Monday, December 26, 2011

Imperfect Democracies

Vasu Reddy From Chicago

Throughout the documented history of mankind democratically governed countries have prospered and found ways to reinvent themselves when in danger of extremist governance.  Communist rulers, dictators and oppressive regimes come to abrupt or violent end when people in these regimes begin to feel the need for freedom of actions and speech.  However difficult it is to endure a democratic government, it is still only as good as the current term and people can vote the elected government out if the governance doesn’t meet the demands of the general public.

History repeatedly points to the success of democracies where people decide on the elected government and its leaders for a definite period of time and when the elected officials don’t deliver to their promises they typically get voted out with a new team of government.  Each government in its term typically sticks to its election promises and with proper planning, support from the economy and industry and good weather and good harvests, typically can deliver to their election agenda and promises.  It is cyclical to have natural and manmade disasters that greatly impact the delivery of election promises by any government.  Great governance comes with proper planning along with cooperation from the general market conditions and also nature’s cooperation, along with stable international markets and conditions.
We know that much of the global indicators point to overall stability with the international communities with trade and governance, both internal to each of the countries, but also to the overall global communities.  Many of the global recessions that we can trace account for rogue regimes inflicting undue burden on the rest of the international communities.  Although individual countries might function with proper planning and governance, the impact they have because of the other countries’ economies and governance is felt irrespective of the individual good governance.

India is going through a phase where it has a fairly uncomplicated prime minister who has the reputation of a clean politician, but his entire stable of functionaries and the major departments continue to foster great scams that are unprecedented.  At the same time we have a gandhian who is pushing for ombudsman to contain and eliminate the graft in the country.  The prime minister has taken steps for deploying the ombudsman which is a first step towards meeting the demands of general public not just Anna Hazare or his team.  The entire Indian population is in support of the ombudsman and wants the politicians to adhere to a non graft system, and will encourage the elected officials and also bureaucrats to agree to conditions that will lead the society away from graft and punish the individuals that ask for favors while delivering to their prescribed jobs.
Anna is not the first person to voice against graft and will not be the last person to do so.  He is instrumental in encouraging the entire country to rally for a graft free society.  There is nothing more commendable than the awareness he has brought to the ombudsman in India, and his proposals are well tabled with the general public and the elected politicians.

Now it is time for the public to first start accepting the various forms of ombudsman so there is a beginning to the end of graft as we now know in India.  The very acceptance by the government and the opposition parties that graft exists and it needs to be dealt with immediately is a great step to begin the process of eliminating the entrenched attitudes of the politicians that they deserve to take money and favors for what they are supposed to be delivering to the people who elected them.
While delivering an all encompassing ombudsman in one session is practically dictatorial in a democracy, it is appropriate to first accept that there is a general issue of graft which is growing larger and larger each day, and the government at all levels is willing to adhere to anti graft regulations is the start of tackling the issues from where it arises.

Be it top down or bottom up, making graft a crime is absolutely necessary for the well being of the country and its meager resources.  Whatever we have left as national resources should be best used for the people of the country and not for the benefit of a select few, and legislation and appropriate regulation against graft is essential for good governance and democracy of India.  To drive the process at a speed with which the elected officials and surrounding bureaucracy is unyielding may not result in cooperation of the system that needs to move away from demanding and accepting graft as a normal conduct.  We must allow for debate and determination among the elected officials and then their support structures for ombudsman to be successfully implemented in a democracy where everyone has their handout for the least amount of work they deliver to the general public.
While we need a comprehensive ombudsman, it needs to be delivered through a democratic process and should involve the people’s opinions at large and make the elected and appointed officials accountable for their actions, while being available for common man to be able to reach out to the law to take its course when there is a handout to do work that is a right of every citizen.  If it takes multiple revisions so be it as long as the process of anti graft movement is in full force.  That is what democracies are supposed to work with, and have been successful in choosing elected leaders those who promise to deliver and the office bearers will only get reelected if they deliver to their promises.  

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