Writing in the year 2002 after the genocide in Gujarat, I had pointed out in a mainstream journal the following disturbing facts of the omission and commission of the then State Government. “A large number of media reports have appeared which are distressing and appear to suggest that the needful has not yet been done completely by the Administration. There are also media reports attributing certain statements to the police Commissioner and even Chief Minister which, if true, raises serious questions relating to discrimination and other aspects of governance affecting human rights”. [National Human Rights Commission, Order Sheet, Case No 1150/6/2001-2002].
The above-cited passage from the Report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the ethnic pogrom in Gujarat exposed the tardy performance of the Gujarat State administration. In a way this comment laid bare the place and role of civil and police administration in the Gujarat society and polity. The report categorically located the root cause of the failure of the administration on the Chief Minister and the Police Commissioner. While taking a strong exception to the perfunctory character of the report submitted on 8th March by the Government of Gujarat, the Commission as the Constitutional body which is constituted to uphold the rights of the citizens moved a step further and engaged in monitoring the performance of the State.
Over 16 years from then on, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat has become the Prime Minister of India for the second term. Those who followed the utter failure of the government leading to destruction of good governance in Gujarat then have begun to raise fundamental questions about government and governance in India. Governance was thrown to winds then since the Muslim minority community was treated as non-citizens of India. What is more deplorable was the government machinery was used and abused to engage in genocide of a minority community. This prompted the NHRC then to play the governance role to save the citizens and the country. But it is extremely disgraceful that in 2019, no national institutions worth their name are able, willing, committed to play their role as governance institutions when the government is failing its citizens.
Let us highlight the salient features of good governance. Good governance is accountable. That is, elected governments have an obligation to report, explain and be answerable to the citizens for the consequences of its decision. Good governance is transparent, that is, the citizens should know, follow and understand the decision-making process and its outcome. In a country of almost 130 crore citizens one or two persons cannot decide the fate of such massive population. Every adult citizen is not just to vote to elect the government but the decisions that affect their citizenship should be known to all.
Thirdly, good governance follows rule of law. The Constitution of India is the ultimate authority and deciding factor. But now there is an attempt to twist and turn the Constitution itself to suit the “One Nation, One Culture, One People, One Leader”. Instead of rule of law what is in practice and progress in India is ‘jungle raj’. If an elected member of the ruling party can carry cricket bat and move around freely thrashing the government officials, then this has even crossed barbarism. What is depressing is that these kinds of blatant violation of law will motivate others to do similar acts. It will also be considered as legitimate. No one will be able to condemn this is not allowed in a law-abiding country. Finally, citizens will be forced to live in distress and distrust.
Good governance is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the citizens. It responds to the needs of all the citizens irrespective of caste, class, gender, religion, region and political affiliation and life orientations. While over 150 children died of a mysterious disease ‘encephalitis’ in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, the President and the Prime Minister of the country did not even make reference to this health and governance scandal in their address to the parliament. Except blaming the food habits of these poor and vulnerable people, neither the state nor the central governments responded in a manner which would indicate that there is a semblance of government, if not governance.
Further, good governance is equitable and inclusive. Just like the well-being of family results from the wellness of all its members, so also, the well-being of a country is inherently twined with the well-being of all the citizens. For this to happen, those in power have to treat all the members not only equal before the law but there has to be equitable distribution of economy, education, power, and above all their basic needs have to be met. Moreover, not exclusion but inclusionary principles and practices becomes the way of life in all modes of governance.
Throwing the principles and practices of equitable and inclusive governance, the present regime has fundamentally been discriminating against a segment of its population by vigorously pursuing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. This Bill provides that illegal migrants belonging to the following communities Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will not be treated as illegal migrants under the Act, making them eligible for Indian citizenship. This implies that illegal migrants from these countries who are Muslims, other minorities like Jews or Atheists will not be eligible for citizenship. The issue is that this provision directly violates the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion.
Lastly, good governance is participatory, that is, every citizen has the right to participate in the process of making decisions in which the country’s interest is at stake. Moving from this bigger picture, at least those individuals whose interest is at stake, they should participate in the decision-making process and its outcome. But it appears that in a country of over 130 crore population, only one person or at the most 2 persons or a small coterie around the Prime Minister seem to take major and minor decisions which would have long lasting impact on this country and its citizens.
The government which claims to be democratically saddled in power has the moral obligation to respond to the cries of the farmers as much as it is hobnobbing with the corporates of this country. It was reported that on an average 8 farmers commit suicide every day in Maharashtra. Farmers who are the backbone of the agricultural economy of the country have no say in any decision made about them. Irrespective of the party in power, loan waiving for the farmers is announced without the participation of the farmers and hearing from them their sad state of affairs and what they want as a lasting solution.
It needs to be reiterated here again that good governance creates an environment where elected members who are supposed to govern the country keep asking themselves as people’s representatives what is the right thing to do at this juncture and in this situation when making any decision. This is all the more the case when a government comes to power with clear mandate to provide ‘strong, stable, sustainable government’.
At this juncture every common and conscious citizens of this country are grappling with the various malgovernance issues that are fundamentally altering the tenets of the country. They are: mob lynching under various pretexts targeting some people from one community of India; death of over 150 innocent children due to ‘encephalitis’ while the Prime Minister is busy propagating yoga; law makers taking to hooliganism and vandalism and thus presenting this to the anti-social elements that this is not only possible but no punitive measures would be taken; unprecedented suicide of farmers leaving thousands of families in poverty, penury and eternal debt; Tribals being displaced all over India from their natural and ancestral habitat by the forest officials on behalf of the corporates who want to grab the tribal land for moving from being millionaires to billionaires; Dalit youth regularly targeted for silly or no reasons and thus once again imposing the caste hegemony; using the bogey of FCRA to threaten and subdue the NGOs and civil society organisations so that dissent disappears from this country of Satyagraha; total disregard towards the impending draught in many parts of India and even lack of drinking water to the school students; blatant lie manufactured and spread regarding achievements of the government; total disregard to rule of law, etc.
Another fact that calls for serious attention is that the administration of state and central governments has become not only corrupt and communalised but also decided to collude with the ruling power (of whichever party) for its own self-interest. Even before the 2019 elections it was very clear that the national institutions like the CBI, RBI, Election Commission, Supreme Court, etc., have become party to the dictates of the ruling elite. During the election, it was clear that the complaints registered against some politicians were not at all seriously pursued, thus, letting down the constitutional obligation of the Election Commission. Thus, the intensity and the dynamism of violation of all that is enshrined in the Constitution is calling upon the citizens of the country to refocus once again on good governance in India.
There is total gloom and depression among the common masses and concerned citizens seeing the division and destruction that the country is subjected to. On the one hand, the country seems to be distancing itself from age old sense of non-violence, communal harmony, peaceful coexistence, respecting different cultural practices, economic prosperity to all, owning up a common destiny as Indians, adhering to constitutional principles, etc. On the other hand, there is planned and programed violence against the Dalits, Tribals, minorities and women from these communities; those in power or those close to them take law into their own hands and creating a culture that violence is an accepted norm of Indian polity; not just cultural policing but even food habits of some Indians to be decided and determined by some miscreants; instead of objecting to crime, glorifying through selfie; even cricket match is used to project a war like scenario to instill a wrong sense of nationalism and projecting ‘the enemy other’, etc.
The prophetic statements of Dr. Ambedkar expressed on March 1947 stands out as a political agenda of the common masses and concerned citizens irrespective of their caste, class, creed, gender, religion and region. “Political Democracy rests on four premises which may be set out in the following terms: i) The Individual is an end in himself; ii) That the individual has certain inalienable rights which must be guaranteed to him by the Constitution; iii) That the individual shall not be required to relinquish any of his constitutional rights as a condition precedent to the receipt of a privilege; iv) that the State shall not delegate powers to private persons to govern others”.
The electoral slogan of the present regime in power was ‘ Sab ka Saath aur Sab ka Vikas’ (With All and for the Development of All) in the previous term. An assessment of converting this slogan into program of action clearly and categorically shows that there was some progress made but much of this slogan remained an election plank. Many reports of the civil society both national and international highlight this fact. To this added in the second term ‘ Sab ka Vishwas’, that is, ‘Winning the Trust of All’. With an unprecedented mandate this is not only possible but actionable. But one has to wait and watch if the present regime rises above its narrow political, social, religious, cultural, ideological, economic, moral compulsions and strives for development and governance of India with all, for all, by all, inclusive of all.(Published on 08th July 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 28)