Amendments to the Constitution of India

28/02/2010

During the leadership of the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the constitution was amended to describe India as a “… Socialist, Secular …” country. The word “socialist” remains in the constitution, though the country has not followed socialism for at least the last 20 years. Thus there is no need to retain this word in the constitution.

Amendments to the constitution become frequent, even if not necessary, when the ruling party has two-thirds majority in parliament. This is one of the reasons as to why the central government should preferably be a coalition of many parties. Big majority for a single party could lead to dictatorial tendencies on the part of its party leader.

Of course, the constitution is not sacrosanct and in fact, it needs to be amended for purposes such as the following:

  1. To divide states into smaller ones for administrative efficiencies
  2. To include languages such as Gond, Kurukh and Bhil in the 8th schedule with a view to preserve and promote these languages spoken by substantial numbers of people
  3. To transfer some subjects from the central and concurrent lists to the state list
  4. To prescribe the number of times one can hold the high offices of the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Chief Minister
  5. To restrict the government from putting money in cash or in kind directly into the pockets of individuals, by way of  imposing a ceiling or some other way, in order that the ruling party does not resort to such welfare schemes with a view to win future elections
  6. Opening branch courts of Supreme Court and High Courts to minimize the inconvenience to litigants
  7. Making regional languages as High Court languages
  8. Raising the age for voting to 25 as at the age of 18, one is not in a position to to decide on the merits of different ideologies, or the suitability of different contestants  (the original age was 21)
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India’s membership in regional/international groups

20/06/2009

In the past India used to be a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth and Non-aligned Movement. But now, one has lost count of the number of organizations or groups in which India is a member or with which India is associated with. Of course, some other countries also have become members of many regional groups, but in the case of India, some of the groups do not seem to be natural. In some cases, there is more to give than to take.

India spends a lot of time and energy of not only the officers but also of Ministers and Prime Minister and President in preparing for and attending the numerous meetings and summits. When more important and urgent work is awaiting VIPs and VVIPs in India, they are made to travel to foreign countries to attend to these meetings. India already has its Embassies and High Commissions and has good bilateral relations with the members of the groups. India can deal with the individual countries without additional efforts through its Missions.

It is time to review the usefulness of India’s membership in or association with some of the following groups in terms of additional trade, investment, political support etc.

  • Bay of Bengal Initaitve for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
    • Member countries: Bangladesh, India, Myammar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal
  • Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC)
    • Member countries: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Tanzania
  • India, Brazil and South Africa Diaglogue Forum (IBSA)
  • Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC)
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
    • Member countries: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan (India has observer status)

Democracy and Dynastic Rule

10/06/2009

When late Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, of Congress Party gave important party positions to her son, opposition parties agitated against the attempt to bring in dynastic rule. At that time, Mrs. Gandhi asked why the country should lose the services of her talented son, merely because he was her son. She claimed that as an individual, her son had the right to do whatever he wanted to, whether to be in politics, business or agriculture. Since then, the states of Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh have seen relatives of politicians – sons, sons-in-law and wifes – occupying positions of dignitary in party or government.

The latest instance is that of Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi of Tamilnadu appointing his son Mr. Stalin as the Deputy Chief Minister. There does not appear to be any opposition to this in the party. The D.M.K party seems to have made it a policy to nominate the wife or son or daughter of deceased members of parliament (MP) or members of legislative assembly (MLA) for elections in the mid-term poll.

In India there are innumerable cases of MPs, MLAs, State and Central Ministers and political party leaders grooming their relatives to succeed them. These politicians use the following logic: the son of an industrialist succeeds his father as the Managing Director or Chairman of the company. Why should not a politician’s son become a politician, that too with the acceptance of the people?

Dynastic rule agitates against the spirit of democracy. Even during the days of the Kings, the people would not have had any objections to the Prince succeeding his father. In some countries, while people want a particular leader to continue to be in power, the constitution of the countries have prescribed a limit of two or three terms for the President/Prime Minister. This is with a view protect democracy and to prevent dictatorship. In this spirit, it may be worthwhile to debate whether some restrictions should be placed on the children and other relatives of political leaders entering politics in order to protect democracy. Of course, after a few years – 3 to 5 years – of retirement of the leaders from politics, their relatives could get their right to participate in politics.