Change of Players vs Rules of The Game

align="left">This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the most defining event of our republic’s history – the imposition of ‘emergency’ during the midnight of June 25-26, 1975.  Thirty years is a long enough period to enable us to take a dispassionate, objective view of the tumultuous events of that period.

Quick Fixes or Reinvention of Government?

align="left">The Union cabinet recently decided to appoint the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC), and a group of ministers has been constituted to finalize the terms of reference. This is in keeping with the UPA government’s commitment, and the Prime Minister’s oft-repeated concern about revamping the delivery system.

Time for an All-India Judicial Service

Rule of law is the essence of modern civilization and democratic governance. Delayed justice, poor appreciation of evidence, and incapacity to apply constitutional and legal principles to real-life situations play havoc with people’s lives. In particular, the economic life of a society revolves round contractual obligations, enforcement of rights, conformity with various laws protecting the environment and citizens, and fair, impartial and effective application of various tax and other laws. Failure of justice extracts a heavy toll from the society and economy.

Unorganized Sector – Intentions vs Outcomes

One of the great challenges confronting India is amelioration of the plight of the unorganized workers. NSS estimates show that about 370 million workers belonged to this category in 1999-2000. Of them, about 240 million are engaged in agriculture as owner-cultivators and wage labourers. Of the remaining 130 million non-agricultural workers, about 40 million are engaged in manufacturing, 37 million each in trade and other services, and the remaining in construction.

Incentives in Politics and Politician – Bashing

President Abdul Kalam made strong observations about the “dubious and undemocratic” political practices prevalent.  He rightly said, “When politics degrades itself into political adventurism, the nation would be on the calamitous road to inevitable disaster and ruination.  Let us not risk it”.

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.

Constitution and Challenges of Federalism

align="left">We have just completed 55 years as a Republic, and this is a good opportunity to introspect.  With great hope and expectation, the members of the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution on November 26, 1949, and the new Republic came into existence on 26 January, 1950.  By any standard it was an extraordinary occasion.

Justice, Rights and Poverty

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The history of the past century taught us that individual initiative, free enterprise, and fair competition are the best guarantors of wealth-creation. However, markets alone cannot promote growth unless the state creates conditions for stability and harmony, and ensures creation of public goods and the necessary infrastructure.  Infrastructure at least is talked about, but harmony is ignored.

Towards a National Health Service

align="left">In many ways the 2004 Lok Sabha election verdict is an expression of discontent by the poor and dispossessed. But the verdicts are not against economic reform; they are for a more inclusive growth process that meets the aspirations and basic needs of the underprivileged.

Can We Improve Delivery?

India has a functioning democracy and several institutions and practices ensure checks and balances and a modicum of governance. And yet, every government feels handicapped in delivering on its promises.