Yes to Empowerment – No to Diktats

“If large-scale corruption is detected in any municipality, the government will not hesitate to initiate severe action, including dissolving the elected body. Public representatives are mistaken if they think they can fleece the people and remain indifferent to their problems” – this is a report of CM’s outburst carried in a newspaper. The CM was understandably annoyed on seeing garbage strewn all over the place on his surprise visit to Rajendra Nagar. He hauled up both the municipal chairman and the Municipal commissioner.

Fiscal Devolution – Thinking Outside the Box

align="left">The Union budget for fiscal year 2005-2006 is due in just over two weeks.  This is the period during which a lot of pressure is usually brought to bear on the Finance Minister (FM) to increase budgetary allocations for this or that panacea to transform India and eliminate mass poverty.  With greater continuity and stability in the tax regime the usual excitement about tax rates and the guessing games have been missing in recent years.  Therefore, much of the debate is about allocations, expenditure and fiscal deficits.

Fiscal Devolution – Thinking Outside the Box

The Union budget for fiscal year 2005-2006 is due in just over two weeks.  This is the period during which a lot of pressure is usually brought to bear on the Finance Minister (FM) to increase budgetary allocations for this or that panacea to transform India and eliminate mass poverty.  With greater continuity and stability in the tax regime the usual excitement about tax rates and the guessing games have been missing in recent years.  Therefore, much of the debate is about allocations, expenditure and fiscal deficits.

Choice, Competition, and Politics

dir="ltr">A glaring feature of this election is the large number of politicians switching party loyalties before the polls. In states where Assembly elections are held simultaneously, these pre-election defections are even more glaring. The ninety-seventh amendment to the Constitution, which became law only a few weeks ago, disqualifies all elected legislators who violate party whip irrespective of the size of the defecting faction. The earlier provision recognizing a ‘split’ if a third of the members defect has been repealed. But no law can prevent the pre-election defection.

Fruits of Freedom - for Whom?

A large-sized district in India is larger than about eighty (80) nation-states in the world in terms of population. Most of our larger states would be among the large nations of the world. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and West Bengal - each would be the largest nation in Europe if independent. Even a truncated Uttar Pradesh would be the world's sixth largest nation!

Given these mind-boggling demographic realities, coupled with unmatched diversity, our centralized, somewhat imperial style of governance is archaic and ineffective.

We, the middle class, must take to politics

dir="ltr">The low polling percentage in MCH elections – about 50% – has raised many eyebrows. Elections are the very lifeblood of a democracy. Honest and capable citizens freely chosen as their representatives in a fair election process constitute the essence of good governance. An election is therefore about ‘who’ get elected, ‘how’ the election is conducted and ‘what’ they do after the election. Elections involve organization of political parties, evolving a platform, mobilizing public opinion, campaigning to convey the message to the voters, and obtaining support to get elected.

Local Governments and Fiscal Management

Local governments have been constitutionally mandated with the enactment of the 73rd and 74th amendments in 1993.  Sadly, the Constitution only provides for over-structured and underpowered local governments. The results are mixed. The role of local governments as schools for democracy is well recognised.  Chittaranjan Das, Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhashchandra Bose, Prakasam Pantulu and several other stalwarts started their political careers in local governments.