Thursday, June 18, 2015

Let us think and Act with an open mind to
Develop a Vibrant Democracy – Article 19

Introduction: I have identified thirty obstacles which cause a distorted and ineffective democracy and possible solutions for these. Because very few people have time / inclination to read long articles, these are presented in separate brief articles for pointed attention and easier assimilation. I hope this will lead to spreading of awareness and facilitating point by point debate on each of these for saving our sinking democracy.
(Please keep these articles within easy reach for referring back till the series is completed.)

Qualifications of Politicians

Politician is defined as a person who is experienced in politics which is defined as the art or science of governance. Often, some persons who have become leaders of some groups of people or joined a political party or formed a political party or organized some protests or did some social service, call themselves political leaders. These do not qualify them in the art or science of governance. Democracy cannot be successfully run by persons who are not qualified in the art or science of governance.

Even worse, in addition to lack of qualification in the art or science of governance, many political leaders have acquired at least some of the serious disqualifications mentioned below:

1.  Sworn affidavits of 4,827 MPs and MLAs elected in 2009 showed that as many as 724 (14%) had serious criminal charges against them (Article 2). Thirty per cent of ministers in present central government had filed affidavits that they had criminal cases against them (Deccan Chronicle dated 08-06-15). If confirmed this is a serious disqualification for a leader of democracy. This also casts doubt on their legal status. This raises three important questions. Knowing that Constitution had put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or becoming MPs / MLAs: (1) why these suspected criminals did not take prior/quick action to clear their innocence? (2) why government, legal experts and hon’ble judges did not fulfill their moral responsibility to quickly clear the doubt and ensure that the illegal situation does not continue? (2) why are we so dumb and callous that we tolerate being governed by suspected criminals, justifying the remark that “A nation of sheep gets a government of wolves”?
2.  Higher their level in the hierarchy the more distant they are from people. Moreover, from leaders they transform themselves into bosses and feel smug and exhilarated. They dictate to other elected leaders, civil society leaders and professional experts in governance in stead of patiently listening to them to ascertain problems and their views, with an open mind. These are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
3.  Some leaders cleverly manipulate creation of caste, linguistic, religious and other group conflicts as well as cliques and other situations to safeguard their selfish interests and to promote dependency on them among people, in stead of sincerely helping them to enjoy peace and freedom and have a reasonably good quality of life. Higher their manipulating efficiency the stronger and dictatorial they become. Some of them become faction leaders to increase their bargaining power, ignoring that in this manner they are acting against unity and national integration. These attitudes of creating conflicts, cliques and factionalism to safeguard their interests, instead of solving problems faced by people and allowing them to live peacefully, are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
4.  Political leaders are openly exhilarated when people go to them with “begging bowl” or at least hang around them (often with garlands or tempting offerings) and worship them. Modesty, humility, simplicity, sincerity of purpose and an ethics of care for aam admi steadily decrease with their ascendancy in power. They do not believe in the dictum “serve and deserve respect”. These are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
5.  There are many instances of hypocrisy in which their speech and actions are contrary to (1) needs and aspirations of people who elected them, (2) ideology of their party and (3) national interests. Sometimes their actions contradict their own publicly expressed views. Such hypocrisy is a serious disqualification for a leader of democracy.
6.  “Deception is a pillar of Indian politics. Election promises are an elaborate exercise in deception.” (Deccan Chronicle dated 19-12-13, page 8) Such deceptions are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
7.  Our President expressed concern and disappointment at the “eroding commitment among the legislators”. This deterioration in commitment is a serious disqualification for a leader of democracy.
8.  Craving for higher emoluments, entitlements and privileges of political power in stead of setting an example of simple life style, is a serious disqualification for a leader of democracy.
9.  According to a TV report on 21-09-12, in the context of allegations against a central minister about immoral activity, an MP said “Where is the question of morality when we have a majority?” What is worse, none of the other political leaders protested. Such devaluation of morality is another serious disqualification for a leader of democracy.
10.              Faced with allegations of financial bungling in a trust formed by him, a central minister told his followers that it was time to “replace the pen with blood” (DNA dated 18-10-12). Shockingly, none of the other political leaders protested against making such threats. Both intolerance of criticism leading to threats to injure or kill others and acceptance of such intolerance of colleagues are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
11.              An MP threatened to unleash “rapists” on members of another party. He also advised his supporters to slit throats of opposition workers and asked village women to use kitchen vegetable cutters to slit their throats (The Hindu dated 02-07-14, page 10). Such gross intolerance of other political parties and lack of control over emotions are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
12.              MPs and MLAs protest mostly when they (or their parties) are criticized – rarely for issues of importance to the country or people. Being motivated by emotions in stead of welfare of the country is a serious disqualification for a leader of democracy.
13.              A politician spends lakhs to get elected. Some of those elected have become much richer quickly. Seemingly, some politicians consider election as a roaring business with chances for making huge “profits”. Inability to suppress greed is common among some politicians. Greed and replacing “social service approach” by “business approach” are serious disqualifications for a leader of democracy.
14.              Abuse of power by politicians for selfish interests is so common that number of pages will be required to discuss these. Abuse of power has also been done to ensure that bills, such as Lok Pal bill and women’s quota bill, which ensure ethical practices, are inordinately delayed or blocked in Parliament. Abuse of power is a serious disqualification for a leader of democracy.

Many instances of intolerance, double standards and wayward behaviour of politicians have been reported from time to time. They have not realized that their uncontrolled attitudes and actions have given repeated death blows to democracy. Editorial of Deccan Chronicle (10-12-12) highlights wayward behaviour and its consequence as follows: “On paper we have the rule of law, but what is visible most to people is the culture of impunity surrounding the political class. Even small fry politicians throw their weight about, routinely break laws, and take pride in doing so. They feel laws and regulations are meant for ordinary mortals, and flouting these as a measure if their own importance. Top leaders of different parties don’t crack down hard on criminal behaviour by their colleagues……..If a way is not found to rein in such politicians, we simply cannot run a democracy.” Ironically, this implies that politicians became enemies of democracy - protectors themselves becoming destroyers!!

Editorial of another newspaper (DNA dated 13-02-14) has supported this view as follows: “Politicians, who routinely mourn the fate of parliamentary democracy, when under attack from judicial activism and civil society protests, should spare us the pretence. The worst attack Parliament is facing is from within. Parliamentary democracy – that sacrosanct idea of the people electing their representatives every five years to frame laws on their behalf – is in danger: Not from any dictator, terrorist, army, ideology, or anarchist, but within the ornate portals of Sansad Bhawan.” This implies for the second time that politicians became enemies of democracy - destroying the pillars of democracy in stead of strengthening these!!

The above aspects, particularly lack of qualifications to be politicians and having serious disqualifications for leader of democracy, depict the twenty-eighth and one of the most serious obstacles which resulted in a distorted and ineffective democracy.

Lack of professional approach

It is universally accepted that professional approach is essential to manage a large organization. This is even more apt for efficient governance of a country because of modern day complexities and frequent changes which need skillful attention, besides need to tackle many pulls and pressures, both from within and outside the country. In India also, need for professional approach for efficient governance has been recognized and qualified and specially trained personnel have been functioning for many years in different fields which together ought to have contributed to good governance. But, their efforts have been nullified because of lack of professional approach by politicians with other interests who curb all professionals. Even worse, hardly any thought was given to rectify this illogical and topsy-turvy situation. Such continuous disruption of professional activities by politicians implies for the third time that politicians became enemies of democracy – hindering professional governance in stead of promoting it!!

Non-allotment of duties and responsibilities

Even though Constitution gives right to any person to occupy any position of governance, qualifications, experience, duties and responsibilities have been prescribed for each position. The only exceptions are for elected representatives even though they are in highly responsible positions. This impropriety becomes more glaring because some of them have to exercise control over activities carried out by professionals in different fields with prescribed qualifications, experience, duties and responsibilities. 

It has not been realized that this omission in prescribing duties and responsibilities to MPs and MLAs (particularly ministers) has not done more harm only because persons in all other positions have  prescribed qualifications, duties and responsibilities!! Fortunately for the country, strong sense of discipline and respect for leaders (who had fought and won independence) which these officers had developed still continues. This has prevented them from revolting against illogical supervision by persons (a) without qualifications in the art or science of governance and (b) without fixed duties and responsibilities, even though both are aspects of anarchy.

A historical approach shows how a change in mind set has occurred among politicians and bureaucrats. Soon after independence our leaders, without any facilities or time for acquiring necessary qualifications, had filled the vacuum in top levels of governance by working hard with an open mind, good intentions and determination to build the nation. For this, they wisely made proper use of the qualified and experienced ICS cadre (which the British had built up). To augment such capacities, they created a similarly qualified IAS cadre and involved them as their partners in governance. To meet need for professional management, other cadres were also built up. They created a chain of scientific institutions to give scientific support to development.  In this wise manner, they did not allow their lack of qualifications and experience in governance to ruin the country.

Unfortunately, after majority of the wise and committed politicians left the scene, a change in mind set occurred among political leaders.  Most of the remaining old leaders were forced to support the new leaders who were interested in amassing wealth and were determined to use even foul means to hold on to power and wealth. At present, most leaders also suffer from at least some serious disqualifications mentioned earlier in this article.

Even worse, instances of ignoring advice of professionally qualified and experienced government officers became quite common. To gain their compliance, politicians adopted two strategies. They enticed some of them to form a politician-cum-bureaucrat nexus to gain benefits for this nexus and their political party. Those who did not fall in line were shunted to less important positions and harassed regularly. By adopting these two strategies, these politicians destroyed the innate character and strength of our system of governance, without realizing the serious harm they have done to the backbone of our governance system. This serious destruction implies for the fourth time that politicians became enemies of democracy - system builders themselves becoming destroyers of backbone of the system!!

Mahatma Gandhi, who led fight for independence, was keen to have swaraj (self governance) for people. Regrettably, over time, politicians gave less and less attention to his views on swaraj. They preferred to become masters of people, by cleverly using the pretext of democracy. This implies for the fifth time that politicians became enemies of democracy – becoming masters of people instead of servants of people!!

Lack of professional approach, non-allotment of duties and responsibilities and destruction of backbone of our governance system constitute the twenty-ninth and very serious obstacle which resulted in a distorted and ineffective democracy.

To overcome these serious obstacles, qualifications, experience, duties and responsibilities should be prescribed for all posts held by politicians. Aspiring politicians should qualify themselves as graduates or post graduates in governance and adopt a professional approach for which recognized institutions should start suitable courses. A time frame has to be given for acquiring these qualifications. Meanwhile, special courses should be arranged for present day politicians to acquire required qualifications and expertise as well as professional approach, humility, simplicity, sincerity of purpose, ethics of care for aam admi and transparency.

It is a matter for serious concern that there are at least five solid reasons for concluding that politicians, by their uncontrolled attitudes and actions, gave repeated death blows to democracy and became enemies of democracy. Consequently, Parliament, with members who became enemies of democracy, has qualified itself for self destruction. It is pertinent that Article 15 also had emphasized the need to abolish Parliament because (a) it lacked dignity, guts to punish government for braking promises thousands of times, accountability and an ethics of care for aam admi and (b) has a distorted and unhealthy representation of people with vast majority of its members being crorepatis. Other great advantages of this abolition are (1) lakhs of crores will be saved which can be used for welfare of people and (2) large areas of prime land and buildings will be available for public use.

Following jokes about politicians are thought provoking:

I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.                               Charles de Gaulle 
What do politicians do when faced with a calamity?
Make speeches, do aerial surveys and steal credit from those who took risks and worked hard to solve problems.       Anonymous

Politicians are like mosquitoes – they not only suck our blood but also help other organisms (mafia) to ruin our health (life)    Anonymous
What happens if a politician drowns in a river? That is pollution. 
What happens if all of them drown? That is solution!!! - Anonymous

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. 

                                                                                                                               Aesop Politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.
Texas Guinan
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.    Nikita Khrushchev
Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.
                                                                                            Oscar Ameringer
You can help to save our sinking democracy by making as many people as possible aware of these obstacles and possible solutions, through personal group discussions, newspaper articles, e-mail and social media like face book and twitter so that we can have healthy debates and arrive at some innovative ideas to save our sinking democracy.

Comments (especially those which point out errors or deficiencies, if any, in this article and thereby help to improve it) and suggestions to overcome this obstacle are welcome. Please send these to I shall make use of all befitting suggestions to modify the outline of the revised system of democracy (Article 24).

No comments:

Post a Comment