Political Process – Problem or Solution?

On June 28, the Election Commission gave effect to an earlier judgement of the Supreme Court by making candidates’ disclosure of criminal record, educational qualifications and financial details mandatory. This was based on the Supreme Court’s decision that the electors have a right to know about the candidate whom they choose for public office. As the Court pointed out, the Commission has the authority to act under Article 324 of the Constitution, and wherever there is void in legislation, it ought to step in.

Perils of Westminster Model

The events of the past one month in Maharashtra hold a mirror to the crisis in our democratic polity.  Once again, the nation witnessed buying and selling of legislators, party hopping, back room deals, political instability, holding MLAs captive in tourist resorts in other states, a vote of confidence, and the usual scramble for loaves of office in the impending cabinet expansion.  This has been seen in several states all over the country over the years.  Now this culture of ayarams and gayarams has inflicted a grievous blow to India’s most prosperous state.

Politics of Fiefdoms

The Gujarat carnage over the past few weeks and the continual Kashmir imbroglio deflected national attention from a momentous event in the evolution of our democracy. On May 12, we have successfully completed 50 years of our parliament. This is a rare achievement among post-war democracies. There is a lot to celebrate. We are a robust and cheerful democracy. Our people treasure the freedoms guaranteed to us under the Constitution. Elections have been held to Lok Sabha under the Constitution of our new republic without break since 1952.

Market Economy and Self-correcting Institutions

An efficient market economy needs effective and independent regulators, speedy justice and mechanisms to enact laws to protect the investors and citizens. These are the lessons we in India need to learn from the US response to the collapse of Enron. It soon became the world's largest electricity and natural gas trading company.

Agricultural Power – Impossible Best Vs Possible Good

One sector, the management of which will make or mar India’s economic future is electricity. For over a decade we have been incessantly talking of power sector reform, and yet the results, so far at least, have been disheartening. We focused on the one area which has been our strong point – generation, and ignored distribution which is our weakest link. As a result, hardly any private investment – domestic or foreign – materialized. Only about 6700 MW private generation capacity came up – a third of the expected investment.

Regional Disparities Pose Danger to Unity

One of the great challenges confronting contemporary India is the growing regional disparities. Prof. Amaresh Bagchi and NJ Kurian point out that the percapita income (1996-99) of Maharashtra is Rs 19,248 and that of Bihar is Rs 5,465. This maximum / minimum ratio was 1.87 in 1960-63, 2.50 in 1970-73, 3.28 between 1987-90 and is now at 3.52. The high-income states of Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana, with a population share of 20% account for 33.8% of NSDP. Their share of NSDP was 27.6% in 1970-71.

A Refreshing Breath of Fresh Air from Maharashtra

With the approval of the Bill to replace POTO by the joint session of Parliament, one of the most contentious chapters in our legislative history comes to a close. Now the ball will be in the law courts. Judiciary is the last bastion of defence against abuse of authority and arbitrary exercise of powers. We need a competent and clean judiciary, particularly in subordinate courts, to render justice and protect our liberties.

How Do We Desubsidize Painlessly

One of the recurring themes of Indian public expenditure and budget making in the last decade is the fiscal rigidities making it difficult for governments to change policies and priorities. In the Union budget, interest payments, defence expenditure, transfer of resources to States and wages are more or less inflexible, and there is no room for manoeuvering. It is now axiomatic that subsidies cannot be removed without incurring high political and social costs.

Is State Only a Necessary Evil?

Classical liberals (libertarians) are intelligent, articulate, freedom-loving people. Unlike the “bleeding heart” liberals of the US, libertarians hate big-government, and are particularly opposed to centralized state or bureaucratic control. In much of this opposition and love of liberty, they are right. The history of 20th century is the triumph of liberalism against fascist authoritarianism and collectivist totalitarianism. It is now axiomatic that the government which governs the least is the best government.

Doing Better, and Feeling Worse

Reviewing the health care in the United States twenty-five years ago, the prestigious 'Daedalus' magazine coined the expression "Doing better, and feeling worse". That description certainly fits our economic scene.

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