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Weakening Lokmat For Lokpal – Jan Lokpal Movement Then and Now – Exclusive Article Series

WEAKENING LOKMAT FOR LOKPAL / JAN LOKPAL MOVEMENT THEN AND NOW

The lackluster public attention to recent protest of BJP MLAs over Jan Lokpal in Delhi Assembly and thin crowds in Ramlila Maidan for Anna Hazare six day fast for Lokpal in March, 2018, invites surprise and examination when compared to public crescendo and groundswell for Jan Lokpal during 2010-2014 at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi and other cities of India. The contemporary public indifference to institutionalization of Lokpal is more intriguing in backdrop of repeated nudge by Supreme Court of India and sporadic murmur by a section of political class for implementation of Lokpal & Lokayukta Act 2013. The three broad reasons may explain this withering away of public support for Jan Lokpal.

Firstly, during 2010-2014 Jan Lokpal movement acted as rallying point against the lack of perceived decisive moral leadership of people occupying public offices and inability or unwillingness of executive to prevent brazen loot of public money. The intensity of anger can be gauged from the fact that caution against an overbearing constitutional body that may serve as template of pushing nation into a police state fell on deaf ears.

Secondly, some Janus faced principal actors of the movement got gradually delegitimized. Further, disillusion descended on public hope when some flag bearers of the movement attempted to channelize the popular support as vector to political power and displayed the same obnoxious political machinations for capturing and retaining political power.

Thirdly, the dawn of what celebrated political scientist Charles Lindblom eulogizes as the the `intelligence of democracy’ or cybernetic tradition of liberal democracies. The cybernetic tradition in democracy refers to course correction in public policy making made possible by reflection through electioneering process, parliamentary debates and investigations, and more recently media activism in policy making. The cybernetic tradition checks emergence or strengthening of Frankenstein institutions and individuals by providing inputs to citizens and policy makers.

The institutionalization of Lokpal in India may foster Frankenstein due to factors that may jeopardize separation of powers, disaggregation of state authority due to institutional duplication and may threaten the cybernetic tradition of liberal democracy in India. The factors are;

Firstly, the lack of parliamentary oversight as any complaint against a member or chairperson of the Lokpal will be taken cognizance of only if it is signed by at least a 100 MPs. The recent experience next door in Nepal with a constitutional authority similar to Lokpal where the impeachment motion against Chairman on charges of misconduct registered by 157 lawmakers from the main opposition and the ruling party lingered on till the Supreme Court in Nepal on 8 January 2017 disqualified him as the chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Further, absence of an independent body to deal with complaints of corruption against Lokpal staff may jeopardize institutional integrity.

Secondly, the act does little to strengthen Lokayukta in states that will remain weak and in some case may emerge as new outpost of corruption and graft as recently in 2016 when Karnataka Lokayukta was accused of running the corruption and extortion scam in collusion with his son.

Thirdly, the Lokpal Act stipulates that CVC located in Delhi will monitor complaints, conduct preliminary enquiries, and exercise superintendence and issue directions on investigations for nearly 28 lakh group C central government public servants. This will necessitate opening of CVC thanas in all cities spread across India!

Fourthly, the Act also provides for greater functional independence to CBI but the securing of tenure of CBI director by Supreme Court to shield him from the vagaries of demand of political masters has exposed the vulnerability of the investigating agency to personal aggrandizement. CBI recently filed cases against its two former directors on charges of scuttling probe in coal block allocation and corruption respectively.

Gladstone benignly hoped that, “the purpose of a government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil”. A far cry in India with endemic corruption and abuse of public office, government is making it easy for people to do evil and difficult to do good.  Also, there is gradual realization that great expectations often leads to great disappointments in contemporary political arena. No superhuman being or super organization can liberate laity from the accumulated oppression, exploitation and injustices of the corruption.

The prime minister is subjected to electoral scrutiny and test in democracy but, ‘Who will guard the Lokpal?’  C.S. Lewis prophetically cautioned that “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows…I see no men fit to be masters”.                                          

 

The writer is author of “Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude in Governance” published by SAGE Publications, 2018. Views are strictly personal.

He is also the FACULTY for ETHICS @ CHROME IAS ACADEMY.

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Freedom of Speech & Expression – A Right or a Responsibility !

Freedom of Speech and Expression –  A Right or a Responsibility !

Let’s take up two divergent views on freedom of Speech and Expression:

First – “An intelligent, culturally aware, aesthetically evolved citizenry must take an uncompromising stance against bigotry and thought control “ – it makes a blistering case for freedom of expression in general and artistic freedom of expression in particular.

Second – “Freedom of expression without limits is like a car without brakes”.

Two contrasting views poses certain questions in the mind of thoughtful reader-

  • What then is the appropriate balance between the contrasting views?
  • Where to exercise it and in what manner and in what proportions?
  • Freedom of expression: A Right or a Responsibility.
  • Is there a difference between Individual’s freedom of expression Vs Artistic freedom of expression?

Questions could be numerous with differing voices in support and dissent.

17th century philosopher Spinoza tries to hit the balance between Individuals right to freedom of speech and expression but with a caveat attached. He states: “For no one can transfer to another person his natural right, or ability, to think freely and make his own judgements about any matter whatsoever, and cannot be compelled to do so”. Additionally, the freedom of opinion is an objective limit for the right to sovereignty: Each one therefore surrenders [to the Sovereign] his right to act according to his own resolution, but not his right to think and judge for himself.

Furthering it, Spinoza says, while a State must grant its citizens freedom of expression, ‘it is very dangerous to concede without any restriction. For this reason we must now ask how far this freedom can and ought to be granted to each person so as to be consistent with the stability of the state’. What was the context and the content of Spinoza’s, a vehement supporter of fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, saying restrictions are a part of and compliment right to freedom of expression.  Spinoza thus recognized limits to the free expression of one’s views. For example, if a speech, book, painting or film might provoke or lead to large scale violence and anarchy, thereby threatening the survival or integrity of the state.

Having set the general tone and tenor, it is important to look into the recent controversies in Indian context.

Recently CBFC’s doctrine of prior restraint has led to a controversy popping up more often in India’s booming cinematic ecosystem.  Doctrine of Prior restraint is defined as “official restrictions imposed upon speech or other forms of expression in advance”. Thus an act of expression is prevented from taking place at all.

The censorship has a long history and the stated fact is that until the last decade of the 17th century English authors had to deal with the system of licensing wherein publisher had to secure a license for ‘lawful’ publication. And there was a section of enlightened and freedom loving individuals who severely criticized the system and after long opposition it was put to an end. Censorship in India started in the early 1900s during the British era when the British banned Indian films due to political reasons. The first Indian film to be banned was ‘Bhakt Vidur’. Now the word censorship does not occur in any form.

No one can put it succinctly and rightly than what Blackstone has written on the matter. An eminent English Jurist, whose commentaries on the Laws of England is known for their comprehensive and penetrative nature. He states:

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every free man has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequences of his own temerity”.

So one thing is clear, staunch supporters of freedom of expression has also left the scope of reasonable restrictions and consider it justifiable under the framework of law and other considerations of National Security.

Let’s delve for a moment on the present position in India as far as Artistic freedom of expression is concerned in light of recent controversies:

The Cinematograph Act, 1952, specifies that it deals with two matters: examination and certification of films as suitable for public exhibition and regulation of cinemas including their licensing. Section 5B(1) of the Act reproduces Article 19(2) which deals with restrictions on freedom of speech and expression. In other words, according to section 5B(1) of the Act, a film shall not be certified for public exhibition if it violates any of the conditions provided therein.

The constitutional validity of CBFC was challenged before a five judge-bench of the Supreme Court in K.A. Abbas v. Union of India , wherein it was held that ‘the censorship of films including prior restraint is justified under our constitution’.

And the Supreme Court in Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi , opined that the imposition of pre-censorship on a journal is a restriction on the liberty of the press guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

So, the difference between two modes of expression has vastly different interpretation under the law which sometimes seem difficult to comprehend. Does that mean that the reader of a journal is more mature than the viewer who goes to cinema/theatre. What logic lies behind the differing stand of courts as far as two mass media are concerned is better be known to them. Nevertheless, the consistency in law and otherwise would be a much better way to deal with the issue, because, If doctrine of prior restraints violate the rights of the press guaranteed in Article 19(1)(a), the doctrine should apply equally to movies as well.

In recent years, two committees were constituted to suggest changes in the Cinematograph Act. The first headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal was of the view that CBFC must not take a moralistic view. Cinema is a form of art and by its inherent character capable of varied forms of representation and consequently myriad forms of interpretation. These concepts were incapable of surgically precise definitions and interpretation and would vary from person to person, it said.

The second by Shyam Benegal, constituted by the present government, recommended that the CBFC only remain a certifying body and have no role in imposing cuts and unduly curbing artistic expression and creative freedom of the director.

Another point to be discussed is the more number of cases related to certification ending up in Courts.

In this regard a persistent systemic issue that merits examination is the rising trend of film certification falling into the hands of the judiciary. There have been many such instances where, due to gaps in the CBFC’s reasoning, the courts have been compelled to go into the merits of suggested deletions. Will there be justice where a piece of art is judged through legal principles? Does legal luminaries posses the required expertise to judge a piece of art? What moral principles shall prevail, universal or local, if so required, to make a value judgement? These and perhaps many more such questions needs to be pondered over.

This issue was considered by Justice Hugo Lafayette Black. He observed that, “judges possess no special expertise providing exceptional competency to set standards and to supervise the private morals of the Nation. In addition, the Justices of this Court seem especially unsuited to make the kind of value judgments – as to what movies are good or bad for local communities”.

Admittedly, owing to the institutional cracks in the CBFC at present, courts will continue to play watchdog.

Although the Indian Cinematograph Act provides legislative sanction to the CBFC and FCAT, the CBFC’s dual role as a certification and censoring body has been widely criticised. Whether the state should censor films or merely examine their aptness for public viewing is a matter of a larger debate involving the historical understanding of the pre-censorship of cinema, and the constitutional position and perspectives on expression of art vis-à-vis their impact on contemporary society. In the absence of such clarity in law and public discourse, courts become involved in an act that is best left to experts.

To conclude is not an easy task sometime. More so when stakes are high on both sides which require a fine, because it’s not about who wins and who loses – the question is about the fundamental human freedom. On one side, fundamental freedom of speech and expression needs to be protected and on the other one cannot have unlimited and unrestricted rights too. It is always morally mature to have it come from within rather to be imposed from outside.  So restricting speech and expression under three categories could be justified as far as restrictions are there:

  1. Obscenity
  2. Incitement to violence
  3. National security

So, let’s end with a quote from Machiavelli.

Niccolò Machiavelli in his epic treatise on Politics identifies three types of intelligence. “One kind understands things for itself, the second appreciates what others can understand, [and] the third understands neither for itself nor through others.” He goes on to say, “This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless.” So, the maturity of democracy will only be reflected when there are fundamental freedoms with least of restrictions and dissent and disagreement exist but for an intellectual deliberation rather than giving rise to narrow narratives.

Therefore the case where we started with two opposing views, One with unlimited rights can only become a reality when the restrictions are of the nature of self imposed and come from within rather than the state interfering and dictating what is right and wrong, what to speak and what not to speak. We are a evolving society and this would come as our democracy matures.



 

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Dynamics of India’s Changing Foreign Policy – Challenges & Prospects – III

In this Last Section we will briefly analyse how Indian foreign policy has been shaping on till date while dealing with these security and developmental challenges in the light of the concept of core national interest discussed earlier.

First, the issue of Security; it is essentially assessed in terms of ‘threat perception’ arising first from immediate neighbours – Pakistan and China and then from powers present in the neighbourhood who are in a position to affect India’s security directly or indirectly. These include Russia, USA, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and to a lesser degree Indonesia due to her geographical proximity to India. Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar fall in a special category because of shared physical borders or close proximity and ethnicity and languages. The Indian foreign policy initiatives in regard to her neighbours are summarized below.

China and India: ‘ Peaceful rise of China’ after the economic reform to the world second largest economy of US $12 trillion and rise of India are among the major developments in the post 9/11 world. Both have enhanced their military strength and despite the unresolved border dispute, have created structures for enhancing economic cooperation. Though Sino-Indian trade which went up to $ 75 billion in 2011 has come down to around $50 billion, it is still robust and both are members of BRICS grouping of nations and partners of China led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) initiative.

On Sino-Indian relations some strategic experts hold that, “India and China are competitors and not enemies”, and share interest in areas like bridging infrastructural gaps, developing Trans Asian surface connectivity, liberalising trade and IPR regimes, green energy development etc .Inclusion of Chinese RMB in the basket of IMF currencies with a weightage higher than pound sterling is to be seen in the light of these development.

However, amidst all this, the major concern or rather negative point in regard to China is its Strategic Support to Pakistan in building missile systems and supporting Pakistan’s bid to be a member of the NSG and foiling India’s effort for the same. China has consistently vetoing India’s resolution in the UN to designate Pak terror leader Masood Azhar as a terrorist and on South China Sea (SCS) dispute, Indian stand that SCS should remain a sea lane for all nations is seen by China as close to the position taken US & Japan on an overall basis India’s policy seems to be a measured one, that is, to continue cooperation in whichever field possible while pursuing joint efforts to manage borders peacefully as per the agreements in 1990’s and bringing China close to the Indian position on cross border terrorism from Pakistan as attempted during Goa BRICS summit in Oct 2016.

India and US came close during the 1962 War when India sought US and western military support but it did not last long due to strategic importance of Pakistan for USA as the facilitator of US efforts to reach China in 1974 following Sino-Soviet rift (which was also evident during 1971 Indo-Pak War) and later as a front line state during Afghan war since 1980s and till date. However, signing of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal, the recent concluded Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), convergence of interests in South China sea, show a distinct shift in Indian policy towards US which are not only limited to economic engagement, rather these engagements have become quite comprehensive where both nation’s has shown growing concern for each other’s security interest. However, this accelerated rapprochement between US and India have been resented by China and Russia.

India’s policy towards Pakistan is largely dictated by factors like, first – Pakistan’s internal political dynamics that perpetuates religious, sectarian strife, violence and terrorism, suppression of rights of ethnic groups like those in Baluchistan, Sind and Pak occupied Kashmir and its failure to develop a ‘Modern State’. More importantly since 1978-79, Pakistan under Zia-ul-Haq adopted promotion of militancy and proxy war in Kashmir after having failed to achieve its object in 1965 war, as an active part of its foreign policy. The terror attack in Uri in September 2016 and continuing violation of LOC to facilitate infiltration of terrorists in Kashmir valley from Pakistan are manifestation of this policy. Since India has virtually no economic interaction with Pakistan, scope of improving relations in other spheres is virtually non-existent. Therefore, India’s policy is to ensure lasting diplomatic isolation of Pakistan while effectively delivering a military response to cross border terror attacks and infiltration bids. However, despite strong Indian argument to name Pakistan as ‘ The Mothership of Terrorism’, and a country that shelters not just terrorists but nurtures a mindset in the BRICS summit in Goa. The Final declaration did not mention Pakistan nor key words like ‘cross border terrorism’ or ‘State Sponsored Terrorism’ and mentioned terror groups in Middle East ( ISIS), Al Qaeda  and Jabhat –al – Nusra. This was because China took Pakistan’s side more explicitly at the BRICS Summit, for its high stakes in USD 46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project which will provide China access to The Persian Gulf through the port of Gwadar in Baluchistan. In fact CPEC has accorded Baluchistan which covers 46% of Pakistan’s geographical area and about 80% its mineral resources, enormous strategic importance. The ongoing insurgency in Baluchistan for Baloch independence and Indian advocacy for the Baloch cause,  a new feature of policy towards Pakistan has added to the tension in Indo-Pak relations.

Nehru’s Policy of non-alignment, Third World unity and unstinted support for anti-imperialist struggle of oppressed people produced a distinct tilt towards USSR and Socialism which the west often considered opportunistic. However, it drew India closer to Russia after Khrushchev took over in 1954 and steadily developed into a durable defence and trade partnership facilitated by ‘rupee trade’ which was to the advantage of the Russians as it saved USD. Geopolitics dictates that, India – Russia Friendship would be a balancing factor in central Asia and Middle East and with Russian support access to energy rich Central Asian Republics could be easier as Russia still holds influence in the region; and Russia’s interest in the restoration of stable Afghanistan converges with India’s interest in the region freed from the pernicious influence of Taliban.

Russia has stood by India on the “ Core” Kashmir Issue and the Oct 2016 Indo-Russian deal of USD 5 billion on S-400 defence missile strengthened the relationship. However, the recent Russian sale of Attack helicopters to Pakistan and the First ever joint Russia-Pak military exercise in Sept 2016, and the growing collaboration between Russia and China in forums like Shanghai Cooperation Council must be notes as indications of a new alignment in Asia with a clear object of countering US dominance in the Pacific. We must note that the Sino-Soviet rift in early 1970s helped US to consolidate her hold in Asia-Pacific. On the same logic convergence of China and Russia interests and Pakistan being Chinas ‘All Weather Friend‘ will not be to the advantage of India. Hence, the renewed focus of Indian Policy on long term defence cooperation with Russia which historically was the only Super Power with whom India had a Strategic defence relationship viz The Indo- Soviet Treaty in 1971.

India – Japan bilateral relations were upgraded to a ‘ Global and Strategic partnership in 2006 and further raised to ‘ Special Strategic and Global partnership’ in 2014 under PM Modi, that included a memorandum on defence cooperation and in areas like New and Renewable Energy. ‘Act East Policy’ of India is basically an attempt to integrate India’s economy and its north-eastern region into the ASEAN system which has emerged in 2015 as ASEAN Economic Community, by entering into free trade agreements which have been met with reasonable success. India became a member of ASEAN Regional Forum(ARF) and East Asia Summit in 2002 to take forward its engagement with the region.

India- Iran relationships are on the threshold of a major improvement after signing of nuclear deal between Iran and US and other western powers and gradual withdrawal of western sanctions against Iran. India’s investment in building Chabahar Port in Iran is a strategic move to bypass Pakistan to reach Afghanistan to gain access to central Asia and its huge energy resources and market, apart from continuing her role in bringing about stability and economic progress in Afghanistan. India is presently importing about 70% of its oil from West Asian Countries, 22% from African Countries and with huge presence of Indian work force in West Asia and settlers in Africa, make these two regions vital not only for meeting India’s energy needs but also source of NRI investment and remittances. India is already the fifth largest energy consumer and is likely to attain third position soon. The fact that India’s domestic oil output is declining, brings out the importance of the Gulf Region which holds 60% of the total world oil reserves and 34 % of proven natural gas in our Foreign policy frame work as critical for Energy security in particular.

India’s management of relations in her neighbourhood shows a distinct preference for economic and technological cooperation alliances evident from the groupings like The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC),The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) initiative and The Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and bilateral agreements on specific issues like India-Nepal Power Trade Agreement (2014), and Trade coastal shipping and Inland Water transit and trade agreements with Bangladesh for mutual benefit. In the same manner India has built engagement with Myanmar in infrastructure building and Oil exploration to initiate economic integration. The Kaladan Multi-modal transport Project is one such joint Indo-Myanmar joint effort that will link India’s land locked North- East region to Sittwe port in Myanmar.


This paper contends that the evolution of India’s foreign policy as analysed in the preceding sections reflects its resilience, resolute defence of its core strategic objects in Jammu and Kashmir and Sino-Indian border region and increasing role of ‘ geo-economics’ in foreign policy, formulation and approaches to other nations and well within the framework of geo-politics and geo-strategy. It is useful at this stage to look at the definition of Geo-Economics as it has caused major changes in foreign policy While geo-strategy refers to long term management of geo-political interest, geo-economics is the economic consequences of trends of geo-politics and national power and the relationship between economic policies and changes in national power and geo-politics. Relentless efforts of major powers to gain control over energy sources all over the world and in the Middle East in particular is an example of geo-economics shaping the geo-politics and conflicts. This is founded on two lessons drawn from post World War II developments; the First is that ‘geography is economic destiny’ of nations and Second is that geology meaning the location of sources of energy and strategic minerals or in its possible transport route determines the geo-strategic importance of a country. Economic strength which is the outcome of all these forces backed up by technology and investment has thus become the ‘currency of power’. This makes geo-economics a critical factor in foreign policy making.  This is all but natural as a developing country like India with over 120 crore population has to give priority to economic interest and hence the continuing search for energy, technology, investment and development assistance from new sources. This is evident from Indian participation in China led Asian Infrastructure Investment bank (AIIB), BRICS bank and the New Development bank and these institutions are viewed as “geo-economic alliances”.

From this perspective following changes are discernible in India’s foreign policy since 2014:

  • A greater emphasis on enhancing economic and technological capability by expanded domestic effort and attracting foreign investment and technology in ‘ Sunrise ‘ sectors like solar and renewable energy while putting equal emphasis on ‘ human capability enhancement’.

  • Shift from non-alignment to what may be called dynamic non-alignment which allows development of strong strategic ties with powers – Super or great or Regional depending on ‘ the National interest’ and also economic relationship with potential and even actual adversaries. This is based on an appreciation that larger the trade and economic ties the lesser are the chances of an armed conflict because trade creates “ constituencies” for peace on both sides. This is geo-economics in practice and seen as a peace building effort.

  • A greater concern for mutually beneficial engagement with neighbours through economic and technological cooperation with the object of building a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and to participate in development projects to raise the confidence level. India’s role in hydropower development in Bhutan is an example of such efforts.

  • A strong initiative to integrate Indian economy into ASEAN through Act East Policy.

  • ‘Zero tolerance’ of terror and an equally strong position on border with Pakistan and assertion of the right to strike across the border to destroy “ terror launch pads” by covert military action.

  • A stronger emphasis on multilateral engagement both at the regional and International levels. The BIMSTEC stand on terror on the side lines of Goa BRICS Summit in Oct 2016 shows the potential of such bodies for united action on matters of common security interest.

  • Emphasis on NRI participation in India’s development.

  • Diversification of sources of procurement of defence equipments and technology.

  • A serious effort to secure membership of The United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

  • The motto ‘ Make in India’ is a strategy to turn India into a manufacturing hub for attracting foreign capital will be an important policy objective.

Each of these objects and measures has its own distinct challenges as for example economic partnership work only when trade is eased up and restrictions reduced quickly. According to observers in South East Asia, India’s failure to do so might have cost her membership of US led Trans pacific Trade partnership and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Such challenges in every policy have to be examined and adequately met including security related issue.

Foreign policy and diplomacy demands patience, long term planning and faith in step by step approach to reach the National Goal. It is apt to conclude this discussion by recalling What Dr Henry Kissinger said about diplomacy, “Successful Diplomacy is generally more about managing problems than solving them outright and……..The task of a Statesman is to construct a “balance of fear among great powers as part of the maintenance of an orderly international system – that while not necessarily just or fair was accepted by all the principal players as legitimate”.  


This Concludes the Series on: Dynamics of India’s Changing Foreign Policy – Challenges & Prospects.

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Dynamics of India’s Changing Foreign Policy – Challenges & Prospects – II

Part II

Dynamics of India’s Foreign Policy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

‘Nehruvian’ phase would be an apt description of India’s foreign policy from 1947 to May 1964, when he passed away because it bore the stamp of Pandit Nehru’s idealism and world view in the post world war II bipolar configuration of global power meaning rivalry between USA and USSR and the imperatives of economic and social development of India in the backdrop of the unfinished struggle for freedom of Afro-Asian peoples from western colonial rule and the influence of communist and socialist ideology. The rise of PRC in 1950 and the Chinese takeover of Tibet and the Korean War were factored in Indian foreign policy making. The chief features of the Nehruvian phase can be summarized as hereunder:

(I)                 Non-alignment, that is not joining any of the super power led alliance systems – mostly military, like the US led CENTO, SEATO or NATO or USSR led combines in Asia or Europe which emerged as the main feature of the ‘ Cold War ‘  between USA and USSR and as its concomitants, the arms race, nuclear build up and localised conflicts and India did take an independent course often as it did during the war in Vietnam on what she viewed on merits of each case.

(II)               As Nehru viewed India’s poverty and backwardness as the outcome of shortfall in investment and acute shortage of capital in relation to the huge workforce. He was flexible in the matter of obtaining from abroad. Non-alignment though founded on neutrality, significantly made no difference when it came to economic and technological assistance – bilateral or multilateral as the case may be, provided the terms of engagement were beneficial to India. India thus took Soviet aid to build up Steel industry and defence capability, while it took US aid for initiating ‘Green Revolution’ and building the technological and research institutes like IITs, which was built on the model of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

(III)             India’s search for ‘Third world unity’ by supporting Afro-Asian people’s struggle for freedom and vehemently opposing ‘Apartheid’ in South Africa gave birth to Afro-Asian Solidarity movement. India gave unqualified support to it and this enabled India to emerge as a leader of the non-alignment movement (NAM). Thus idealism remained a hallmark of Nehru’s foreign policy.

A corollary to this policy is strong support to the UN system, the multilateral aid and specialized UN agencies like the FAO, UNESCO, ILO and the IMF and the World Bank and to attract development assistance from these agencies and also pitching for bilateral aid to raise investment. India did succeed in good measure in this balancing act between two Superpowers in a “ bi-polar” world while adhering to her mixed economy and public sector led under five year plan development model having some features common to Soviet GosPlan. This was an extension of the non-alignment in economic policy which did not invite any serious opposition from the West.

(IV)             The interaction with the USSR began significantly from the mid 50’s and steadily extended to defence as the Soviets applied their Veto power on Kashmir to thwart any western move on Kashmir inimical to India and thereby earned India’s support –tacit or open to many of its actions elsewhere, and over the years this expanding relationship with USSR turned into a strategic relationship in the shape of Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship in 1971. This enabled India to intervene in East-Pakistan successfully in 1971 in support of freedom struggle of Bangladesh. This was possible due to convergence of Indian and Soviet strategic interests. For India, creation of Bangladesh removed a Pakistani threat in the East and for the Soviets, dismemberment of Pakistan an ally of US, exposed failure of US Policy of unstinted support to Pakistan and hollowness of America’s claim to be a champion of human freedom and rights everywhere during the cold war.

A Decade of Turbulence.

The 1960’s was the most turbulent decade when the foreign policy was put to severe test. The asylum that India granted to Dalai Lama in 1959 and the US covert operation in Tibet from its bases in West and East Pakistan soon after the end of Korean War. India’s border dispute with China, Pakistan’s relentless efforts to destabilize Kashmir and the Chinese overtures to Pakistan created a conflictual situation that led to 1962 Sino-India border conflict. Its immediate fall out was Indo-US defence cooperation and with the west as a whole on a scale that implied a departure from non-alignment; and Pakistan started leaning towards China as it was not allowed by US to take any military initiative in Kashmir during 1962 conflict.

The 1962 Chinese aggression is thus a watershed in India’s foreign relations as rightly observed by Bruce Riedel (JFK’s Forgotten Crisis) that it introduced the “ India-China-Pakistan triangle” and created “ the balance of power, the alliance structure and the arms race that still prevails in Asia”.

The diplomatic outcome of the ‘Tashkent Agreement’ in 1966 after the Indo-Pak war in 1965 was that since India and Pakistan agreed to go back to the Cease Fire Line ( CFL ) in Kashmir, the CFL acquired some international sanctity. Later under the 1972 Shimla agreement following liberation of Bangladesh CFL was converted to Line of Control (LOC) and acquired further legal sanctity which was again confirmed after 1999 Kargil Conflict, when Pakistan was forced to fallback behind the LOC – as a result of Indian military action –and a diktat from the US.

Thus 1971-72 could be treated as the end of the extended Nehruvian phase of Indian foreign policy as its basic structure remained in place – non-alignment, peaceful coexistence, expanding economic and technological cooperation and trade facilitation and making full use of multilateral agencies, such as WTO to promote the growth of Indian economy through trade facilitation.

The post-Nehruvian phase began with the Oil crisis in 1973, the disastrous Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979-80 and saw momentous development like the 1979 economic reforms of Deng Xiaping in China and China’s adoption of market led capitalist path to progress, India’s peaceful nuclear ‘implosion’, disintegration of USSR and the collapse of the Berlin Wall and re-emergence of nation States in Eastern Europe during 1989-1991, and most significantly emergence of USA as the sole super power and uni-polar world.

It saw the beginning of the Crisis in Middle East (continuing to the present day) with the US intervention in the Iraq in 1989 and earlier in Afghanistan through Pakistan. To this must be added the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka led by The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and India’s initiative to assist Sri Lanka in restoration of peace, ethnic reconciliation and harmony.

If one closely examines Indian Foreign policy response to these developments in the 80s and 90s, certain continuity is observed. India still led the non-aligned movement (NAM) , championed the cause of the South African people for dismantling Apartheid and freedom elsewhere in the Third World and expanding economic cooperation with the neighbours in Asia and in the Indian Ocean Rim. Look East Policy, increasing trade with China, acquisition of full dialogue partnership in ASEAN in 1995, active involvement in SAARC, SAFTA are manifestation of opening up of the economy, trade and technological outreach.

A driving force has been search for energy security through acquisition of overseas energy assets in Africa, Central Asia and Latin America. This period also saw diversification of sources of acquisition of defence equipments which was a part of the policy of building military cooperation with major powers and thus keeping alive the Nehruvian principle of non-alignment and Panchsheel – The five principles of peaceful co-existence that has been the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy.

In this background, 9/11 attack on Twin towers in New York changed the dynamics of global politics and positioned  ‘Global Terror’ firmly in the diplomatic agenda of USA, Russian Federation, EU, ASEAN, SAARC and more significantly it brought for the first time in South Asia, operation of the US war machine in Afghanistan. Though NATO also joined the US led coalition in Afghanistan in 2001, it remained basically an American military response to Al Qaeda and its associated anti-west terror outfits. The US and Western strategic objects in Afghanistan have remained largely unrealised and the resultant instability in Afghanistan poses a security threat to India.

The situation was aggravated by Global financial Crisis which began in 2007-08 and still continuing as the economies of developed countries are yet to recover completely from the “ great recession” as it slowed down growth, reduced income and resulted in increased unemployment particularly in EU countries. This was a reason that fuelled ‘ extremism’ among the sections of Muslims and added a new dimension of threat to global peace and security.

In Asia pacific region the disputes over South China sea involving China, Japan, Vietnam and some ASEAN Nations over the Chinese claim and bid to convert South China Sea – an “International Sea Lane” to a “Chinese lake” has been viewed as a threat to US Policy on the Pacific – seen as “US Pivot” in Asia; and hence the US policy of “rebalancing” in Asia means obstructing growth of Chinese influence in the Asia pacific region has caused tensions in Sino-US relation despite the fact that the US & Chinese economies are integrated and the size of the US- China trade is a huge $ 500 billion annually and China holds over US $ 1 trillion in US treasury bills at present.

The continuing trade negotiations under WTO and the climate change being caused by GHG emissions and the consequent global warming are of great importance to India as  ‘climate Justice’ is critical for economic growth and removal of poverty and human development. Thus in a way WTO and climate talks including 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change have some common features. From, India’s perspective, withdrawal of Agricultural subsidies in advanced countries is as important as transfer of ‘green technologies’ and especially renewable energy technologies to the developing countries facilitated by aid in the larger interest and the need to develop a common global approach to reduction in GHG emission.


The Focus of Last Section in this series would be

Shaping up of Indian Foreign Policy in the wake of these developments in and around India.

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Dynamics of India’s Changing Foreign Policy – Challenges & Prospects – I

Part I

A general Theory and practice of foreign policy of Nation. .

India is a modern nation state is a loaded statement covering the ideas of a modern state and a nation which are not coterminous. It is thus necessary to understand these two concepts, first, because the contours of foreign policy of a nation state are determined as much by the domestic compulsions as by external factors. These include core values and institutions of a ‘political society’ and the preservation, enrichment and defence of these are the objects of the state. Foreign policy which also encompasses the defence policy is one of the means likes the economic policy to attain these objectives.

Benedict Anderson famously said, “A nation is an imagined idea”. That is if a group of people in a given well defined territory believe that they constitute a distinct political entity sharing some commonalities like ethnicity, language, religion and social ethical value system, and faith in some basic institutions of governance, a national identity is said to have been formed. ‘Territoriality’ is thus crucial for nation state formation as a scattered nation as the Jews were known before creation of Israel is a contradiction in terms though the idea of the ‘nation’ based on a distinct identity could exist in the realm of mind.

India is at once a nation state and a ‘ civilizational state’ because behind its huge diversities, lies the bond of an ancient ‘ syncretic’ civilisation and the value systems associated with it which constitute a common heritage of all Indians regardless of differences in language,  religion and ethnicity.

Nation State

The ‘concept of a nation state’ emerged in Europe in the late 18th & 19th century after the French revolution in 1789 and the Industrial revolution in England soon after. Though its genesis was the European state systems that emerged after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 founded on ‘ hard power ‘, meaning military power backed by economic, industrial and technological strength of a nation state which could adopt a form of government that it considered suitable. Note here that ‘a nation state’ has a choice in this regard and there is no requirement to adopt an uniform political and administrative system by  a nation state. Thus, 193 member nation-states of the United Nations now have widely varying forms of government from monarchy in Saudi Arabia to limited democracy in Myanmar and so on. These systemic differences create distinct ‘domestic compulsions’ and approaches to neighbours and global institutions like the World trade organization (WTO) and The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) designed to lay down parameters of interaction between states on matters like international trade, intellectual property rights, water sharing of rivers – “ International Water Courses “ which originate in one country but pass through one or more nation states.

The most redeeming feature of a nation state is its Sovereignty and its legal implication is that The State enjoy an unfettered, exclusive right to decide what constitutes its ‘National Interest’ and the unrestrained right to wage war against other nations  in pursuance of its national interest. And this necessitates maintenance of standing armed forces and its technological, scientific, industrial and social infrastructural backup. The roots of ‘arms race’ among nations and the rise of military-industrial complex in major powers can be traced to this feature of a Nation State. The international relations are therefore always conducted in the shadow of war and armed conflict, and thus joint military exercises among nations, border clashes, movement of war-ships in open seas are seen as power projections and factored into foreign policy, which becomes a ‘power game’ played on regular basis. Its success or failure is determined by the degree of attainment of national Interest. Thus War or any armed action in any form like ‘the Surgical Strike‘ that our Army had carried out on 29th Sep 2016 by crossing the LoC in J&K to destroy terror ‘Launch pads’ in PoK is therefore a case of application of force to attain a political objective. Clausewitz, the great German Strategic thinker therefore defined “ War as a continuation of policy by other means”.

If the primary objective of foreign policy is to protect preserve and promote “national Interest”, it is necessary to define what constitutes ‘national interest’ which naturally changes depending on the objective situation and the global power game. Thus it is a widely accepted view that defending “the core values and institutions” is the goal of a nations defence policy and this is factored into the foreign policy formulation. In regard to India, this could be interpreted to mean preservation of democracy, rule of Law, secularism, social justice, separation of powers between executive, legislative and judiciary and all round ‘capability enhancement of the citizens’ regardless of religion, race, sex, caste, ethnicity or language. It is interesting to note that on September 2011, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) officially defined china’s core national interest in dealing with its external relations in terms of three imperatives:

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Sovereignty is non-negotiable and thus covers territorial integrity; Security implies stability – internal and external as lack of either of the two produces an impact on the state power; and development means “internal and external sustainability of economic, scientific, technological interaction of the Chinese people resulting in further progress”. And hence the emphasis on comprehensive sustainability in all peaceful interface of the people at all levels with the static and external partners encompassing bilateral and multilateral exchanges at international forces. The Chinese definition has the merit of being sharp and comprehensive and may be taken as a ‘Common Standard ‘for defining and understanding national interest of a nation state.  

Lord Palmerston statement that in “International relations there are no permanent friends but only permanent interests” holds good as by ‘interest’ he meant national interest. However, one must note that the perception of what constitutes national interest is not derived mechanically that would apply to all states but is really conditioned by the

  • Character of the state – authoritarian or democracy or ‘extractive’.
  • Its geo-political and geo-strategic location
  • Its geo-economic interests

The operation and relative importance or weightage of these factors shapes the foreign policy of a nation. This will be discernible if one gives a close look at the foreign policies of Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

While these three factors are interconnected, the character of a State that is, if it is a “modern State” or not determines to a great extent its foreign policy imperatives, strategies and alliances.

The characteristics of a modern state are as follows:

  • Sovereignty of the people and a democratic form of government, constituted through periodic elections on the basis of universal adult franchise.
  • Rule of Law equality before law and equal protection of law.
  • Secularism
  • Separation of powers between Executive, Legislative and Judiciary and provision for ‘judge made laws’ and adherence to procedural rights.
  • Independent judiciary.
  • Fundamental rights of all citizens ensuring that fundamental rights are not violated by making them justiciable and also listing of Fundamental Duties of the citizens in the constitution.
  • ‘Effective Citizen Participation’ in governance through elected local self governing institutions eg municipalities, urban local bodies or village panchayats etc.
  • Rights based development policy in economic and social fields with emphasis on human development.
  • An enlightened concept of public interest and public service that broadens over time as the idea of what constitutes public interest gets refined and expanded as the society progresses as for instance the growing concerns for clean air, water, animal rights and conservation of environment led to demands for ‘climate justice’ in the wake of climate change and now a major foreign policy issue.
  • An apolitical civil service capable of delivering justice, administering laws, civic and other development services and accountable to the legislature and the public.
  • Civil Supremacy and effective “insulation” of the armed forces from politics.

It may be seen that unlike some of our neighbours like Myanmar or Pakistan, India meets the conditions of ‘modern state’ in good measure. India’s legal system ensures that all treaties that India might have signed with other nations have the force of Law and that the state abides by the verdict of international tribunals and obligations under the UN conventions to which India is a signatory. A modern state is thus a ‘responsible state’, and its conduct of international relations is tempered by respect for international laws, conventions and diplomatic norms.

The objective of this brief introduction to the theory and practice of conduct of international relations is to sensitize you to the interplay between the internal and external environment for appreciation of the changing contours of India’s foreign policy.


Next article in the Series would Focus on

Dynamics of India’s Foreign Policy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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The Nehruvian Legacy – A First-hand Experience – II

                                                                                     Part B

1>     After my attachment to Tehsil, the sub-deputy collector’s office comprising several revenue circles, usually 3-4 which is a time honoured institution created as a part of the charge of the District Magistrate and Collector by Warren Hastings in Bengal presidency in 1972-73, for collection of land revenue and maintenance of land records, record of rights of ryots- cultivators in a village, the exposure to development blocks and Panchayati Raj Institution – Nehru’s brainchild wih S.K.Dey as its architect was like a journey to a new-world.

In Assam, where I was posted, two-tier panchayati raj, that is at the block and sub-division levels was in vogue under the State Panchayati Raj Act and not three-tier at village, sub-division and district levels as in states like Maharashtra. Only limited subjects mostly related to social welfare relief work in the wake of calamities, agriculture and village industries, or having a voice in the running of primary schools or primary health centres were allowed to the panchayats. BDO was the Secretary of the bock panchayats and being a gazetted officer exercised financial powers which the block panchayat  president did not enjoy. The result was the perpetual quarrel between the two which as a Sub-divisional officer ( SDO ), I had to intervene. The local MLA’s did not favour a larger role for the panchayat’s as this would reduce their leverage. At the Makkuma Panchayat level, the panchayat representatives complained of lack of financial and administrative power, poor and apathetic  response of officials to people’s grievances of meagre budget given to panchayats, excessive official interference and most importantly insulation of revenue administration, the SDC’s office from panchayati raj.

Some of these points were valid and were later rectified under the 73rd amendment to the Constitution which gave Panchayati Raj institutions constitutional Status, provided for a district plan to be prepared by the Zila Panchayat and transfer of 29 subjects to the PRI; and to implement the amendment, each state is required to enact a ‘ state Panchayeti Act  in conformity with the letter and spirit of the 73rd amendment.  However, the office of the BDO and his staff such as Ag Extension officer and village level workers (Gram sevaks and sevikas) and others covering all aspects of rural life and economy were of immense help to administration in efforts to transfer technology, implement rural roads and other social and physical infrastructural works, distribution of relief in times of calamities, family welfare and ‘immunisation’ programs. Conduct of census and election, poverty alleviation and schemes for reusing the productivity of small and marginal farmers and promoting dairy cooperatives and development of women and children.

Before, Nehru , only regulatory wing of the state was present in the field, namely, SDC (Tehsildaar) and Patwari/ kanungo and the Daroga of the Police Station and there was no ‘field development administration’ at the grass roots level capable of taking a comprehensive view on rural development and to function as multifarious ‘agents of change ‘in the rural society. This gap was filled by Nehru and SK Dey, who organised the community development project, put in place the BDO and the extension staff which stands today as an empowered body to take up greater challenges of development and as testimony of Nehru’s foresight and commitment to rural development.

2>     The Panchayat Raj was a part of ‘ The Plan’ that is, activities, projects taken up with funds from the 5 year Plans broken into Annual Plans and reflected in the State Plan budget and utilized as per central guidelines. Thus as SDO, I was a part of many such plans, schemes, small and large in all sectors, and responsible for providing ‘administrative cover ‘to construction of National Highway, extension of piped and safe water supply to townships, improvement of urban habitations. To us there was magic in the words ‘ Five year Plans’ and joy in direct participation in fulfilling Nehru’s grand vision of building modern India through development planning. The new dams, power stations, steel plants which Nehru called ‘ New Temples of India’, still stand as embodiment of his vision of democratising regulatory and development administration.

3>     The National Science Policy 1956 of Nehru gave a huge push to CSIR and a chain of Regional Research laboratories came up with the object of delivering ‘ Scientific and Technological’ solutions to the technological challenges faced by the local economy and the production functions in different sectors. To modernize agriculture, ICAR stations were set with a mandate to develop location and crop specific technology answers to the problems farmers were facing by carrying out extensive field trials and testing’s. Thus decentralisation of Science and Technology system and spread of network of technical educational institutions was central to Nehru’s vision of expanding and democratising the knowledge systems. I had the good opportunity to see the work of the Regional Research Laboratory at Jorhat in Assam, which in the 60’s developed an ‘interaction’ mechanism with all stakeholders, such as the small, medium and micro enterprises including Khadi and Village industries to understand their specific technology gaps and needs in order to find solutions through R & D work. This was a remarkable effort as it created a participatory process of technology development designed to meet the location specific demands for technology services.

4>     In administration of Tribal areas and Tribal development, Nehru’s ‘footprint’ was most pronounced in the North East; because in the 5th Schedule area of central and East India, he left it largely to the Chief Ministers who chaired the Tribal Advisory Committee in respective states and the Governors enjoyed the special responsibility for tribal areas in the 5th schedule states. These tribal areas are also endorsed with practically all of India’s mineral resources and sources of rivers and hydropower – irrigation development. As a result, project related displacement as for instance caused by the construction of ‘ Hirakud Dam’ in Odisha affected the tribes most.  The Panchayats were not functional in tribal Areas till much later when the PESA, that is, extension of Panchayat Raj Act to Tribal Areas was enacted much later. Unrest in tribal areas was gathering over the years and found expression in spread of Left Wing extremism. There is some truth n the adage that ‘ where you see Sal forests, there are tribals  as they depend on ‘ Sal Seeds’, large reserves of Coal below the Sal trees and Naxalites all over such forest-tribal lands’.

In the North – East however Nehru was deeply involved because of two strong security reasons. First, the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950 called for a different approach to NEFA and Second the Naga insurgency that began soon after India attained freedom. I had an opportunity to work in the then Mizo District of Assam in 1967-68, First as a Special officer at Aizawl in charge of “Protected and Progressive Villages” which came up along the Road network after regrouping of villages was carried by the Army as a Counter insurgency measure to deny the Mizo insurgents the benefit of shelter and support in remote villages and later as SDO of newly created sub-division covering the area inhabited by ‘Pawi-Lakher’, now called Mara at Saiha (a District in Mizoram ), close to Myanmar. When I analyzed the causes of 1966 Mizo insurgency, the cause most cited by the Mizo’s was the failure of the Mizo Autonomous District Council set up under the 6th Schedule to meet the aspirations of the Mizo people. This feeling of disenchantment with Nehruvian policy of granting autonomy within the State of Assam was shared in the Khasi, Garo hills Districts which now comprise Meghalaya State and in the two hill districts – Karbi Anglong and NC Hills, now Dima Hasao in Assam. In NEFA, though listed in the 6th Schedule, the Autonomous District Councils were not constituted and so in Nagaland due to Naga insurgency. This mismatch led to Hill State Movement in Assam and the eventual reorganisation of Assam in 1971 that created Meghalaya State and the union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Nehru was aware of this sentiment and agreed to meet the demand put forward by a section of moderate Naga leaders for a separate State as a compromise; and thus the State of Nagaland was created in 1963 that gave a positive signal to Hill State Movement in Assam. The rapid spread of money economy and culture associated with acquisition of riches and material comforts in Tribal areas have rendered most of the assumptions of the ‘ Panchsheel ‘ for tribal areas dated as thanks to ‘ information revolution’, the Tribes in North-East as elsewhere are really looking for ‘leapfrogging’ in development and have no patience for a development strategy based on what Nehru called “ hastening slowly”. However, one must give due credit to Nehru for his foresight in granting ‘ autonomy’ which could be seen, with hindsight as an unconsciously laid down but first sure step to state hood that NE hill tribes got eventually. Above all, the District Councils provided good training to leaders like Purno Sangma who became a Speaker of Lok Sabha and a Presidential candidate too.

5>     The other area where Nehru’s legacy is seen significantly is his recognition of rights of States in deciding what should states official language and the medium of instruction in schools and higher educational institution. His deft handling of this issue was seen in Assam and NE where the multi-lingual and multi ethnic composition of the region’s population eventually ensured a permanent position for English as the medium of higher education in the North- East region.

6>     Among the strongest of Nehru’s legacy has been ‘ Secularism’ and on this Nehru made no compromises and created institutions for development of religious minorities and kept the state out of any overtly religious activity creating thereby a sense of security and belonging to the Nation among all sections of the people. This is because of Nehru’s abiding faith in the idea of a modern state driven by interests of all taxpayers meaning citizens and founded on the Rule of law and policies and institutions based on equality and freedom for all, and welfare and ‘capability  enhancement’ of all regardless of all differences as its National goal.

He articulated that only such a ‘ Modern State’ could ensure political unity and civilsational integrity of India which remain Nehru’s greatest legacy.  And the much derided ‘ Hindu growth rate of 3 – 3.5% was according to many western development economists of repute, not really low if one considered the inherited decrepit colonial economy that registered a little above 1 % growth since World War I and the huge lag in infrastructure and technological backwardness. The base of higher scientific and engineering education that Nehru left behind enabled India to join IT revolution quickly and to emerge as a leader in the Software exports and IT enabled services and his unstinted support to development of Atomic energy and missile technology enabled India to develop capability in these two strategic areas that is recognized internationally and even by our adversaries.

The most significant contribution of Panditji to the nation and the growth of Democracy that has struck deep roots in India as evident in the circumstances that led to the termination of the state of Emergency in 1977 is his firm, total and steadfast support to the introduction of the universal adult franchise. It is not known to many that the Constituent Assembly which gave us the constitution was elected on the basis of a very limited franchise of a little above 33% of the population in 1946 and the opinion for continuation of limited franchise was so strong that it was Pandit Nehru’s fierce opposition to the same that carried the provision for the universal adult suffrage. This was the single most important factor that empowered the poor and the disadvantaged to raise not only their voice but also acquire power as seen right from the 1960’s and thereby expanded and deepened democracy in India as a form of government. History will always bear this out as the most enduring legacy of Panditji.


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The Nehruvian Legacy – A First-hand Experience – I

The word ‘Nehruvian’ really gained currency after Pandit Nehru’s death in May 1964 as a kind of “benchmark” of India’s development profile since independence as the whole strategy of political economic, scientific, technological development till the mid -70s bore his stamp. Later in the  1990’s when the economy was made open to market forces and ‘ globalisation’, the word acquired a meaning that was unforeseen earlier-its association with a ‘strategy’ which obstructed rapid development of India due to Nehru’s policy of putting Public Sector in  ‘commanding heights’ of the economy and the state control of the market forces neatly summed up in the expression ‘ License Permit Raj’, as the primary cause of what was derisively termed ‘ Hindu rate of growth’ of about 3 % to 3.5 % annually in the 17 years and thereafter till India opened up its economy under P.V. Narsimha Rao in 1991.

The Oxford dictionary meaning of the word legacy is the gift left by the predecessor. Thus to understand this ‘legacy’, it is useful to deeply recall the main tenets of Pandit Nehru’s worldview, his political and economic philosophy and his idea of Indian Nation and how it should  advance. The speeches of Pandit Nehru in the constituent assembly particularly debates on making of the constitution and later his speeches and interventions in the parliamentary debates on critical issues of development and in deliberations of the Planning Commission are in the public domain and could as well be the basis for understanding his legacy as summarized below.

1>     ‘ Fabian Socialism’, a British view of Socialism attainable by State intervention in the economy through the process of a parliamentary democracy. Labour Party in UK under Sydney and Beatrice Webb developed this socialist model in earlier 20th Century which left a deep and lasting impact on Nehru. Hence his faith in ‘gradualism’, and orderly progress to ‘Social Control’ of means of production and the concept of a welfare State for raising the capability of citizens.

2>     Parliamentary Democracy, Rule of Law, Separation of Powers , Secularism , Decentralisation of State functions to promote citizen’s participation in government were central to Nehru’s view. Note that Nehru favoured ‘continuity with change’ as a principle of administrative reforms, and this is borne by the fact that the makers of the constitution did not think of dismantling the administrative system inherited from the colonial period and hence article 372 was incorporated in the constitution which allows continuation of pre-1947 laws, in the Statute book, and the structure of regulatory administration at the State, District and Tehsil levels as before 1947.

However, Nehru introduced major reforms and innovations in the field development administration with the establishment of community Development blocks and the Panchayati raj institutions which were set up under State laws at the block, sub-division and District levels to ensure peoples participation in implementation development schemes. Thus the institution of BDO, Block staff including Gram Sevaks/Gram Sevikas , agricultural extension officers and social education officers were put in place for rural development. These are still in place as basic field units of development administration.

3>     Commitment to growth of scientific temper in society and emphasis on core science and technology capability; and with this objective a chain of new Laboratories under the CSIR system covering technologies relevant to exploit India’s potential in industries that could kick start industrial growth such as material science, steel and alloys, glass & ceramics, pharmaceutical, construction technology were set up; The IITs, new Agricultural universities and the Indian Statistical institute were set up as a part of this policy. A most remarkable initiative of Nehru was to promote development of Atomic energy for peaceful purposes and establishment of locomotive, Motor vehicles and aircraft manufacturing in India. The object was not just import substitution, nor ‘ reinventing the wheel’ but development of a base of heavy and basics industries without which as the economic history of all advanced nations show, no durable economic or social progress was possible. Pandit Nehru took personal interest in formulating India’s first ‘Science Policy’ in 1956 laying down a road map for growth of scientific research and spread of education in Science and technology. Pandit Nehru viewed lack of capital in relation to India’s workforce and rapidly growing population as the main cause of poverty and backwardness and therefore underscored the growth of heavy and basic industries and technological capabilities was also shared by the mainstream development economists of the post World War 2 period. This was the theoretical basis of the Nehru- Mahalanobis model of development. Prof Mahalanobis was a distinguished statistician who prepared the model.

4>     Deep commitment of Pandit Nehru to upliftment of Schedule tribes, schedule castes and all disadvantaged sections of the society did find an expression in State Policies; and its impact was most pronounced in the Hill Areas of Assam. Together with Dr Verrier Elwin, the author of the philosophy for NEFA and adviser to the Govt. on tribal Affairs, NEFA, Panditji laid down what came to be known as ‘Panchsheel’ of tribal policy as outlined below in his own words: –

  • People should develop according to their own genius and we should avoid imposing anything on them.
  • Tribal rights in land and forest should be respected.
  • We should try to train and build up a team of their own people to do the work of administration and development.
  • We should not over administer these areas or overwhelm them with multiplicity of schemes. We should rather work through, and not in rivalry to, their own social and cultural institutions.
  • We should judge results, not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but the quality of human character that is evolved.

The Tribal areas in India are divided into the 5th and the 6th schedule areas in the constitution, that is, the hill and tribal areas of the North-East are in the 6th, while the rest are in the 5th Schedule. For the latter, Pandit Nehru was instrumental in creating a Tribal Advisory Committee in each State while in the former, the institution of the Autonomous District Councils with the powers to make laws pertaining to land, forest, minerals, administration of tribal customary laws were entrusted with these elected autonomous District Councils and to administer the 6th Schedule Subjects.  The “autonomy” meant that the laws by the State Assembly would not apply to “autonomous” Districts unless the Autonomous District Council approved the same.

5>     Secularism formed the core of Nehruvian ideal of Nationalism founded on what he felt the Syncretic civilisation of India that synthesized diverse, sometimes opposing religious faiths into one based on humanism and commonalities of faiths.

6>     Commitment to freedom of press, thought and right to dissent on public policy and issues was what Nehru stood for and he laid down high standards of parliamentary debates and public discourse.

7>     Commitment to an Independent Judiciary and respect for the British ‘Common Law’ – principle that India adopted which promoted making of ‘ Judge made Laws’ meaning judicial pronouncements and interpretation of law as having the force of law including the dictum that not abiding by the procedure amounts to violation of ‘ Procedural Rights’ of citizens in a matter and deemed violation of Fundamental Rights.

8>     On foreign policy, Nehru’s historic contribution ironically was the 1954 ‘ PanchsheelAgreement with China based on non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and non-alignment; Peace and mutual co-operation were to be the ‘outcomes’ of Panchsheel. Nehru saw peace as the condition for rise of a country like India from poverty and backwardness. So he said in the UN General Assembly, “For us peace is a passion”. This however, did not prevent him from taking a firm stand on border disputes with china or on Kashmir as he insisted on withdrawal of Pakistani forces from the areas of Kashmir under Pakistan’s illegal occupation before any meaningful talks could be held with Pakistan and to provide shelter to  Dalai Lama in India in 1959 . Most significantly Nehru realised the geo-political importance of USSR for India and pioneered the dialogue with USSR which laid the foundation of Indo-Russian strategic relationship which holds good till date and well after two decades of dissolution of the USSR.  His policy of offering ‘ helping hands’ to neighbours and to forge partnerships with multi-lateral and bi-lateral aid agencies under the UN system has been followed by successive governments.

9>     Faith in ‘Constitutionalism‘ and respect for the scheme of governance laid down in the constitution assigning respective roles of the States in the true spirit of Union of India; was a trait seen in Nehru’s dealing with the States. He was not in favour of concentration of powers in the Centre and took the State Chief Ministers into confidence on important National Issues as evident from his periodic letters to the Chief Ministers.

10> Humanism , human rights and struggle against foreign rule, injustice, discrimination and superstitions were the core values of Nehru and reflected in his domestic and foreign policies. He stood for the development with a human face.

A view may be taken that the Nehruvian face came to an end in 1975 with the promulgation of emergency in 1975 by none else but her daughter, the PM Indira Gandhi because it may be argued  that given his deep commitment to orderly, peaceful progress and parliamentary democracy, that is, ‘government by discussion’ as Amartya Sen put it, he would not have approved any such draconian measure whatever might have been the compulsion to hold on to power.


The second part of this paper dealing with “The first hand experience” would therefore cover the period up to the emergency.

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The Indian Bureaucracy – Foundation, Functioning and the Challenges Ahead – Part III

The Indian Bureaucracy – Foundation, Functioning and the Challenges Ahead – An Insider’s View – Part III

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Today the issues of environment and environmental governance are matters of serious concern for public health and development as well, because the impact of air and water pollution directly affects the health, safety and security of the people as Delhi and NCR experienced in early Nov 2016.It has been estimated by the World Bank that India loses about 5 % of annual GDP due to air-pollution alone. The recent orders of National green Tribunal in regard to flood plains of Yamuna, air and water pollution in Delhi region reflect this un-sustainability and hence the need to put in place rules and systems to improve air quality and restructure the transport system. To this man made crisis must be added the Climate Change, as it has already made 2015, the warmest year in history. Understanding environment issues and prospects for mitigation of climate change in order to deal with this combined impact will be a major challenge for the Indian bureaucracy in the 21st century. The fact that global evidence suggests that the major burden of environment degradation falls on the poor – rural, urban and even the tribes in remote areas due to, for example, reckless mining and deforestation and therefore environment conservation and improvement must be factored into all anti-poverty and rural development programs. One must note that till date the Tribes bore the major brunt of ‘development’ as 40% of all project related displaced person since independence were ‘Tribes’ as estimated by Dr. N.C.Saxena, a distinguished Civil Servant and expert on forests. Thus harmonising environment and development will be a major challenge before Civil Services.

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There is some truth in Benedict Anderson’s remark that, ‘ a nation is an imagined community’, as it is based on the historical experience of break-up of nation states in Eastern Europe i.e Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and the ongoing Scottish demand for separation from England – unimaginable even a few years back. And of course the breakup of Pakistan  -already a geo-spatial absurdity in 1947 caused by the assertion of the ethnic and Bengali language based identity, and this more than anything else proved that a nation cannot be built on religion alone which gives Bangladesh a unique place in history as the only Muslim state that seceded from another Muslim state. If Kurds succeed in seceding from Turkey, Kurdistan would be the next Islamic people to do so.

However, India stands on a different wave as Prof Ravindra Kumar argued that India is rather a ‘Civilisational State’ and not just a nation state as the Indian republic is founded on the eternal (Sanatana) values of a syncretic civilisation and culture – tolerance of all faiths, creeds and sects, social customs and mores, languages and ethnicity bound together by the idea of India as the common home for the Indian people. Tolerance and willingness to synthesize by seeing common threads in faiths and cultures constitute the main plank of Indian civilisation and this led Tagore to see India as “the confluence of all humanity “That always gives away while absorbing everything good from the world over. This is true and practical humanism and much above the narrow legalistic concept of ‘Secularism’.

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Notwithstanding this inherent strength of unity in diversity, India’s national experience shows that there could be threats to unity from within albeit with active foreign support as seen in Punjab, Assam, Nagaland and elsewhere in North-East. The Left-Wing Extremism in central and eastern India stands on a different plain as it seeks transformation of the State into one guided by the Maoist philosophy. The unrest Kashmir Valley stands on a different footing as it is a mix of religious and ethnic assertion of  sub-nationalism. Without going into further details, one may hold a view that essentially these pockets violence and unrest are really assertion of demand for ‘adequate space’ in the national power structure arising out of ‘a sense of alienation and disaffection’ for various reasons which need sympathetic appreciation for working out a strategy to remove the real causes of disaffection. In the Indian context efforts to “homogenize” will not work nor a “one size fits all” approach to resolve perceived historical wrongs. Therefore the Senior Civil Servants of all cadres posted in these areas should have an open mind and look at the situation with empathy and conscious of the fact that disaffection will be a passing phase and the inhabitants are integral to the Indian Civilisation. Developing interest in other cultures and respect for the same are thus essential to develop such an integrationist approach to Nation building and thus poses a great challenge to the civil service and more so to the newly recruited official in the service where lack of field training could be a setback at times.

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This discussion will be incomplete unless one takes into account the changing nature of “the political class” in India and the problem and challenges it poses to the bureaucracy in its functioning in what is essentially a parliamentary system on the UK model. In the first three decades of independence the political class was largely drawn from the professional middle class of lawyers, doctors, teachers, trade union or peasant leaders with a good proportion of leaders who took part in the freedom struggle. The Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) movement for “Total Revolution”, saw perhaps the final moments of this class. Steadily from 1980’s Indian politics took a turn on the one hand towards regional or caste based party system in major states visibly under control of powerful political families and on the other even the oldest party accepted the leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi family establishing thereby a culture of ‘political dynasties’. This period also saw steady rise of nexus between the political parties and leading business houses and induction of business persons, person’s from the film industry into legislature and the emergence of ‘money and muscle power’ as critical factors for electoral victory. This has led to the phenomena of criminalisation of politics, scant regard for the system of governance by the rule of law and the demand for electoral reforms including state funding of elections to prevent growth of nexus between the big corporate and the political parties. However, growth of the nexus seems unstoppable which is seen also in advanced democracies like the US where this became quite apparent in the 2016 Presidential election and as a factor that contributed to the subprime mortgage crisis in US in 2007-08 and the continuing ‘great recession’ in world economy.

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The civil service, it appears has to learn to live with it. The controversy regarding the allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks to private sector corporate has raised serious issues about actual governance and the role of Senior civil servants as key players in decision making while also being expected to act more as a ‘facilitator’  than as a ‘regulator’. In this complex and extremely difficult work place, the challenge before the civil service is to act according to the law. Rules and the procedure established under the law and not for any reason or consideration whatsoever to go out of the way to suggest any course or act in a manner which could be later questioned on the grounds of impropriety and violation of procedure. Several experts view that over the years, India has moved towards a ‘Priministerial’ form of government with strong centralising tendencies which are also seen in the way strong Chief Ministers function in some states, and this trend of weakening of the Cabinet form of decision making also seems unstoppable given the character of the most powerful parties and the political class, even when the rule book is based on ‘collective responsibility’. Nevertheless, there is one strong merit in the West-minister model that we have adopted, that is, the Rule of law as law alone can protect an upright and honest civil servant.

To sum up, the Senior Civil Service have been assigned a vital role in the laws of the land in the discharge of State functions which though ‘ executive‘ are often quasi judicial in nature and therefore central to delivery of administrative justice in wide range of activities. However the complex social and political environment of India has been a major cause of the changed character of the political class and the growing impatience of the youth with the slow growth of the economy and work and job opportunities. Administrative management of this environment is no easy task and more so when the political class is impatient with a Bureaucracy that has to go by the Rules and may appear to be slow moving. The dilemma of the civil service is that the temptation to fall in line with this trend of the political class might entail violation of the rules and procedures which some time later could be held as acts of wilful violation, impropriety and even worse, corruption. The import of Sanjiv Chaturvedi’s case in the order of the Central Information Commissioner at Annex 1 provides an answer to this dilemma; and it is that the Law is the supreme protector and if a Senior Civil Service official follows it in letter and spirit his action will be vindicated. He or she must be aware that implicit in the examination based selection of senior civil service officials is the ‘public trust’ that while discharging duties they would be forthright and honest and go by the laws , rules and policies in letter and spirit because they alone can deliver justice and proper public service.

Consider a hypothetical situation: under the Arms Act the Executive Magistrate has the power to issue a license to possess a gun for self protection and the rules made under the Arms Act lay down the procedures and eligibility criteria which are inviolable. The magistrate is required to decide all applications for arms license strictly as per the instructions, rules and the procedures and his discretion is tempered by application of his judicial mind. If however the magistrate allowed himself to come under undue influence in taking the decisions and granted license to an unworthy person he would have committed two lapses, first breach of public trust, violation of the rules and policies and procedures and second, endangering public safety. On this matter John Rawls’ s definition of justice as fairness comes close to the philosophy of ‘karma‘ in Gita and ‘ Satkarma‘ in the Buddhist ethics. From this perspective just and fair decisions not only reflect the calibre and character of the civil service officials but invariably earn for him the approbation of the citizens which is the highest reward for the civil service.

While facing the challenges a Civil Service official might as well remember the inspiring words of the poet Rabindranath Tagore in Geetanjali as reproduced below:

 “This is my prayer to thee, my Lord –

Strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart.

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.

Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.

Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.

Give me the strength to raise my mind high above the daily trifles.

And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.”


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The Indian Bureaucracy – Foundation, Functioning and the Challenges Ahead – Part II

The Indian Bureaucracy – Foundation, Functioning and the Challenges Ahead – An Insider’s View – Part II

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The recent orders of National green tribunal as reported on 17th Nov 2016 banning demolition and construction in Delhi as a major cause of air pollution and directions to builders to bear all consequential effects of air pollution which is to be enforced by the Delhi government will bear this out. These powers are conferred largely on civil servants borne in what OECD defines as “Senior Civil Service”. Thus, an individual Civil Servant who has to exercise such power is required to take decision on the merits of the case only and it is a cardinal principle of administrative law and jurisprudence that his order should bear his judgement uninfluenced by any other extraneous considerations in the public interest and is therefore it’s his bounden duty as any deviation is viewed as an act of impropriety and therefore opposed to public interest. Thus it is as much an ethical as it is an administrative issue for a civil servant.

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The constitutional basis of this role of the civil service as the effective operative part of the government system is derived from the historical experience of autocracy in pre-modern monarchical state that a system of checks and balances is the best way to avoid concentration of power and essential for democracy and liberty of the taxpaying citizens.  Thus, the legislators are debarred from executive functions same and except those who form the council of ministers on the principle that a legislator must not hold an “office of profit” under the government which will adversely affect his impartial role as a law maker in the public interest. The recent appointment of parliamentary secretaries by Delhi Government has been hit by this doctrine of office of profit. The reader may find it useful to follow this case. Hence a neutral, apolitical, permanent, professional civil service is considered appropriate as “the agency” for execution of laws and policies. The practical idea of  “Checks and balances” is also extended to the judiciary as for an instance, the present “Collegium” system for appointment of judges to the High Court’s and Supreme Court is not provided in the constitution as it is the outcome of a “Judge made law” derived from the two orders of the supreme court and opinion of the CJI on a Presidential reference under the Artice 143 of the constitution in this regard [2]. However, as in the celebrated Shah Bano Case, the orders of the Supreme Court could be negated by an act of parliament, just as an executive order could be challenged in the court. The petitions presently pending before the Supreme Court and the high Court’s on “demonetisation” indicate how the doctrine of separation of powers operates in practice. One must note that this critical role of bureaucracy in the overall scheme of democratic governance, is not only understated but inaccurately mentioned as evident from use of words like Babudom or Babu in India while in mature democracies, on the contrary concerns are often expressed about what may be called bureaucratic “Overstretch”. Thus, Paul Deschand , famously said, “France is not a democracy but a bureaucracy, it is the corps of functionaries who do the real work of governing”.   The Minister who heads the bureaucracy is by no means its master. On more than one occasion, a French Minister has discovered that fact to his own embarrassment. The relationship between the political executive, the Minister incharge of the department in a parliamentary democracy like India has been succinctly put by W.B. Munro[3],

The former provides the democratic element in the administration; the latter the Bureaucratic. Both are essential – one of them to make the government popular; the other to make it efficient. And the test of good government is its successful combination of these two qualities.”

This is the accepted view in the West about the role of bureaucracy in a democracy. Wilburn therefore argues that “Democracy may be interpreted not as government by the people but as with the consent of the people, with professional making most of the decisions. This is a subtle modification of the famous statement of Abraham Lincoln on democracy as a form of government that is, “of the people, for the people and by the people”.

Challenges Ahead

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The challenges ahead for the Indian bureaucracy are inherent in a perception among the Indian people that “ governance is the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels” and hence the emphasis of the Prime Minister Modi on Good Governance as a means to develop the society and economy. These can be divided into three broad heads – “Regulatory, human development and consolidation of nationhood”.

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Regulatory administration is basis of a modern state as the very first condition of economic and social development, is to put in place a system of law enforcement that will ensure in Adam Smith’s words, “enforcement of contractual obligations and maintenance of peace and order” and the latter being the pre-condition without which economic activities cannot expand on regular basis. Economic development is in fact both a ‘product’ and a ‘process’, it is a product or outcome measurable in terms of GDP and a process that has to be inclusive because every citizen is a taxpayer of direct or indirect taxes, who also happens to be a consumer, investor and  participant in a production or service related activity.

The concept of Rule of law and equality before law as embodied in the Article 14 of the constitution is not only basic to the scheme of fundamental rights and founded on the practical imperative of inclusive economic growth. The secular character of the State is also derived from the principle of rule of law. This foundational value of a modern state which incidentally does not exist in Pakistan because it’s Constitution provides for a “Shariat Court”, over which even its Supreme Court has no jurisdiction. It is thus a precious heritage for us which must be preserved, defended and protected from divisive forces formed on the basis of race, religion, caste or language. This is essentially a law enforcement issue and a Civil Servant is duty bound to ensure that justice delivered is not only “just and fair but also appears to be just and fair” and while nobody is “above law”, nobody should be “below the law”. The latter situation unfortunately is often experienced by the poor and the disadvantaged especially the Scheduled Castes, tribes and backward sections. Therefore cultivation of sensitivity to the problems of those groups and prevention of atrocities and discrimination against SC/ST people by prompt and efficient execution of the State Policy of Zero tolerance of practice of untouchability and atrocities against SC/ST people is a major challenge before bureaucracy.

Rule of Law is not just a philosophy but a guide to administrative action which must be evident from the strict observance of “procedure established by Law”, as any breach of procedure amounts to violation of procedural rights of citizens.  Respect for all faiths and human rights are interrelated and concern for violation of human rights and its prevention is a major challenge before bureaucracy as repeatedly emphasized by the National Human Rights Commission. This calls for a change of outlook, that is not to view such violation as only criminal cases but its long term social implications as such violations undermine the faith of the affected people in the system of democracy and governance and its consequence is alienation which obstructs inclusive growth. Therefore, stringent action in case of human rights violations especially in dealing with ‘communal disturbances’ or ‘ethnic riots and violence’ actually strengthen National Unity and creates confidence in the State and its Institutions. Thus generation of such feeling of security among the diverse people is a major challenge that requires a mindset open to examine all public issues including disaffection from different angles in order to develop a strategy for restoring peace and confidence in the State. Such a positive attitude founded on the firmness and empathy for the masses on the fact of the Civil Service is a professional requirement to deal with Left Wing Extremism in Central India, Ethnic insurgency in the North-East, Political Islam and terror in parts of Southern India and elsewhere.

The short point is that the extremist groups of all hues are to be treated as misguided citizens who could be made to see reason and the population from which the extremist have grown are not to be branded as hostile but treated with empathy and respect as the object of all counter-insurgency measures is to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people by positive development and peace initiatives.

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With the increase of women’s participation in the workforce particularly in urban areas, gender issues like sexual harassment of women at workplace or at public space have emerged as a major task before the administration, and consequently increase the need to female staff in law enforcement agencies; and that requires creation of work environment conducive to women’s functioning and new work culture with greater emphasis on tact and empathy.

Regulatory administration is judged strictly by its performance. In administration of criminal law, the rate of conviction in criminal cases is one such efficiency criteria and to improve this quality of investigation, high quality charge sheets are critical for securing convictions which alone could produce a “deterrence effect” in the society. The cases of deaths of under trials in police or judicial custody have in recent times, led to severe criticism and as these reflect poorly on the system administration of criminal justice as a whole, systems must be put in place to eradicate this altogether and constitute a major challenge before the Civil Service.

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The public perception that the corruption is wide spread and corrupt practices are commonly adopted even at senior levels is the outcome of experience of general public with the administration and the officials in their daily life interface. Though complex and varied in its manifestations, corrupt practices are basically of two types – ‘Speed Money’ for expediting actions on matters which at any case were legitimately due such as issuance of ration cards, railway reservation or Passports. Second, is to obtain a favour, an out of turn allotment of a facility or a supply contract which is within the powers of an official to grant in exercise of some discretionary powers that the official might enjoy under the ‘Rules’ and that he is willing to abuse for a consideration. In all these shady deals there is a ‘hand that gives as there is a hand that takes’.  Certain steps have been taken by the government for deterrent action against the corrupt including confiscation of ill-gotten wealth and immovable property and also to reduce the scope of bribery by systemic improvements in delivery of public service at “cutting edge” level where the citizens have to necessarily visit Govt. offices, as for instance for matters relating to registration of property, obtaining certified copies of land, Excise and Income tax, electricity connections etc. by adoption of ‘Information Technology’ enabled systems. Computerisation of land records in all states in phases carried out with assistance from the centre has been one such success story which has to a great extent relieved the problems of the people faced earlier at Revenue Circle Offices.  As a result of anti-corruption drive, India’s rank in Corruption Perception Index prepared by the Transparency international, though still very low, has improved from 95th in 2011 to 76th in 2016. The one consolation is that China is below India holding 83rd position.

Combating corruption and improving the image of public office and service will remain a major challenge as much will depend on the ability of the Senior Civil Service to first put in place improved systems to meet demands for public service promptly and efficiently which calls for capacity to innovate at the level of individual head of the office and supported by the Department and second to motivate the sub-ordinate staff and juniors to fall in line in the effort to free the offices of corruption to build an image of efficiency with integrity. This will involve ‘ethics teaching’ in practical terms which the senior civil servant will find mentally and spiritually rewarding as it could give a new meaning to his/her life. In the backdrop of the Prime Minister’s commitment to protect the honest and upright officials and the measures initiated to amend the provision of Sec 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the drive against corruption will remain a major challenge before the Indian bureaucracy as the credibility of the State is built on probity in public life.


[2]    – 

  1. S.P Gupta Vs Union of India 1981
  2. The Supreme Court Advocates on record Association Vs UoI 1993
  3. The Presidential reference to the Supreme Court over the meaning of the term ‘Consultation’ under Art 143 and the CJI’s opinion thereon.

[3] (Chapter – VIII, The Government of Europe, Macmillan, 1938)

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The Indian Bureaucracy – Foundation, Functioning and the Challenges Ahead – Part I

The Indian Bureaucracy – Foundation, Functioning and the Challenges Ahead – An Insider’s View – Part I

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Bureaucracy is a misunderstood term in India and its role and functions subject to misinterpretation even after over two centuries of its formation under the aegis of the British East India Company (EIC) during 1773-1786 and consolidation with the enactment of the Indian Councils Act in 1861 and uninterrupted functioning. While ‘Bureau’ literally means ‘a desk’ or a department of public service, the word ‘Cracy’  is derived from the Greek word ‘ Kratein’ means ‘ govern’ and together ‘bureaucracy’ means a system in which the business of government is carried on in departments, each under the control of a chief. The word does not lend itself to easy translation into Indian languages as for instance, its Hindi translation ‘Naukar Shahi’ does not carry the implication of the ‘bureau’ or the department which forms the core of the system of governance; and the word ‘Shahi’ meaning Rule is however appropriate as it conveys the key role of officials in governance. Though ‘naukar’ meaning ‘ servants’ followed by ‘ Shahi’ seem unreal in a democracy. The words ‘babu’ and ‘babudom’ often used in media to denote the State officials – high and low and the latter for the ‘ bureaucracy’ are clear “abusage” and pejorative, calculated to belittle the crucial role of the officials and the departments in functioning of the  state. These two words present an altogether false image of the role of bureaucracy – a situation, the political class seems to enjoy. It also betrays a lack of sense of history and the understanding other cultures. Far from being pejorative , ‘Babu’ was and still a honorific way of addressing a gentleman of standing in society in social intercourse in Eastern India and was thus adopted by the colonial government in official correspondence with the Indian gentry and especially with ‘ Zamindars and educated Indians’ in areas under Bengal Presidency which till 1912 included apart from Bengal proper, Bihar, Odisha; and Hindu Officials other than those borne in the I.C.S were notified with a prefix ‘Babu’ in official gazette. Most certainly because of the visible presence of Bengali Hindus in the government services in the early colonial period, it became a generic term to refer to the ‘official class’ as a whole, and grabbed by the media to use it in a pejorative sense unaware of the damage it has since caused to the image of the main instrument of governance and the morale of the higher civil servants.

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This suggests the need for a clear understanding of the term Civil Service, originally named Civil to distinguish it from military service, its Oxford Dictionary meaning is “all-non-military and non judicial branches of State administration”, that is , all posts which are borne on the civil side of the budget. In a quasi federal system of government that we have in India, such posts borne under the budget of the state governments constitute the ‘State Civil Service’ as distinct from the civil Service under the Union government. Together, these cadres – Central and State constitute the Civil Service in India. The implications of the words  ‘all posts’ need some clarification as it literally means ‘ all’ inclusive of posts under Groups A, B, C and D, both at the Centre and the State governments and the 3 All India Services viz IAS, IPS, IFS (Indian Forest Service) which are common to the Centre and the States. From this it would be clear that the UPSC conducts annually an Examination for recruitment only to services under the Union government. There is yet a related question – recruitment for what level of Civil Service, to which the answer would be – for recruitment to the ‘Higher Civil Service’ or the ‘Elite Bureaucracy’, as these cadres are termed by the Government of Singapore. This is because the entry point posts borne under the various cadres, designated Services are in the Top Grade and career progression of officials thus recruited on the basis of an open competitive examination is so worked out as to enable them to reach highest levels in the Central government in their respective spheres and thereby participate in not only executing or supervising implementation of State-laws and direction but also formulation of policies, budget and taxation measures, project preparation and evaluation. This discussion therefore is confined to the challenges being faced by the higher Central Civil Service, though some of the thoughts might as well be relevant to the State Civil Services; and a proper way to contextualise the subject is to refer to the OECD (Organisation of European Cooperation and Development) definition1   of the ‘higher civil service’ in a modern democratic state outlining its functions and responsibilities as quoted below:

[1] “A structured and recognized system of personnel for the higher non-political positions in government. It is a career civil service providing people to be competitively appointed to functions that cover policy advice, operational delivery or corporate service delivery. The service is centrally managed through appropriate institutions and procedures, in order to provide stability and professionalism of the core group of senior civil servants, but also allowing the necessary flexibility to match changes in the composition of Government by using appropriate due processes.”

This definition is applicable to All India Services, Indian Foreign Service and all Group ‘A’ services and to a lesser extent to Group ‘B’ services covered under the annual examination conducted by the UPSC for recruitment to these cadres under the Union Government. The point that one must note is the ‘Leadership’ role assigned to these cadres from the very beginning which presupposes cultivation of certain values and traits, skills and levels of efficiency and appreciation of state policies, laws , rules & procedures and public duty by the SCS officials considered as ‘ Qualification requirements’ for holding senior position; and these professional demands on an individual members would continue to rise as one moved up in the hierarchy.

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The way the civil service of any State responds to the challenges of governance is very substantially conditioned by the nature of the state and the government of which Civil Service is a part and derives its role and functions.  This relationship is “Symbiotic” as for example in Myanmar, where the constitution allows Army to have 25% of seats in the Legislature, a share of top posts in crucial Ministries of Home, Defence and Foreign affairs and even district civil administration, the civil service has to occasionally play a second fiddle to the Army authorities; and the situation that obtain in Pakistan is about the same where due to the special position of the Army in the government, the institution of the District Magistrate & Collector that it inherited in 1947 had been replaced by an amorphous“ District Management Group”(DMG), that resulted in an emasculated administration not dissimilar from the one existing in Myanmar. This is altogether different than the ethos that one will find in the role and functioning of the civil service in India, a modern democratic nation state. It is to be noted that Pakistan and Myanmar till 1935 were constituent units of British India and shared the same system of law and governance, founded on the British ‘common law’, principles of law and jurisprudence such as The Rule of Law and equality before Law, a common criminal law, separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial wings, scope for recognition of ‘Procedural Rights’ of citizens as basic to application of laws and all administrative laws affecting the lives of citizens. To these must be added a permanent “apolitical” civil service which is a pre-condition for a “Parliamentary Democracy”, because a party in power might lose majority before its term ends and a complete absence of any political role of the armed forces in governance. These are the redeeming features of a modern state.

The founding fathers of the Indian constitution retained these abiding features of the administrative and the legal system it inherited under Article 372 of the constitution while laying the foundation of a democratic nation state with strong ‘ quasi-federal’ features and provided for fundamental rights and duties of citizens under the constitution. Since both Pakistan and Myanmar fell under long spells of military rule, they are still a long way from developing a modern democratic state with the basic features mentioned above that India has largely succeeded. This point is critical for understanding why expectations from the civil service are high in all democracies like India. This was underscored by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in his presidential address at the Haripura session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on 19th Feb 1938 in the following words:

“In every country Ministers come and go but the steel frame of the permanent services remains. It is the permanent services who really rule in every country’. The import of this statement is the reality that in a modern state, the laws confer powers and responsibilities on civil servants, exercisable by them in their own right by application of their administrative and judicial minds without fear or favour and for such functions discharged, the civil servants are answerable to the designated authorities only. This really means accountability to the legislature and the courts”.


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