Category Archives: Administrative Issues

Law and Women: Religious personal Laws some thoughts with regard to the Uniform Civil Code


The contemporary Indian society is multicultural that is pluralistic with regard to religious laws. These are laws governing different religious groups according to their religious tenants. These laws sometime come in conflict with the common law laid down by the constitution with the promise of the fundamental rights and legal entitlements for every citizen of India, irrespective of their sex or gender. The constitution also has a provision for a uniform civil code under article 44, to be enacted by the state. Religious Personal laws are often do not treat women at par with men. Unlike the constitution, which treats every citizen equally before it, the personal laws discriminate between men and women regarding similar and some case same provision of the personal Laws. This has led to a stream of thinking that enacting a uniform civil code shall equalise the gender field with regards to these laws. However, would it actually make the personal laws more women friendly, is still very much in doubt, and more importantly whether the promise of equality by the constitution can be delivered through it.

With respect to gender we seem to have entered a life of contradiction, upon the enactment and adoption of the constitution. While the constitution give equality to all citizens unrestrained by any external consideration, the personal laws still operated which subdued the idea of equality. The legal system that is follows is the common law system. It is a relic of the British colonialism. While we in India continue to maintain the convention of the colonial laws. The same concepts have been modified and abandoned in England. Within this preview the personal Law system is one of them. It is time to look in to modification and if necessary desertion of these laws in the interest of gender equality.

The article 44 of the constitution says that;

The state shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.[1]

The post-colonial sate in India has been the architect of the many social reforms in the country after independence yet, no government in power in the last 64 years, has been able to either bring a consensus on the issue nor has been able to enact it. However, it will be out of place to ask questions in the “what if” format? What, however is important, is whether the enactment of the Uniform civil Code (UCC) brings about any perceptible change in the position of equality with respect to women. If would be prudent to stop and ask as to what exactly is the UCC?

The UCC in the Indian context means that part of law which deals with personal & family affairs of an individual and denotes uniform law for all citizens, irrespective of his/her religion, caste or tribe or gender.

Laws relating to crime and punishment which is the criminal justice system is uniform for all citizens.  So are the laws relating to commerce, contracts and other economic affairs?   Procedural laws including laws relating evidence etc. are also uniform for everyone.  Laws of taxation are same for all except that it recognises certain religious customs prevalent in the society, like Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), for special treatment.

However, family affairs such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, guardianship and adoption are legally permitted to be governed by customs of their community. This has been a pre-colonial practise, where the British thought it wise not to meddle with these customary laws of the local population. One distinguishing feature of personal laws is that all of them are gender biased in which women have fewer rights when compared to men. So, keeping in view these infirmities in the personal laws, it is assumed that having a UCC would bring about gender equality.

However, this simplistic assumption misses out on the complexities involved in chalking out such a code. Personal laws are not just laws governing communities, the complexities flow from the fact that they have religious sanctity and further, the courts and the legislature acknowledge it. The woman as a subject of the state underwent a transformation from a gender-neutral with law to a well-defined gender within the social space. This perhaps is what needs remedying.

After independence the first Lokh Sabha to the parliament of India enacted the Hindu Code Bill. It reformed the Hindu personal laws with regard to monogamy, inheritance and succession among others. These provisions tried to rationalise the Hindu personal laws and make them gender neutral to some extent. However, they did not go the whole way. The same is true for the Muslim personal law, that the women are not treated at par with men. However, there has been no attempt made by the development state of India to remedy the same at all, which in the case of Hindu law has been done from time to time. The main contention within the underlying assumption of the UCC is that, having enacted the UCC these contours within the Personal laws in particular and civil law in general will be smoothened to effect gender equality. On the one hand the constitution gives every citizen a fundamental right to equality (Article 14) while on the other, it gives the benefit of non-interference to the minorities in the affairs and activities to protect their cultural identity.

The UCC enacted in any form will violate these two principle because the women in India who are from diverse sections, cultural divisions and religious fabric will have to be treated homogenously, which means the blurring of cultural boundaries thereby infringing on their rights to practice and protect their religion and cultural practices. So the whole process is circular within the logic of the UCC and therefore, should not be used as a tool for gender equality. What needs to be noted and appreciated is the context specific situation of women in India. It has to be seen as the site for politics with specific goals, while the whole leads t to it.

The dilemma faced by feminists asking for a common family law for all Indian women is that they must simultaneously answer the mainstream critics of feminism who challenge the demand for gender-sensitive laws and the men and women of minority communities who demand respect for cultural identity.[2] It must be remembered that the legal system imposed or created by the British in India was in response to a very different society, that of England and not India. The idea behind the legal system was also inspired by liberalism and positivism the new streams of thoughts which influenced the European Nations during the Enlightenment. However, these values and ideas were a farcy cry from those instilled in the Indian society. The infusion of these new ideas underlying the system of justice dispensation in colonial India, brought with them the requirement of homogeneity and rule of law where every person was one and equal before it. This is the where the dilemma of the Indians multiplied due the heterogeneity of the status of a person within their personal laws canons and without from the perspective of the other personal laws.

Archana Parashar put the point succinctly in her writing on gender and law;

Liberalism and positivism have joined to formulate a view of modern law as autono­mous of the economy and society, in contrast to earlier conceptions of law that relied on historical or theological explanations. In this widely accepted view, the legitimate authority of law is dependent upon universal, neutral, and abstract principles. The law defines who is a legal subject and everyone who meets these requirements is entitled to the same rights irrespective of their religion, wealth, gender, or any other characteristic. Liberal legalism in particular finds its legitimacy in this guarantee of non-arbitrariness, of fairness to everyone irrespective of their specific characteristics or differences.[3]

If we are to protect the constitutional promise of equality and the protection and flourishing of diversity we have to look beyond the enticement of homogeneity. India has to relook at the relationship between law and how it sees and places women in the context of conflict with equality. The constitution in effect has looked at women favourably including provision which were progressive and ahead of its time. Some of the articles which bring out the concern for a better status of women as equal citizens of this nation.

The Constitution of India assures equality for both sexes. Article 14 of the Constitution provides equality before law. Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but permits discrimination in favour of women. Some Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India apply to women specifically. Article 39 states that the State shall direct its policy towards securing that men and women equally have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. That there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women and that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Article 42 makes provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. The tone here that can be noticed is one of neutrality. Making everyone equal before the highest law of the land.

The critique of this positivist liberal view of the neutrality and universality of laws flows from the fact that they assume the essential sameness of the male and the female gender. Which led the demand of recognition of this difference in the law and change the laws accordingly by legal feminist. However this went on to raise a debate whether this amounted to preferential treatment. But, the challenge was dissolved with the advent of the post structuralism critique of the unified category of women with differing race, ethnicity, sexuality etc. where every women was construed a different being without a unifying factor and distinct personality based on social and personal memberships.

In the Indian context it would be far better to reason out an approach based on different rights rather than a universalising feature of the UCC. This is also based on the fact, that while the Indian constitution allows for and informs the formal equality of sexes, it does also allow for minority freedoms and religious rights. Within this framework the women in India cannot gain the equality sought without also raising the discourse on secularism and larger concerns of freedom. The recognition of the differences need to be contextualised leading to a fair and just outcome for all the women concerned.

The enactment of the 2005 Domestic Violence [Prevention] Act (DVA) by the Indian Parliament raises a number of relevant issues for Indian women seeking to understand law as a site of struggle, a site where politics can be played out and reasonable outcome expected. The requirements of the women in the south and the north are different. Domestic violence takes place in a very specific and particular socio- economic context, which stems largely from the construction of the women as dependents within law, having no or little economic independence. The religious personal laws deny Indian women even formal legal equality in personal relations be it family or conjugal. In this context it is no surprise that domestic violence becomes a real problem for the Indian women with specific contexts.

This bill has re conceptualised and articulated the problem of domestic violence within the civil law to recognise and redress the problem for the Indian women. However, the redressed mechanisms contained within the laws leave much to be desired. This law empowers the woman to remain at her conjugal home, and make arrangements to come out of the violent marriage. This is made and constructed as a right. The social context of the premium seen on the place of women in her conjugal home serves to block her exit. Moreover, the situation of the women during the time does not change, she still remains a dependent without any actual change in her economic situation. This is where the problem lies, the realistic chance of getting a share in the property remain dull and distant. Till this bill is not placed in the socio-economic context, with regard to the economic situation and maintenance provisions, the act shall remain a chimera.

The religious autonomy that various communities claim in turn invokes a sim­plistic notion of choice. Invariably there is no discussion of who is making the choice and whether the structural nature of hurdles in exercising choice makes it a futile con­cept for most women. With regard to personal matters it could be imagined that law, rather than enforcing religious authority, can facilitate equality by making all family laws gender non-discriminatory. Such a family law would not interfere with anyone’s religious autonomy but neither will it enforce religiously sanctioned inequalities.[4]

Clearly, the promise of gender equality cannot be achieved with the current discourse of the proponents of the UCC. A radical rethinking of the idea of equality promised by the constitution is required and till such time that it is not recognised there can be little hope for the achievement of this promise.

 

Works Cited

[1] The constitution of India

[2] Parashar, Archana. Brown University; 2008. Gender inequality and religious personal laws in India.

[3] Parashar, Archana. Brown University; 2008. Gender inequality and religious personal laws in India.

[4] Ibid.

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Letter to Indian citizens, 1 September 2016: Introducing India’s only liberal party and how it can fix India’s problems.


Dear fellow citizen of India,

Subject:  Inviting you to consider the vision and approach of India’s only liberal party

Our freedom fighters sacrificed their lives for India’s liberty. They would have been deeply disappointed with what India has become. Our governance is one of the world’s worst. Corruption, injustice, insecurity and filth stalks us at each step. Daily life has become very difficult.

The cause is clear to all those who understand: that all our political parties have taken the wrong path. They have broken all principles of good governance. They have created incentives for corruption. As a result, the system is corrupted from the top. It cannot deliver even basic services.

This state of affairs can only be fixed through a total overhaul of our governance system. Such an overhaul will require amendments to key laws. Essential changes needed include state funding of elections on per vote basis to allow honest people to contest elections and elimination of the guarantee of tenure for senior bureaucrats. The government must be held to account for results.  Further, the government must focus on core functions and get out of running businesses. Of course, things must be systematically changed, through a proper transition strategy.

The concerned citizens who created Swarna Bharat Party (SBP) asked other parties to deliver these reforms, but these parties refused. It is a fact that all other parties directly benefit from the corrupt system they have created. Why would they implement any reform?

As India’s only liberal party, SBP is committed to the ideology of liberty. Only this ideology can establish India as a land of opportunity, the world’s richest economy and open society.

SBP offers India three fundamental reform directions:

1.     Reforms of the electoral system and bureaucracy to ensure total integrity and accountability.

2.     A limited but strong government that performs its core functions well.

3.     Maximum liberty for all citizens, consistent with the liberty of others.

We have developed the world’s best manifesto (at http://swarnabharat.in/manifesto). Please read it to appreciate the party’s deep thinking about public policy. SBP is the only party with capability to deliver urgently needed reforms. This way India can become a sone ki chidiya again.

After years of preparation, this party is reaching out to the people. A strong start has been made in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana. Preliminary work is afoot in many other states. Our 2015-16 Annual Report (http://swarnabharat.in/annualreports) provides details of our recent activities, including numerous photographs and press cuttings.

This party can only go as far as you want to go. It is up to you to step forward to help make India the world’s richest nation. But first please satisfy yourself about the party’s credentials and capability. We have a Youtube channel in which you can listen to some of our initial party leaders.

Once convinced about our vision and approach, please become a member and help build a strong grassroots presence for SBP. You can become a member by visiting http://swarnabharat.in/register(lifetime membership fee is currently Rs.100) and volunteer by visiting http://swarnabharat.in/register-volunteer.

At a minimum, please donate generously (monthly instalments in smaller amounts are welcome). You can use our online payment gateway at http://swarnabharat.in/credit-cards-neft. Or you can write cheque/s payable to “Swarna Bharat Party” and mail them to the party’s registered office at G-249, Palam Vihar, Gurgaon – 122017.

Only Indian citizens, including those residing outside India, are eligible to donate. Donations are exempted from income tax u/s 80GGC of the Income Tax Act.

In conclusion, I once gain offer this party and its vision to you. I invite you to join or otherwise support this platform to make India great again. Together we can achieve our dream for India.

Please share this letter widely with your friends and community.

With regards

(Sanjay Sonawani)

President, Swarna Bharat Party

info@swarnabharat.in

India’s only liberal party challenges the PM to implement Minimum Government, Maximum Governance


National Press Release – to be released across India

26 August 2016 – embargoed till 4 pm. [Marathi version of the press release: in Word | PDF]

President of Swarna Bharat Party, Sanjay Sonawani, asks Mr Modi to substantially increase funding for the police and judiciary

Swarna Bharat Party, India’s only liberal party, held a press conference in Mumbai today. The conference was addressed by Mr Sanjay Sonawani, National President of the party.

He shared with the press a copy of the party’s open letter to Mr Modi, the Prime Minister of India. The letter asks Mr Modi to implement his own slogan of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance” by doubling the funding for police and increasing by ten times the funding for the judiciary.

The people of India feel very unsafe today. They have also lost all faith in the judicial system. Women and Dalits have become soft targets for criminals. Communal, caste and Naxalite violence constantly erupts across the country.

Mr Sonawani said that the prime responsibility of a government is to ensure the safety of every citizen and ensure timely justice. But the law and order situation across India is bleak.

Mr Sonawani pointed out that that this situation is not the fault of our overworked police and judiciary. Our police and armed forces are for the most part heroes, often sacrificing their lives for the safety and welfare of the people. Indeed, because of their high work-load, exhausting working hours, and almost no holidays, health (including mental health) issues in the police have reached alarming levels. And our judges are doing o their best within the grossly underfunded system in which they work.

The real problem, Mr Sonawani said, is that our governments prefer to do other things than govern. The government likes running businesses and hotels instead of funding the police and judiciary.

The party’s open letter to the Prime Minister of India demands increased funding for the police and judiciary to be announced by 26th September 2016. The letter demands total accountability of all branches of government. The people want results, not money to be thrown into a well.

This will improve safety and justice. Mr Sonawani said that in a country where rule of law is supreme, the numerous communal riots and state-supported pogroms would never have happened. In a country where the police and judiciary are functional, people would never be targeted and killed for belonging to a particular religion, neither would caste massacres occur. Even the sensitive areas of the country, the Northeast, Jammu & Kashmir, and the Red Corridor would never be ravaged by insurgencies, as people would be free and secure, and would have no reason to revolt and pick up arms.

In its open letter, SBP has also demanded that Mr Modi implement all the reforms detailed in the party’s manifesto. Key reforms include the state funding of elections on a per vote basis, abolition of guaranteed tenure at all senior levels, and strong support for the defence forces. Mr Sonawani explained that only through such reforms can India become a great nation.

Mr Sonawani said that SBP will consider starting a nationwide movement for good governance from the 2nd of October 2016, if its demands are not immediately met by the Prime Minister. He invited all well-wishers of India to write to Mr Modi to implement these demands.

From where will the funds come?

Mr Sonawani said that SBP is a fiscally responsible party and does not make such demands lightly. He said that the reality is that while government cries that there are not enough funds, the government finds enough money to operate public sector enterprises. The Modi government perhaps thinks of itself as a business conglomerate. Why else is it running hotels, airlines, ports, mines, banks and insurance companies?

Even considering only the central government’s non-financial companies, the government investment is about ten lakh, ninety six thousand crore rupees, with capital invested being two lakh, thirteen thousand crore rupees. There are 298 such companies out of which about 77 are loss-making and their loss stands Rs. 27,360 crores for the financial year 2014-15. Accrued losses are probably in the lakhs of crores of rupees.

In its letter, SBP has asked Mr Modi that both central and State governments should immediately divest all government enterprises, thus making huge savings in resources – that can then be deployed on core duties. Regulatory approaches can be used for divested PSEs that the government believes need to be more closely monitored. Alternatively, the government can hire a managing firm that ensures all requirements for certain essential PSEs.

Mr Sonawani reminded the Prime Minister that during his election campaign he repeatedly changed the slogan about “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. He said he wants a small government with maximum governance. SBP is merely asking the PM to act on his own statements. Unless he meant to lie to the country.

Supporting data

The open letter to Mr Modi contains supporting data. The pathetic ground reality of the police and judiciary can be seen from the following statistics.

Police

India has only 182 sanctioned police personnel per lakh population, against the minimum requirement of 222 per lakh population as per UN standards (most developed countries have double this number). Out of the sanctioned force there are 24 per cent vacancies, thus reducing the actual strength to 147 police per lakh population.

Even this limited force is often deployed in security duties for VIPs and during festivals and agitations. There is not enough manpower left to conduct investigations to ensure convictions for crime, to issue fines for traffic and property offences, or to take preventative actions to curb violent crime. How can we blame the police when they avoid registering cases, given the huge build-up of backlogs? It is clear that the government dramatically increase police manpower and suitably train and equip them.

The police force also faces terrible working and living conditions. The condition of Police stations and chowkies is so bad, it is impossible to function properly. Vast amounts of funding are urgently needed to radically improve the condition of our dilapidated police stations and chowkies and to improve police training. The Police badly needs modern equipment and vehicles, bullet-proof jackets and arms.

Only 27 per cent of the police are provided with a satisfactory place to live. The health of the police is getting from bad to worse. Many have committed suicide because of psychological stress. The Maharashtra Government had declared a cashless health treatment scheme under Police Kutumb Arogya Yojana but the government failed to pay the bills, so most hospitals have closed down the scheme. SBP demands that every policeman should have access to a good, habitable residence, access to health facilities, and access to good education for their children – with immediate effect.

SBP has demanded that the Modi government announce an immediate increase in funding for the Police from Rs. 74, 258 crores per year to a minimum of Rs. 1,50,000 crores per year.

Judiciary

The judiciary is hardly in a better condition. In fact, it needs at least ten times more funding to clear the backlog and bring back a semblance of normalcy to the justice system.

Recently the Chief Justice TS Thakur was literally forced to cry at the impossibility of tackling 3 crore pending cases. This is a great shame for the country. And yet, the Modi government is busy running hotels.

About half a crore cases are pending in the High Courts and over 2 crore cases in the lower courts. Every day the number of cases is mounting. India has a strength of just 13 judges for every million population, whereas the minimum number of the judges for every million should be 50. The vacancies are also very high. Some time ago it was reported that there are 6 vacancies in the Supreme court, 446 in the High Courts and 4600 vacancies in the lower courts.

Presently only funding that is equivalent to around 0.02% of the GDP, is allocated to the judiciary. This should be urgently increased to 0.2%  of GDP – i.e. by ten times.

SBP believes it is not enough to increase the number of judges. Proper court premises and workable court rooms are urgently needed. Many court premises are like godowns with bad ventilation and lack basic facilities like drinking water and toilets. Some judges have to sit in record rooms to conduct trials.

SBP’s letter asks the PM to dramatically reprioritise government functions and increase support for police and justice. These are the most essential governance tasks, to which he is simply not paying attention.

Mr Sonawani asked the people of India to send photographs of the deplorable conditions of the Police and judiciary. He also asked them to put pressure on Mr Modi to accept the party’s demands.

End

Notes for Editors

SBP is India’s only liberal party, committed to defending liberty and promoting prosperity.

Contacts:

Sanjay Sonawani (Pune), National President, +91 9860991205

Vishal Singh (Bengaluru), National Vice President, +91 9920613669

Alok Kumar Singh (Ghaziabad), National Joint Secretary and President, UP State unit, +91 9999755334

The position of the Freedom Team of India on the Jan Lokpal Bill


25 March 2012
(All FTI documents are draft documents, subject to ongoing improvement)

1. What is the Freedom Team of India?
The Freedom Team of India (FTI) is a team of leaders who will, with due preparation, contest elections on a platform of world’s best policies to increase the liberty and prosperity of Indian citizens.

FTI’s ideas are based on the philosophy of classical liberalism (which is the polar opposite of socialism). Classical liberalism insists on equal liberty for all, while ensuring accountability. We enourage you to consider FTI’s policy principles at: http://freedomteam.in/blog/draft-policies.

FTI’s members maintain and are required to always maintain the highest standards of integrity in public life. Through its code of conduct and other processes FTI guarantees the quality and integrity of its members. India can confidently entrust its future to FTI members, who are always ready to be held to account. FTI membership is seal of quality in public life.

2. FTI stand on the Jan Lokpal institution
FTI applauds Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and Arvind Kejriwal, among others, for their fight against deeply entrenched political and bureaucratic corruption in India.

For such effort to be effective, however, careful understanding of the causes of corruption is necessary. For instance, a question is sometimes asked: Why doesn’t FTI make its own draft Jan Lokpal Bill and share it online?

That is because FTI does not believe that (under the current system of socialist governance) a Lokpal offers a genuine solution to India’s rampant corruption. Therefore FTI does not wish to offer a draft Bill that will not meet the objective.

Instead, FTI offers more: a package of reforms which is guaranteed to achieve integrity in public life and increase India’s opportunities for prosperity.

This will be explained below.

3. India’s many problems have a common source: socialism
Before a doctor can successfully treat a disease, he must diagnose it correctly. He must understand its cause.

Team Anna believes that corruption arises because too many Indians are bad. If this is right, then the solution should be to punish bad Indians. FTI accepts that there are a large number of corrupt Indians who must be punished through an effective system of rule of law. FTI’s diagnosis, however, is focused on underlying causes, and therefore, in building a lasting solution.

FTI believes that corruption arises from poorly designed governance systems, based on the philosophy of socialism. FTI believes that no Indian is born corrupt but badly designed systems motivate them to become corrupt. The same Indians who are corrupt and incompetent in India often do wonderfully well (and honestly) in the West. A bad system can make a genius look like an idiot. On the other hand, through a good system, even “ordinary” people can perform great deeds.

Since the past six decades, all public policy in India is based on the socialist model, which which empowers governments to directly operate businesses as well as to interfere with the free interactions of citizens. This creates strong incentives for politicians to sell favours (rent seeking) and thus become corrupt.

Socialist hypocrisy also permeates India’s electoral system, in which everyone knows that political parties spend tens of crores of rupees in each parliamentary election, but all candidates declare falsely that they spend less than Rs.25 lakhs.

In brief, it is the philosophy of socialism leads to hypocrisy, dishonesty, and corruption. Without removing this dreaded philosophy from India, corruption can never be removed. Witch-hunts to identify “corrupt” individuals won’t solve the problem of corruption.

4. FTI’s solution to the problem of corruption
Under today’s socialistic dispensation, no political party can survive without corruption. Politicians need huge sums of money for elections which they have to raise through corrupt means. They also need the support of corrupt officials.

While an effective Lokpal can reduce corruption, this can only happen when systemic corruption has been first addressed. Systemic reform essentially involves two key steps:
a) Reduce the need for corruption by having an electoral system with a low barrier of entry for honest people, and a system that pays candidates a certain amount per valid vote cast; and
b) Reduce the opportunity for corruption by having policies that prevent governments from unnecessarily directing and interfering in citizens’ lives.

FTI’s recommended set of policies are aimed at systemic reform, not piecemeal patchwork band-aids. Corruption will reduce very signficantly should such systemic reforms be undertaken.

Numerous countries have low levels of corruption without any Lokpal or similar body. Examples of policies that reduce corruption (without a Lokpal) include:
● state funding of elections (e.g. Rs.15 per valid vote polled) to reduce the need to raise funds through corruption;
● high salaries for politicians to motivate competent people to enter politics;
● contractual appointments of senior bureaucrats (so they can be terminated if they fail to deliver integrity and high quality outcomes).

India should not vest excessive authority in unelected officials. Such authority can undermine democracy without necessarily improving governance. It is important to build systems that work, not systems that punish.

5. What will happen if we implement a Lokpal without eliminating the socialist policies?

a) Reality: A Lokpal can’t stop the generation of corruption
India’s socialist policies put excessive power and discretion in the hands of decision-makers. Each law that allows a politician or bureaucrat to interfere in economic activity creates an opportunity for corruption. The Lokpal does not change such policies, nor reform the electoral system to reduce the need for corrupt money during elections. Therefore, the Lokpal cannot prevent the continuous generation of corruption. It will be far more effective if we change socialist policies.

b) Reality: The Lokpal can’t catch even a fraction of the corrupt
A Lokpal will become viable and effective if only one per cent (or less) of India’s politicians and bureaucrats are corrupt. But when 99 percent of them are corrupt, then catching a few corrupt people here or there will hardly make a difference. The cancer must be addressed at the source.

c) Reality: Corruption “charges” will increase because of the Lokpal
Because the corrupt will now have to factor in the (presumably slightly) higher probability of being caught, the “rate” they demand for their “services” will increase.

d) Reality: Corruption will be driven even more underground
The Lokpal, under the current system, will merely drive corruption more underground – into more hidden methods. Greater outflows of corrupt money from India will occur to Switzerland or other tax havens. In this “game” of corruption, it is best to stop corruption in the first place, not to waste precious time and resources in chasing corrupt people across the world.

e) Reality: The big fish will escape
Under the current system, big fish can easily access various sophisticated methods of corruption. They can also hire expensive lawyers to exploit loopholes in the legal system to delay and subvert justice, should any case be launched against them. In general, the big fish will escape scrutiny (or punishment) and the Lokpal will be forced to focus on small fry.

f) Reality: Government inefficiency will increase
The Indian Constitution provides extraordinary protections to public servants. There is therefore virtually no way available for governments to punish public servants who do not perform their work properly. If their opportunities for corruption are reduced then public servants are likely to even further slow down their work, leading to total paralysis of governance. The Lokpal (if it becomes even slightly effective, and therefore reduces corruption) will end up putting a severe brake on India’s economic growth.

h) Reality: Lokpal could itself become corrupt
Corrupt politicians and government servants have plenty of money to bribe investigative agencies – and judges. Under the current dispensation there is very significant corruption both in the government and judiciary. It is not difficult to see a situation, particularly with lowly paid Lokpal employees, when the Lokpal officials start accepting bribes.

i) Reality: Lokpal can’t deliver results because of India’s court system
The Lokpal cannot deliver results because it does not control the courts. As Swami Aiyar has pointed out:

Even if the Lokpal controls the CBI, it will have no control over the courts. These seem incapable of convicting any resourceful person beyond appeals within his or her lifetime. Little will be achieved if the Lokpal initiates a thousand cases that then drag on for decades, with the accused out on bail.

FTI does not recommend scrapping the principles of natural justice for those charged with corruption. We need systemic reforms that include the policies outlined earlier, as well as a strong justice system to quickly and effectively punish the corrupt.

6. Other questions people have regarding the Lokpal
a) What are the mechanisms apart from Lokpal to stop corruption?
Alternative mechanisms to reducing corruption have been outlined above. These are far more effective and involve two key changes:
(i) Reduce the need for corruption: ensure electoral reforms that motivate good people to enter politics, and pay a certain amount per valid vote cast to candidates; and
(ii) Reduce the opportunity for corruption: remove socialist policies so that people can undertake economic activity without unnecessary government regulation.

Currently, no political party offers such systemic reforms in India. Without political leadership, however, such reforms cannot be implemented. FTI is a platform for those who understand such reforms to step forward and contest elections. Only then will such systemic reforms be introduced, bringing an end to corruption.

b) Why does FTI not support the Lokpal, given that Hong Kong has a Lokpal-like model?
Hong Kong is highly ranked on Transparency International rankings (currently No. 12, below countries like Australia and New Zealand which do not have any Lokpal).

Not very long ago, Hong Kong was a very corrupt country. Its reforms, do not include just an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC, which started in 1974), but a wide range of policy initiatives such as good governance, world-best economic policy and high quality education. The existence of ICAC should not be seen in isolation from these broader reforms. Indonesia has tried to copy the Hong Kong model and has failed, because it has not adopted the free market economic model of Hong Kong.

As Offstumped has pointed out:

“Indonesia’s corruption eradication commission, one message screams out — India does not need to make Indonesia’s mistakes with the proposed Lokpal Bill. It has been nearly 10 years since the KPK was established by law in Indonesia. Ten years on, no surprises: Corruption has not been eradicated from Indonesia. Far from eliminating corruption, KPK continues to be at the centre of political intrigue in Indonesia.”

A Lokpal cannot succeed in removing corruption without a host of far more basic reforms. FTI believes that there is a place for Lokpal in India’s governance, but not today. Only in due course, as part of an entire suite of governance and economic reforms.

c) Won’t a Lokpal help create new government jobs?
Indeed, the Lokpal will create new jobs but creating government cannot be a valid reason to have a Lokpal. Economic growth & prosperity is never created through government jobs. India needs policies of liberty that will create opportunities for millions to earn their livelihood.

d) Since the poor have to constantly interface with the state, won’t the Lokpal provide a check to corruption at lower level of bureaucracy?
Unless economic policies and the system of governance is changed, villagers in India will not be able to escape from chronic corruption (such as corrupt tahsildars and other land records staff). Villagers, being illiterate, do not have the capacity or resources to lodge (and pursue) complaints with the Lokpal.

Villagers have not been able to utilise existing institutions like state vigilance bodies and police because of inability or fea. The Lokpal’s rules and procedures will preclude the possibility of justice for villagers. The corrupt will go scot free even if complaints are lodged against them, due to the sheer numbers involved.

Far better to build systems that preclude corruption in the first place. Trying to fix the problem of corruption after it has established itself is a far more difficult (even impossible) task.

e) What is FTI’s view on the level of corruption that can a Lokpal can reduce?
The jury is out on this important question. However, for reasons given above, FTI believes that Lokpal will not reduce corruption, and will probably increase it and drive it underground.

f) How much will the Lokpal cost the taxpayer?
This will depend on the nature and design of the Lokpal. But it will not be cheap. Unfortunately, there will be almost no social gain from this institution. So taxpayers will spend money on the Lokpal, even as the corrupt officials and politicians of India continue their loot.

Conclusion
All Indians all angry with our corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. However, we should use our head, not our emotions.

FTI agrees with and supports, in principle, IAC people’s movement against corruption. But FTI believes that (at this stage – i.e., without changing the policies of socialism, and ensuring that good people are able to contest elections) the Lokpal will make no difference to the lives of Indians, and could even make things worse in a number of ways.

FTI therefore asks the Indian people to seek solutions that will actually work.

The people of India have awakened due to the IAC movement. But it is important to understand that the solution does not lie in a Lokpal, but in a package of reforms that will essentially abolish socialism and make Indians free.

FTI invites you to support the team to provide India with modern, effective governance.

It is hard to remove the socialistic mindset of Indian politicians who think that voters wants such policies. It is up to the educated class to show voters that demanding subsidies and handouts from politicians is not the right way to eliminate poverty. They voter must demand good governance, good education, not charity.

The poor will become prosperous through freedom. On this journey, a social minimum (which includes high quality private school education for all children and a guaranteed top-up to eliminate poverty) will support those who falter on this journey towards freedom, integrity, and prosperity.

In simple language, let’s drain the swamp so that mosquitoes don’t breed. It is not a sensible idea to kill the mosquitoes, one at a time. As FTI member Vijay Mohan has depicted:

The position of the Freedom Team of India on the Jan Lokpal Bill (DRAFT, 27 December 2011)


 

These are the views of the Freedom Team of India Upon the Jan Lokpal, currently being debated in the parliament. This is a draft document open for the public to comment on. The concerns and comments will be taken into account for subsequent revisions of this document subjecting that it meets the core fundamental beliefs of the team. While not all comments can be accommodated they however will be help us gauge the informed public positions on the Jan Lokpal debate. Please go through the document and let us know your opinions.

1. What is the Freedom Team of India?

TheFreedomTeamofIndia (FTI) is a team of leaders who will contest elections to offer India the world’s best policies that will increase the liberty and prosperity of the ordinary citizens of India. All FTI thinking is aimed at maximising the freedom and prosperity of Indians. This strong perspective, based on liberty, inevitably leads to a focus on the impacts of a policy on the common man.

FTI applauds Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev for their belief that they are fighting against corruption. However, fighting corruption requires a careful understanding of the causes of corruption.

A question is asked: Why doesn’t FTI make a draft of Jan Lokpal Bill and share it online? That is because FTI does not believe that (under the current system of socialist governance) a Lokpal will be a solution to India’s problems.

Therefore FTI does not wish to offer any draft Bill on this subject. Instead, it offers more, far more: total integrity in public life and very significantly increased prosperity for all Indians.

FTI’s cast iron guarantee of public integrity

FTI stands for the abolition of all socialist policies in India and their replacement of by policies that are grounded in the principles of liberty. Flowing from that, FTI offers a CAST IRON GUARANTEE of total integrity in public life and significantly increased prosperity for all Indians.

2. FTI’s diagnosis of India’s problems

Before a doctor can treat a problem, he must diagnose it properly first. That means understanding its causes. FTI’s diagnosis of corruption is dramatically different to Team Anna’s diagnosis.

FTI believes that corruption arises due to bad systems. Team Anna believes that corruption arises due to bad people. FTI vigorously opposes any suggestion that India’s politicians are born corrupt or criminally minded. FTI believes that all Indians have the same DNA (like any other human), and that no one is born with “corrupt” DNA.

FTI is convinced, from careful analysis of incentives, that bad systems create bad people. Indeed, a bad system can even make a genius look like an idiot. The same Indians do wonderfully well in the West but perform pathetically in India. Why so? Because it is systems that convert geniuses into idiots (and vice versa). There are sufficient case studies available today that show that through good systems; even “ordinary” people can perform great deeds.

It is our socialist system of governance that forces our politicians into corruption. Witch-hunts and chasing after specific “corrupt” individuals will not resolve the problem of corruption, particularly since virtually all politicians are either directly corrupt or promote or connive with corruption.

Further, as SwamiAiyarhaspointedout, “Even if the Lokpal controls the CBI, it will have no control over the courts. These seem incapable of convicting any resourceful person beyond appeals within his or her lifetime. Little will be achieved if the Lokpal initiates a thousand cases that then drag on for decades, with the accused out on bail.”

Blaming the judiciary is not quite right. Unless it is proposed that the principles of natural justice are to be scrapped, the judiciary is obliged to follow the laws of India.

3. FTI’s solution

Since FTI’s diagnosis of the problem is completely opposite to Team Anna’s diagnosis, therefore FTI’s solution is entirely different to Team Anna’s solution.

Yes, FTI believes that the Lokpal can have an effect, but only when the level of systemic corruption in India is reduced to the minimum (say, to less than five per cent of the politicians and bureaucrats of India being corrupt). At that point Lokpal will definitely have an effect and form an important part of the toolkit.

So, what is FTI’s solution?

The first step, FTI believes, is to bring down corruption to a very low level through systemic reform. It is necessary to build systems of governance where only the honest can enter politics, and the policies which are promulgated do not allow corruption to be generated. What is needed are well-thought-out policies that are based on a sound understanding of economic incentives.

FTI’s solution is founded on the philosophy of classical liberalism, which is the opposite of socialism. Classical liberalism is based on the principle of equal liberty for all. FTI does not pay lip service to liberty, like most other leaders of India do (including Team Anna, some of whose leaders don’t hesitate in beating poor villagers with an army belt).

FTI offers real liberty to all Indians (while ensuring accountability). FTI’s principles and policies are outlined in considerable detail here: http://freedomteam.in/blog/draftpolicies. We encourage you to read and understand these.

What do these policies mean in practical terms? FTI is working as a team to formulate detailed policies, but you can get an idea about what these policies might look like, by reading the book, Breaking Free of Nehru (BFN) which is freely available here: http://bfn.sabhlokcity.com/. Note that the policies in BFN have not yet been agreed by the team, and it is FTI that will ultimately offer the more detailed policies.

4. Now, to the Lokpal issue in more detail

a) The shortage of Lokpal does not cause corruption

Numerous countries in the West with very low levels of corruption. They do not achieve such low levels of corruption through Lokpal or similar bodies. They have achieved it through systemic reforms, such as state funding of elections, high salaries for politicians, and contractual appointments of senior bureaucrats. Most free countries in the world do not give significant powers to unelected officials like a Lokpal. That does not mean they have significant corruption.

FTI believes that India should not vest too much authority in unelected officials. Such actions will undermine the authority of India’s elected representatives, without in any way improving the governance of India.

b) Lokpal won’t stop the system that generates corruption

As FTI has clearly pointed out, India’s socialist policies generate corruption. So the task of the Lokpal is basically futile. It is far better to focus on the policies to improve India’s governance.

c) Lokpal won’t/ can’t catch all the corrupt

The Lokpal will try to catch the corrupt. That might be fine if (say) 1 per cent of India’s politicians and bureaucrats are corrupt, but when 99 per cent are corrupt, then catching one or two people will hardly make a difference.

d) The big fish will invariably escape

The Lokpal will merely catch a lot of small fish. The big fish will escape since the big fish have access to more sophisticated methods of corruption, by which they can’t be easily caught. Corruption will be driven into Swiss accounts or other tax havens (including benami transactions in Indian real estate). There will be an even greater outflow of corrupt money outside India.

e) The corruption ‘charges’ will increase

Because the corrupt will have to factor in the (presumably) slightly higher probability of being caught, the “rate” they demand will increase. And indeed, without addressing the basic causes of corruption, it will merely be driven underground.

f) Inefficiency in government will increase

Given the extraordinary protections available to them under the Constitution, there is no clear method available to punish Indian government servants for not doing their work. There is no way to get rid of someone only on grounds of inefficiency. Therefore, if their opportunities for corruption are reduced, government servants will slack off, leading to total paralysis. The Lokpal could therefore put a brake on India’s economic growth.

g) Lokpal could itself become a corrupt organisation

Corrupt politicians and government servants have plenty of money to bribe investigative agencies and judges. It won’t take them long to bribe the Lokpal (or his officials).

5. Common questions/comments regarding Lokpal

a. Are there other mechanisms apart from Lokpal to stop corruption? (I.e. if not Lokpal then what?)

Yes, there are many mechanisms. These involve two key changes:

(i) Ensuring that socialist policies are removed and thereby the people of India enabled to undertake many more activities without government regulation; and

(ii) Ensuring electoral reforms that facilitate good people to successfully compete against those who use huge amounts of black money.

These changes will require a change in the political leadership of India. Currently no political party offers these reforms. It is important that people who offer such reforms step forward to offer themselves as candidates in elections. FTIis a platform for such candidates.

b) Did Hong Kong not succeed with a Lokpal-like model?

Hong Kong ranks close to the top of the world in terms of ethics in public life. It was, not long ago, a very corrupt country. The reforms that reduced corruption started with free market reforms. Only after all these were implemented was its Independent Commission Against Corruption made into a constitutional body. The main cause of integrity in public life is its free market policies. India should adopt these first.

Indonesia tried to copy the Hong Kong model and has badly failed, because it did not adopt the free market model of Hong Kong. As Offstumpedhas pointed out, “Indonesia’s corruption eradication commission, one message screams out — India does not need to make Indonesia’s mistakes with the proposed Lokpal Bill. It has been nearly 10 years since the KPK was established by law in Indonesia. Ten years on, no surprises: Corruption has not been eradicated from Indonesia. Far from eliminating corruption, KPK continues to be at the centre of political intrigue in Indonesia.”

c) Won’t the Lokpal create many new government jobs?

Indeed, it will. But if economic growth were as easy as creating new government jobs, then we could very well create a Ministry of jobs whose job would be to create new jobs that dig up holes and fill them again. Surely, creating jobs is not a good excuse to have a Lokpal. Jobs that do not add value to the economy will reduce India’s economic growth.

d) The middle class have less interaction with the government but the poor have to constantly interface with the state? Will Lokpal not help them?

No. Unless the systems are changed, the villager can’t avoid corruption. In particular, villagers need to have the capacity to lodge a case with the Lokpal – something which they are unlikely to possess. They also would need to pursue these cases, something for which they do not have the time. The corrupt tahsidars and patwaris will go scot free.

e) How much percentage of corruption can a Lokpal bring down?

The jury is out on this, but FTI believes that Lokpal will not reduce corruption, but might even increase it.

f) How much will Lokpal cost?

Quite a lot! For almost no social gain.

Conclusion

In summary, FTI does not oppose Anna Hazare as a person. It applauds him and his supporters for being angry with the mess made by corrupt politicians in India for over sixty years.

It does not even want to oppose the Lokpal bill since it is neither here nor there; an ineffective intervention that will probably do some harm and some good. On balance, the Lokpal will make no difference to the lives of Indians. FTI agrees with and supports, in principle, IAC people’s movement against corruption, but not Lokpal as a solution. It asks the people of India to look for the actual solution, which involves a fight against socialism.

All existing political forces (all major political parties are socialist) have harmed India and must be opposed. Most policies will need to be changed, to break away from socialistic ideologies.

Unfortunately, while the people of India are now awaking due to the IAC movement, they are being offered the same socialist solution as anyone else.

The people of India deserve to be shown the right solution, the solution that will work. And we need leaders who understand these policy issues to step forward and lead. FTI invites you to join the team and work towards providing India with alternative governance.

Rethinking federalism in India


In a period of widespread discontent and chaos, a period of the increasing clamour for Autonomy and separate states, a period of the waking of the political consciousness and aspiration for managing of their own affairs by local communities and regions, I think it would be a legitimate to ask the question, do we need to rethink federalism in India? I think it is pertinent that every generation in order to move forward, should rethink and rework the underlying ideas that govern them and question those underlying assumptions and if need be dismantle those structures which have out lived their purpose. For my generation the task is humongous but equally important, exciting and worthwhile.

The whole idea behind the reorganisation of the current boundaries of the states in India is also the process to get at minimum government maximising liberty for its citizens and de-centralisation of power and efficient local resources management. These objectives have to be dealt with simultaneously to create a more perfect union. The politics in India has become regional in nature, where the influence of these parties has being having a dysfunctional influence on the central government. India being a centralised form of governance has had a deleterious effect on the democratic institutions as a whole. This trend needs to be arrested if we are to progress into a great nation. The incremental reforms or changes that have been brought about by the government over the past many years have only add fuel to the fire or this regional question- the question of autonomy. The time, I think, has come for a final settlement to the question of Autonomy, which is also the question fundamentally about federalism in India.

The founding fathers of this nation, in their profound wisdom and efficiency thought it right to have a stronger central government in a quasi-federal political setup, mainly to keep at bay the fear of balkanisation of this young Nation. The ghost of partition and the fear of disintegration of the country veiled their foresight. The problems they sought to keep at bay started haunting them immediately after independence and has since only compounded. The ghosts have grown larger and more violent, yet the ability to exorcize them remains imbecilic at best and outright incompetent at worst.

For any nation to progress and develop into a economic and military superpower, it has to have a sustained period of peace and internal stability. With the benefit of hindsight when we lok a history all the great empires were able to develop into great states because they were able to ensure periods of great peace and stability to their citizens. You may look at the roman, Chinese, Maurayan or the British and the American states they all share this character. But, due to the incompetency of our political class and the the failure to find long term solutions to the administrative problems of this country this period of peace and stability has been elusive. There are far too many internal problems in India at the present to haul us into a developed nation category. And, these problems in turn stem from one form or another relating to the question of Autonomy.

Of late the demand for new states and further demand for Autonomy within these sates has been growing, dividing the politics with a regional bias and disruption of public life. The main problem before the policy maker is no more simply how to solve these diverse problems but, how far do they go to get a final settlement leading to a more perfect union. This leads us to call into question the examination of the federal structure of the Union of India. During the drafting of the constitution a strong centralised government may have seemed the best suitable form of governance, but somehow it has failed to work as envisaged. This is not because the political class did not try their best to make it work but, due to the short sightedness of the founding fathers of this nation. The makers of the constitution failed to appreciate the diversity of the nation, when they were resorting to the centralised federation.

The nature of Indian federation is better described as a cooperative federalism where the states act as administrative agencies of the central government. This is where the problem lies. In effect the government has become too big to manage itself. The bigger a government gets the more inefficient and irresponsive it becomes. The idea is to keep the government small and its constituent units smaller. And, this shall be the basic idea guiding us to rethink federalism in India.

More often than is desirable, there is a lot of interference by the centre into the administration of the states. This had not been conducive to a healthy functioning of the federal structure. Now, not all the interference has been direct, more often it is disguised especially through the planning commission. An extra constitutional body is perhaps the biggest anathema to federalism. The sooner this super body is scrapped the better. Then there is the all-pervasive and sanctimonious article 356 of the constitution, where by the union government can at will decide whether a government at the states are being run according to the provisions of the constitution. And, of course the financial relationship between the union and the states which is to the disadvantage of the states. There are numerous others which impinge upon the functioning of the state governments.

Keeping in view these problems I am starting a series of proposals for the Rethinking of the whole federal structure in India. Should you wish to engage in a discussion upon the rethinking of the federal structure you may write to me @ vidyutjain@gmail.com

On the futility of the Jan Lok Pal and importance of Election Reforms first.


As we approach the 64thIndependence Day, my thoughts yet again drift towards the state of our union, and the way towards a more perfect one. In the past year a lot has happened that was not in the interest of the idea of a more perfect union. The scams of enormous proportion have hit us. The multiplicities of the protests have been undermining our democracy. A whole lot our citizens dying of hunger, disease and as collateral for state policies in the Red corridor and other militarised zones. It has been quite much the same for the past 63 years. The government merely becomes more dysfunctional every passing year. And we move on.

But during this past year there is something that has been happening which if successful will rupture the public discourse on governance in this nation for the better- Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption. Though I don’t disagree with Mr Hazare on the need for eradication of the bad governance which has plagued this nation for far too long, I don’t think that there can be much progress on the issue of corruption unless there are large scale systemic reforms beginning with the Elections reforms. The gates of representative democracy have to be guarded not the guillotine.it is the politics of welfare that has to be overturned. Merely punishing a few of those corrupt and vicious will not lead to a corruption free society.

Mr Hazare thought noble in intent and serious purpose is attacking on the wrong side of the problem to find the right solution. Since he had built up a sizable following, and will in the future contest elections I suppose, he is best placed to agitate for reforms that will truly start to clean up the system. Rather than agitating for Jan Lok Pal, he should consider starting a movement for electoral reforms, which will then enable reasonably good and talented people to enter politics and work towards larger reforms. Contrary to what Mr Hazare has been saying the Jan Lok pal bill will only cut of the dead parts while leaving the diseased body intact. Corruption is merely a symptom of a dysfunctional system.

If we were to reflect a little on the general elections of 2009, it will make a lot of things quite clear about the electoral gaps that exist in India which at the same time is a huge opportunity for reform and new politics emerging. And importance of electoral reforms first.

The chart below shows the performance of the National Parties in 2009 General elections:

Untitled picture

For the analysis I am only focusing upon the national parties. There were 7 national parties who contested elections all over India. There are a total of 543 seats in the Indian parliament.

The first observation is, none of the national parties contested for all the 543 seats. Interestingly, BSP was the party which contested the most number of seats, 500 in all and won only 21. The BJP and the INC contested roughly about the same number about 433 and 440 in all wining 116 and 206 respectively. They did not fare any well. The point here is that even after 64 years of independence there is not a single party which can contest from the entire allotted seats. Today there is no party which can claim to represent, the idea of India. This in some respects suggests a compartmented electorate, implying a divided politics. No National party has an appeal throughout the Nation.

The second and most important material for my argument are the number of votes that was cast in the favour of each party.

Total Electors – 71, 69, 85,101 Male – 37, 47, 58,801 Female– 34, 22, 26,300

Total electors who voted -41, 71, 59,281

Total population of India was about 119.8 crores

The observations are quite significant:

1. The total turnout of the registers votes was only 58.19%, 41.18% of the voters did not cast their votes. For a big democracy like India this is very significant numbering 29, 98, 25,820 or about 30 crore citizens. So, according to this almost half of our population goes unrepresented in the Indian Parliament.

2. The largest party to emerge from the general elections was the INC which was able to garner about 12 Crore votes. This in percentage terms translates into 16.61% of total electorate, 28.55% of total votes polled and 0.1% of the total population of India. That was the biggest party! The BJP fared no better garnering 10.94% of total electorate, 18.80% of total votes polled and 0.06% of the total population of India. Same with all the others. The point to take note is that representing only about 30% of the popular votes the INC was able to form the government at the centre. And, with about 20% of the popular votes the BJP became the main opposition party.

Now, the electoral system in India is “first past the post”, which means that there is requirement for an absolute majority the winner is he who gets the maximum number of votes. This could vary as much as 70% for a candidate to merely a 20% of the total votes polled. It is often observed that the candidates mostly only secure less than even 40% votes to secure an election. The chart below shows the figures for the 2009 general elections:

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With the current electoral system most of the candidates elected are securing only about 30% votes on an average. As the figures show majority of the candidates don not even cross the 50% threshold, whereas ideally they should. So, the first reform must start here, we need to dismantle the whole system of electoral process currently being followed in India.

The candidates can easily manipulate the votes securing the highest numbers yet be far below the ideal majority. In this first past the post system there is absolutely no conventions that have formed over the years which would have at least an unwritten majority warranted. This should have evolved by now. In what kind of a democracy should we have people wining only 10% of the votes and yet be declared winner. This system is has to be replaced.

 

These are Some Suggestions for Reforms.

1)      All the election to the state and the central legislatures should be held simultaneously on the same day. Only in cases where a person had died during his term in public office should by elections be held. If all the elections are on the same day the voter turnout is bound to increase, and it will also have the parties be more involved with real issues that matter with the public. In due course it will help in the nation integration.

2)      Voting should be made compulsory.

(1)    Over time this will lead to destruction of the vote bank politics that today has become so blatant.

(2)    Political participation and awareness of issues surround the nation will increase.

(3)    Role of money and muscle over time shall decrease.

3)      The important public office bearers should be directly elected by the people.

(1)    The president, The Vice-president and The Prime Minister should be directly elected by the people during the general elections. The whole of the country should have a say as to who the most important officers bearers are. Over time this shall lead to national integration and also bring out national perspectives and issues to the electorate. Most of the elections today only have a regional focus, this need to be expanded towards having national focus. The majority of the citizens of this nation do not know or cannot identify with the President or the Prime Minister. Till the time the President and the Prime Minister are not seen as true leaders, national leaders national integration will be a far cry.

(2)    There should be a provision where the parties put forward the name of their presidential candidates and the candidacy is open to all the citizens who qualify the minimum requirements of solvency, education at least a graduation from a recognised university and a clean background in terms of his finances and law abiding record.

(3)    The elections have to state funded. This is important if the influence of money has to be mitigated. The state could choose to a reasonable deposit from every candidate standing up for elections. Say, about 5 lakhs from every candidate which would be non-refundable.

(4)    Upon the submission of his name for the candidacy of the President of India, he/she will within a month of such submission also announce the name of his Vice- President and the Prime Minister as running mates. So for the period of the election the {presidential candidate shall be the more important of the three in every respect. However, after the election are over he shall go back to his role as the titular head of the government, after which the prime Minister shall become the de facto head of the executive.

(5)    The Prime Minister shall be free to choose his cabinet from within or outside the parliament. None of the cabinet members shall hold seats in the parliament. This will separate the legislature from the executive in total in respective of every day functions. And, it will have the fantastic effect of attracting on the people who are genuinely interested in policy making and public policy. All the current incentives of being elected to the parliament shall be withdrawn.

(6)    They shall only receive salaries and no other perks.

(7)    The electoral expenditure shall be made public by the Election commission.

(8)    Anyone of the name for election to the Parliament having a criminal background shall be disqualified for life. They will not be allowed to stand for election till such time as the purported charges are not cleared by the court of law.

(9)    Reservation and nominations of all types shall be nullified. They have outlived their purpose and will not serve any purpose by extending them. Every one shall be equal before the law and the electorate.

(10)The Presidential elections shall be conducted as primaries, where the remaining candidate shall be eliminated save for two securing the most overall votes.

(11)For the purpose of primaries the country shall be divided into four zones- North, south, east and west. This is necessary so as to come to the final of two candidates most agreeable to the electorate without the parochial chauvinism to influence their choices.

(12)Finally, in the national general elections the presidential candidates shall have to have at least 50 % of the popular votes to be declared a winner.

4)      Now, these changes are going to be revolutionary and will require revolutionary methods of conducting it. Some of the suggestion would be :

a)      The UID (Aadhar) card shall be made compulsory for the purpose of voting doing away with the election cards.

b)      The use of biometric systems shall be developed.

c)       A system where the UID can be punched from poll booths, ATMs, and personal computers and mobile phones should be developed.

d)      A live feed of the votes shall be done, not waiting for weeks before finally counting the votes. All results shall be declared on the eve of the elections.

If these suggestion are given a serious consideration by Mr Hazare and his team, and the people of India at large I think we can form a consensus and revolutionise the way election s are conducted and election themselves. These if implemented will truly take this country to commanding heights among the world nations.

Instead of wasting time and energy fight for a lesser Jan Lokh Pal Bill, the Anna team should stop to reflect on the benefits of fighting a worthy fight for election reforms.

None of the present political parties are going to take these suggestions, the reason being that if would disqualify the majority of their candidate overnight. The mixed legislature and the executive that they love so much will no longer be under their control. And, most importantly it will expose their claims of being all India party. In this type of an election format there is no group or set of people can actually be placated. The benefit is obvious that we will have able and charismatic leader who will truly represent the people of India and the people represent them. The people shall finally vote as one people for one leader.

Now, there of course will be a lot of disagreement to these suggested reforms, the idea is however to stimulate a consensus for reforms. My purpose is experimental in the sense that I wish to engage as many people to engage into a conversation for an idea of a New India. Mr Hazare I sincerely wish you all the best towards your efforts; however at the same time I should like you to think on a large scale with encompassing vision for the future of this nation on this eve of Independence Day.

If this thought process has some semblance of sense to you. And, if you too think that electoral reforms are the need of the hour rather than the Jan Lok Pal, you may consider furthering our efforts by joining the Freedom Team of India (FTI). You should visit www.freedomteam.in

I dedicate these thoughts for a better India to my fellow countrymen.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country – J.F.Kennedy

Jai Hind!

Disclaimer: The thoughts reflected in this write up are my thought and do not reflect the official views of the FTI in any capacity.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.