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Decimal Digest
29 Aug 2011

Magna Carta in India

The Event

On August 27, 2011, the Indian Democracy witnessed start of a momentous transformation in its democratic institutions. The Parliament of India passed a resolution which reconfirmed the Will of the People of India to have an effective independent body to fight corruption. This new independent body is to be called “Lokpal”, which can be translated as “Ombudsman of the people”.

The Process

Since the level of corrupt practices in all arms of governance in India is high, the people of India desire for the government of India to establish an effective mechanism for control and elimination of corruption, through the establishment of the institution of Lokpal.

Under normal circumstances, in a democracy such as India, the will of people is expressed through the actions of Parliament. The bill for the establishment of the Lokpal has been, under various forms, under consideration of the Indian Parliament for over 40 years. It has been through 8 Parliamentary Standing Committees, 11 Parliaments and governments headed by all major political parties. Yet it has failed to see the light of the day. This has led to a huge trust deficit between the Parliament and the People of India

In any other country, this situation would have led to a civil war in the country, with the Army playing some or major role in the process. However, in India, the situation is playing out quite differently. The people rallied behind an apolitical person, who decided to follow a Gandhian style non-violent protest.

The contrast in the nature of protests in India, versus the protests in other democracies, which have clearly been violent, is quite stark. The average Indian protestors did not resort to violence of any kind in the last fortnight, in spite of millions of determined citizens protesting vociferously on roads across India.

The Outcome

What we have witnessed is an evolution in the system of democracy. We have witnessed, for the first time, an indirect democracy being supplemented by direct democracy, when there is a trust deficit between the elected representatives and the people of the country. This is likely to lead to greater participation of the citizens in the legislative process going forward, as also possible calls for reforms in other critical areas, including electoral reforms, election funding and land acquisition.

For Indian businesses, at least for those who want to have clean business dealing, the developments in last two weeks are encouraging. If this movement achieves what it intends to achieve over next few years, the crippling cost of corruption in India will come down significantly. The growth rate of Indian GDP will increase in the medium term and the distribution of wealth will be less uneven as well.


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