Wednesday, January 26, 2011

India: Republic or Relic?

On 26th January 1950 India became a republic and the constitution was drafted to govern the country. The constitution is nothing but a detailed terms & conditions agreement that tells us how to behave as citizens of this nation and how the country needs to be governed. It is another matter that none of us have ever read a single line from that constitution just like we do with every other terms & conditions agreement.

It has been 61 years since these terms & conditions have been defined and very few changes have been made to that document over the years. However the world that we live in has continuously and constantly changed bringing in a tectonic shift in lifestyles and mindsets that are far beyond the comprehension of the people who drafted the constitution decades ago.

I wonder if it is fair enough to stick to a constitution that is definitely outdated and has proved beyond doubt to be a failure. The emergence of the politician as the flag bearer and representative of people seems to have been the greatest failure of the constitution. If one digs deeper it can be seen that the politician himself is not at fault but the system that he belongs to is the bigger mistake. I have a hundred questions about the way our country is run. However in this blog post I wish to highlight only one issue. If anyone has an answer to that please let me know.

You are a winner but conditions apply*

There is a simple way in which winners are picked in any field. Hold a contest and choose the winners from the ones that perform the best. This is the case with education, sports and lots of other areas like businesses where the performers are separated from the non performers based on certain standard parameters. Even our democratic electoral process helps us do the same but the way we choose people who are eligible to contest and what happens after we choose our winners is baffling. Infact this is not an issue that is specific to India but a fundamental question about the methods of parliamentary democracy. The root of all the problems lies in the concept of political parties. Unless one is part of a political party the chances of making any real difference to society or making it big in politics is slim.

*An individual has no identity unless he is a part of a bigger agenda which is spelt by the party, akin to a gangster who is powerless when he functions independently as opposed to being a part of a bigger gang.

Coming back to winners, in politics it’s not enough to be a winner in the elections. What matters more is winning from the right party. Because unless one belongs to a party that wins the majority, he or she cannot be in a position of power and hold a ministry but instead sit in the opposition and brood over the lost opportunities to make the moolah. Contrast this with other fields; winners are rewarded irrespective of any such discrimination.

Imagine a school with hundreds of kids writing the board exams but belonging to different sections. Once the exam results are announced all of them are marked universally on the same scale without discriminating them based on the section they belong to. Applying the logic of political parties to the above scenario will result in the following outcomes:

  1. Only students from one section are eligible to go ahead for further studies or jobs, this is the winning party in political terms, the class with maximum number of higher ranking students.
  2. There could be other brighter students in other sections but they now won’t have the opportunity to move ahead in life because their section on the whole has not scored better marks than the winning section. This is the losing party.
  3. The students from the winning section go ahead and do jobs that are distributed among themselves, these are nothing but portfolios shared among the winning party members. In effect they form the ruling party.
  4. The bright students from the loosing section are left with no option but to sit and criticize the actions of the members from the winning section or the ruling party. This section in political terms is called the opposition party.
What I have stated above is the reality of our current Indian political system. Now let’s reverse the trend and see how the reverse would impact the political system.
  1. The best students from the entire school are selected to do the most appropriate jobs. This job in political terms is the job of running the country.
  2. Only the top performers get to do the best jobs while the low performers are given appropriate roles that suit their skills. The onus is on performance and not on belonging to the winning section. In political terms, performance is the only thing that matters and not the party.
  3. The focus will be on individual performances rather than thinking of whether the person is in the right section. The task of switching sections, manipulating or worrying about the other students in the class is unnecessary. The only goal is to do the job to the best of the abilities. In political terms the process of horse trading and large scale corruption to retain and reign in politicians will come to an end.
  4. There is no scope of a losing section or an opposition party here. Each politician is unto his own with only his performance to speak about. In effect ensuing a smoother process of decision making.
It’s time someone woke up to this reality and made changes to the constitution that is currently fit to be either in an old age home or exist as a relic in a museum. What I have touched upon here is not even the tip of the tip of an iceberg. The problems with our constitution and our republic are far too deep rooted to be solved with one blog post. It needs a massive grass roots movement and I am certain I will see these changes in my lifetime. Till then I will not wish you a Happy Republic Day!

Kartik Dayanand Boddapati

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