Your turn to talk
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The credit for turning Air India into a pauper surely should go to our political leaders (editorial “Wings made of wax”, Mint, 9 September). It is a well-established and undeniable fact that Air India (the combined entity—Air India and the erstwhile Indian Airlines) has, so far, fulfilled all social obligations entrusted by the Union government by braving quite a bit of turbulence. The government, especially the civil aviation minister, ought to have led from the front by increasing the frequency of flights on profitable sectors and introducing greater connectivity to improve the financial health of the national carrier. Instead, in the name of open skies and greater competition, foreign and private airlines were helped at the cost of Air India.
Often it has been the lethargy of the executive, call it implementation deficit disorder, and sometimes sheer indifference that have compelled the judiciary to don the activist mantle (editorial “The price of inaction” by Narayan Ramachandran, Mint, 29 August).
In a sense, the judiciary seems to be more in tune with citizens’ aspirations while the executive seems to be out of sync—the surging support in response to Anna Hazare’s clarion call was a telling example. However, even judges are not infallible and should not intrude all the time into areas defined by the Constitution as those of the executive and thelegislature.
Having said that, it is important that our parliamentarians take criticism in their stride. Economist Meghnad Desai has said that parliamentarians in Britain get all manner of things written about them all the time and they take it in their stride.
In India, in contrast, Parliament feels that just because it is a constitutional body and its members have been elected by the people, they ought to be above criticism.
In the Anna Hazare-vs-Parliament debate, parliamentarians of all shades kept saying how by taking on Parliament and questioning its approach, Hazare was undermining the greatest institution of democracy. What no one said was that an institution of democracy need not be a democratic institution. Obviously the “tyranny” of the majority prevails in Parliament. So no institution of democracy, the judiciary included, should hold itself above scrutiny or valid criticism of its functioning.
A final remark about procedures. Our institutions continue to work using old, antiquated methods of work, methods that are well past their “sell by” dates. For example, even in Britain—which prides on an ancient parliament —modern methods have been adopted and cumbersome procedures have been discarded.
Even in the functioning of courts, the sheer weight of procedural complexity crushes their very raison d’etre—that of rendering justice at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable time. Procedures should not come in the path of justice.
It is interesting to see that words such as transparency have gained currency of late. There was a time when no one, certainly no one in the government, wanted to hear such ideas (editorial “Transparency, an empty word”, Mint, 13 September).
In this context, it is important that details of important projects, be they under a public-private partnership (PPP) or under the control of public authorities, should be made available in the public domain. The possibility of such details being made public will be beneficial to all: implementing authorities will be careful about not deviating from prescribed project parameters and people will get an accurate idea of how well (or poorly) projects are being implemented.