Politicisation of issues is often a cause of resentment amidst a swathe of the citizenry. However, it is a knee-jerk reaction of a mind which has little interest and participation in societies’ functioning or its future projections. Whilst an average citizen lags behind and barely seeks a policy-framework (politicisation), there is something more grotesque in the offing: ‘Religionisation’!
If the citizens keep this gap yawning, the Zeitgeist Kamph, the battle of the discourse, will keep escalating and even enter a dangerous and serious phase without the basics in place. Thus, it is incumbent upon the citizenry to draw the contours of governance-aspirations before the politicisation-religionisation snowstorm hits hard and takes over. More than ever, there is an anthropological perspective much more relevant to the citizen-aspirations today. The republic is fast entering a whirlpool and will be overwhelmingly dependent upon the knowledge levels and bound by the displayed aspirations of the citizenry.
Take for example the Anti-Rape Law, after the Justice Verma Committee Report and subsequent amendments. It is stringent. In fact, the term “rape” has been re-defined from the earlier arrangement of ‘Insertion of an organ into another’ to a much wider interpretation. A man accused of rape has to clear himself ab initio and prima facie. He is not to be taken as ‘not guilty’ but as ‘guilty’ based on the accusation alone.
By any jurisprudence standards, this is truly an exception. The current Indian rape law is firmly loaded in favour of the prosecution; the defendants have to really sweat it out in courts. In fact, Parliament has been making this exception way too often: in the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989, similar provisions were made whereby the arrest preceded investigation.
The Supreme Court, after 28 years, realised the anomaly, rectified and ruled that the investigation has to precede the arrest and not vice versa. However, despite these mechanisms of every organ of the state playing its role in tandem with the changing times, we are under a constant siege of social media misinformation campaigns and the resultant societal dissonance.
The Indian society has become a bundle of confusions with a majority of laws and regulations borrowed from the colonial era, which were formulated with a slant to ensure the iron grip of the imperial government. The construct was to sieve away the individual citizen from the parentage, family and society and deal with him on a one-to-one basis and win the day in favour of the government with an extraordinary application of force by the agencies. Unfortunately, it continues and society does not interact with these agencies still.
The nationality of those in power has changed; the structure and inter se relationship have not. This de-colonisation of governance and replacement of the bulwark and construct after the colonial masters left is the task staring at us before we achieve the last-mile connectivity between our social aspirations and governance model. The situation is aggravated where the judiciary has its own set of four walls and the executive has little time to frame the rules. Needless to add, Parliament barely functions.
Employing tools of micro-slicing and root cause analysis, it shall be evident that the Western anthropological model, on which the Constitution is based, has nothing in between the state and the citizen. The triumvirate of parents, family and society are assigned no role-play in shaping and framing of the community discourse. The functioning of services rendered by the executive, such as policing and investigation, have no effective conduits with the societal pillars and is the core-dissonance.
In the world order, constitution-ism is a recent development. It began as an arrangement between the Roman Catholic Church and the nation-states that emerged (with the evolution of the French nation) through the French Revolution. Within Europe, it was not the Protestants who liquidated Catholic Empire; the Catholics themselves led the French Revolution. The essential component of the revolution and the French life still revolve around egalitarianism. The French revolutionaries broke the shackles once and for all. Unfortunately, they did not have many thought leaders within their rank and file — seen in India during the Anna Hazare ‘movement’ in 2011 — though there were stalwarts within the French nation outside the movement, and thus the nation-state evolved. This nationalism the spread within Europe and, thereafter, as the European century took over the entire world, it spread to the rest of the world.
Constitution-ism, in its pristine historicity, is the term which denotes the separation of the nation-state from the shackles of the Church. This segregation of verticals between governance and religion came to be known as secularism. The democratic movements across the world, by constant processes of sedimentation, application and re-assessment, further went on to separate the judiciary, executive, parliament, audit mechanism and few constitutional bodies.
The parliament was elected by the citizens; the executive selected based on a majority from the parliament, and the executive nominated the other constitutional bodies, but these bodies ran the subsequent functions and daily business without any reference to the executive — an arrangement to ensure the citizenry is saved from an awry force of the executive. In this spirit, the judges in the judiciary are to be nominated by the executive (the world over, not in higher judiciary in India). However, once nominated, the executive has no sway, except to impeach, which is fairly difficult, if not impossible. The fact is that it is the judiciary that eventually delivers justice, oft not the politicians, whether in opposition or in executive, who may get abused for it. The judiciary has even been given the right to take a suo motu notice in the Indian scenario.
The difference between evolution and revolution is the essence at its core. Evolution follows the process of a consultative sedimentation whereas a revolution is essentially churning through a combative competitiveness. Milk may change into another food depending upon the process adopted during the change, but will essentially remain the same — milk food.
The egalitarianism that emerged (or which got adopted) did ensure all the citizens were equal, but another issue emerged. As these laws started to be applied, it was meant to be alone. In the colonial era, it was by design, in the post-colonial Nehruvian state, it was by default. The factors of culture, family, society ingrained in dutiful compliances (dharma) essentially got left out.
The Western societies realised the mistake of leaving society out of the regulatory, policing and justice dispensation system of their nations. They remedied their system and the Americans adopted the jury-trial method of prosecution. This method is practiced in India in a military court-martial, but not by civil courts. The jury consists of regular citizens (or armed forces officers in a court-martial) who are guided and channelled by qualified judges, but those guiding the citizens do not have a voice or vote to pronounce anyone guilty or otherwise. The jury has several members, an arrangement that does not allow corruption to outmanoeuvre, to the same magnitude, as a single judge.
[pullquote]The jury consists of regular citizens (or armed forces officers in a court-martial) who are guided and channelled by qualified judges, but those guiding the citizens do not have a voice or vote to pronounce anyone guilty or otherwise.[/pullquote]
The Western world also brought in a few societal checks to correct the anomaly at the early stages. Smaller oversights on the part of the citizens invited corrective measures such as a compulsory community service. Thus, amelioration precedes correction and punishment before the individual falls apart from society and commits a crime. The community service mechanism ensures a chance is offered to the erring individual for societal re-integration.
In the Indian dispensation, it is present for juveniles in the form of the Juvenile Justice Act. Assume that an individual commits an error on a traffic signal, which is of a minor magnitude and the damages are not enormous. Rather than a punitive punishment, the individual undergoes a compulsory community service by way of helping the traffic police for a stipulated period. This makes him correct his own behaviour. A realisation is likely to dawn on the person about the effect of such oversights on society as a whole. The traffic police are likely to gain with the helping hands available, too, and society gains by a better regulation of the traffic.
This community service is part of every Indian tradition, especially Sikh. Buta Singh, in a show of great humility, after becoming the home minister of the country, accepted to clean shoes at a Gurudwara. Thus, there exists a need to insert compulsory community service between the punitive and correctional dispensation of the legal system. There also exists a need to re-invigorate, refurbish and reestablish the role of family, community and society and further adopt the jury system of delivering justice.
Unfortunately, since Independence, it has suited a few families in the political class as well as the judiciary, to cleverly ensure High Court Judges are always nominated: no exam, no written rules, only nomination! Those who entered the system through competitive judicial exams remained at the lower rung of the judicial ladder. Knowing they do not have a fair chance up the ladder, they earned through dubious means. It reflected in the judgments and impacted the law and order as a whole in the country.
The NJAC was a good mechanism initiated in 2016, but hegemonies are very slow and hard to retreat. The NJAC has been shelved by the Supreme Court. The higher judicial appointments, it is said, form up of not more than 50-60 families. The top lawyers and judges have their own ecosystem. In the conundrum of divergent voices, strangest of verdicts can be delivered. Corrections, if any, can be tedious and long enough to be of no use eventually. There is no record-keeping of the proceedings of judge selection meetings and the procedure adopted for arriving at the nomination or exclusion of the names considered by the panel.
The Indian civilisation has nearly always adopted a self-correctional, self-regulating model of governance. Till the 1980s, children could be disciplined by their aunts, uncles, neighbours, teachers and anybody who felt a sense of belonging towards them. Now, the arrangement is changing within society, an impact of the western anthropological model we adopted. The West amended this model to improve its societal life and we lagged behind. However, the Indian hinterland still is self-correctional and self-regulating.
India, as a whole, has less than 20,000 police stations, with urban landscape outnumbering the rural. In the United States, the numbers may be 20 times as higher.
As a part of our colonial relic, the Indian executive does not deliver policing as a service. It is still a suppressive watchdog mechanism. An average policeman takes it as his right to correct and punish citizens, against the desired ethos to assist and regulate. Often, traffic cops would surprisingly appear from behind the trees! One wonders why they should wait for citizens to commit that error, and not take a pre-emptive action as the original arrangement, stand visibly at the crossroads and regulate the traffic.
This dissonance accentuates due to a lack of a formal mechanism for society to interact with the service providers such as police, electricity and water. The British and their extension, the Nehruvian state, never built the bulwark for the citizens to effectively participate in the integral decision making of governance which impacts day to day functioning of these departments. It is high time we designed that ecosystem. Such a formal mechanism that enforces interactions between communities and government agencies and service providers need to be duly documented and recorded. We further need to introduce a quality audit and effectively ensure the relevant steps are taken to regulate social life rather than wait for errors to be committed and prosecution to begin for erring citizens.
[pullquote]Often, traffic cops would surprisingly appear from behind the trees! One wonders why they should wait for citizens to commit that error, and not take a pre-emptive action as the original arrangement, stand visibly at the crossroads and regulate the traffic.[/pullquote]
Entertainment remains one of the essential parts of human life. It separates humans from animals and essentially means striking a few emotional chords and taking liberties in an imaginative manner. The audio-visual medium, especially and including cinema, plays a vital role in impressing minds. Unfortunately, in its latest forays, the Indian mainstream cinema and their lyrics have been at the forefront of trashing society and contributing to the societal dissonance.
There exists an unholy nexus between the film fraternity and the underworld. There are higher grade defaulting personalities whose kith and kin hosted the man who conducted the reconnaissance for 26/11 attack in Mumbai. A heavily sexualised content, overwhelmingly gyrating reproductive body parts as part of dance sequences, is the order of the day. The lower cost of mobile data may not have led to the delivery of services to far-flung areas, but pornography has been delivered in an extraordinary manner. Given the ‘ease of living’ Index, the average citizen is way too pre-occupied due to the vagaries of an inspector-led life.
The average citizen need not feel guilty and suffer self-pity for aberrations in our society. We only need to carry out an analysis that is not fact-free, which leads to a sustainable framework. We must carry out a deep root-cause analysis and convert the concerns into published rules. The usual harping on ‘all politicians are the same’ and ‘truth has many dimensions’ has been a derivative of the ecosystem of obfuscation. There are ideologies and philosophies that have resulted in different political dispensations. There is only one truth; the difference may be in the methods and routes to be adopted to find that truth.
A true spectrum of governance lies in the executive of the day finishing off (or being allowed to finish off) an end-to-end encryption of the governance trail. Right from policymaking, drafting of bills, getting them passed into laws, substantiating and backing them with rules and institutionalisation of a regulatory mechanism. Unfortunately, for the last 60 years, we have not seen much on that front. Some of this ‘full spectrum of governance trail’ was enshrined in the Panchayati Raj Act. However, it lacked in the exactitude in the rules pertaining to the law, and the bogie of secularism did not allow it to be a pan-India law. The rules pertaining to Benaami Properties Act, enacted in 1989, during the Rajiv Gandhi era took close to three decades to notify the rules under the Narendra Modi regime.
Rules, if not notified, leave a law made by Parliament redundant. That’s where the anomalies and governance deficit lies, usually leading to a social dissonance. When rules are framed and notified, they become the cornerstones for adherence by the state machinery. We need to emphasise a pan-India applicability of the essentials and the citizen should be allowed to participate in the process, lay bare the verticals, nuts and bolts of everyday administration through an identified and notified process.
Due to our status of lagging industrial growth, governments leave this governance-trail somewhere in the middle and run pure economical activities such as production. The unsuspecting citizenry has somehow consumed this narrative and now have no anthropological aspirations from the government. A vast majority only seek cheaper fuels, onions and tomatoes from those sitting on Raisina Hill.
Eventually, the citizen defines the republic. If the citizen leaves out anthropological aspirations for cheaper onions and tomatoes, the machinery of the nation-state will concentrate on delivering nothing more. The demand and supply gap is created by the citizen and eventually, the citizen will get the prioritised supply with the defined inter se priority. The citizenry, thus, should be careful in choosing where to create the demand-supply gap for its own present and future of generation they are rearing.