UPSC Essays Solved – 2 | Are we a soft state?

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Are we a soft state?

UPSC Mains examination analyzes the academic skills of the candidate and their ability to present their knowledge in a precise and reasonable way. The mains is intended at analyzing the general intellectual persona and profundity of understanding of candidates instead of their extent of information and memory.

The UPSC has announced the date of UPSC 2017 Civil Services Examination. The prelims were held on 18th June 2017 and the Mains will be held on 28th October 2017.

Here is an essay answer for the 2009 UPSC Mains Essay Question Paper Question number 2.

   UPSC 2009 Essay Paper

Are we a soft state?

The term `soft state’ was first used by the noted economist Gunnar Myrdal in his classic book The Asian Drama in the context of South Asia for the inability of the states to implement their economic plans and programs efficiently and effectively. Now the term has acquired additional dimensions of meaning that subsumes a comprehensive collapse of even the most basic functions of the state. A contemporary political commentator Atul Kohli has aptly drawn attention to the paradox of the enormous expansion of the state power in India at the same time when its powerlessness to act effectively is equally obvious.

Take several incidents or events that show the softness of the Indian state. The country has had to suffer from a series of strikes which have crippled the functioning of the government. There are strikes by the banking personnel, by the telecommunication or the airlines’ staff, by the truck drivers and by sundry organizations including electricity, government unions, teacher unions, etc. In most, if not all, such strikes, the government, the Central or the State, buckle under the combined pressure of these unions and the different political parties which usually support these strikes and lead to closure or slow- down of work. Whenever such strikes take place and are resolved, usually by giving hefty pay hikes or other benefits, it is only the organized sector which benefits. The unorganized sector neither gets the pay hikes nor improvement in their working conditions.

A proper balance

Political parties like the CPI and the CPI(M) usually support such strikes and closure of work and help in the negotiations with the management or the government. But since these parties do not particularly care for the unorganized sector, the latter has perforce to look for other spokesmen. Parties like the CPI(ML) or the PWG step in and often use tactics which are outside the pale of the law and this leads to violence, bloodshed and rigid postures on both sides. The United Kingdom was also beset with prolonged strikes before and after Ms. Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister. But she introduced legislation so that these strikes and closure of work became difficult, if not impossible. A government must strike a proper balance between legitimate collective bargaining rights and public interest or the common good.

The recent events in which the Christians have come under attack by some unlawful and criminal elements have brought out the vulnerability of the Indian state. These attacks are barbaric and should be condemned unequivocally, but why should the government be so apologetic? Why should the Prime Minister, when he went to Italy recently, act in such an apologetic manner, as newspaper reports would suggest? In a recent BBC World news broadcast, there was news of two clashes – one in the Philippines and the other in Indonesia between the Muslims and the Christians on a particular day in July. There was no news about the President or any leading government official of these countries explaining what happened and acting apologetically. Why should this happen in India? The law should be strong enough to deal with such situations and whoever is guilty, a member of the Sangh Parivar or any one else should be punished as per law.

Unfailing regularity

Talking of the guilty politicians and other important personalities being brought to book, there seems to be a comical turn to the way the events unfold. After a lot of fanfare, permission is obtained from the Governor or Chief Minister or someone else to prosecute some politician. After this is done, there are interviews of some leading personalities and often of the CBI or ED Directors about the investigation that is going on to collect irrefutable evidence to punish these persons. Then one gets to see shots on the TV of these persons being sent to judicial custody under heavy police bandobast. And then what happens? Nothing. The indicted persons are invariably found to be either innocent or at least the evidence is not strong enough to nail them. Why does this happen with such unfailing regularity? Was the evidence initially collected not strong enough, or were the witnesses intimidated to withhold crucial and damning evidence? Or is the law of the land not good enough to punish these highly placed politicians and personalities? Or is there political interference or some other underhand deals which let the indicted go scot-free? In any case, the state is shown to be in the poor light.

Contrast this with the treatment meted out to the ordinary citizen, especially the poor, helpless ones. They are kept in police lock-up and incarcerated in jails on mere suspicion or at the behest of some powerful persons and stay there often for long periods even without proper charges being framed against them, let alone proper prosecution.

In fact, the irony is that they sometimes spend more time in jails as undertrials than the quantum of punishment they would have received had they been properly prosecuted and received the punishment for the crime they are alleged to have committed.

There have been reports that in Andhra Pradesh, there are about 9,000 undertrials who have been behind bars for different periods from a year to five years. The government has decided to release 7,000 of them because they have already completed longer terms than what the punishment due to them if they had been prosecuted and found guilty of their alleged offenses. In a similar situation in Bihar in the past, the Supreme Court came to the rescue of the undertrials on a PIL and directed the Bihar Government to file an annual report to the Court on their incarceration.

Consider the atrocious and medieval barbarity that was recently inflicted on a Dalit driver, Dinanath Baitha, by the Bihar Minister Lalit Yadav. Although he has been dismissed from the Council of Ministers by the Chief Minister, the trial, when and if it takes place against the Minister, will be a long and tortuous one with no certainty that he would be punished. But whether or not he is actually punished, the occurrence of this incident only shows how influential people view the power or the powerlessness of the state to punish them. They act and believe, a belief fortified by many such events, that they can get away with anything including literally murder, and showing the legal machinery to be a weak and ineffective institution.

A palliative, not panacea

Politically, the institutions of state were meant to be strong and resolute but in actual practice we find them wanting in several situations as shown above. In many instances, be it the cleanliness of our rivers or fixing the height of our dams or the implementation of the Srikrishna Commission Report in Maharashtra, we find that the Supreme Court has to intervene because the executive has failed to discharge its duties. Is it good for our polity? In fact, many observers have decried this tendency and have bemoaned the emergence of the Supreme Court as an executive organ of our state. In any case, judicial activism can at best be a palliative and not a panacea for all our problems.

In fact, the courts are now tending to come in the picture with sickening regularity for resolution of patently political conflicts, for giving an aggrieved party or individual his due, for filling in gaps in legislation in the interest of good governance. The latest example is its comments on the role of the Central Government on the implementation of the Srikrishna Commission Report and on the lack of coherence in the actions of the governments in New Delhi and Mumbai and the prosecution of Mr. Bal Thackeray. Such an atrophy of the executive and legislative arms of the state would be an ominous sign on the functioning of democratic governance in India.

source: The Hindu

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