2ndlook

Why Schools, Hospitals, Political Parties don’t work in India. At least upto user expectations

Posted in Current Affairs, History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on August 18, 2012

If the Government has to declare that the Parliament is supreme, maybe the Parliament is no longer supreme. Is there a rumble gathering in Indian polity?

Clearly, the Indian has been less than a success in some fields. Notably health, education and producing venerable leaders.  |  A undated, unsigned RK Laxman cartoon.

Clearly, the Indian has been less than a success in some fields. Notably health, education and producing venerable leaders. | A undated, unsigned RK Laxman cartoon.

India – Failed State?

In the last sixty-five years of Indian independence, India has seen many successes – and had its share of failures, too.

Modern India is tempted to romanticize or demonize the Western and Islāmic influences and legacies – depending on the personal bias and predilection. This bias is not only popular but also widely prevalent in academia and the media.

Of the significant Indian failures has been healthcare, education and the Indian Politician. While many imports into India have been successful – like democratic elections, smooth handover of power after elections, public-sector enterprises, the software and automotive industry, there are three institutions that India has not been able to make a success of.

  • Health-care through hospitals
  • Education through schools
  • Venerable polity through political parties

Building an agenda

Yogendra Yadav, who is part of the 7-member panel that will guide the formation of Team Anna‘s political unit, makes some interesting points.

Will Party-Anna be significantly different. BJP had promised, falsely, that they will be different. |  Cartoon by Shreyas Navare on Friday, August 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm in blogs.hindustantimes.com

Will Party-Anna be significantly different. BJP had promised, falsely, that they will be different. | Cartoon by Shreyas Navare on Friday, August 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm in blogs.hindustantimes.com

Many of the Anna followers have had obvious difficulty in reconciling the strident anti-party rhetoric of the movement with its latest decision. Some have seen it as a betrayal. But if we step back from the specific context of the current discussion, both these assertions may not appear so incompatible with each other. There is no doubt a tension here, but this tension is necessary and perhaps even creative.

The dilemma of Team Anna provides a good lens to view our troubled relationship with the institution of the political party in the last 65 years. Political parties are both very robust and fragile, at once the magnet that draws people and pushes them away, ever-present and routinely hated. Hence the widespread ambivalence towards this institution. After all, founders and leaders of very different parties, such as Gandhi and M N Roy, ended up advocating party-less democracy. And it was Jayaprakash Narayan, an advocate of party-less democracy, who later formed the Janata Party.

The idea of the political party, an imported form of political organisation, has captured modern Indian political imagination. The institution of the party has acquired the same status in our political imagination as the institution of school in thinking about education or the institution of the hospital in thinking about disease and healing. The word ‘party’ is now used in almost every Indian language to refer not just to modern political parties that contest elections but also for any political grouping or faction in a local context. It is not uncommon to hear complains about ‘partybaji’, meaning groupism or factionalism, in a village.

This success is not confined to ideas and language. Very few other institutions can match political parties in the width and depth of their reach in this large and diverse country. Contrary to popular impression, fragmentation and proliferation of parties has actually contributed to deepening of their reach. The rise of regional and caste- or community- based parties has brought parties closer to the people. Between 1971 and 2004, the proportion of voting-age Indians who identified with a political party went up from 38% to 51%. During the same period, those who claimed to be a member of a political party went up three times, from 5% to about 15%.

In other words, the poli-tical party as an organisational format is here to stay. It has outlived proponents of party-less democracy and outpaced non-party political formations.

At the same time, the prevalent form of the political party does not enjoy much popular legitimacy. Even those who identify with a political party express an abstract disaffection with the nature and functioning of political parties in the country. Parties are held to be at the roots of all the problems in the country.

Some of the ills of the parties are nearly universal. Instead of being institutions that represent the peoples’ aspirations and demands, political parties have become election machines and patronage distribution networks that focus only on gathering votes by using all kinds of short cuts. While they talk about democracy and competition, most political parties in India lack even a modicum of internal democracy.

In our context political parties have acquired some special difficulties. The model of a centralised party does not easily fit with the scale and diversity of a county like India. As centralised ‘high command’ driven parties seek to reserve power for a coterie of leaders, if not a family, people do not experience parties as an entity that derives power from them. Greater number of parties does not necessarily mean greater political choice as different parties are effectively tied to the same policy. Party politics is not a nice word.

Having taken root in an alien soil, this tree has acquired a new shape. Its fruit tastes different from that of its counterpart in other parts of the world. Everyone consumes it, but few seem to like its taste.

This is the lesson Team Anna can learn from the experience of political parties since Independence. The political party is both inevitable and avoidable. While there is a need for a vehicle of political opinions and interests that seeks to direct state power, it is equally important that this vehicle be designed differently.

The new vehicle must not be focussed only on elections: struggle, constructive work and formation of ideas must be equally critical to a new kind of party. Instead of being the instrument of centralised power, it needs to recognise different levels of power at the regional and local levels. Instead of monopolising power, it needs to share power with other organisations and movements. It needs to build in norms of internal democracy. In other words it needs to build a political party that does not look or act like a political party.

via A broken trust – Times Of India.

Connecting with the media is illusory power. Connecting with this man will make the difference.  |  Ajit Nina cartoon posted on Monday, June 08, 2009 at 03:35:27 AM  in Mumbai Mirror captioned, 'The idea of 'one-man-one-post' was stolen by the Congress from us.'

Connecting with the media is illusory power. Connecting with this man will make the difference. | Ajit Nina cartoon posted on Monday, June 08, 2009 at 03:35:27 AM in Mumbai Mirror captioned, ‘The idea of ‘one-man-one-post’ was stolen by the Congress from us.’

Just no practice

Probably the one reason the Indian State has failed on health, education and political factionalism is tradition. The Indian State, governed by the traditional norms of भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra did not manage healthcare, education and factional politics.

European and Islāmic records are significantly silent on variations in legal systems and State policies. The only point of difference that British writers mention is the predisposition of the rulers towards various European factions and on the differences in social customs.

Standardization – without centralization

While there is a large body of European writing on the different social units, norms, groups, practices, there is little mention about the differences in polity. This points to a great degree of standardization in polity – yet, without a central authority. On most political issues there was national consensus, even though political control over the Indian geography was spread thinly among 1000 rulers.

This precedent goes right back to the Indus Valley-Saraswati Basin cities which were widely spread, highly standardized – yet there was no central authority.

This may seem strange, because according to our failed education system, the British Raj made the Indian nation. But the part that modern studies miss out completely, is how in भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra, Indian kings did not make laws. Indians kings could not even proclaim a different legal system for their ‘own’ kingdom. Their powers were severely proscribed.

So how did the extensive legal system of भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra that the Islāmic kings perverted, British Raj dehumanized, and modern India has forgotten, come into being.

Two men are what made the law

Much of modern Hindu Law, is based on the two major legal systems that existed in India at the start of the British Raj. This was the Vighneshwara’s Mitākṣarā and the Dāyabhāga system. Dāyabhāga based mainly on the Yajnavalkya-smrti, was updated by Jimutavahana sometime between the eleventh or thirteenth century. Widely used in Bengal, Odisha, Assam and North East, modern Bangladesh, Bihar, Nepal, it has significant overlap with the Mitākṣarā.

Mitākṣarā, criticized in Jimutvahana’s Dāyabhāga system, preceded the Dāyabhāga system. Also based on Yajnavalkya-smrti, Mitākṣarā is considered more classical – and Dāyabhāga as more synthetic. This is not to imply that Mitākṣarā and Dāyabhāga were the start of the Indian legal system. Both Mitākṣarā and Dāyabhāga, were based on Yajnavalkya-smrti – which itself is derived from Manusmriti. Vishnu-purana states that there were different ‘manus‘ for different eras.

So which Manu from which era wrote the Manusmriti is unclear – though it is usually believed that Vaivaswata Manu is the author.

Not that it helps.

Advent of Islāmic rule in India

Interestingly, both Mitākṣarā and Dāyabhāga texts are dated roughly around the time that initial Islamic rule began in India with the Slave Dynasty in Delhi – at the beginning of 13th century.

Were Vighneshwara and Jimutvahana major court figures – like Raja Todar Mal, whose writings on Indian Law helped Mughals to steer their way around the legal environment in India. Hardly anything is known about the individuals, except the extensive work that they left.

So, how did these anonymous, powerless Brahmins become law-makers – without armies, parliaments, courts, judges and lawyers. At least comparable to the Islāmic and European contemporaries.

Bombay-High & Y2K generations has not produced venerable political leadership. Instead we have a collusive democratic leadership, which conspires against us. Divide and rule continues.  |  Ajit Ninan caroon with a caption that reads 'Today it's a make-up artist who gets you votes, not your speech writer.';  posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 02:17:47 AM; source & courtesy - Mumbai Mirror

Bombay-High & Y2K generations has not produced venerable political leadership. Instead we have a collusive democratic leadership, which conspires against us. Divide and rule continues. | Ajit Ninan caroon with a caption that reads ‘Today it’s a make-up artist who gets you votes, not your speech writer.’; posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 02:17:47 AM; source & courtesy – Mumbai Mirror

Parliament is Supreme

While there is thin evidence that these Brahmins did have royal patrons, their legal standing did not depend on that patronage. More importantly, how did their writings cross the boundaries of the resident-kingdoms. From areas, where their patrons had power to areas where these two Brahmins had no influence, power or patronage?

State-controlled and managed models of the West, are relatively new to India. In the entire Anna-Baba campaign, the Indian Parliament kept repeating The Parliament Is Supreme. Did these repeated statements imply doubts about the supremacy of the Parliament?

Will the Anna-Baba political movement see re-birth of non-parliamentary legal systems?

Is that the flow – and the direction?

Anna-Baba are Opposites

This is in contradiction to the Anna campaign that has focussed on More State. Baba Ramdev’s campaign speeches have been largely based on a Lesser State. Can this basic disagreement be bridged?

Can Anna-Baba come together?

Team Anna’s campaign made much about the fact that some of them were Magsaysay award winners – while Baba’s campaign is more rooted in the Indian political tradition – भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra.

Team Anna has usually got excellent media support – and allegedly ‘foreign support. In case of Baba Ramdev, the commercial success of his Ramdev products points toward a deeper connect to the Indian Voter. Baba Ramdev has been building his campaign for nearly ten years now – while Anna campaign has sputtered for little over 10 months.

Anna-Baba may seem like peas in a pod. But they are vastly different by the way of agenda, policies, inpiration.  |  Cartoon titled Anna Hazare Vs Baba Ramdev by MANJUL on 8.12.2012.

Anna-Baba may seem like peas in a pod. But they are vastly different by the way of agenda, policies, inpiration. | Cartoon titled Anna Hazare Vs Baba Ramdev by MANJUL on 8.12.2012.

Anna’s campaign was able to make Indian polity sit up – and take note. Baba Ramdev has been largely ignored by India’s political leadership – and the media. While Anna’s campaign has been over-analyzed to death, the Baba-Ramdev-phenomenon has been buried under silence by the media.

While the Anna-campaign for all appearances is a single-point campaign, Baba Ramdev’s campaign has been across a broad front – with much work on building a unique agenda.

Many have claimed credit for Anna-campaign’s success, starting with the media and RSS having the last word. In case of Baba Ramdev, his movement has been based on his own work and agenda.

Electoral politics on the cusp of a major change?  |  Cartoon By Ajit Ninan (Times Of India) on March 26, 2009

Electoral politics on the cusp of a major change? | Cartoon By Ajit Ninan (Times Of India) on March 26, 2009

Gimme, Gimme

How will the Indian Voter manage this divergence?

Will it give power to Anna-campaign – and make Baba Ramdev powerful enough to question the polity?

Early days …


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