Friday, August 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



India’s ills: remedy lies in presidential system

THIS refers to the article “Centre-state relations — restructuring our federal polity” by Mr Dalip Singh (The Sunday Tribune, August 6). The writer has made out a very strong case for the grant of maximum autonomy to the states, giving an apt example of the USA, with 50 autonomous states, each with its separate flag and constitution and the federal government with control over only 18 subjects.

However, I would like to point out that “the USA has achieved the distinction of being a super power” not just because of its true federal structure but also because of the presidential system of government which provides security of tenure and quality of governance both at the Centre and in the states, besides ensuring its cost-effectiveness.

The President is directly elected by the entire country with a minimum of 50 per cent of the votes polled plus one. Since he cannot hold office beyond two tenures of four years each, the USA is one of the best examples of a genuine democracy, the essence of which is smooth and periodic change of government. Thus, there is no need for younger and ambitious politicians to leave the party and to form their separate political outfits as it happens in India. (Mr Bill Clinton will retire on January 20, 2001, at the young age of 54 years).


The President of the USA and the elected Governors of the states are free to choose people for induction into their respective governments purely on the basis of ability, expertise, administrative experience and the actual requirement.

The parliamentary system of government in India, which is based mainly on the Government of India Act of 1935, neither provides stability nor strength to the government at the Centre or in the states. It is the most inefficient system as a majority of the ministries are formed only to accommodate the maximum number of politicians to enable them to share the spoils of office. The ministries are frequently expanded just to hold the flock together and to prevent the pyramid of support from crumbling. Had the founders of our Constitution foreseen the state of the Indian polity beyond 50 years, with the Central government comprising 24 parties, supported from outside by some more, they would have probably chosen the presidential system of government of the USA type, with a true federal structure.

I would like to remind the Prime Minister of his views in favour of switching over to the presidential system during 1985-86 when he had only one BJP companion in the Lok Sabha and had perhaps no hope of occupying the Delhi throne under the existing parliamentary system. But now after scaling the summit, he seems to prefer the German system. The German system may or may not provide the security of tenure to his government, but the nation would certainly not gain anything insofar as the quality and cost of governance are concerned. Only the presidential system with a true federal structure, as practised in the USA, can meet all our requirements.



If it happens with a minister (P.R. Kumaramangalam, now dead) what about us? This is the big question that haunts almost every thinking person today.

There are no two opinions about the fact that this has been happening because of the rise of mediocrity in the medical profession also, which ultimately forces a few meritorious professionals to leave the country. As cast-and-money-based reservation, in almost every field, has been taking precedence over merit for a long time, this was bound to happen.

A country that puts education, health and defence on the back-burner, and treats these professions with political disdain, will have no option than to face disasters not only in medicine but other fields too.

It is high time we stopped dishonouring merit, at least in these three major professions, rightly considered as the backbone of a nation.


Teacher-student relationship

This is with reference to the article “Learning from students” by Prof Amrik Singh (August 3) and the letter “Between teachers and students” (August 17) by Ms Rakhi Dhawan of Chandigarh.

Ms Dhawan says that “it is high time the teachers justified their so-called status of ‘nation-builders’.” I agree with her.

In the education system, the student is termed as a raw material, the teachers as the builder and the administration (non-teaching staff) as the helper (assisting staff to both the teachers and the students). Here I am excluding the part to be played by the administration.

The students make a full payment in the shape of the fee to the college but do not go to the institution regularly (all days). If they go to the colleges, they do not attend classes with full devotion. I am talking of the students of higher education who are mature enough to understand, judge, analyse, etc.

Students have no thirst for knowledge. They are present in their classes physically but not mentally. They go to their classes without having an “antenna” on their heads.


Humiliating scenario

The Veerappan episode has blasted the myth of internal security. The sandalwood smuggler, slaughterer of 200 elephants and killer of 300 men, has proved to be a big painful thorn in the flesh of the government.

He is growing in his stature day by day, thank to the political patronage the brigand enjoys. The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments jointly failed to trap the dacoit.

He has become so powerful that he is dictating terms, and both state governments are licking the dust in meek submission. All demands of the brigand are being promptly met to secure the release of actor Rajkumar. What after this?

Another Rajkumar may be held hostage and more demands may follow. What a shame! We are being looked down upon as spineless, impotent creatures. The release of dreaded militants after the hijacking of an Indian plane to Kandahar is a humiliating chapter in the history of free India.

Ranjit Sagar Dam

Dubious disinvestment

This refers to the article “Disinvestment for distress sale”, July 31, by Prof Balram Dogra. The article manages to strike the nail on the head. The viewpoint is timely.

Amidst reports of “pacing privatisation” of the PSUs, the objective assessment of facts and figures becomes critical and crucial. It is to be noted that disinvestment is a “curative concept” while we need a “preventive concept” for the long-term interests of the country. And for this, functional autonomy must be provided to the PSUs to really make them competent and professional while simultaneously stemming the terrible tide of political interference.

Also, as proposed, professional help and a confederation of the authorities concerned should be there to bring “comprehensiveness and conclusiveness” in the modus operandi. Since PSUs are the pillars of the Indian economy, there is need to “redefine and refine” our economic policies so that the so-called “White Elephants” truly become “Wise Elephants”.


Officers then & now

Mr R.S. Dutta narrated a few very interesting incidents in his middle piece the other day which he experienced at the hands of sympathetic and considerate bureaucrats. Of some such incidents to which I was personally a witness, I would like to mention one.

It was during the year 1963-64 when Gyan Singh Kahlon was the Chief Secretary of Punjab, Mr P.H. Vaishnav, who later rose to hold this coveted post, was Deputy Secretary (Services) and I was an Assistant Section Officer in the Administrative Services branch of the Punjab Secretariat dealing with matters pertaining to IAS/PCS officers. One day, the Chief Secretary called both Mr Vaishnav and myself, as he also knew me very well through my work, for a discussion on a case which was ticklish and very complicated.

The discussion took place for more than an hour. Then the Chief Secretary asked the Deputy Secretary to prepare a note on the lines of what had emerged out of the discussion so that the approval of the Chief Minister, Partap Singh Kairon, could be obtained before pushing through the proposal to the Government of India.

Back in his room, Mr Vaishnav asked me to produce the desired note on his behalf. I dictated the note to my stenographer which ran into over 20 typed pages. Mr Vaishnav signed it without making any change whatsoever for onward transmission to the Chief Secretary who, in turn, recorded a two-page note on appreciating, all through, the hard work done by Mr Vaishnav in the matter of suggesting solutions to the intricate problems in the proposals under consideration.

When the file came back down the line, after approval from the Chief Minister, Mr Vaishnav called me and said that he would tell the Chief Secretary that the note in question was prepared by me, and not by him, and the credit must go to me.

I told him that it would be very embarrassing for both of us but he kept mum.

After a few days, the Chief Secretary again called both of us for sorting out another case. Lo, Mr Vaishnav, before a discussion on the case for which the Chief Secretary had called for us, told him very frankly that the case in which he had showered all praise for producing an excellent note was actually dictated by his ASO(me) and that he had simply signed it. Therefore, all the credit should go to its author.

The Chief Secretary smiled through his moustaches and looked towards both of us in appreciation of my work and Mr Vaishnav’s frankness. He recorded in my ACR for that year, “I am sure he will make it to the PCS this year” and I did it the following year.

The moral of this narration is as to whether any senior officer these days would like to put himself in an awkward position before his boss so as to appreciate the work of his subordinates. The tribe of such officers is perhaps vanishing.


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