Monday, July 30, 2012

Democratise the political structure

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Appointment of non political people at important political position is a dangerous thing. Similarly, former bureaucrats have found their ways into important autonomous institutions and commissions after their retirement. Even governor’s positions in many states are handed over to former policemen much against the wishes of the state leadership.

A report in the ‘Indian express’ reveal how the IAS lobby has hijacked senior positions at various autonomous bodies of the government including Union Public Service Commission, Power Grid Corporations and many such public sector unit after the retirement. The report rightfully suggest that the government ‘babus’ never retires as they have got various opportunities to survive and serve their political masters even after retirement. Over the years, the political parties have found it useful to ignore their faithful cadre to promote not only these Babus but also ‘experts’ who can manipulate and lobby for them. In the dirty world, the corporate lobbyists are now respectable political leaders and holding important positions in the political parties.

The trend of appointing the Babus and ‘well connected’ people in the important administrative and political position is dangerous and need to be exposed and resisted. While no one will have any objection to the appointment of any officer who is well qualified and has done exemplary work during his tenure. But if this has become a trend then it must be questioned as it clearly mean that the government and political parties feel that no one in the country is eligible or capable of handling the situation other than these ‘well connected’ Babus.

How would one explain the appointment of former Generals and IAS officers as the vice chancellors of various prestigious universities? Has the government run out of ideas or does it feel that there are no teachers in the universities who can improve their working pattern. What is the job of a ‘so-called’ administrator in the academic institutions? Is government afraid of the academic freedom and therefore want to control these institutions of academic excellence if there are any? The problems with these administrators is that they consider everything as law and order problem hence rather than speaking with students and academics they behave as ‘lord’ and ‘my baap’. Most of them have been averse to student politics and politicization of the campus even when we know how glorious were the role once upon a time played by various universities in the political movements of the country. A number of our political leaders actually emerged from the student politics in their campuses.
So many government commissions have space for social activists, academics and journalists but at the end of the day these positions are filled by ex babus. There are institutions like National Human Rights Commission, Scheduled Caste Commission, Schedule Tribe Commission, Planning Commission and we will find not only Babus but also those who the party wants to satisfy in lieu of its inability to make them minister in the cabinet. How can disgruntled people do justice to their work? People devote their lives for the causes and yet never get recognized as whenever the opportunity comes such people heads these positions who have rarely contributed anything for the job. For example, if someone has to become General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties ( PUCL), he or she will be the person who must have done remarkable work in the field of human rights. Even the contestant for those positions would be people who are contributing for the human rights but how come the government appointed bodies has people who have virtually no previous record of social action whether in the field of human rights or women or any such body. Many times the body would be headed by the persons who have exactly the opposite view. Why is there no space for social activists who have devoted their lives for the cause to join such institutions where they can influence the power? The authorities may say that they put social activists also in these positions but they are those whose track record would be difficult to find in the social movements.

It is not that only Babus are being appointed in these positions. The political masters are using the former intelligence people, high ranking police officers, and former generals for the positions of Governor. And many states in India are witnessing these policing of political establishment at behest of the union home ministry. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, north Eastern States, Kashmir etc are regularly having non political governors during the past few years. These governors are mostly observing the political movements in the states and providing ‘administrative’ inputs to the centre. In democracy, you do believe in more democratic set up but Indian establishment seem to feel that all the talks of autonomy and federalism has no political base and need to be dealt with more policing and highhandedness.
When the issue of Telangana needed government action, it sends a former Intelligence fellow E.Narsimhan as governor of the state. Rather than acknowledging that the state of Telangana represent genuine sentiments of the people over 50 long year, the governor continue to treat it as a Maoist problem and lobbying against the same. Formation of a state cannot be stopped under such conditions of possible threat as they are part of any nation state and we will have to prepare ourselves with eventualities and how to handle them.
One of the reasons for Mr Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for President of India is his being an important political functionary. Over the years, these high profile positions were filled with low ranking politicians or non political people whose understanding over the political conditions in the country were doubtful. A political man at the helm of the affairs of the country can handle the situation with much maturity. When India is at the coalition age and you do not know what kind of party formation is going to happen at Delhi, it is important to have a president whose political understanding is beyond doubt and who will give politics a chance in handling the situation.

India is facing the political crisis because the political parties dominating our discourse have continuously depended on ‘experts’ ignoring the grassroots political workers who sweat day and out for the benefit of their party. It is actually becoming ‘personality’ based which threatens the very edifice of democracy. When parties can win elections on the merits of an individual then there is a very much possibility of him turning a dictator and behaving autocratically. Massive mandates by people to political parties at the national level and regional level ultimately did not help democratization process as the parties in India remain highly individualistic and dynasties deciding everything. The middlemen then have their field day as they know well that if the party leader is happy, it does not matter whether people are happy or not. These ‘connections’ and ‘experts’ have damaged our political parties a lot and there is a need when parties would have to democratize their structure and make it more transparent so that anyone who is coming to the helm of affair come through the same democratic process. We have no problem with Babus or experts joining political parties and contesting elections as they have a right to do so as a citizen of the country. But drawing groom maneuvering would damage the parties and the entire democratic process as at the end of the day no party can afford to ignore the people and their issues. Let the government start the political process to resolve the complex issues and one is sure that the results would be excellent and better for the unity and integrity of the country. India cannot remain united with bulldozing dissent and tackling political issues with highhanded administrative way. It needs to start a political debate to tackle the situation politically so that people have faith in the democratic structure and constitutional values. That only is the way out for our complex political social issues.

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