Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sixty year-young Parliament

13th May 2012 was a day of resolve by the otherwise divisive Parliament to keep the Legislative Wings superior to the other two - Executive and Judiciary. It is Judiciary that saved the country from the slanderous behaviour of some of the elected legislators' and Parliamentarians' and even the Executives' misdemeanours. It is not the question of which arm of democracy is supreme so much as which arm is performing to the expectations of its people. Out of the nearly 40crore adults eligible to exercise the franchise, only twenty to thirty percent exercise the franchise. Out of them, many whose interest in future is limited - we find, the old disabled and those closer to their final destination also exercise the franchise. While this is the great virtue of Indian democracy, there is need for electoral reforms that would enable only those with untainted lives in whatever field they have been engaged in the past to contest elections without fear or fervour. It is the fond hope that those elected to sit in Parliament would be the beacon lights to the democracy by not absenting themselves even for a day of its working; by not claiming privileges for their own sake; by enacting laws that reform the nation socially and economically with provisions for speed of execution and with an annual regulatory review of such laws to ensure serving their intended purpose. Sixty years is the age of retirement in India for the present. Many individuals celebrate the Sixty as the marriage day recalling the happy years of married life. The Nation too celebrates - but there should be a resolve to work for the eradication of poverty and achieving growth across the length and breadth of the Nation evenly.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Parliament at Sixty.

The Parliament at Sixty has a tough agenda for future:
India is a miniature world. It has all the flora and fauna available in the rest of the globe. It has all types of soils – from the lateritic to alluvial to black cotton. It has all types of water – from saline to mineral and to plain. It has all types of weather. It has all types of minerals – some are highly inadequate while a few in abundance. It has a long coast line – extending from Bay of Bengal in the East to Arabic Sea in the west joining at the tip in Indian Ocean. Apart from this great geography, it has thousands of history. Yet it also suffered the longest history of servitude of colonialism. It has tolerance to all religions exercising free existence. It has perennial rivers and yet lots of villages without drinking water. It surpassed famines and yet farmers commit suicides under the burden of debt. It suffered from the worst of cyclones and tornados as also occasional visits of worst of droughts. It had the worst of earthquakes. It has world’s greatest Universities with many a village without a good primary school yet. It has the largest number of bank branches of various hues and sizes spread throughout the length and breadth of the country and carries still highest level of Financial Exclusion. It has a confluence of cultures of various dimensions and languages with thousands of dialects and variety of scripts. Its diversity is as much strength as weakness. The people of the land enjoy freedom of speech like nowhere else in the world. It has recently joined the league of the most powerful guild of nuclear nations.
Its Parliament is 60years young on this 13th May and both the Houses stand in unison for once, to celebrate and recall the glorious years when its first Parliament had the highly educated and literate while the current Parliament has perhaps the World’s largest number of billionaires in a democracy in such a short time. It has the poorest of the poor and richest of the rich. Its economy started looking up from the middle of the first decade of the triennium, only to falter in the wake of series of scams and seriously suffer under its own weight of misbehavior and misdemeanor of the political and bureaucratic elite. Introspection truly is tough. There are States that take pride in the figures of poverty because of the faulty incentive system built into the federal fiscal dispensations. People have come to take shelter in being a part of the schedule of the Constitution. The land that treats woman as a deity cruelly treats her on the streets and gender discrimination and sufferance are common.
McKinsey Report in 1990s mentioned that India was losing 1.3 percent economic growth a year, if we consider the man-hours lost in land litigations. Doubts over ownership of land inhibit supply of capital, thus raising the cost of credit for agriculture. There is a consistent demand for lowest cost of credit for agriculture and this is met by huge interest subsidies and disinterested investments in the sector. There is a flight of capital from land and land is groaning under the weight of unproductive labour. India is a land of entrepreneurs. But enterprises retreat in the largest numbers.  Business climate index always suffers from serious dips. Targeting inclusive agenda is easier than reaching the goalposts. The path is rugged with self-imposed but obnoxious regulations that cry for reforms. The land of talkers should turn out ere long as land of doers and this becomes possible only with discipline and demonstrable stern action for the errand in the quickest possible time.
The 97 amendments of Indian Constitution in 60 years eloquently speak of the need for rewriting the Constitution with a brave new world of another 60 years ahead of the country to rebalance the economic and political forces. It longs for a sensible administrative code that could check corruption and bribery. There have been long hours of debate on the Lok Pal Bill but its passage adds significance at this moment of history. I am reminded of what Oliver Gold Smith said once: “Let not thy winged days be spent in vain; where gone, no gold can try them back again.”