CPPR 15th Quarterly Lecture
Kochi, November 22, 2017
“India should go for direct electoral system at the state level and empower the state governments because actual governance happens in states. The states should be given the freedom to rule, chance to explore and opportunity to develop, depending on the genius of each state,” said Dr Jayaprakash Narayan in his keynote address at the CPPR 15th Quarterly Lecture held in Kochi on November 22, 2017.
“Delhi is inconsequential to the lives of the majority of people in the country. From panchayat to parliament, people assess how the state has fared in terms of local issues. The state has the power to abuse, control and dominate, but it does not have the authority to effect change for public good. Nowhere in the world does the federal constitution dictate how states should function, except in India,” he added.
Dr Narayan spoke on ‘Governance and Politics – Need for a New Paradigm’ to an audience of former and current bureaucrats, civil society organisations, corporate leaders, financial institutions, media and students.
In a wide-ranging address, he emphasised the supreme importance of decentralisation and good governance. “India has put up with an inherent prejudice against localisation of power. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments are gigantic frauds that created underpowered local governments. India has done a great disservice to its people by having weak local governance,” he noted.
Highlighting the four postulates of a functional democracy – competitive elections, political freedom, electoral government and winners not punishing the losers – Dr Narayan said that while electoral failure has turned out to be catastrophic for political parties in many democracies, India is a shining example of the successful conduct of competitive elections.
“However, our performance is far short of our potential. There was a time when India was far ahead of the rest of Asia, except Japan. A recent survey comparing the infrastructural capacity of 49 countries reveals that India is in the last five along with Pakistan and Bangladesh.”
Calling rule of law in India a myth, Dr Narayan said that as a rule, people do not go to a court of law for justice. Our society is largely crime free and peaceful, due to societal and familial controls. However, this will not last forever and India has to brace itself to ensure speedy delivery of justice, maintain public order and uphold rule of law.
Dr Narayan termed India a failure in fulfilling the basic purposes of politics. In most parts of India, including Kashmir, money rules elections. Tamil Nadu is perhaps the pioneer of the ‘freebie culture’ but Uttar Pradesh and Andhra are soon catching up with it.
“Even if worthy people enter politics, they rise mostly through illegitimate means. This is not an aberration but a common pattern in the country,” he added.
The social reformer-turned-politician acknowledged Kerala as a successful model of social engineering in the country. “The state’s remarkable work in human development continues to lead the rest of India. Kerala has bravely given power to local institutions, while the rest of India shied away from it,” he added.
Criticising the tremendous asymmetry of power between the rulers and the ruled, Dr Narayan called for genuine rule of law and an efficient system of accountability to further the country’s development.
“We are still a poor country in a large measure. Nearly 90 per cent of the citizens of India are weaker economically and less stable politically and socially. We need to build institutional underpinnings to ensure accountability, as without accountability, democracy will be reduced to vote and shout,” he added.
Dr Narayan’s address also dealt with the erosion of the electoral system in the country. He stated that the electoral system had become so fossilised that money power controlled voting. Calling out money power, freebie culture and caste reservations as means for short-term political gains, he said that India should bring in the best and brightest into politics to change the status quo.
Professor K C Abraham (Academic Director, CPPR) moderated the interactive session that followed. Sara John (Project Associate, CPPR) hosted the event.
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