Saturday, March 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Towards an improved democratic order

APROPOS of Mr R. Venkataraman’s views expressed in the article, Towards an Improved Democratic Order (March 5), Plato over 2000 years ago had observed: “There are always in the world a few inspired men whose acquaintance is beyond price”. We are fortunate enough to discover such a unique statesman like our former President amidst us whose wise counsel towards improving the democratic order in this country must be heeded seriously.

With his vast mature experience as a politician, an administrator and as President of India in handling complicated situations and in the face of appalling decadence that has set in our polity and dwindling faith of the public in the integrity of the elected representatives, his conscience must be exhorting him to come forward with his views on the subject. While doing so, we are convinced that Rajaji’s words must be uppermost in his mind: Whatever your age, or your profession may be, do not murder the truth that arises from time to time in man’s heart. Loyalty to truth as you in your conscience know it, calls for courage. Fear is an enemy of soul. Do not yield to it. There is nothing very valuable in life or which will stand you in good stead which you can acquire through doing what fear and untruth dictate. If you do not accept this truth, you do not deserve to live in Gandhi’s land and share in the honour which his name gives to the country.”

  Mr Venkataraman being a Congressman to the core from the very inception of his political career, may be haunted by Churchil’s prophetic forecast of the doom of the Congress in a speech delivered in the House of commons in 1946 during debate on transfer of power to India, which reads: “Liberty is man’s birthright. However, to give the reins of government to Congress at this juncture is to hand over the destiny of hungry millions into the hands of rascals, rogues and free booters. Not a bottle of water or a loaf of bread shall escape taxation, only the air will be free and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Mr Attlee. India will be lost in political squabble.

“It will take a thousand years for them to enter the periphery of philosophy of politics. Today we hand over the reins of Government to men of straw of whom no trace will be found after a few years”.

With a view to arresting the erosion of democratic ethical values, we whole-heartedly support the approach enunciated by Mr Venkataraman. While doing so, we have to keep in view President K.R. Narayanan’s recent remarks on the move to review the Constitution i.e. whether we have failed the Constitution or the Constitution has failed us. There is no doubt about the fact that we are the culprits. Whenever the Congress found it inconvenient to adhere to the laid down rules of governing the country, it resorted to reckless amendments to the Constitution with its sledge hammer majority as though it was going to rule for all times to come.

As the situation stands today, to our mind there are two alternatives open to us as remedial measures. One, to scrap all amendments to the Constitution so far introduced during the past 50 years and restart governing the country afresh on a clean slate according to the original Constitution.

The second is to carry out revision of the Constitution in the light of the experience gained so far in the governance of the country. For this purpose consensus of all parties is necessary. We suggest that a panel of eminent persons from all walks of life, particularly from amongst the Supreme Court Chief Justices, be formed on the pattern of a miniature type of the Constituent Assembly to go through the entire problem. In the meanwhile, a non-party national government be formed which eventually will discuss the recommendations of the panel threadbare to arrive at a consensus. This will facilitate the passing of the necessary amendments to the Constitution.

Experience during the Janata Party days when all parties had abrogated their parent identity revealed that despite the vows taken to adhere to the Janata Party’s agenda, the various constituents started highlighting the image of their respective parties and ultimately frittered away the gains achieved. It must be borne in mind that the interest of the nation as a whole should be uppermost in mind and they have to sacrifice their own party’s interest.

We feel that the practices followed by American, French and German constitutions be suitably amalgamated keeping in view the Indian state of affairs and necessary procedures should be adopted accordingly. Besides, we endorse that the use of franchise be made compulsory as in Australia for each voter, and a deterrent penalty be levied against the defaulter.

Votes should be collected through a mobile polling station from door to door as is the practice during census operation. This will eliminate many a wrong practice now in vogue in the existing procedure.

Once elected to a legislature, the member must remain loyal to the party on whose ticket he contested the election. In the event of his subsequent decision to the contrary he must be made to resign and seek mandate afresh from the voters of the constituency. This will eliminate horse-trading apart from many other malpractices in vogue at present. We may falsely gloat over the idea of the largest democracy in the world, but we cannot fool the public, internally or externally. Sometimes in some parts of the land, State Governments have been formed with as little as 8 per cent of the total votes cast. Isn’t it a shame on the democratic system? Hooliganism, booth capturing, duplicate ballot printing, impersonative voting, MPs/MLAs with criminal records, facing criminal charges free-for-all-fights in the legislature hall are a common feature which the public is aware of.

Timely action is the need of the hour. Otherwise the nation will rue its failure.


Speed of “speed post”

A few days ago I had to send some important documents to my brother in the USA. As I usually rely on Indian postal authorities the documents were sent by me through speed post on February 7 from General Post Office, Chandigarh. I was told by postal authorities that generally four days are taken by speed post to get the mail delivered to the person addressed. But till date neither my brother in USA nor I have received them. Now I have sent the same set of documents on February 23 through a private courier service with just 10 per cent extra cost. The courier was received by my brother on February 26.


Clinton visit

So much of hype has been created around Clinton’s visit to India as if he is some godfather who, if pleased can create miracles for South-East Asia. The fact is, Mr Clinton’s trip to India is a general family fun tour, with daughter Chelsea and the dog, before finally becoming Mr Nobody on being replaced by the new President next year.

The incoming President of USA should be given this much importance in order to gain some benefit for India.


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