not anticipating the direction our politics would evolve. For consider this when the constitution was drafted, the first parliament and politics in general was mostly dominated by educated persons – scholars, lawyers, teachers and engineers. Dr.Ambedkar wouldn’t have dreamt in his worst nightmare that a parliament would be elected comprised of the current lot of politicians.
Besides the Indian Civil Service then was staffed with upright honest officers who held a diverse nation together for the first time in its history as one whole. Credit must definitely be given to the British for this, for though conquerors from Asoka to Aurangzeb had tried to unite India before; it was only the British Bureaucratic system, the impartial Indian Imperial Service that welded the country together. But they were hit hard by Independent India, forced to serve rulers who had not the faintest grasp of issues and what’s more didn’t care as long as they and their partisan supporters were on the gravy train.
Picture this – a chief secretary of maybe 58 years, with a 30 years long experience of serving the people, knowing the ins and outs of running an efficient administration being humiliated and forced to obey every rag tag local politician who has won by the support of lumpen elements of his locality and is made a cabinet minister because of coalition compulsions. Consider the insult to the intelligence of this fine breed of officers who are reduced to merely typing out the arbitrary (and often illegal) orders of politicians and implementing them in their own names at the risk of refusing and being transferred suddenly (overnight) to the ends of the country- to please every neophyte leader, a scion of some dynasty or other.
And why wouldn’t the country go to dogs if we de-motivate the entire administrative apparatus? They are the ones in fact who serve as a bridge between the public and government. As such it becomes vitally necessary to isolate the executive from the whims and fancies of the goondas who are our ruling class. The solution lies in Administrative Independence of the Executive.
If the legislators are supposedly elected by the will of the people- warts and all, let them sit in Parliament and legislate. Let nobody interfere in the day-to-day administrations and we’ll see a definite change for the better in how the nation is governed. If each branch of the government sticks to its own duty- parliament to make laws, executive to implement laws and judiciary- to interpret laws then the nation as a whole would run smoothly. If parliament alone has the power to terrorize the other branches of government with transfers and punishment – then we would only have dictatorship of politicians- an oligarchy in fact.
But all this is of academic interest only- we know by now that politicians will never give up an inch of their power voluntarily as evidenced by the numerous judgments ruling for autonomy of the CBI which have been routinely disregarded by governments in charge which prefer to use the police for their personal vendettas rather than as a crime fighting organization.
As they say- the more things change the more they remain the same. India can grow older and older as a free country for India has got freedom but not Indians. Ask any Indian on the street if he is completely free and you will hear the truth. I am tempted to echo the Tamil poet Bharathiar’s song here – a lament which goes like – Endru thaniyum engal sudandira dhagam or when will our thirst for freedom be quenched? Will it ever be?