Indians repeatedly proclaim their parliament as the temple of democracy. But as India celebrates its 68th Independence Day they are bent on defiling this temple; not consecrating it. Veteran journalist T.J.S. George’s says, “Before Independence we had great parliamentarians but no parliament. Today we have a grand Parliament House but no parliamentarians”.
Dean E. McHenry, Jr from Claremont Graduate University asks “How can India be considered ‘the world’s largest democracy’ when its parliamentary institutions appear dysfunctional?” A central requisite of democracy is the need for a legislature where thoughtful debate among elected representatives produces public policy but if India’s legislatures do not function properly then India is not a democracy!
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi stands up on the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi to deliver yet another rousing speech on Independence Day he needs to address this fundamental challenge; his pet obsessions, Make in India, Clean India, Skill India, Digital India and a litany of other platitudes can wait. This is a threat to India and its democracy is in peril; beware, the dysfunctional parliaments in Italy and Spain in the 1930s caused the rise of fascism.
This monsoon session is coming to a close with virtually no legislative work transacted; on the penultimate day the Lok Sabha (Lower House of India’s Parliament) finally debated the Lalit Modi saga but the country is no wiser as to why its Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj decided to keep her own ministry in the dark while extending help to Lalit Modi. She very cleverly turned the attention of the house to past scandals and misdemeanours of the Congress Party and in particular to the Gandhi family. Her rebuttal was feisty but she prevaricated and she will survive the calls for her resignation.
And that was the precise reason why the Congress Party was keen to stall the debate and demand her resignation. With just 44 MPs, that was always going to be a bridge too far and it finally capitulated and agreed to a debate but it remains to be seen if the all- important Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill will get passed. The monsoon session is a wipe out.
The central question to be asked is, why does the Indian Parliament unlike other parliaments resort to this extreme measure of disruption and unruly behaviour? Rushing into the well of the house is simply unheard of anywhere else and even the normally taciturn and aloof Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi was seen inching towards the speaker gesticulating and visibly angry. And the abiding impression of this monsoon session may well be of that arresting picture, her upraised hand and her face contorted with anger; and the cynic would say at last she shows us her real face!
Form of obstruction
Filibustering is not unknown. The US Congress is a regular witness to this tactic and ‘talking a bill to death’ is a standard form of obstruction to prevent a vote on a proposal. This strategy is employed routinely and has come to be accepted as legitimate. But no other parliament believes it has an inherent right to disrupt and bring the entire legislative process to a standstill. In India the parliamentarians genuinely believe it is their birthright to shut down the house.
This is heresy, a sacrilege committed within the precincts of the temple of democracy. And when Arun Jaitely, suave and a lawyer of high repute says, “disruption of parliament is a parliamentary tactic” then India’s democracy does indeed face a threat. Many reasons have been put forward for this fear that India’s shrine to democracy will ultimately get desecrated; this central instrument for change which its founding fathers so fondly nurtured will slowly wither away and imperil India’s tryst with destiny. The slide actually started in 1990s particularly after the media was allowed to cover the proceedings, for parliamentarians now were not addressing their peers but the constituency outside the house.
Dean McHenry hints at much deeper causes. He feels Mahatma Gandhi’s tactics of disrupting imperial rule when India was fighting for its independence is far too imbedded in India’s politicians. Agitational politics has always been at the heart of India’s politics of change; whether societal or legislative.
Indeed McHenry even grudgingly conceeds that however warped or deformed the Indian Parliament may be these unseemly disruptions do bring about positive change. He cites quite a few instances where these tactics have resulted in change which otherwise would not have been possible. The infamous scams during the Congress rule earlier would not have got the nation’s attention without these methods.
Yet India’s Parliament faces a monumental challenge. It needs to be restored to its rightful place in the nation’s life. Modi on his first day as prime minister bowed and kissed the steps at the entrance as he entered Parliament House. Sadly he has not shown much respect to this august house thereafter. He was entirely missing during the recent acrimonious debate. And that was telling. As prime minister it is his prime responsibility to bring back the dignity owed to parliament.
He would do well to recall on India’s 68th Independence Day the nation’s first prime minister’s stirring words on that distant day in the August of 1947. Whatever else may be Nehru’s fault he never took parliament for granted!
Ravi Menon is a Dubai-based writer, working on a series of essays on India and on a public service initiative called India Talks.
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Following are the topics on which our followers have written (and writing essays) every Sunday to hone their essay writing skills. The topics are chosen based on UPSC previous year topics. Writing one essay on each Sunday will help you get better marks in this paper.
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ESSAY STRATEGY by Topper – Rank 25 CSE 2015
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WEEKLY UPSC IAS ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2018
- March 11, 2018: A friend to everybody is a friend to nobody
- March 04, 2018: Capitalism can not Bring Inclusive Growth
- February 25, 2018: The unprecedented advance of technologies facilitate individual empowerment but at the cost of Institutions and Democratic societies
- February 18, 2018: Threats being Faced by Liberal Democratic Systems are both Dangerous and Permanent
- February 11, 2018: For India, Stigmatised Capitalism is Better than Crony Socialism
- February 04, 2018: Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.
- January 28, 2018: Politics of Identity is the Politics of the Weak
- January 21, 2018: Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime
- January 14, 2018: Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding
- January 07, 2018: The Root Cause of Agrarian Distress in India – Failure of Policies or Failure of Governance?
WEEKLY UPSC IAS ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2017
- December 31, 2017: Impact of the new economic measures on fiscal ties between the union and states in India
- December 24, 2017: Fulfilment of ‘new woman’ in India is a myth
- December 17, 2017: Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.
- December 10, 2017: Farming has lost the ability to be a source of subsistence for majority of farmers in India
- December 03, 2017: Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms
- November 19, 2017: Has the Non- Alignment Movement(NAM) lost its relevance in a multipolar world
- November 12, 2017: Social media is inherently a selfish medium.
- November 04, 2017: We may brave human laws but cannot resist natural laws
- October 29, 2017: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
- October 22, 2017: Harith Diwali, Swasth Diwali : What measures are needed to deal with Festivity and Air Pollution?
- October 15, 2017: Biggest Threat to Humanity – Moral Crisis or Climate Change?
- October 08, 2017: The monsoon is a defining aspect of India’s nationhood
- October 01, 2017: India’s Infrastructure Story – Why is India not able to Build like China?
- September 24, 2017: Impact of Digital Technologies on Globalisation
- September 17, 2017: Urbanisation and Solid Waste Management in India – Challenges and Opportunities
- September 10,2017: Gender Equality and Peace: Are They Connected?
- September 03, 2017: Recent Natural Disasters – What do they Reveal about Humanity?
- August 27, 2017: Godmen – A Threat to Indian Society and Culture
- August 20, 2017: Corruption in India: Neither Systemic Reforms nor Surgical Strikes would End it
- August 13,2017: Interrelationship between Gender Equality and Sustainable Development
- August 06, 2017: Utility and relevance of Parliament in our polity
- July 30, 2017: Caste System – Source of India’s Eternal Inequality?
- July 23, 2017: Indian Democracy, Media and Public Opinion – Does Public Opinion Matter in Policymaking?
- July 16, 2017: Poverty and Environment – Their Interrelationship is the Key to Sustainable World
- July 09, 2017: Soft Power is India’s Strength, not its Weakness
- July 02, 2017: Technology and Jobs – Is Technology a Curse?
- June 25, 2017: Democracy’s Relevance in the Face of New Global Threats
- June 18, 2017: Federalism in India – Competitive or Cooperative?
- June 11, 2017: Peace, Environment and Development: Are these Interrelated?
- June 04, 2017: Role of Technology in Development – Is Technology Helping or Hindering Development?
- May 28, 2017: Poverty is a State of Mind
- May 21, 2017: Does India Need Superpower Status?
- May 14, 2017: India’s Achilles Heel – Lack of Ambition or Lack of Leadership in Achieving Greatness?
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- April 29, 2017: The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation
- April 23, 2017: To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom
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- April 09, 2017: Should Youth in India Consider Politics as Career?
- April 02, 2017: Can World Save Succeeding Generations from the Scourge of War?
- March 26, 2017: Low, stagnating female labour-force participation in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms?
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- March 05, 2017: Environmental Challenges and Geopolitics: How to save our Environment?
- February 27, 2017: Radical Solutions are Needed to Address Today’s Radical Problems
- February 19, 2017: India’s Importance in the Post-truth World
- February 12, 2017: The Role of Politics in Development
- February 05, 2017: Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored
- January 29, 2017: Building Walls and Banning Refugees – Does this Help Humanity?
- January 22, 2017: Digital economy: A leveller or a source of economic inequality
- January 15, 2017: Cyberspace and internet: Blessing or curse to the human civilization in the long run
- January 08, 2017: Water disputes between states in federal India
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WEEKLY UPSC IAS ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2016
- (December 25, 2016) – Cooperative federalism: Myth or reality
- (December 18, 2016) – Innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare
- (December 11, 2016) – Near jobless growth in India: An anomaly or an outcome of economic reforms
- (December 04, 2016) – If development is not engendered, it is endangered
- (November 27, 2016) – Social media is better at breaking things than at making things
- (November 20, 2016) – Deglobalization is good for the world
- (November 12, 2016) – Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others
- (November 06, 2016) – It is not inequality which is the real misfortune, it is dependence
- (October 30, 2016) – Reducing Poverty while also Conserving Nature is an Impossible Task
- (October 23, 2016) – Poverty can be eliminated by putting science at the heart of development
- (October 16, 2016) – People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people
- (October 09, 2016) – Better Access is Key to Inclusive Cities
- (October 02, 2016) – The weaker sections of Indian society – Are their Rights and Access to Justice Getting Better?
- (September 25, 2016) – Imagination is more important than intelligence
- (September 18, 2016) – Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life
- (September 11, 2016) – Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance
- (September 04, 2016) – It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it
- (August 28, 2016) – If one can Address Moral Crisis, many of World’s Problems can be Solved
- (August 21, 2016) – Overdependence on Technology will Advance Human Development
- (August 14, 2016) – Geography may remain the same ; history need not
- (August 07, 2016) – Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom
- (July 31, 2016) – To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all
- (July 24, 2016) – True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing
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- (July 10, 2016) – A house divided against itself cannot stand
- (July 02, 2016) – When the going gets tough, the tough get going
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- (June 12, 2016) – No one can make you feel inferior without your consent
- (June 05, 2016) – Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted
- (May 29, 2016) – It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere
- (May 22, 2016) – Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress
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- (May 08, 2016) – The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
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- (April 10, 2016) – Cleanliness is next to Godliness
- (April 03, 2016) – Honesty is the Best Policy
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- (March 13, 2016) – Fortune favors the bold
- (March 06, 2016) – Quick but steady wins the race
- (February 28, 2016) – Dreams which should not let India sleep
- (February 21, 2016) – Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole
- (February 14, 2016) – Technology cannot replace manpower
- (February 7, 2016) – Character of an institution is reflected in its leader
- (January 31, 2016) – Can Capitalism bring Inclusive Growth?
- (January 24, 2016) – Crisis Faced in India – Moral or Economic?
- (January 17, 2016) – Too many cooks spoil the broth
- (January 10, 2016) – The Best Things in Life are Free
- (January 3, 2016) – Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
WEEKLY ESSAY WRITING CHALLENGES – 2015
- 27 December 2015
- 20 December 2015
- 13 December 2015
- 06 December 2015
- 28 November 2015
- 21 November 2015
- 15 November 2015
- 08 November 2015
- 01 November 2015
- 25 October 2015
- 18 October 2015
- 11 October 2015
- 04 October 2015
- 27 September 2015
- 20 September 2015
- 13 September 2015
- 06 September 2015
- 31 August 2015
- 30 August 2015
- 23 August 2015
- 16 August 2015
- 09 August 2015
- 01 August 2015
- 26 July 2015
- 19 July 2015
- 12 July 2015
- 05 July 2015
- 28 June 2015
- 21 June 2015
- 14 June 2015
- 07 June 2015
- 31 May 2015
- 24 May 2015
- 17 May 2015
- 10 May 2015
- 03 May 2015
- 26 April 2015
- 19 April 2015
- 12 April 2015
- 05 April 2015
- 29 March 2015
- 22 March 2015
- 15 March 2015
- 01 March 2015
- 22 February 2015
- 15 February 2015
- 08 February 2015
- 01 February 2015
- 25 January 2015
- 18 January 2015
- 11 January 2015
- 04 January 2015