How democratic are we?

How democratic are we?
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First Published: Wed, May 02 2007. 12 39 AM IST
Updated: Wed, May 02 2007. 12 39 AM IST
India is a democracy, but changes have been made in its Constitution on behalf of the people without taking their opinions into account. Is there any provision for a referendum in the Indian Constitution? Even a country like Pakistan had a referendum to adopt its Constitution. For joining the European Union, the UK and France took the referendum route. Is there any such possibility in India at all? We would do well to have a referendum on the following issues to avoid controversies: ‘Should we have reservation based on castes’; ‘After more than 50 years of democracy, is the existing system good for India’; and ‘Should we have a Presidential form of government, as is practised in democracies such as the US’. It’s worth thinking if such a process is feasible for India.
—Ashok Agrawal
Re S. Narayan’s column in Mint, 30 April, the problem lies with our reluctance to change our models of governance in line with the changing needs of the technological and commercial environment across the globe. The decision-making apparatus of our country is shackled mainly by the following constraints:
a) The generalist model of higher bureaucracy, which finds itself wanting when it comes to deciding issues such as SEZ, telecom, electricity, natural gas and infrastructure, which involve complex technical knowledge and domain expertise. Though the government does employ specialists, they never reach the higher echelons of power.
b) We have always been able to define a broad policy scenario with inputs from senior politicians and parliamentarians, officials, professional specialists and voluntary sector but the goal of implementation has always remained elusive. As Narayan points out, few officials and legislators are interested in overseeing the seemingly mundane and unexciting execution of public policies.
c) Politicians fail to communicate their political commitments clearly to administration. In most cases, there are no monitorable and measurable milestones to check the progress of a policy initiative.
The concept of ‘agents of change’ will not take off unless these crucial issues are remedied. Administrative reforms should not remain only a fad or the darkness of administrative status quoism will eclipse the high noon of Indian economy.
—Dipan Anjaria
Your Corruption Catalogue on 1 May covered most of the ills of the schooling system in the country. But the suggested solutions are too generic in nature. They do not quite fit the problems (overcharging, bribing and corruption in the classroom).
In solution 1, how do teacher committees seize the authority of their management to run the poorly run schools? Has the state given them such power?
In solution 2, why should the staff be accountable to a committee of parents, when they have been hired to report to their own chain of command? Would the school management allow such digression? Is the staff competent to discuss such matters as utilization of funds? Some schools have PTAs in place. The CMS report has not mentioned this, and is probably unaware of this. Parents have stayed away from interacting with schools, except for fees and final results, for various reasons. Perhaps they think that teachers do a better job, or ought to. Perhaps they do not wish to interfere in the teachers’ profession or schools’ business. Perhaps they are too busy, or don’t care. Perhaps the CMS or any other agency would do well to ascertain the effectiveness of PTAs and the reasons for their effectiveness or otherwise. In solution 3, how does the private nature of the ownership of schools always ensure better education than government schools? Is there any evidence to support this assumption? Are these the recommendations of the researchers or Mint’s?
—Vinod Dumblekar
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First Published: Wed, May 02 2007. 12 39 AM IST
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