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People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
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People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India

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This article is a set of ideas to usher in a participatory and decentralized democracy in India.

This article is a set of ideas to usher in a participatory and decentralized democracy in India.

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  • 1. THE PEOPLE’S FORUM AND A VISION FOR A DECENTRALIZED PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN INDIA  By JOS CONIL INTRODUCTION – HOW DEMOCRATIC IS OUR DEMOCRACY? India is known as the world’s largest democracy. Compared to our neighboring countries and many other developing nations and given the great diversity within India in terms of culture, traditions, languages, ethnicity and religion, it is indeed an achievement that India has remained united as a democracy for more than 65 years. We have inherited the legacy of the independence movement that united this nation and we have been handed over a great constitution by our founding fathers. While being proud of this great heritage, we have to examine the history of independent India, especially the recent developments and ask ourselves some basic questions. “Are we a fully democratic nation in which the government is of the people, by the people and for the people?” “Do all our citizens enjoy the social justice, liberty of expression and equality of opportunity for all as enshrined in the preamble of our Constitution?” It is almost certain that if these questions are asked to the general public we will hardly get any positive answers. There is a general sense of helplessness and anger among the people. The youth of this country is clearly frustrated at the rampant corruption and lack of accountability of our leaders and bureaucrats. This anger, frustration and helplessness of the common man have to be taken seriously. A parliamentary democracy functions on the basis of people’s trust. When we elect representatives we are in fact entrusting our hopes and needs into their hands. Accountability to the people is of essence in a democracy. Democracy cannot survive in a nation if its people no longer believe in the system. If the present level of corruption continues unabated, it can very well lead to a total collapse of the system and ultimately to the demise of freedom and democracy in our country. Therefore it is the need of the times to bring in a positive change in the governance of this country. For that we need to diagnose the root cause of this corruption epidemic that has affected our establishment from top to bottom.
  • 2. PEOPLE’S FORUM – THE NEED FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL MECHANISM There are a handful of dedicated ministers, bureaucrats and police officers who have made a positive change in people’s lives by committed, honest work and visionary leadership. But such people are very rare exceptions. In general, the establishment in India is corrupt, anti-people and trapped in a web of vested interests and nepotism. It is controlled by big corporates, communal leaders and the privileged classes often in a nexus with underworld dons and criminals. There are some basic reasons for this degeneration of Indian democracy. The primary reason is that the power does not really rest with thepeople. Citizen involvement in government is limited only to the ballot box, once in five years. The power to vote does not translate into the power and right to take part in the governance. This is because the people are not the real stake holders in party politics in India. Politics involves big money be it for fielding candidates or campaigning for elections. During the independence struggle, the Indian National Congress thrived on people’s voluntary contributions apart from a minimal membership fee. The dream of an independent India united the people under Gandhiji’s leadership. Even then there were rich people who sponsored the movement, but its base was always with the masses. After Independence, the control of party politics gradually shifted from the masses into the hands of the rich and the powerful that sponsor the parties for their own gain. The present system in India encourages a tyranny of party politics which is hand in glove with corporates and criminals. Therefore a positive change can happen only if the real power to govern is handed over to the people in a system where the elected representatives, the government officials and the government mechanism serves the interests of the people. It also requires a transparent, accountable and realistic economic model for political parties. We know that our democracy has got three distinct functions – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. These are the three pillars on which our democracy stands. But a three pillared structure is not really a stable one. Sometimes the media is referred to as the fourth estate of
  • 3. democracy. The media’s role in a democracy is powerful and important, but it does not qualify as a fourth pillar on par with Legislature, Executive and Judiciary since it is not a constitutional body. So there is definitely a missing pillar – a fourth pillar which will strengthen our democracy and make it truly “by the people, of the people and for the people”. People’s forum is the fourth pillar which will usher in a participatory democracy in our country. Its function is to ensure that the legislature and executive are truly participatory and that there is a fair dispensation of justice for the people and against corrupt or non performing authorities, officials and legal personnel. It is not a super government, an external agency or an extra power center thrust upon an elected government, but it is a mechanism built into the system to ensure people’s right for selfgovernance and justice. People’s forum is a decentralized constitutional system which consists of two agencies – a social service league and a citizen’s ombudsman – at the national, state and local body levels. People’s Forum gives the citizen certain basic rights and privileges which empower them for the following - to participate in the administrative system and to enforce public mandate through the legislature and executive; to initiate punitive measures and / or legal action against non -performing and / or corrupt authorities, officials or legal personnel through an accessible citizen’s ombudsman. AN OUTLINE OF THE PEOPLE’S FORUM 1. A PARICIPATORY LEGISLATURE PROVISION WITH REFERENDUM VOTE It will be mandatory for the government to publish all details about drafted laws and ordinances; policies; projects; treasury accounts; budgets etc. Only sensitive information important for national security will be exempt from this. The government has to publish these details in the print & electronic media, the internet or through special publications to seek public opinion and views. People can voice their opinion and give suggestions. The social service league will play an important role in this communication between the people and the government. The citizen can also organize signature campaigns in order to put any of
  • 4. these – laws, policies, projects, budget proposals etc. for public referendum, the mandate of which will be binding on the government. Any citizen or group of citizens can prepare legal drafts, project proposal and / or budget proposal, within the framework of the Constitution; National & Regional standards, norms, schemes& policies and present it through the people’s forum for public review, debate and vote. If the people feel that any of the national and / or regional policies, norms, standards and schemes needs to be modified, exempted from or deleted, they can present the matter to the appropriate authorities through the people’s forum for discussion and further action. This will encourage public participation and enable technocrats and visionaries among the general public to come up with innovative ideas and proposals which may sometimes be better than official government projects. 2. A PARTICIPATORY PROVISION EXECUTIVE WITH REFERENDUM VOTE The citizen will have the right to review and monitor all public works and infrastructure projects. It should be mandatory for the government to publish periodic details and progress reports and dated photographs. People can also give suggestions for better project management, quality standards etc. The citizen will have the right to review and monitor the functioning of all government ministries, departments and offices. Publishing periodic reports, accounts, minutes of procedure etc.will be mandatory. Here again, thepeople can organize a signature campaign to put any of the government works / programs for public referendum, the mandate of which will be binding on the government. 3. A PROTECTIVE MECHANISM AGAINST ABUSE OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS BY ORGANIZED POLITICAL POWER The freedom to assemble and protest is an essential right in a democracy. Recent demonstrations at Delhi in favor of the anti-
  • 5. corruption campaign and against the gruesome gang rape incident are examples of the need to preserve that freedom. However there are some instances where this essential freedom is abused or misused for political agenda and for display of muscle power. One such example is the bandh epidemic in Kerala. Politicians in Kerala – both right and left – are very fond of this method of protest and most of the time people are forced to comply with their plans due to the fear of political muscle power. In Kerala, an average of 20- 25 working days are wasted per month for bandhs (adding up the bandh days at state level and local ones). Very often, a handful of politicians can arbitrarily declare a bandh and bring the whole state to a grinding halt. This is a socio political problem and a major roadblock for the state’s development. It is also a clear case of triumph of mobocracy over democracy and an abuse of democratic rights, in spite of High Court orders against such forced bandhs. There should be a comprehensive Public Servants Act which deals with the code of conduct; style of functioning; conditions for membership; financial accountability and discipline etc. of political parties, trade unions, socio political and community organizations. Bandhs should be totally banned by law. The parties and organizations will be free to declare and conduct strikes according to the code of conduct, but if they want the general public to stay away from daily activities and to join with them in the protest, they have to seek public referendum for the same. They have to put it for referendum vote at least one week in advance and if they get a clear 2/3rds majority, they can declare that particular day as a shutdown day of protest in which the public can participate voluntarily (only). The public referendum for a shutdown day will enable the authorities and the law enforcement to make necessary arrangements to ensure law & order and to facilitate the individual citizen’s freedom for movement and work on that day. Bandhs in Kerala are just one instance of the abuse of democratic rights by organized political power. People’s forum should provide the citizen with similar safeguards against such abuses and transgression of their rights and freedom.
  • 6. 4. THE RIGHT TO DISMISS A GOVERNMENT AND / OR AUTHORITIES People’s forum will empower the citizen with the right to dismiss any government which is corrupt or non- performing. People can organize a signature campaign and put the government’s fate for public mandate. The same right will extend over all individual authorities starting from the President, Prime minister, MPs, MLAs, down to the Panchayat President and councilors. The dismissal voting should be done by the same electorate that has elected the authority. 5. THE CITIZEN’S OMBUDSMAN Citizen’s ombudsman will be the enforcement arm of the People’s forum. The Ombudsman can receive complaints from the general public, register cases and initiate legal action. Cases will be registered only after a proper preliminary investigation based on the complaint. Once the case is registered, the Ombudsman will proceed on its own with the legal action, to protect the identity of the complainant. The ombudsman will have both police and legal powers, to issue summons, arrest warrants and initiate legal action in special fast track courts. The people’s forum and the ombudsman will be a decentralized set up from national and state levels, down to the Panchayat council level. The ombudsman can also initiate a case on their own, in public interest, even in the absence of a complaint. Citizen’s Ombudsman will have direct legal jurisdiction over the following authorities and agencies –  All authorities and elected representatives – starting from the President, Prime minister, MPs, Chief ministers, Governors, MLAs etc. down to the City Mayors, Panchayat presidents and councilors.  All government officials, Secretaries, IAS officers, Collectors etc. down to village officers, Thahasildars and all government employees in all departments in officer category and above.  Presidents, secretaries and all officers of all government and semi-government corporations and agencies.
  • 7.  CBI and all police force right from Commissioners to inspectors.  Heads & officials of all government institutions like Schools, Hospitals, and Colleges; heads and officials of public sector industries and enterprises.  The whole judiciary starting from The Chief justice to the district magistrate.  Heads and members of the People’s forum– the social service league and the Citizen’s Ombudsman. There will be in built mechanisms to prevent and curb corruption in the People’s form agencies and the Ombudsman. In complicated cases of corruption / inaction by the head and higher officials of the Ombudsman, the authority to summon, arrest and take legal action against them will rest with the police commissioners / magistrates / judges / the Chief justice, according to the jurisdiction in the national, state or local body level. Indirect legal jurisdiction of the Ombudsman will extend to the following Heads and officials of all political parties and trade unions. Though parties and trade unions are not part of the official government mechanism, they are included in the indirect jurisdiction as a safeguard against harassment of the common man by organized political power (as in the case of instant bandhs and trade union high handedness in Kerala). The Ombudsman will take up the case only as a last resort in the event of police inaction. The concerned police official / authority will be held accountable by the Ombudsman.  All corporates and business establishments. This is also as a last resort mode in case of failure of authorities in delivering justice after all the complaints and legal procedures.  Corruption charges against lower grade employees (below officer category) of all the government, police and judicial machinery mentioned above can also be referred to the Ombudsman as a last resort action and the concerned higher official / authority will be held accountable for the inaction.
  • 8. 6. THE SOCIAL SERVICE LEAGUE As mentioned earlier, the physical structure of the People’s Forum consists of basically two agencies – A social service league and the Citizen’s Ombudsman – on the national, state and local body levels. The social service league is a group of dedicated social workers whose function is to take the government to the people and the people to the government. Their duties and responsibilities are as follows –  Agents of social justice The poor, the illiterate, the tribals and the underprivileged are not usually aware of the rights and privileges granted to them by the Constitution. They also do not enjoy the benefits of government welfare and healthcare schemes. Apart from the lack of awareness, their accessibility to these rights, privileges and schemes are limited or nonexistent due to exploitation and caste based discriminations. The social servants have to endeavor to bridge this gap of social justice by reaching out to them and making them aware of their rights & privileges and the benefits of the welfare schemes available to them. This can be done by means of awareness initiatives and by assistance in obtaining the benefits of the welfare schemes. This interaction will also be helpfulto understand the real needs of the people and to take their opinions and concerns about the schemes provided. These inputs should be conveyed to the government to help evolve better schemes, better projects and a better modus operandi, more suited for the social needs and priorities.  Assistance in citizen services The social servant should assist the common man especially the illiterate and underprivileged with the procedures for obtaining basic services and utilities; certificates etc.  Assistance with loans, aids and technical guidance
  • 9. The social servants should assist the citizen with procedures to obtain government loans, aids and technical guidance agricultural loans for farmers; financial aid for entrepreneurs to set up small and medium scale enterprises; educational loans for deserving students etc. They can also assist people in obtaining technical advice for farmers, entrepreneurs, innovators etc.  Communicators for participatory governance. The social servants have to communicate with the people the details of the government’s published legal drafts, schemes, policies, projects etc. and encourage them to voice their opinions, suggestions and complaints and communicate the same with the authorities. In case of public dissent against any of the schemes or policies, they have to assist with the signature campaign and the referendum voting procedures.  Assistance with judicial services and communicators with citizen’s ombudsman Very often, justice is not accessible to the common man, especially the poor, the illiterate and the underprivileged. The social servant has to assist such people to obtain judicial services free of cost as a basic right. They should also spread awareness about the services of the ombudsman and help them to register complaints if needed.  Communicators of social awareness messages and assistance with social rehabilitation Social servants should endeavor to spread awareness against social evils like female foeticide and infanticide; atrocities against women; discrimination and atrocities against the so called lower castes and minorities; child marriages etc. They should assist in the social rehabilitation of alcoholics, drug addicts and victims of all sorts of violence and discriminations. In this matter, they can also co-ordinate and collaborate with NGOs and charitable organizations involved in such rehabilitation efforts. The social service league will be guided by a panel of dedicated, honest people with a clean track record and proven competence like retired judges, retired military personnel, School headmasters, doctors, engineers, scientists and / or people with a proven track record of clean and dedicated social
  • 10. service. They will be provided with salaries as per government norms and will be entrusted with the task of recruiting and coordinating volunteers for the field work and outreach programs. The volunteers should be honest and dedicated people also with a clean track record. Students, youngsters, housewives and people from all walks of life, who are interested in social outreach, can render their services.Persons who hold any responsible position in any political party, trade union (or any other organization classified according to be Public Servants Act) will not be eligible for volunteering. This is meant to prevent a polarization based on party politics, ideology, caste and community within the league. Ordinary party workers will be free to join provided they refrain from attempts to create sectarianism. The volunteers will be paid a stipend as decided by the panel. This social outreach service will be made mandatory for IAS, IPS and all other Civil Services aspirants as a part of their training program. Volunteerswho have rendered exemplary service will be eligible for state funding if they wish to contest elections as independent candidates. THE ELECTORAL AND ADMINSTRATIVE CHANGES REQUIRED The institution and functioning of the People’s Forum requires some fundamental changes in the administrative structure and electoral procedures. First of all we need a distinct administrative set up to co – ordinate and monitor the functions of the Social Service League and the Citizen’s Ombudsman, at the national, state and local body levels. That administrative body needs to have proper autonomy and power like the Election Commission, but unlike the EC, the People’s Forum will be in constant interaction with the general public. Therefore ideally it should be administered by an elected representative of the People. 1. NEW ROLE FOR THE PRESIDENT & GOVERNORS – ADMINISTRATORS OF THE PEOPLE’S FORUM In our present system, the President is just a statutory position with little involvement in the governance and is elected by the MPs of both houses. But the President is the highest office in the country and
  • 11. therefore the apt authority to be the administrator of the People’s Forum at the National level. Similarly at the State level, the Governor will be the administrator of the People’s Forum. At the local body level, there should be a new set of authorities like Panchayat Governor, City Governor and Municipality Governor. At the district and / or block levels, there will be co – ordination committees with the all the local body Governors as members, under the State Governor, in order to resolve issues and for co – operation at district / block levels. However, at present, the President and the Governor are not directly elected by the people. So we need some basic electoral reforms in this regard. The president should be elected directly by the whole nation, similar to the US presidential elections. The Presidential candidates should preferably be independents - either fielded by political parties or contesting on their own. Once the social service league gets functional, candidates who have rendered dedicated service and shown excellent leadership in social work will be given preference. Similarly, the Governor of a state will be directly elected the people of the whole state and that of Panchayat will be elected by the whole Panchayat. The term of service of the President and Governors will be 7.5 years, so that a presidential / governor election will not coincide with a Lok Sabha, State Assembly or Panchayat general elections. Also the President and Governors can oversee a smooth transfer of power and ensure administrative continuity after the general elections. The electorate which elected the President – i.e. the whole nation will have the power to dismiss him through a dismissal vote, which can be organized through a signature campaign. Proven corruption and / or criminal charges will automatically disqualify a President. Same norms will apply to the dismissal or removal of State and Panchayat Governors. The President will be the administrator of the people’s forum at the national level and will appoint the Social Service league guidance panel as well as the Citizen’s Ombudsman Chairman at the national level. Similarly the State Governor will administer the State people’s forum and appoint the Social service guidance panel& Ombudsman chairman at the state level and the Panchayat Governor will exercise a similar power over the Panchayat People’s forum and Ombudsman.
  • 12. 2. THE ELECTORAL REFORMS FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS These electoral reforms are meant to render the system free from the tyranny of party politics and also to help the people make a clearer, straight forward choice. We have inherited the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy from the British in which we vote for a particular party and entrust with them the task of forming the government. This system will work out smoothly only if the public mandate is clear and the elected representatives are dedicated and incorrupt. Unfortunately the ground realities in India are quite different from these ideal situations. Very often in Parliamentary elections, regional issues and vote bank politics play an important role than national issues, leading to a confused mandate and coalitions of convenience formed after the elections. Coalitions are a political reality in the present scenario with strong regional parties. It is fundamentally a good principle to co – operate and form a government based on a common program, but the problems arising from the infighting for power and clout upsets the smooth functioning of the government. It also leads to corrupt, unethical practices like buying of MPs and small parties; bargaining for prominent positions and key portfolios; pressure tactics from regional parties, community leaders etc. These problems can be avoided or drastically reduced if the electoral system is simpler and more direct, where the people will be voting directly for a governmentrather than for a party to form a government thereafter. In a Parliamentary election, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers should be elected directly by the whole nation. It will also be similar to US Presidential elections, the only difference being that the whole nation will be voting for the Prime Minister and his team simultaneously, apart from the local MP.
  • 13. The practical problem arising from this arrangement, in the present form of ministry is the large number of voting machines required since the numbers of ministers will be more. The present Central Government has got about 76 ministersincluding 32Union ministers and other ministers of state. Such a large and inefficient ministry structure is followed due to the present centralized model and also to satisfy and maintain the political equations within the ruling coalition. Very often, portfolios are unnecessarily created to give a ministry berth to satisfy the power lust of the coalition partners and the ministries are divided among parties and inner party groups at will. This leads to a large and highly inefficient ministry structure. Therefore we need a more systematic and streamlined system of core ministries with departments underthem. This arrangement is not for the convenience of voting for the whole ministry, but to make the administrative machinery more efficient and the governance more effective – less government and better governance. The basic idea is that the Union ministers, as people’s representatives, have to act as integrators and coordinators of various departments to serve the people’s needs. The individual departments will be headed by department secretaries - eminent Civil Service officers and others with proven competence in the respective fields. 3. THE ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS & ITS ELECTORAL IMPLICATIONS The structure of the Ministries and Departments will roughly be as follows: i) MINISTRY OF DEFENCE ii) MINISTRY OF HOME SECURITY – Departments – Central Police force; Counter Terrorism forces etc. iii) MINISTRY OF FINANCE & REVENUE – Departments – Taxes; Finance & Planning etc. iv) MINISTRY OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS – Departments – Foreign Missions & Immigration; NRI affairs etc. v) MINSTRY OF ENERGY – Departments – Power Grid; Atomic energy; Renewable energy etc. vi) MINISTRY OF FOOD & AGRICULTURE – Departments – Farming & Animal husbandry; Fisheries; Public distribution & Food security etc.
  • 14. vii) MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, LABOR & SOCIAL WELFARE – Departments – Primary & Secondary education; Higher education; Technical education; Human resource development; Labor & Employment; Pension & Personnel welfare etc. viii) MINISTRY OF HEALTH, FAMILY WELFARE & HUMAN SERVICES – Departments – Health services; Drinking water & sanitation; rural health services; Family welfare etc. ix) MINISTRY OF LAW & SOCIAL JUSTICE – Departments – Law & legal services; Human rights; Social justice & empowerment etc. x) MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES – Departments – Environment & Forests; Water resources; Coal ; Petroleum & natural gas; Steel; Mining & Geology; Survey, land records & satellite mapping etc. xi) MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION – Departments – Road transport & Highways; Railways; Shipping & ports; Inland water transport; Civil aviation etc. xii) MINISTRY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY – Departments – Scientific & Industrial research; Space research & programs; Earth sciences; Bio sciences & technology; Chemicals & Fertilizers; Intellectual property etc. xiii) MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS & IT –Departments – Telecom; Posts; Information technology etc. xiv) MINISTRY OF HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE – Departments – Urban housing & infrastructure; rural housing & infrastructure; Roads & Public works etc. xv) MINISTRY OF INDUSTRY & COMMERCE – Departments – Large scale industries & enterprises; small scale industries & enterprises; MNCs and corporate affairs; service industries; Textiles etc. xvi) MINISTRY OF HERITAGE, CULTURE & TOURISM – Departments – Tourism & Hospitality; Archaeology & Heritage conservation; Handicrafts; Classical & Folk art forms; Artisan’s welfare etc. xvii) MINISTRY OF MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT – Departments – Information & broadcasting; movies & entertainment etc. xviii) MINISTRY OF SPORTS – Departments – Sports & games; rural sports development; traditional sports & games etc. Of these 18 Ministries, Defence and Home security will be handled by the Prime Minister himself. Thus the voter will have to cast 18 votes in total – 17 for the Cabinet Ministers and 1 for the local MP. The
  • 15. voting machines can be arranged in a line, interconnected in such a way that the vote will be counted as valid only of the voter presses any one button in all the 18 machines – even if it is the None Of The Above (NOTA) button in all. This arrangement will obviously increase the election expenses as we will need 18 machines per polling station as against one. It may also increase the polling time as the average time taken by a voter to make 18 votes will be more than that for making one vote. So we may need more polling stations or we may need to give more voting time. This will also increase the election expenditure. But it eventually makes substantial savings as a smaller ministry means lesser government expenditure. The other advantages and features of this system are as follows:  The possibility of a hung Parliament is reduced as the ministry is directly elected by the people. Since the question of obtaining a majority in the House does not exist, there will be no political horse trading and unstable coalitions of convenience. Only in the case of NOTA getting the majority a re-polling has to be done either fully or for that particular ministry with a different set of candidates. In this system, the possibility of a confused mandate is marginal as the natural tendency of a voter will be to elect ministers and the MP from the same party.  If in case the mandate is still unclear and it throws up a divided house, with the elected government not having a majority parliamentary party of their own, the MPs can give an issue / policy based support to the government rather than form coalition parties. Disagreement with government policies and projects can be referred for public referendum via signature campaigns and the mandate of that will be binding on the government and the Parliament.  People’s representatives will be at the helm of affairs in ministries while able and competent administrators will be handling the individual departments. These Secretaries of State will be appointed by the ministers and will have a term of 7.5 years so that there can be administrative continuity even in the event of a government change. These non-political officials can be given continuous terms in case of exemplary service so that their expertise and dedication can be fully utilized for the nation.
  • 16.  This system offers more scope for non-political eminent persons to contest elections as independent candidates for any of the posts including that of the Prime Minister. For example Dr. M.S. Swaminathan can contest the elections for the post of Food & Agriculture Minister;AmartyaSen can join the race to be the Finance Minister and Sachin Tendulkar can if he wants compete for the post of Sports Minister. Such eminent people can join the electoral race without having to affiliate with any political party. They can fund their own candidature and election campaign and also accept contributions from the public.  The right to dismiss the whole government or any particular minister will rest with the people. If the opposition party wants to dismiss the government, they have to organize a signature campaign and put it for people’s vote and the whole electorate which voted for the ministry / minister will have to cast the dismissal vote. Proven corruption charges or criminal cases will automatically disqualify a minister or Prime Minister.  The portfolios of the individual ministers can be made interchangeable for administrative convenience. For example the Prime Minster can depute the charge of the Home ministry or Defence to a colleague or take up another portfolio from a colleague, based on mutual consent.  In case of resignation, demise, disqualification or dismissal by public vote of a minister, the Prime Minister can appoint a minister from among the elected MPs and that MP should seek people’s mandate as in a general election, if the government has got a remaining term of more than 6 months. If the replacement happens within the last 6 months of the term, that particular portfolio will be handed over to another minister or taken up by the PM. He can also appoint an MP with the temporary charge till the elections. If the replacement is for the PM, the President can appoint a person from the MPs and he should seek the public vote if there is more than 6 months left for the government. If the replacement happens in the last 6 months of the term, the President can appoint a Cabinet Minister as PM till the elections. The same procedure will apply to the state governments& local body governments also with the CM, Governor or Panchayat President taking charge of the replacement in a similar fashion.
  • 17. 4. THE DECENTRALIZED PARTICIPATORY MINISTRIES & DEPARTMENTS AT NATIONAL, STATE & LOCAL BODY LEVELS The elections for State Assemblies will also be conducted in a similar manner. The Chief Minister and the state cabinet will be elected directly by the people. The number of ministriesand departments will be lesser as Defence and International affairs are not state matters. The local bodies like Panchayats will also have ministries similar to the state, perhaps without the sub departments and also the number of portfolios handled by one minister can be more. This structuring of ministries and departments for the local needs will be determined by the local people’s forum. For example, a coastal village will need a department of fisheries or anartisan’s village needs to have a handicrafts department. These ministries and departments though decentralized will have a centralized participation. For example, the Food and Agriculture ministry at a Panchayat as well as a state government will be automatically a part of the Central Ministry. This is not for imposing the rule from Delhi (which cannot be done in a decentralized power structure), but for direct participation in matters of national and state level policies, projects and laws. The individual local bodies can also directly benefit from national expertise, knowhow and trained manpower if they so desire. This direct interaction will also help to evolve more appropriate national policies, projects and standards with local versions and variants if necessary. The Finance & Revenue ministry will also be decentralized and there will be a treasury at every village and urban local body level. The tax revenue from each local body will go 30% to the local treasury which will also be a village / urban bank. The remaining 70% will go to be state government treasury. 60% of this state revenue will go to the Centre. Local bodies will have financial autonomy within the frame work of the Constitution and national / state norms and policies. The State funding for local body projects will be free money (funds not attached with pre-determined state government schemes) which they
  • 18. can utilize for their approved development projects. The local People’s forum with its Ombudsman will act as a watch dog for all the public works and projects, in order to ensure accountability and curb corruption. THE COMPREHENSIVE PUBLIC SERVANT’S ACT As mentioned earlier in part 3 of the section titled “Outline of the People’s Forum” we need a comprehensive “Public Servant’s Act”. All political parties; socio - political organizations; Community organizations; trade unionswill come under the purview of this Act. There will be special& separate provisions for political parties, socio – political organizations & trade unions. Community and social organizations are also included in this Act as they also exert a major formative influence on the society. The purpose of this Act will be to ensure a democratic style of functioning; an accepted code of conduct for holding demonstrations and protests; submission to the purview of the RTI; Acceptance and submission to the Constitution of India; Clean sourcing of funds &financial transparency etc. Political parties in particular will have to evolve an honest and realistic financial model. Very often the Election Commission’s norms limiting election campaign expenses are unrealistic and arbitrary. It is not possible to reach out to a large electorate with these well-intentioned but crippling limits on the spending. It is quite clear that these limits are not strictly followed by the parties and that there is a lot of unaccounted and black money flowing into the race, which in fact encourages a criminal nexus. This also cripples honest candidates who are in effect forced to start their political careers with a lie about their campaigning expenses. Instead of these arbitrary limits, the EC should fix a rate per voter for the elections, in consultation with the political parties and the local people’s forum. These norms need to be revised periodically based on the rise in expenses due to inflation. The rates will also have regional variations as the amount needed for campaigning among illiterate tribal people will not be the same as that needed to campaign among computer savvy and media guided urban folk. Fixing a rate per voter based on local experience & study of local factors will be more realistic and effective that fixing up an arbitrary amount on the national level.
  • 19. REFERENDUM AND DISMISSAL VOTE PROCEDURES The right for referendum vote is very empowering for the citizen, but casting the vote in traditional manner with polling stations and voting machines for referendum has got many practical problems. It will be very expensive to maintain permanent voting stations and it will also lead to the loss of many valuable working days whenever a referendum vote is declared. So we need a system which will not affect the flow of our daily lives. For that, we need to utilize our IT prowess and principles of e–governance for that. The Unique Identity Card scheme (Aadhar) being implemented now can be used to secure the identity of the voter for referendum vote. There will be two options for referendum – by logging into the website using Aadhar number or through ATM like voting machines. The voting machines will be placed conveniently in government premises like Panchayat offices, Government schools, Citizen Service Centers etc. Citizens who want to use the voting machines will have to take bio metric registration which will be linked to their Aadhar. Voter identity numbers of the EC will also be linked to the Aadhar. The bio metric identity will be valid only locally i.e. only in their hometown / village. If they want to vote out of station, they will have to use the log in option. Since ATMs are in use even in remote villages, illiterate people can also be trained to use the voting machines by the social servants. Biometric identification will enable them to log in and voting machine like buttons will be provided for the Yes / no options. The issue, project, policy or budget for vote will be announced in advance and communicated to the people by the social servants. Those who have are computer literate can log in using the Aadhar number and create a password for the access and vote. Dismissal vote will be treated as a general election and will be conducted by the EC in the traditional manner with polling stations and voting machines. CONCLUSION AND AN APPEAL The ideas outlined in this essay are a set of suggestions to usher in a decentralized, participatory and clean system of government and politics in the country. These ideas need to be brought into the limelight for a national discourse on the same. Only through an engaging discourse with the general public and eminent persons can we evolve appropriate systems and reforms
  • 20. which can make transform India into a true democracy where the government is of the people, for the people and by the people. If the idea outlined in this essay has captured your imagination, please try to popularize it so that it can capture the limelight and lead to a public discussion and debate on it. You are also most welcome to email your suggestions, ideas, feedback and criticisms to the author at coniljos@gmail.com.

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