Saturday, January 28, 2017
Let us think and Act with an Open Mind to Develop a Vibrant Democracy- Article 27
Mad rush for reforms leads to unsystematic planning, implementation and evaluation of schemes and disrespect to Parliament
After a new government came up in 2014, many reforms were started in such a quick succession that it resulted in a mad rush for reforms. Repeated disrespect to Parliament was obvious because prior approval of Parliament (or subsequent ratification by it) was not even sought for these important reforms with serious national implications.
Speed thrills but kills. This is a caution for drivers of vehicles. It applies for drivers of governance also. Policies implemented in a hurry can result in damaging failures and/or setting the clock back.
First of these recent reforms within a short period of less than three years was abolition of Planning Commission which questions whether the government had lost interest in planning programmes properly. This was followed by Swatch Bharat Mission, Make in India, Skill Development and Digital India. Despite inability to give sufficient attention to these important schemes in progress, currency notes for Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 were demonetized. While this also was in progress it was followed by repetition of Digital India, “cash less India” and “less cash India” schemes. This jumping from one scheme to another within a short period without proper planning, implementation and evaluation of these schemes has highlighted the fickle nature of government and failure of democracy. It is well known that the government machinery is quite sluggish in implementing projects. Thrusting of so many additional schemes on it in a hurry, that too without adequate discussions with those who have to execute these, showed lack of understanding that these schemes were bound to face problems in implementation, besides slow progress because of lack of capacity of this management machinery.
A glaring mistake common to all these reforms is that these were planned and implemented without adequate discussion and debate. Parliament was bypassed so often that disrespect to Parliament was obviously intentional.
These lapses can be illustrated further by a discussion about demonetization of currency.
It was well known that three attempts had been made earlier for demonetization of currency. First mistake was ignoring the lessons from these attempts which did not succeed. While the first two attempts had failed, the third was abandoned because a high power committee set up by the government in 2013 recommended against it. If the present government felt that the situation has changed even within the short period, it should have set up another high power committee to make a deep study and make confidential recommendations to ensure secrecy. The government did not do so because it was in a hurry to make reforms. For the same reason, the government did not seek the prior approval of Parliament or its ratification later which would have ensured secrecy. Ignoring the lessons from past attempts and disrespecting Parliament are serious blows to democracy and should be condemned outright.
Only about 6% of black money was stocked in cash and demonization can at best get rid of only this negligible part of black money. The government ought to have taken cognizance of this and abandoned the scheme which is not cost effective and likely to cause hardship for people. This was the second mistake.
Spreading misinformation that the government had planned demonetization of currency to get rid of all black money while it was only attempting to get rid of 6% of black money was the third mistake which was anti-democratic (misleading people).
The above facts were enough to decide that demonization should not be done. If the government was still keen to go ahead this miss adventure, it should have carefully studied about problems which might come up and taken precautionary steps. For example:
About 86% of currency in the country was in denominations of Rs.500 and Rs.1000. Withdrawing these will create a huge cash vacuum and create chaos in the economy unless adequate number of new notes were printed and supplied before withdrawing the old notes. Ignoring this need in a hurry was the fourth mistake which has caused misery for people. This was another blow to democracy.
For some unexplained reasons a new currency of Rs.2000 was introduced. This posed problems for vast majority of people who need smaller denominations for daily use. Lakhs of workers who are paid daily wages also find problems in receiving wages and spending money for needs. Government did not use this information to decide on the type and number of currency notes to be printed. This is the fifth mistake in planning to meet the needs of people which is paramount in a democracy.
The above example illustrates a tendency among ambitious politicians to attempt a spate of refoms in a hurry ignoring whether these are justified and without proper planning and development of the proper infrastructure to implement these. The fact that these were done ignoring the checks provided under democracy such as discussions with experts and within the management machinery and debates in both houses of Parliament shows a serious weakness of the system. Moreover, the above tendency is another serious disqualification for a political leader besides those pointed out in Article 19.
On the other hand, Articles 15 had pointed out that Parliament brought disgrace on itself due to lack of dignity by spinelessly tolerating disrespect thousands of times and lack of guts to punish government for breaking promises so often. Not acting against planning of multiple schemes bypassing Parliament in a hurry is another example of Parliament ignoring a series of disrespects, that too within a short period of time.
These important aspects constitute the thirty-second (may be a most serious) obstacle which resulted in a distorted and ineffective democracy.
To overcome this obstacle, steps should be taken to ensure that (a) ambitious politicians do not ignore the checks and act against the interests of the country and (b) Parliament exerts its position to curb actions which cause disrespect to it. However, these additional checks also can be discarded if those who have to ensure their compliance become silent spectators to whimsical actions by autocratic politicians. An alternate system which can overcome this deficiency is discussed in a later article.