Lok Satta

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Seven Great Scourges Hurting India
Saturday, 23 October 2010 11:51
by Dr.Jayaprakash Narayan

The central challenges of our polity are the failure of the best and brightest to enter public life and make the necessary sacrifice to accept the burdens of leadership; and the highly centralized governance system which distanced people from the elected leaders and civil servants. The rest are all consequences of these twin failures.

As a result, seven great scourges are hurting the country:

1.Perpetuation of abject poverty despite resources and technology
2.All-pervasive corruption
3.Over-centralization
4.Failure of rule law and the rise of anarchy and criminalization
5.Politics of division, hatred and primordial loyalties
6.Increasing urban-rural divide, and excessive migration to big cities
7.Rise of licentious behaviour, and abuse of alcohol and drugs

Happily, India has also done a few things right in the past sixty years. Strengthening of federalism, a sound institutional infrastructure, preserving freedoms, and rapid economic growth in recent years after decades of stagnation of the license raj are our greatest successes.

We need to focus on a few key changes to preserve our strengths and overcome weaknesses.

Judicial reforms: The recent events showed us how vital it is to preserve the credibility, independence and integrity of the judiciary. We need to create a mechanism for appointments for higher judiciary; and for removal of errant judges. We also need to encourage entry of our best and brightest young men and women into judiciary at lower levels.

Corruption: A strong, effective, independent anti-corruption commission with powers to confiscate property, and ensure swift punishment is the need of the hour. The stink of Commonwealth Games, the many recent scams and allegations, and the obvious rise in corruption everywhere make this an opportune time to fight corruption – in politics, bureaucracy and judiciary.

Decentralization: The recent draft amendment of the Constitution proposed by the Union government is a good starting point. There is broad acceptance in principle, and we must work for its enactment so that the people are empowered, vote is seen by citizens as a valuable tool; there is visible link between taxes and services; and authority fuses with accountability.

Liberalization of agriculture and rural rejuvenation: Agriculture is still suffering under the yoke of the mighty bureaucracy, and license-permit-raj continues in this sector. Consequently, price signals are not allowed to influence production; free trade is not permitted, and farmers are made abjectly dependent on government largesse. A free trade regime in agriculture with adequate safeguards to ensure food security, and protection of farmers from imports will liberate rural economy and transform the lives of 55% Indians.

Political reform: We need to eliminate the role of marginal vote which is at the root of criminalization, vote buying, and electoral fraud. Proportional system of representation with suitable safeguards to suit our conditions; and direct election of the executive at local and state levels will largely eliminate the distortions by creating a new set of incentives, and destroying the existing ones.

Rule of law: Independent crime investigation, independent prosecution, strengthening forensic capabilities, faster legal procedures, greater number of courts, and speedy justice will transform the way society looks at the law and state. Once rule of law makes it easy for people to do good, and makes it difficult to do evil, a lot of things change dramatically.

I believe these changes are round the corner if we all focus our energies and understand the levers of change. Yes, things are bad – at times unbearably bad. But as they say, when we are going through hell, we should keep going. There is light at the end of the tunnel.The demographic changes in India, rapid economic growth and rising incomes, the exposure to satellite television, and access to modern technology make the next decade the decade of transformation.

Let us keep our morale high, and collectively and systematically address the challenges step by step. We will surely achieve most of these six goals by 2020.
 
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Constitute National Judicial Commission: Dr. JP
Saturday, 10 October 2009 16:25

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan has requested Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to immediately constitute a National Judicial Commission with powers to appoint and terminate the services of Supreme Court and High Court judges.

 

Dr. JP, who called on the Prime Minister at Raj Bhavan here last night, said the commission should comprise eminent citizens chosen in a bipartisan manner and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. He also wanted the formation of an Indian Judicial Service on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service.

 

Dr. JP’s suggestion assumes significance in the context of allegations of corruption against a section of the judiciary and the controversy surrounding the declaration of assets by Judges.

 

Addressing the media, Dr. JP said he had also suggested to the Prime Minister to make civil services competitive by providing opportunities for induction of the best and the brightest in different fields. He pointed out that sectors like education and health care are in an awful state throughout the country because there are not many competent people in the services to handle such all-important sectors and deliver results. Although Governments spent thousands of crores of rupees, the quality of education is shocking in that 40 percent of students cannot read a simple passage and 70 percent cannot do a simple division or subtraction after seven years of schooling.

 

There should be competition to appoint the best in key positions, drawing from government as well as outside. All key appointments, he said should be made by invitation and nor by application. The time has come to put an end to hierarchy in civil services and encourage competition and choice.

 

Dr. JP also pleaded for initiation of reforms in policing by making crime investigation independent so that it could be shielded from political pressures.

 

On governance in general, Dr. JP suggested that unless powers and resources are devolved on local governments, there can be no improvement. To curb likely irregularities and corruption because of decentralization, Dr. JP said, ombudsmen could be appointed in every district to check them.

 

Dr. JP told the media the Prime Minister had appreciated the suggestions and promised to follow them up.

 

Dr. JP, who is visiting the flood-hit Mahbubnagar and Kurnool districts on October 11 and 12, indicated that the Lok Satta Party planned to adopt a village in each of the four badly affected districts (including Krishna and Guntur) to facilitate their all-round development with the help of NGOs, the Government and philanthropic individuals on a long-term basis.

 

Dr. JP said that there was a proposal to divert the Hundri river a few kilometers away from Kurnool so that the town would not be vulnerable to frequent floods. If the proposal was feasible, funds should not be a constraint for implementing it.

 

Dr. JP heartily congratulated the officers and staff who have been tirelessly working to extending relief to the flood victims. He described the public response to the tragedy as magnificent in that every section contributed their mite towards relief.

 

Dr. JP demanded that all liquor outlets in the flood-affected areas be shut down at least for three months to protect the lives and security of poor families.

 

In a letter addressed to the Chief Minister, Mr. K. Rosaiah, Dr. JP quoted field reports to point out that large numbers of people in the flood-affected areas are squandering the assistance they are receiving from the Government and NGOs on liquor consumption.

 

The licenses of the shops which remain closed could be extended for the period they remain closed.
 
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Decentralize flood relief activity: Dr. JP
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 11:31

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today suggested that relief activity be totally decentralized so that justice could be rendered to the flood-affected. “We Indians excel in rising as one man when we are confronted by a natural calamity or war or any other emergency. Once the emergency is over, complacency, corruption and incompetence once again come to the fore.”


In a statement, Dr. JP recalled that it was the Mayor of New York who led the relief activity in New York in the wake of the terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Again, when typhoon Katrina wrought havoc in New Orleans, it was the Mayor who led the relief effort. In contrast, our Panchayats and Municipalities appear helpless in the wake of the devastation caused by the floods in the Krishna river. Unfortunately, centralized and personalized rule for more than two decades in Andhra Pradesh had enervated institutional mechanisms.


If mayors, municipal chairpersons, councillors and sarpanches were empowered to undertake relief work, they could turn out better results because of their knowledge of the local conditions and requirements, eagerness to impress their constituents and their wide-ranging contacts. Decentralization would any day be better than centralization even if the former turned out to be costlier.

Dr. JP suggested that relief be extended to all the people in the flood-affected without enumeration of the affected and insistence on ration cards, both of which give rise to corruption. Floods have not drawn a distinction between the rich and the poor in making their lives miserable. Once government relief in cash and kind is disbursed to every family which is affected by flood, we can eliminate delay, minimize corruption, avoid partisanship and bitterness, and ensure maximum satisfaction to those in distress. Since 90% are already white ration-card holders, a slight additional cost for coverage of all flood – affected families will increase the cost only by 10percent.


Dr. JP wanted the Government to take immediate measures for safeguarding power utilities and strengthening flood banks along the Krishna river, considering the maximum possible flood levels in future. The Government should also consider the significant changes in the weather patterns in the recent past and draw up suitable strategies to address them. The State is witnessing prolonged summers, delayed monsoons and heavy rains during a short period during the monsoon season, resulting in flash floods. A rainfall of 10 cm in 10,000 square kilometers in 24 hours will result in a runoff of 10 lakh cusecs of water. It was such a heavy rain in the catchment areas of Krishna river that triggered the latest floods on an unprecedented scale, Dr. JP recalled.


Dr. JP also suggested that farmers in Krishna river islands be persuaded to have their habitation away from the river bed with liberal Government assistance so that they are not vulnerable to nature’s fury frequently. They should be able to raise crops in the river bed like their counterparts in Godavari islands without living on them. Government should provide full subsidy to build the villages outside the river bed.


Dr. JP expressed satisfaction with the administration’s macro management of the flood situation. Thanks to the heavy storage capacity of the reservoirs in the Krishna basin, large quantities of water could be impounded. If we had another 50 TMC storage capacity in Pulichintala, the floods could have been controlled even better. This only underscores the need to quickly complete the Pulichintala reservoir project.


He expressed happiness over Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh working together to minimize the flood havoc, notwithstanding their wrangling over the sharing of the Krishna waters. Both states acted with good sense and amity. This should have way for better sharing of Krishna water in future.

 
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Centralization of power to blame For poverty: Dr. JP
Saturday, 15 August 2009 09:55

If we have not been able to eradicate poverty even six decades of Independence, it is because of centralization of power, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.

 

Addressing party workers after unfurling the national flag at the party headquarters, Dr. JP said that in a centralized system the growth opportunities are open only to the rich and powerful and eluded over 80 percent of the population. Unless people are made partners in governance through decentralization of power and every child is enabled to have quality education and health care, poverty will continue to persist, he said.

 

Dr. JP regretted that although the country had enormous natural and human resources, the rulers over successive years have miserably failed in utilizing them because of their skewed priorities. The country had merely witnessed a change of rulers – from the white to the brown – without any momentous changes in the administrative system. Corruption among officials and politicians had become widespread.

 

Total decentralization of administration with devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources on elected people’s committees in both urban and rural areas, provision of quality education and health care at Government cost to every citizen and institutional mechanisms to eradicate corruption should be the Government’s priorities, he said.

 

Dr. JP said the country could be proud of the fact that it had remained united and preserved freedom. But the people should be on eternal guard against forces, which are out to tear the country apart in the name of religion, caste, region and language.

 

Messrs V. Laxman Balaji, P. Bhaskara Rao, V. Vijayender Reddy, P. Rohit Kumar, Dasari Ratnam, Ravinder Reddy, Madhusudhana Rao, Kiran Kumar, Bala Ranga Reddy and Mrs. A. Subhashini were among those who took part in the function.