Democratisation vs bureaucratisation!

Individual liberty is the very soul of democracy
Some critical emerging issues

maxresdefaultHow the public perception and public opinion view the current developments.

Lately, the Indian polity is marked by certain trends. The polity, our political system is a parliamentary democracy.

Given the long history of democracy, from ancient times to the present day, the Indian political system is a sound system, proved by the working of our Constitution for 70 long uninterrupted years.

Considering the countries that came to freedom, in Asia and Africa, it is right to say that only Indian Constitution has withstood the test of time. That is a major success for India and Indians can take pride in our political institutions. Ours is a democracy and also a Parliamentary system of government.

Then, what is the concern? Does our democracy ensure the fruits of democratic government? Equality of access to government services? No, not at all. There are the new features of our polity. Elected representatives, MLAs and MPs and the ministers’ assets have gone up noticeably. Corruption is on the rise markedly. There are, as per one report, some 200 noted corruption cases pending for more than 10 years, there is no hope of their disposal in the near future.20 year old corruption cases would be thrown out, as per one report. So, we see the lack of appreciation of the emerging complex issues of governance.

No follow-up on the Lokpal and Lokayutha institutions. The number of indicted peoples’ representatives holding constitutional posts must give some thought to the style of the new government.

Then, the working of Parliament. On Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha need certain course correct, if we can respectfully say taso. The quality of the debates needs some attention. Too many dynastic successions take place in the Rajya Sabha. Daughters and sons are routinely sent and one can imagine the working of the House of Elders! In the Lok Sabha too we see too many saffron colours. We need a different mix.

Film actors and actresses and sports persons are fine. They lend colour and fashion. Perhaps not so much needed talents to make a better representation of regions and deprived sections. In any case, we also need more discipline and not disruptions.
Somehow, the public view our representatives the ones who don’t care for any sensitivity of the public opinion.

Our MPs vote for themselves for high salaries and other privileges and not worry about the public perception. This is also damaging to our democratic norms and democratic restraints.

So, the electoral reforms are overdue and when we can expect political and constitutional reforms so that corruption-free working of democracy is within sight?
Then, bureaucracy. The PMO is filled with retired bureaucrats hired at exorbitant salaries. Is this permissible or not?

The office of the elected Prime Minister in our Constitution is a critical one and this office needs to be debated by experts, political theorists and Constitutional experts.

The lat Prof.Harold J.Laski had debated often about the US Constitution. At that time I didn’t realise why he did so. A British political theorist. Now, I recognise that in India we didn’t attend to this much more critical role played by an elected PM whose term remains undefined. Is it doing us much good or else? This question would always be in our political system and culture.

Then, the Niti Aayog. They have called for new talents, almost, through tenders!
Niti Aayog is a think-tank. Call by whatever name, Nit Aayong is a new name for the old Planning Commission, in our opinion.

Already you have recruited US-based experts in economics. Then, why you shy about other such talents, whatever is the field.

But then economic development is not just experts’ domain alone. You need political experience, men and women who have done specialised services, like Ila Bhatt in women empowerment etc. Ms.Bhatt was once member of the Planning Commission. So too the formidable late Durghabai Deshmukh.

Many others too had brought lustre to the economic planning process. Why we mention these names here is for the simple fact that you don’t advertise for talents. You identify and invite them as almost volunteers. Such persons won’t apply for such jobs, please note!

Executive and bureaucracy. Now judiciary. There is a growing anxiety in many sections. Litigation is mounting. So too vacancies in higher judiciary. The outbursts and even open confrontationist stances is no good.

We have a bad history of the Emergency excesses in the judiciary. We hope the PM is sensitive to the unpredictable consequences if we don’t take early corrective steps.
Then, there is the fourth estate, the press.

Press freedom needs a new debate.We read in the life of John Milton (1608-74), the epic poet, who, it seems, was the first great poet to face the issue of press freedom, printers’ licensing and censorship rules, in fact the many restrictions in the 17th century England that saw the civil war and also the violence that overthrow of Charles I and also the rise of republicanism and much else.

Milton printed his first few books without the printer’s name and only under his own name. Milton’s books were burned at Oxford and he faced much opposition for his views as he printed in his books and pamphlets.

Why even in the 18th century, there was the fear of the press, printing of books and many great minds, like Rousseau and Voltaire, faced much opposition and they had to flee and seek asylum in England.

In fact England was the only country, then, as also now, to protect the freedoms of the individual citizens, domestic or foreign. Karl Marx life is another example of seeking exile for expressing his views.

Thus, we have to know even now that it is the freedom of the individual citizens that is the critical test for any genuine democracy.

It is rather ironical that even now, in India we see this ignorance of what constitutes genuine democracy. Let us hope that the new rulers realise that only toleration of different freedoms, of course within the rule of law, could enhance the image of the ruling dispensation.

Also, within India itself the restriction of the press only led to the many Acts by the British rulers that led to, stage by stage, the many events, like the Punjab massacre in Amritsar and other events that fuelled the spirit of freedom by the Indian people.

It is ironic that even now, in this day and time, we are also talking about a free press that is not there for all practical purposes.

In spite of the enormous growth of the TV news channels and a somewhat robust print press, we see there are so many reasons why the Indian media feels timid.
One current concern that will surely impact the freedom of the press is the new phenomenon of the digital technology. In many countries, including China, not to mention other countries in the Arab world, journalists are put in jail and the new tools, the social media, like Google, twitter are banned. Google doesn’t operate in China. In this respect, India is doing fine. But there are anxieties over the monitoring of public opinion on the social media. Media freedom is critical for a genuine democratic polity.

The Prime Minister must give more press conferences and also create the atmosphere conducive to the intellectuals and others to express themselves more openly and more freely.

Again to Voltaire! He was invited and accommodated by great rulers of his time, like Fredrick the Great and Katherine the Great. They became great only because they had the wisdom that freedoms are important for their citizens, in spite of them being absolute rulers!

Press today feels threatened in many countries and we must all think in an open-minded manner so that we don’t have a press that is fearful of the ruling dispensation, as we see in China and even in Russia, why, in many other small or big, new or old countries.

Indian democracy must inspire our neighbours and must enthuse citizens for fulfilling lives.

That is the true test of an open society and true democratic and transparent governance.

Apple iPad has brought the whole outside world into our living room! And that is the great luck of the time we live through, it seems.

popeA little small Syrian girl falls at the feet of the great Christian father and cries, rather loudly that viewers like us are deeply moved and in fact many of us who had seen the sight might have equally cried as well. The Pope is the living Christ for the world’s 2 billion and odd Catholic believers. Not long ago when we were in Rome and went to visit the Pope it was a great experience as well for us who belong to other faiths.

The current Pope’s predecessor was then reining Pope and what a wonderful experience it was to see the Pope and his entourage in all its splendor and ceremony! We have to confess that once you are really informed and understood the great long history of Rome and the Roman empire and if you had gone to see the Pope after you had went around and seen the great and now haunted Roman Forum and had walked through every step along the Via Sacra and saw the final resting place of the great and awe-inspiring site of Julius Caesar and also touched and felt the very inspiring remaining ruins, the many triumphal arches and the remaining tall and sky-reaching historic columns and the far giant structure, the imposing Colosseum; then if you reach the Vatican as we did alighting the Metro, aptly named, Octavian Metro Station and when we went it was raining heavily and we were caught by the rains and we had to hastily get our umbrellas, they were all ready everywhere, all sold by the Bangladesh refugees, it was a real experience that would not have any parallel!

The Pope is the living God on earth for the faithful. Even for us from the Indian continent it was very moving and unbelievable! When the Pope finally entered the great hall which was over-flowing with some 5,000 and odd pilgrims, it was God in front of us. We rise unconsciously from our seats when we saw that imposing figure in its entire splendor.

A visit to Vatican takes you into a historic journey through the ages! A family of five, we were easily spotted by the charming Italian lady guide and soon she discovered that we were rather better informed of the Roman history, among the other tourists and so she would always account us, rather indulgently saying: ‘Oh, the English-speaking Indian family of five, you please, come forward and let me first finish with the other language speakers’. And then she would go into French, German and Spanish! There were couples of these languages! Then it was all in English with us, we indulging to our full satisfaction, asking all sorts of detailed questions! So, it was also in the Vatican and inside the Vatican museum as well.

Now, the sight of the Pope! It could unnerve you, even if you are a sort of non-believer! Such is the weight of history and the sort of history Rome has come to impose on the world! Now, with all this weight behind us, how can the current world see so much again weighed down by the sad plight of refugees fleeing from their own lands and seeking a place in the outside of their own dear lands!

So, we see the European countries like Germany and neighbors embracing the new comers and the rest of the world remaining just mute witnesses? Has the rest of the world no moral responsibility? The USA wants to be the leader of the world. It hasn’t spoken out in loud and clear voice! As it should have. What about the noisy and very disturbing rhetoric of the electoral candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? The rest of the world leaders, in Russia, China and also about India?

Where is man’s solidarity with fellow man? It is all very painful to see the world as it is hurtling towards more dangerous edges with Syrian war, North Korean adventures and China’s rather not the rational world view! What about India? India’s own internal contradictions, empty rhetoric and most irresponsible behaviour. Towards minorities, religious and ethnic classes.

So the sight of the small Syrian girl’s cry and the great compassion and reassuring words of the Pope Francis are the only hopes for a possible reconcilation for a new world that should receive more refugees within their national borders. The time has come for the world as a whole to realize that every human being has a moral right to seek refuge and live a life of dignity and fulfillment.

How to minimize commercialization and corrupt practices in Indian education?

Smriti Irani on education reform in India
Global Scholars to teach in Indian Universities
But how serious is the new government?

Smriti IraniWe are all these months, some 16-17 months, been hearing about some other priorities in education. Right or wrong? We heard that Sanskrit will replace German language in Kendriya Vidyalayas. We heard that the CBSE schools should not teach any foreign language. And we keep hearing saffronisation of education from all sorts of experts. We don’t want to use any impolite language to describe the priorities in education under the Modi government. What is the action so far? Where are our Universities in International Rankings?

We hope that Ms. Smriti Irani, the minister, must have read the latest news that the international ranking of universities doesn’t find any Indian universities in its first 200 world universities, right? What is the response from the minister? Any serious minister would have reacted, as this directly concerns her ministry. No word so far. Not even from her advisers and others.

What sort of intellectual environment we are having? What sort of open debates we are nurturing? So, this latest news reported about inviting the global faculty, is not seen in the mainstream newspapers so far. Some 200 of them, drawn from the world’s reputed universities, names are all given out and we don’t know how far this invitation is really serious enough to draw the top international faculty. Only those who are unaware of the academic world know well that the really top tier faculty, the ones where we see Nobel Laureates and the FRS and other medalists won’t be tempted to take time off and come for teaching in India with the sort of fees given out in the news item. The rates quoted are not so tempting enough to draw top talent.

And even in the USA and UK now, the university faculty consists many Indian names, some really good ones but most of them not so great. So we have to be wary of the news. We like to draw the honorable minister’s attention to really draw up a systematic academic plan and a strategy to invite some top names in select subjects. Also for sciences and arts to take up a regular faculty appointment for say one year or three years or to complete a degree course in top subject areas.

There has to be a priority. And also, please note here, the best way, in our opinion, is to entrust this task to eminent names in India. Invite for instance, Bharat Ratna C.N.R.Rao for deciding the names. Names like C.N.R.Rao and even others, like say Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, the eminent economist who is also close to the Prime Minister to do the job for the social sciences.

Let us start somewhere. Unless top international faculty takes Indian academic work seriously you will be nowhere in this game of one-up efforts.

Of course, India’s name is not taken seriously when it comes to academic excellence. Even the existing universities, including the central universities, are not doing their jobs well.

So, this really requires a small panel of advisers for the ministry. And, please take this education reform seriously. The new government is talking things in education at cross purposes. So many are talking about education reform. We have to take an international outlook when it comes to excellence in education. Adhere to the norms set by the international ranking agencies. That is the first step. We welcome otherwise even this small beginning, if it is really serious. Education has become highly commercialized and also highly corrupt. So many corrupt practices have crept in. So, this is a Herculean task. We only wish that the minister has an open mind.

Congress affairs: what is there to talk in secret?
Congress crisis needs to be debated openly and in great transparency!

Sonia_EPSCongress government in Karnataka is not in the best of performing states!

See the issues that are causing concern to the general public.
First, Karnataka is one of the few states in the country under the Congress rule.

Karnataka is also supposed to be an advanced state. The IT industry have given the state an international standing. There are other positive features.

Now, there is the latest news about the visit of Rahul Gandhi, the Vice-President of the party, to pay his condolences to the suicide-committed farmers’ families.

Yes, this visit gave him a positive image and    yet his visit left some ugly moments inside of the party. One, about 15 ministers, many seniors, didn’t attend Rahul’s padayatra or his interactions.

Second, the ones who sat with Rahul on the stage, they were all faction leaders, if we can say so. S.M.Krishna, the much respected senior leader was there and he is considered close to Sonia and also a sort of confidant.

There are various factions in the Congress. One is the lobby led by Dr.P.Parameshwara who has his own grievances; he wants to join the cabinet and also ambitions to be appointed as the Dalit CM.
So, also other factions.

The absent Ministers might have their own stories to tell.
Now, very soon after Rahul’s visit Mr.S.M.Krishna is reported to have spoken to Ahmed Patel, the man behind Sonia in political matters and SMK has sought an appointment to appraise her of the inside affairs of the party and the government.

Now, our point here is that the Congress party, so severely defeated in the 1014 Lok Sabha elections and there is a strong pro-BJP faction also in the Congress party and government.
Whatever the exact truth, we is like to point out that Mr.Krishna must be seen playing a statesman role, he must say even here in Karnataka itself what he wanted to say to Sonia in a secretive manner.

Congress party in every state, from BIG states like TN to W.Bengal to even Punjab, Haryana, not to speak of UP and Bihar, are in deep crisis.

The Party is not managed from the AICC in a healthy, open and transparent manner. The seniors now around Sonia, the one who were all ministers occupying big bungalows are not willing to  go back to their respective states and work among the people and built the party.

To give one example wherever the new PCC chiefs are selected by Rahul are facing non-co-operations from the seniors in the states. This is only nature. Rahul’s experience makes him so unsuited to grow the party in a natural way.

In TN for example, Sonia had almost destroyed the party fully.
First, the party needs a restatement of its ideology comprehensively.The party seniors must not think only in paying obeisance to the present leadership.

Indian polity is changed. It is now open to new ideas and new ideological formulations. Dynasty won’t work now. Please let the senior Congress leader realise and let us all talk openly and exchange notes.

Rahul Gandhi, if he is still interested in party leadership, let him work under some senior leaders for some time. Let him earn his rewards in an honest and open manner. Please don’t help to contribute to further disintegration of the party structure.
Now, in an ironical way, she had brought in one film actress who was all these years close to M.Karunanidhi. Also one former DMK, ADIMK, and also former BJP minister, as a general secretary of the Congress!

It is plain common sense that how one state where giants like Kamaraj and Rajaji had come from can expect the Congress loyalists of many years of standing can come closer to the party led by defectors and known inside enemies of the party.

Also, Sonia Gandhi herself, in our opinion, had lost touch with the ground level realities. She is still in secret pack with DMK whose standing is very weak and so it would somehow make the Congress weaker by aligning with the Congress.

The point is what senior and highly educated leaders like SMK can do is to speak out openly, in a very positive manner what the Congress party reforms must be like.

Only in such open and transparent exchanges of views can help the Congress party, not just in Karnataka and TN but also in other states.

The point is that SMK needn’t seek private audiences and there is not much to talk with Sonia in this sphere.

The only way forward for the Congress party and the government in Karnataka is to identify the issues of development, priorities, such as Bangalore city development is itself a very big challenge.

Let us get guidance from senior Congress leaders, many of whom (wherever we have interacted) are hesitant to speak out. This fear and hesitancy has no rational grounds.

The more the senior Congress leaders take a hero-worshipping of Sonia Rahul duo, the future is beak for the party only. Dynasty has to be tackled if we want the Congress party to emerge as an all-India party and organisation.

One Year of Modi government!
What are the highlights?
Yes, there are some serious letups too!

We are a mature democracy, right? What does that mean? We have to be balanced, open-minded and also objective.

modiOn these criteria there are some great moments in Modi’s one year and also serious drawbacks when it comes to applying these criteria.

By any account we can’t deny Modi’s one year in power that has stirred India! Stirred on all round, be it a change of government, an election victory that brought about an absolute majority to the BJP, after nearly  three decades of political instability and much discomfort by the series of coalition governments. How can anyone say this is not a significant change and this is not owing to Mr.Modi’s remarkable political strategy and vision? Yes, let us be generous; let us give the devil the due. But for his strategy he could not have even shaken up the BJP itself. Yes, the seniors were sidelined and there was and let us imagine there is still certain unsettled feelings within the party.

But then politics is all about power, capturing power and in this case it capturing power through Constitutional and legitimate routes. Mr.Modi played his cards well and for what he achieved, seen from the larger and long-term point of view it is a great historic achievement.

Second comes what everyone again would conceded that he has lifted India to the world stage. This he had again done it with some panache and pardonable drama.

Here again we have to concede what the man is capable of. Given his modest background there is something we can pardon him for certain excesses and even let us say some artificiality. In the US and Australia we went overboard and made a huge show of his Indianness.

The migrant India community was pleased to reciprocate.That is all?
The point s that after a long time an Indian Prime Minister, perhaps after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru an Indian Prime Minister  was seen on a world stage.

Now, Modi is back from his refreshed China and South Korean visit.
This again is no ordinary visit. China looms large on the world stage and also on the Indian minds.

China has to be cultivated, tamed and also dealt with on a variety of topics and thus what Mr.Modi had done in China, what he had spoken he spoke like a honest leader, he spoke for the first time what is weighing on Indian minds, the troublesome border disputes and let us admit that our friendly neighbour, China is also known for its historic inscrutability! It is not easy fully master the Chinese ways. The Chinese are extremely sensitive people; they thought historically, that they are the centre of the world. That is the meaning of the word, the middle kingdom.

So, you can’t get away from these historic prejudices and predictions.
So, this is again a great achievement. Now, inside India?

Yes, there are problems, expectations running ahead of the actual ground level activities. Yet, there is immense confidence inside India.

There are huge credits, loans or grants from Japan, now from China and South Korea and there are the unique engineering skills from these Asian countries, in big infrastructural industries, be it road building, tunnelling or rail lines or even the airports and what have you, laying down big cities.
Now, Modi government is talking about smart cities, a bi secretariat complex in Delhi and the industrial corridors, the bullet trains and the rest of the big projects like the urban metros.

There are some really competent and experienced ministers in the Modi Cabinet. Mr.Gadkari speaks about Rs 3 lakh crore of road projects in 6 months. We feel we can believe a man like Mr.Gadkari.

So too other ministers, power and other rail and defence ministers, why the many others are all equally promising.

First one has to think big. This Mr.Modi has done. Yes, with all our optimism for this government there are certain concerns. Concerns over some perceptions and subtle practices.

There are the judicial independence, free freedoms and also delivering on the services the citizens waiting for. Appointments of high level officials, Chief Information Commissioner, Lokpal, Lok Ayukta and the very many others.

Certainly, Mr.Modi is going to hit a roadblock in his attempt to control the higher judiciary. We advise him to change his mind set.

NGOs, civil society and the elite and the intellectual classes need to be addressed to. Mr.Modi, if we can say so, can’t ride roughshod! India is a developed democracy in many ways. There are many pending issues like addressing to the Constitutional reforms, Parliamentary reforms, why even the electoral reforms.

There is somewhere some sort of mental block for Mr.Modi to fully grasp the nuances of a liberal, open society, the fine sensitivities of a mature society.

Rights and freedoms are certainly a precious asset. Mr.Modi better consults, meets a wide variety of public opinion. A Prime Minister in a democracy like India’s must be above any sort of narrow mindset, no prejudices, all open mind, right?