Wednesday, January 31, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Different voices on poll reforms

Speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India, the Prime Minister suggested that Parliament should have a fixed tenure and there should be no mid-term election. The President suggested that only people with clean antecedents should be allowed to contest elections. Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Leader of the Opposition, suggested that communal forces should not be allowed to play any part in elections.

No suggestion has come for putting a limit on the number of members of the House. It will be better to reduce overcrowding and fix the number at 250. If a seat falls vacant, that constituency can be handed over as additional charge to the member from an adjoining constituency.

Time has come when the House should take up problems such as illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, beggary, exploitation, corruption, high prices, smuggling, hoarding, amassing of wealth by powerful persons etc.

The present set-up of state legislative assemblies is also not required. Our problems can be solved in one House (Parliament) and we can save money, time, energy and resources spent on the upkeep of state legislative assemblies. We are one, and one set of laws is the solution to our problems.

Political parties do not announce their ‘Shadow Cabinets’ and that is the reason why persons not competent to hold a portfolio are appointed ministers and they are led by the bureaucracy.

The Election Commission should take up these matters with the Commission that has been set up to review the Constitution.



Give powers to EC:
Promises of Presidents and Prime Ministers on poll related issues become valueless because our parliamentarians do not allow Parliament to pass the much needed election reforms despite requests from the Election Commission. The solution is to empower the Election Commission to implement the reforms with a six-month notice to Parliament. If it does not disapprove any change proposed by the Election Commission within six months, the change may be presumed to have been okayed by Parliament.

Fixed terms of the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas can be assured without any fear of dictatorship by electing the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister by an absolute majority in the House through secret ballot on nominations signed by at least one-third of the members. A leader so elected should be free to choose his ministers from any party. However, the strength of the ministry must not exceed one-tenth of the total membership of the House. A no-confidence motion may be accepted for voting on written demand by one-third of the members. The name of the alternative leader should be included in the no-confidence motion.



Act, not preach: The Prime Minister, the President, and the Chief Election Commissioner are supreme powers so the question arises to whom are they making their proposals? The Prime Minister can make the proposals applicable to the NDA members, and bring legislation to keep criminals out of Parliament and state assemblies. Those who oppose the move will be exposed. As regards a fixed tenure, the tenure is for five years. Only politicians create situations for mid-term elections. At seminars and other gatherings, VIPs make suggestions which they themselves can implement. So the question arises whom are they preaching? They should act, not preach.



Five-rupee note

It refers to the move to re-introduce five-rupee currency notes. In view of the continuous fall in the value of money and the low life of lower denomination notes, the step will not be wise. According to the Union Minister of State for Finance, Mr Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, the Government has to think of this step because of a shortage of coins. The Government should take steps to increase its minting capacity. The supply of coins can be increased by reducing the number of denominations. Coins may have the denominations of 10 paise, 50 paise, Re 1 and Rs 5 with greater stress on Re 1 and Rs 5. Rs 2 and 25 paise coins can be discontinued. Moreover, the 25 paise coin does not fit into the metric spirit, and cannot be sub-divided because five-paise coins are no more minted. The size and design of the Rs 2 coin has always been confusing with Re 1 coin.

Sometimes, collectors’ coins are issued in uncirculated denominations like Rs 10, 20 or 50 etc. to commemorate an occasion. Even commemorative coins should be in popular denominations of Re 1 and Rs 5, though higher denomination silver-alloy coins of Rs 100 or more may also be issued to mark an occasion. To popularise the commemorative coins and their sets on the lines of philately, these should be made available at all offices of the Reserve Bank of India, all philatelic counters and selected branches of nationalised banks. For collectors, commemorative coins including high-value silver-alloy coins may be made available at convenient sale points from the first day of issue of these coins. 




India and Nepal

This has reference to “What ails India-Nepal relations” by T.V. Rajeshwar (January 25). The restoration of multi-party democracy in the 1990s, instead of leading to better relations between the two countries has actually affected the relations because of internal pulls and pressures in Nepal. Anti-India sentiments are exploited by all parties for their political purposes, leading to a deterioration of relations between the two countries. The fault also lies partly with us. We started an economic blockade in the 1980s but failed to develop leverages vis-a-vis Nepal. This has been due mainly to the lack of effective working of our political mechanism in Nepal.

It is not that Nepal is encouraging ISI activities on its soil. In fact, it wants to curb these activities but lacks the mechanism to do so. The other factor is political instability. Governments in Nepal have been busy trying to survive and have had little time for other matters.

Despite having a big embassy in Nepal, India has been lacking in diplomatic activity in the Hindu kingdom.

This has been due mainly to ignorance about the functioning of Nepal’s internal dynamics.

Comparatively, in the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu, many members of its staff are intelligence operatives posted under diplomatic cover.

These intelligence operatives are assigned the task of carrying out espionage and subversive activities against India, and creating friction and discord between India and Nepal.

S. S. SIDHU, Mohali

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