Thursday, September 20, 2018 Last Updated 3 Min 4 Sec ago Malayalam Edition
Todays E paper
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Major General Jacob Tharakan Chacko, Sena Medal
Tuesday 27 Mar 2018 12.55 PM

EQUITABLE DEMOCRACY

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Logic and oratory seldom decide issues in the Indian Parliament but “numbers” do. It is the number of representatives of a party, a group of parties or a region that finally decides, what happens or doesn’t happen in the Parliament and the country. Parties, muster, manage, manoeuvre or muscle adequate strength to legislate policies and programmes that, it thinks, will improve its winnability in the next election. The party in power, with an eye on the treasury benches in the next elections, legislates for short term political gains. Although, actions of the house are “Nationalistic”, “progressive”, aimed at removing disparities and ensuring equality, closer look will reveal, that decisions, influenced by the number of representatives in the house, gravitate towards a specific region or a class of people. Thus, democracy today, is all
about numbers and for numbers.

Democracy, governance by the people, for the people and of the people, should ensure equal representation. In the current scenario, population “numbers” alone seems to decide, who gets what. Each state of the Republic, though considered equal, are differentially represented and those states, with more representation in the Parliament, effectively influence the outcome of the Parliament. This inequality in representation, leads to preferential asset sharing and resource distribution. This could have devastating effects and eventually, inflict injuries to India as a Nation. Indian
democracy, having adopted “population numbers” as the measure of equality, has ceased to be an “equitable” democracy. All states, irrespective of its geographical size or demographic weightage, must be equally represented. Why should one state be
more represented than the other?

Advocates of democracy driven by the “masses” could vehemently defend the current system of delimitation. Democracy, preaches and so must practice equal representation to all. If States were created based on parameters other than “population numbers”, then, size of the population alone cannot be the defining parameter for federal structure of existence. The difference between intentions and execution has led to differential representation of states of the union, in the Parliament. The fundamental yardstick of delimitation, currently in vogue, is the “size of the
population”. It just means that, larger the population of a state, more the number of seats in the parliament and therefore louder its say in the proceedings of the house. This, especially in coalition politics, ensures strong bargaining power for states with more members of Parliament. Successive delimitation Commissions, adequately empowered, should have grappled with the issue but desisted from doing so. Even
affected states haven’t questioned the terms of reference.

The latest Commission, headed by Justice Kuldeep Singh, adopted status quo, recommending, “freezing the number of parliamentary seats for each state”. The rationale behind “the freeze”, prima facie, is to protect states, which wholeheartedly embraced population control measures. The sheer lack of logic, in making “population”, the fundamental parameter for deciding representation and a sense of fair play inherent to the judicial mind, would have forced Justice Kuldeep Singh to recommend status quo, in terms of number of seats till 2026. Though, status quo
prevents further damages, there is neither guarantees nor incentives for states which comply with programmes that purportedly further National aims. Allocation of resources by the Centre to the States, also depends on population
numbers. The gazette constituting the 15th Finance Commission, tasked with making recommendations, for the five years commencing from first April 2020, is proof enough.

The terms of reference, for the Commission headed by Mr NK Singh, at para 8, stipulates that “the commission shall use the population data of 2011 while making its recommendations” mandating “population data” to be the most significant factor for arriving at recommendations. If population figures dictate the basis of fiscal partnership, states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which through steadfast implementation of programmes steered by the Centre, to improve female literacy and limit its population growth, would end up serious losers. Does it mean that being truant would have been better for these states? Kerala significantly contributes to the National exchequer through huge volumes of foreign remittances. As per reports, Kerala, dubbed as “money order economy”, is believed to have the highest amount of money deposited in NRI accounts. Kerala, has also been consistently amongst the highest consumer societies in the country and supports a very large population of migrant labour resulting in huge cash outflow to other parts of the country. Kerala, is a significant mover for the Indian economy. If fiscal
allocation from the centre to the states is primarily based on population strength, Kerala would end up the biggest and worst loser. Kerala will not be the lone sufferer if the population-based matrix is used to distribute resources.

Tamil Nadu too, would stand to lose. If perpetuated, the concept of population-based resource allocation could, one day, lead to things much larger. Is it time now to shift policy making and governance from being mob driven to being logic driven?” Shifting to equal representation of all states in the Parliament and the retaining nomination for the distinct minority would mean that, each of the twenty-eight states gets 19 seats and union territories get one each. Though, this proposal would be castigated, as outrageous and bordering on the fringes of lunacy, if invoked, it can turn the current system on its head and assure a much better, more equitable and representative governance for the population. Eventually it would turn out to be the most significant step towards ensuring inclusiveness in National Governance. No state, would be left behind, no factions can dictate terms and the country as a whole would get equal representation, equal voice and fulfil, the essence of democracy in its true sense and spirit. As far as fiscal partaking is concerned, the governing policy must mandate incentivisation for policy compliance, target achievement and adherence to directives.

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Major General Jacob Tharakan Chacko, Sena Medal
Tuesday 27 Mar 2018 12.55 PM
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