People's Forum - a decentralized participatory democratic model for India
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
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
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
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
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
2. A PARTICIPATORY
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
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-
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.
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
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
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.
CBI and all police force right from Commissioners to
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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 email@example.com.