To a very large extent, the present-day crises and problems in governance have their source in the Constitution which we, the people of india weree supposed to have given to ourselves in our Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949. Actually, the Constitution of India is not a revolutionary document. It was not made by Indians in their Constituent Assembly. The Assembly did not have a tabula rasa to write on. The Constitution had had an organic growth through the various stages of the nationalist demands of self-governing institutions, struggle for freedom and reforms grudgingly and haltingly ganted by the British. The primary concern of the British, naturally, was how to rule over India, keep the ‘natives’ weak; divided and control and govern them. Finally, the Government of India Act 1935, the Cabinet Mission Plan and the Indian Independence Act 1947, all drafted by the British to serve their interests, contributed nearly three-fourths of the Constitution of India as it came out of the Constituent Assembly.
No wonder, the entire infrastructure of the Constitution remained colonial. The focus was on organization of the State apparatus, on a political system, on institutions of government, on division of powers, on functionaries and officers-their rights and jurisdictions, etc. There was little emphasis on the principles of governance or traditional values in Indian political thought. Whatever little thought was given to governance got relegated to the non-enforceable Directive Principles part of the Constitution, perhaps, the only place where our Constitution uses the term ‘governance’ is in article 37 under the Directive principles. Article 37 speaks of certain ‘principles’ being ‘fundamental’ in the governance of the country but not enforceable by any court. Adherence to some of these fundamental principles of governance would require the state to secure.
• a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people with socio economic and political justice for all (article 38(1)).
• mininization of inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities among individuals and groups of people (article 38(2)).
• right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens, men and women, equally (article 39(a));
• opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity (article 39(f));
• right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness disablement etc. (article 4 1);
• just and humane conditions ofwork and maternity relief (article 42);
• a living wage for workers with conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure (article 43);
• raising the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health (article 47);
• protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life (article 48A);
These and other fundamental principles of good governance ordained by the Constitution are defiled, defaced and debunked openly almost daily and yet nobody can do anything. If these were given the status of enforceable fundamental rights, the story of the Constitution in the 21st Century, would have been very different and much less distressing than what it is today.
It is often said that there was nothing wrong with the Constitution and if it failed, those working it must be vile. But, it cannot be ignored that the vile were the products of this Constitution-its demands, constraints, compulsions and the system established under it. For example, the electoral system under the Constitution encouraged and necessitated the role of vote mathematics of vote banks, corruption, black money, criminalization, casteism, communalism, violence and mafia power.
Nehru had told the Constituent Assembly that the first task of the Assembly was ‘to free India through a new Constitution, to feed the starving people and clothe the naked masses and give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity’. He had added that if the Constitution failed to solve the basic problems poor the starving it ‘will become useless and purposeless. Even after half a century of its working, the Constitution failed to give ‘clothes to the naked’ and ‘food to the hungry as Nehru had wanted it to do. The number of poor and illiterates increased many-fold during the last 59 years. More than a lakh villages still do not have drinking water and in many villages, animals and human beings use the same village pond for meeting all their water needs from dawn to dusk. still, there are fellow Indians who live on food grains retrieved from washing cow dung. However, beyond the pious wishes of the Directive Principles and hopes of men like Nehru, today, India is rated among the most corrupt nations of the world and has the largest number of illiterates and poor. A prominent Communist Party (CPI) leader a very fine man, Shri Indrajit Gupta as the Union Home Minister in the Janata Government, despite his leftist moorings, was not ashamed of confessing that he could do nothing to remove the role of crime and criminals in politics. The Constitution contained no machinery for ensuring good governance and for solving the basic problems of underdevelopment, backwardness, poverty, illiteracy, hunger, housing, clothing, corruption and the like.
In the midst of dismal poverty, abysmal illiteracy and alarming inequalities, a functioning participatory democracy is inconceivable.
The framers of the Constitution did not seem to have foreseen a situation where the concept of collective ministerial responsibility to the Lok Sabha would tend to absolve the Ministers of all responsibility to the people at large and where the government would become so dependent on shifting party loyalties and temporary majorities. Also,ther could hardly visualize how with all the electoral corruption and 4 p – m ; with the majority of members getting elected on minority of votes, even the representative character of the rulers would come to be seriously doubted.
With a view to arrest the trend of unprincipled defections by legislators and the growing instability in governments, the Constitution of india was amended and the 10th schedule, better known as the anti-defection law, was added.But it failed miserably and the Constitution 91st Amendment, 2003 also has not helped much. The spectacle of unethically engineered or defection-manipulated majorities or of several successive hung Legislatures or coalition governments of disparate elements coming together solely for sharing the fruits of power and including some of the goon leaders with criminal records or otherwise doubthl antecedents, are all matters of grave concern and go counter to requirements of good governance.
Things appear even more distressing when we find that in all spheres of life, in all professions, there is a general devaluation of values and de-institutionalization of institutions.Enough has been written and spoken about the problems of communalization, criminalization, casteism, growth of narrow identities and loyalties, widespread corruption, abject poverty, rampant illiteracy, over-population and lack of quality leadership.
The system under which we live has led to and nurtured an axis between the businessman, the politician, the civil servant, the police and the criminal. In large parts of India, Marx seems to have been proved right as the State appears to have withered away. There is no sign of administration. Mafia gangs rule. An ugly atmosphere of near anarchy prevails. The scepter of civil war and caste and communal war stare us in the face. We are counted among the most corrupt nations of the world. Things have come to such a pass that the other day in an open column in a national daily, a writer had no compunction in advocating take over of the nation’s governance by the armed forces as the only way out to stem the rot.
The chief concern of the Constitution should be to try to evolve a polity which would attract better quality of persons-men and women of character and competence-to public service and enable them to assume political responsibility and leadership roles at various levels.
They should sacrifice their normal vocations for short and fixed periods to serve the people and discharge their duties as citizens. The system should be purged of the whole-time professional politicians who have no other vocation and no known sources of making a living.
What has become a categorical imperative is clean and quality governance as it affects the lives of the people. The essential pre-requisites for governance are that the system should be good and suited to the needs, aspirations, background and ethos of the people concentrated. Those selected for operating the system should be endowed with character and competence and motivated by the spirit of public service.