Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lok Satta exposes states’ double standards on governance reforms

Lok Satta Party national President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today expressed dismay over State Governments opposing police reforms recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on the spurious argument that they encroach upon their powers and hurt their pride.

In a media statement, Dr. JP referred to reservations expressed by States at a meeting convened by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in New Delhi on April 15 to discuss ARC recommendations and said it was surprising that the States which fight for their rights in a federal set-up would like to deny the citizens the right to impartial, fair and effective rule of law.

Dr. JP pointed out that States have come into their own in the last two decades thanks to a series of developments. They include the historic Supreme Court judgment in the Bommai case making Center’s imposition of President’s rule in a State justiciable, rational and non-partisan devolution of resources on States since the Tenth Finance Commission, the dawn of the era of coalition governments at the Center, the demise of the license permit raj and the eclipse of Central public sector undertakings as the driver of economic growth.

The Lok Satta Party, Dr. JP pointed out, has always welcomed the States becoming stronger as it is opposed to a centralized, monolithic India. At the same time, the Lok Satta is opposed to States behaving like feudal oligarchies.

Police and judicial reforms, institution of strong anti corruption mechanisms, empowerment of local governments and guaranteeing services to citizens as a matter of right are all at the heart of governance reforms. The States should not torpedo governance reforms by raising spurious arguments.

Dr. JP instanced how the States in the recent past thwarted attempts for constitution of Lokayuktas along with Lokpal at the national level, failed to constitute local courts despite Central funding and violated in letter and spirit of Constitutional amendments providing for empowerment of local governments.

It is galling that the States which fight for their rights with the Center choose to deny similar rights to local governments under them. Local governments constitute the third tier of federalism, and opposing their empowerment is opposing true federalism. Similarly, citizen empowerment, or independent anti-corruption institutions, accountable and effective policing and judicial reforms are all pro-people measures. None of these reforms empower the centre. They only make states more accountable to people. Opposition to these measures in the name of federalism is the height of absurdity. Obstructionism and monopoly of power do not constitute federalism. The States seem to forget that they are ultimately answerable and accountable to people. Federalism should not be construed as a fight against people, and public good not sacrificed at the altar of States’ pride, said Dr. JP.

Dr JP appealed to state governments, political parties, media and civil society to ensure that the agenda of accountable and transparent governance, effective rule of law, empowerment of citizens and fight against corruption is pursued by all stake-holders with speed, vigour and sense of purpose. “The future of our economy and society depends on our actions today. Any delay in acting on these changes will hurt our democracy and our nation”, Dr JP said.

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