State Autonomy and the Developmental State in India


Before we start to analyse the concept of state autonomy, it is imperative that we, first understand what the concept of a ‘ state’ means and its relevance. We also need to know the boundaries between the state and the major power groupings in the civil society. So, what is this thing called ‘a state’?

The task of defining a state is an untidy matter, mainly, because it can be looked at as having two dimensions, one is the institutional which is to say what it looks like as a structural entity and the other is the functional or what it does, the functions it executes. The institutional dimension of the state, as put, privileges the two-dimensional definition, forward by Max Weber. This then contains four elements, which are the following:

  1. A differentiated group of institutions and personnel, embodying,
  2. Centrality, in the sense that political relations radiate outwards from a center to cover,
  3. A territorially demarcated area, over which it exercises
  4. A monopoly of authoritative binding rule making, backed up by a monopoly of the means of physical violence.[1]

Now that we have the definition of a state the analysis of its autonomy can be put in proper perspective. The first thing to understand about the state after having defined it is the, question of, what is the power of the state? The power of the state is of two types, first being despotic power and the second infrastructural power.

While exercising the first dimension of the state power, the state has the ability to bypass established norms and the preceding negotiations with the civil society, while the second one is more subtle and also more pervasive, this refer to the capacity of the state to penetrate the civil society, to implement its political decisions throughout its territory, through the infrastructural institutions of the state. The first type was strong in the ancient and all monarchic states but weak in the modern states and the second type is just the opposite, it being stronger in the modern states.

The power of the state flows mainly but not only from three aspects of its situation, first, being the territorial centralisation of the state, secondly, the multiplicities of functions it performs for the civil society as the prerogative of the state and thirdly, the necessity of organizing the natural society into a formal state in the first place. While among these the first was very strong in the ancient and medieval societies and the second in the modern states. The autonomy of the state with regard to its functioning was clear and unchallenged with the use of despotic power over the sovereigns’ territory of the older sates and the feature can also be seen in the modern authoritarian sates like china and Saudi Arabia. However, the autonomy of the state has become a lot ambiguous when we see it in relation to the infrastructural power in the modern states and the multiplicities of function it performs within the civil society. It is here that the boundary of the state and the civil society become hazy and the clear-cut demarcation between two is difficult to perceive.

Therefore, the greater the capacity of the state to impose its political decision upon the civil society greater will be its autonomy and lesser the capacity lesser autonomy it will have. Further, the autonomy of the state will depend upon the degree of centralization of power it exercises upon its territory, the relation of the ruling government and the parliament and the influence of the various mediating interest groups from the civil society. The more the centralization of power the more autonomy it can exercise while implementing its developmental and other political agendas within its domain, like in the case of India after Independence. Since, the congress had the majority in most of the states, the consent required for the implementation of the center’s policy decision, was relatively easy to come by. But, today the case has been reversed and the implementation consent is very difficult to come to, because of many parties ruling the different states.

Moreover, the autonomy of the state is also dependent upon the legislature and the executive in a liberal democratic state. The more the balance between the two, more will be the autonomy of the state to implement the decisions, and less the balance less will be the autonomy of the state. In the modern liberal democratic state, it is often very difficult to form a majority government, whether we see that in India or the UK, the coalition government that is formed restricts the autonomy of the sate by limiting the decision making and implementation power of the state. With so many power centers being formed within and outside the state and with the help of non-state actors, the autonomy of the state has been severely compromised.

The modern state has not been able to form clear policies without being influence by the pressure from the civil society, and the state has also been finding it difficult to implement the policies due to opposition from other parties in the political sphere. The state today has low autonomy but a high capacity to implement the decision. Which in turn leads to the state being unable to develop new policies or respond to new challenges owing to the power of organized opposition[2], and from the civil society groups.

Though the state is able to fulfill basic tasks but public plays a direct role in determining policy and is able to limit state power and scope of activity[3]. This can clearly be seen in the case of the Jan Lokhpal movement where the civil society actors demanded a position in making the bill, while rejecting the sate’s version of it, which, thereby, compromised the autonomy of the state. It went further, and tried to usurp the legislative function of the state itself. In a liberal democracy this is the exclusive domain of the state, which was under direct attack on its autonomy to make and implement its legislation.

To conclude, it will be quite difficult to argue that the liberal democratic state has autonomy, when the practice and the working of it has shown that, the autonomy of the state is infringed on by the opposition as the sate actors and the civil society as the non sate actors, quite often. While in theory we may still maintain that the state has autonomy in practice it does not. The modern sate which has institutionalized the practice of interest mediation through the corporate and various civil society actors, who now have a stake in the policy making and its implementation. This kind of interference which is allowed by the state in the form of public private partnerships in economic development, and the non governmental organization to partner it in implementing some social sector schemes, has severely affect the capacity of the state to govern as an autonomous entity. Therefore, the liberal democratic state is today, not an autonomous state.


[1] Michael Mann (1984). The autonomous power of the state: its origins, mechanisms and results. European Journal of Sociology, 25, pp. 185-213, doi: 10.1017/S0003975600004239. Pg. 188

[3] ibid

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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:

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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/draft-policies. 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.

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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

Posted in Commentary, Essays, Politics | Leave a comment

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.

 

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Support the Freedom Team by wearing the FTI T-shirt.


The Freedom Team of India has kindly coordinated and produced the first batch of FTI T-shirts, which are now on sale in India. The shirts are depicted below (click for larger image).

Only a few shirts are available in this first batch, so please place your orders soon! Orders will be filled based on the principle: “First Come First Served”.

FRONT

BACK

SIZE: Currently available only in ONE size: Male, XL (extra-large).

COST: Shipping is FREE within India. Please note that these shirts are not delivered outside India. 

Number of shirts
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For each shirt ordered, FTI will receive Rs.44.  You can donate more to FTI through the method outlined here.

HOW TO PLACE YOUR ORDER:
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Step 3: Send the payment to me according to the details your receive. I will dispatch the T-shirts only AFTER receiving your payment.  Being the first FTI merchandise, we don’t have an automated system for payments, yet. Please bear with us.
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In defence of idealism


Over the years India has steadily wavered towards cynicism bordering on apathy. The idealistic nostalgia of the pre Independence era has all but faded away. Not much progress seems to have been made on many fronts in this country in the past 60 or so years. The mirages of freedom, prosperity and a dignified life for its citizens have left the people disillusioned and rudderless. The crisis in its leadership is gaping. The politics of cynicism and fear is dominant. The era of defiant and revolutionary politics is dead.

It would be a folly to expect these habitual criminals that we have voted to the parliament to change their methods of governance. So, the way out of this mess is that we start to change ourselves and our perspectives of the present politics to a new politics of the future.

A country which woke up to independence from the womb of idealistic thinking and actions seeking such ends, today finds itself devoid of it. The cynical political leaders and the politics of divisiveness of their rhetoric have killed idealism within us. The politics of this country has failed to inspire its citizens to achieve to the best of their abilities. Now the time has come push idealism back into our politics. It is a time for optimism. It is time for a renewal.

I can think of no human being who is not at the same time has not been an idealist at some point in time. It could have been in the youth or the old age, the fact would remain that he wished for a better situation than was currently presented. Some of them held on to it to take up the challenge of leadership others led it fade. In the same breath I could add another question: what is leadership? You may wonder how it is related to idealism. In some sense it is idealism. Every leader is an idealist, but not every idealist is a leader till such time as he does not take up the challenge of leadership. But, what is this challenge of leadership?

The challenge of leadership is the gap between an imagined vision and its implementation. This could occur due to various reasons like – corruption, incompetence, lack of discipline but, to my mind most importantly, lack of inspiration. If one is not inspired enough by his vision of the future, his articulation of it, no matter how eloquent will not inspire others. This is where only a few truly great men have come to be.it is their ability to inspire people and to move them to action that makes them stand apart.

To be inspired is a sustained state of mind, and not many of us can take that for too long, and if action is not forthcoming, disappointment knocks round the corner. This is where the gaps starts to form and cynicism fill it. The challenge of leadership emerges from the failure of people who have left the road half way. India today suffers from this at a grand scale; the forthcoming future doesn’t look too bright either if the gap continues. However, if we can fill the gap and emerge from the challenge of leadership we have a terrific future waiting, all its citizens.

We as citizens of this nation have to start believing that justice, fairness, a good and accountable government are not mere words, but perspective which can be realised into reality. We have to think of the possibilities not the impossibilities. For a dull mind everything is impossible, but for those who choose to be inspired by ideas nothing is. The impossible is something which simply has not been done before, it is a challenge.

The history of human progress is the triumph of idealism, because someone somewhere believed in those ideas, because someone somewhere took a stand to realise it, because someone somewhere choose to give up the comfort and monotony of everyday existence to envision and create the place he lived better. We stand on the shoulders of giants so that we can see further, it is demeaning to human dignity to spend their lives at their feet.

So my countrymen believe that each and every one of you can make the difference, start to believe in the ideas for a new future to be created by us together. Let us be the founders of change.

The problem with India is that the leaders of this nation are not being able to inspire us to achieve the best in us. They have failed us as our leaders. As, as a consequence of which we have resigned to believe in ourselves. The politics of divisiveness and fear is the direct outcome of chasing the chimera of equality, rather than opportunity. This very politics of equality is leading our nation to its ruin.

The time has come to start assembling to leading our country to a fundamentally new direction.

To join in the on-going effort please visit www.freedomteam.in .

Believe in the power of ideas. Be Inspired!

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