June 16, 2011

A Crisis of Democracy

"Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another ruler with trumpetings again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation."

— Khalil Gibran

Looking at the events unfolding we are either lucky to be witnesses to a revolution initiated by the civil society to rout out corruption from the society or spectators to the breakdown of established norms of democracy. Its true its high time we have to clean up our society or atleast do damage control to what ails us. The advent of corruption in the society and amount of money stashed away is baffling, but the question is, is this how we deal with it.

What is a civil society here ? A group of responsible citizens taking initiatives to guide and pressurise our democratically elected to implement regulations for effectively controlling the evils that ails our society. But who is this civil society, iam not doubtful about the credentials of these individual in their area of expertise, be it rural upliftment, policing, adjudication or yogic expressions. But what gives these people the right to talk on behalf of a billion souls, were they elected, nominated, decided by lottery or divinely assigned these duties. Iam aware of the history of earlier attempts to implement an ombudsman model Lokpal machinery emulating Scandinavian nations. How government after government presented watered down versions towards the end of their term to eyewash the society and claiming their helplessness with this regard blaming the opposition and parliament at large.

Iam neither supportive of this government, which resembles a confluence of parties neither with a clearly cut out agenda or the ability to implement effective policies. UPA 1 was a different story, it was instrumental in bringing out the fabled MNREGA, RTI acts. If you look at what UPA 2 has done in last two years, you will be reminded more about its scandalous corruption cases, Manmohan Sings helplessness and the NAC's ineffectiveness in promoting the food security bill or the communal violence bill, dilly-dallying between the PMO and Team Sonia. It was two years of rule when the judiciary has encroached into the ambit of the legislature, when judges have washed their hands of earlier allegations.

If we let the cicil society to guide policy making tomorrow we will have to expect more colourful characters entering Jantar Mantar ( The showroom of democracy ) and demanding for absurd regulations. Satyagraha has been commercialised with Air-conditioned tents and packaged drinking water, desecrating the precincts of places like Rajghat. Where are we heading when crores are spend on organising protests questioning black money, these peolple have to answer the source and justify its spending before they are made guardians of the society. And the past history of some of them and measures like thrashing to deaddict from alcoholism is questionable. When a member of the so called civil society calls for capital punishment for economic offences and proposes to assemble armed cadre to fight corruption, we have to be alarmed. Are we heading towards anarchy ?

What if tomorrow a mullah or sadhu or the khap , with a massive following demands for abolition western apparels and english speaking , what if someone demands for banning Facebook or something else, should we be pressurised to their tactics. We need responsible parliamentarians, in-depth analysis and smart policy making to fight social evils. Lets create fool proof financial systems, identity and banking services for the billion plus, give exemplary punishments to the defaulters. Its true this is not happening, but this recourse is not its alternative.

Let the government be truly reprsentaitive of the majority ( not the existing 10-15 %) let there be a change in this first past the post electoral system to more inclusive methods. Lets have a provision to abstain from not selecting the presented candidates ( negative voting), tomorrow political parties will be careful in selecting candidates to put forward to you. Lets reduce taxes and charges on land transaction, give tax concessions to people to bring back the hidden money. The money pumped back will create more investments and improve the infrastructure and trickle down to the masses. Let asset disclosure be mandatory and regular, filing returns be made a national exercise. Lets effectively shift election funding into the public domain, corporate and private financing will be controlled. We do have along way to go lets not be misguided by anyone.


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