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Framing a contract for ourselves in a TASK? isn't it?

On Sat, 26 Sep 1998 Ash Mahesh wrote:

> > IS PLENTY AVILABLE /we need specific action plans that woud make a
> > contribution. 
> We're going to hear this criticism offered often. Prem and Sanjeev will 
> no doubt recall that I have myself said this in the past, and since 
> yielded to their opinion on IP with my reservations intact. 

I have no reservations about it. I am convinced that this is a task we as
citizens have to do in each generation. The task of convincing ourselves
what is the way we want to be governed. The task of mutual debate which
will hopefully reconcile some of our opposing interests. 

We not only left the democratic - electoral - process, to others, but we
also went about trying to impose our views on others as individuals.  
Unfortunately, the greater the number of people, the greater the number of
views, and then a nation becomes unmanageable, with those who have access
to guns or power, getting the upper hand.

We have seen in front of our eyes the consequence of our neglect, as
citizens, of forfeting our right to discuss and determine what is best for
us. In this vacuum of democratic debate, we have seen those with extreme
views rise to the top of the heap, particularly those who had guns. I weep
(well, I don't, but my heart does) for Kashmir, for Panjab, for Assam. In
each case the citizens allowed a few people with guns to hijack their
agenda. We as citizens are responsible for the violence around us. Let us
not take any other view: other views are not true.

We as citizens must take control of our own destiny, of our own agenda,
and defend our freedoms and respect each other. There was no bigger task
than this. We never even bothered to try it out. At each stage, we
forfeited our liberties to our fellow-citizens who had no respect either
for our liberties or for us. We made a Frankenstein out of our government.
We lay still and watched when our youth thought that Che Guevera had been
right. In the villages of Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Kashmir, Panjab, and other
states, messages praising violence as the way to transform society, gained
the upper hand. Then, we allowed (connived with) the demolition and
destruction of places of religious worship, without consulting fully with
the stakeholders. We disrespected each other's existence in India. Those
with the greatest disrespect became the most powerful.

Each time anyone brushes aside this effort as futile, they must look
within: how else do they want to be governed? Do they each want to be
dictators? Is that going to happen? Or they each want to 'carry on' as it
is, letting the rot deepen, and the country fester as a large sore in the
world? We either debate and discuss, as citizens, or let the rabble rule
the roost.

This is not a manifesto. This is essentially we - the citizens, giving to
ourselves a reasoned document, a contract, which will give unto ourselves
the kind of governance we want. I would expect all political parties/
groups in India to start giving us such detailed contracts, telling us
what they promise us and how they will implement these things.

Shouting on the rooftops that they will hatao garibi, is not what I want
to hear. How!? is the question I want an answer of. And why that method is
superior to other methods.

Suprising as it sounds, the basis of our democracy is being laid out here.
50 years after we became independent. It is a task some of us felt -
perhaps - as having been accomplished, when we agreed to constitute into a
Republic. Then, we thought - it is for 'others' to provide us those
fundamental rights, and that we could simply go on as self-interested
individuals, expecting the best from 'government' without participating in
that process. Democracy nor liberty functions this way. We ALWAYS get
the government we deserve. 

Here, in this unique and innovative forum, we are giving ourselves what
our forefathers (well, our grandfathers) in 1950 did not give to
themselves): a basic contract ensuring accountability, good governance,
and transparency. This task is not quite as ambititious as it sounds. We
have made much progress in merely 6 months of part time effort. But it is
a task we will have to do today and each day of the future, in order to
defend ourselves from each other.

It was not a good thing that two of our Prime Ministers had to die
violently. I might differ from the policies of Indira Gandhi or Rajiv
Gandhi, but that never meant that they had to die the way they did. We are
clearly not functioning as a democracy. It is not a good thing that many
of my colleagues in the IAS are in constant peril in their jobs in India,
and that some have been bombed out of existence. Crime, I understand. But
political risk. Why should that be a violent thing? Can we not talk?

If we do not decide to strengthen and provide the rational forum for
debate, on IndiaPolicy, irrational forums will not only continue sprouting
up but will destroy whatever we worked for during the independence
movement. Then, things will go out of hand. This effort is that stitch in
time which will save nine, as they say. It is a task. It is something
critical. It cannot be substituted by small pilot projects of any type.
Those things are important, but they are a different thing.


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