by Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was right when he said the world was laughing at us because we had made a mockery of our democratic system, where the opposition stalls functioning of Parliament instead of debating contentious issues.
He was referring to the belligerent posturing of the opposition over the law minister's blunder in summoning the CBI's coal scam probe status report prior to its submission to the Supreme Court and then the agency giving a false assurance to the judges that contents of the report had not been shared with the political executive.
The PM is right. We have in reality made a mockery of the democratic system. In more ways than one, we the people of India have cheated ourselves through our representatives, whom we had chosen to give us good governance and guide us to achieve the objectives which we promised ourselves in the Preamble of the Constitution.
More than 64 years ago, during the Constituent Assembly debate, India's to-be-first-President Dr Rajendra Prasad articulated the path ahead for people's representatives. He had said, "To all we give the assurance that it will be our endeavour to end poverty and squalor and its companions, hunger and diseases; to abolish distinction and exploitation and to ensure decent conditions of living."
Did the endeavour articulated by Rajendra Prasad remain genuine in the coming decades? Have we eradicated poverty and hunger? Here we are in 2013 when the Planning Commission says he who spends Rs 32 on himself a day is not poor. Is Rs 32 a day enough to eradicate poverty? Isn't this mocking the poor? Should the world not laugh at our make-believe endeavour when hundreds of farmers commit suicide because of debt-laden poverty and accompanied hunger?
Is it not paradoxical that those who grow foodgrains for the entire population find themselves among the lowest income group? Who has robbed them of their rightful earnings? Who has benefited by squeezing them dry? Do they not have a legitimate right to claim a small piece of the cake that the democratic system has given to a select few who thrive on their sweat and hard work?
Poverty and lack of a sustainable alternative has robbed them of every stitch of fundamental rights which the Constitution guaranteed to them. In DTC vs DTC Mazdoor Congress [1991 (1) Supp SCC 600], the Supreme Court said, "The right to life includes right to livelihood. The right to livelihood therefore cannot hang on the fancies of individuals in authority. Employment is not a bounty from them nor can its survival be at their mercy. Income is the foundation of many fundamental rights and when work is the sole source of income, the right to work becomes as much fundamental. Fundamental rights can ill-afford to be consigned to the limbs of undefined premises and uncertain applications. That will be a mockery of them."
In the Preamble of the Constitution, 'We the People of India' had promised to secure to all its citizens "Justice - social, economic and political; Liberty of thoughts, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and opportunity". Have we succeeded in our endeavour to achieve these goals even after 64 years? Is the polity responsible for this or it is the bane of our democratic system?
Has political instability robbed coalition governments of the authority to pursue goals articulated in the Preamble. The Supreme Court in Rameshwar Prasad case [2006 (2) SCC 1] referred to the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution and said, "The reasons for increasing instability of elected governments was attributable to unprincipled and opportunistic political realignments from time to time. A reasonable degree of stability of government and strong government is important."
The Constitution Review Committee also noticed that the changing alignment of members of political parties so openly really made a mockery of our democracy.
So all along, from 1950, we the people have been living in mockery and the world has been laughing at us for not been able to eradicate starvation deaths, forget poverty.
We were promised eradication of poverty through a 'Garibi Hatao' movement initiated through vigorous sloganeering in the 1970s. Yet, a vast multitude of the population still lives in poverty and squalor. We have been promised a better tomorrow far too often by our representatives that their assurances have lost meaning.
That is why the Supreme Court in Minerva Mills case [1980 (3) SCC 625 had said, "The promise of a better tomorrow must be fulfilled today; day after tomorrow it runs the risk of being conveniently forgotten. Indeed, so many tomorrows have come and gone without a leaf turning that today there is a lurking danger that people will work out their destiny through the compelled cult of their own 'dirty hands'. Words bandied about in marbled halls say much but fail to achieve as much."