Guest post by RUCHI GUPTA
For those of us, whom the well organized Right on the internet describes as “sickular”, the prospect of Modi as Prime Minister is unthinkable. Congress is then a reflexive default – not a party of choice. Its secular credentials too are tarnished with 1984, but its communal capitulations are opportunistic (and thus contained) unlike the BJP with its official Hindutva party plank. Moreover with all its corruption and contradictions, the Congress has always had a strong left-liberal strand, providing some space for engagement to further progressive agenda, enacting for instance the landmark Right to Information Act, NREGA and FRA. However faced with a Rahul Gandhi versus Modi contest – the former a reluctant prince leading a dithering party, the latter the decisive machismo king of no-nonsense governance – it appears that Congress has decided to move so far to the Right that 2014 looks set to become a Modi versus ‘sickular’ Modi contest.
Continue reading The Great Right-Wing Convergence – Towards 2014: Ruchi Gupta
Guest post by RUCHI GUPTA
[This post was initially published in the Times of India and removed from their site soon thereafter.]
With a comfortable gap of time after the revelations of paid news, private treaties and the Radia tapes, the media is once again on the offensive to guard its independence. The trigger this time is a private member’s bill, the Print and Electronic Media Standards and Regulation Bill, 2012. The proposed legislation has been widely and energetically panned by the industry, with the Congress subsequently distancing itself from the Bill. The Bill is not available in the public domain; however based on news reports, some provisions could perhaps lend themselves to state censorship. While the merits of the Bill are debatable, what is striking is the complete lack of self-consciousness with which the media termed the attempt as an attack on democracy, without addressing its own corruption and its deleterious impact on democracy. Continue reading The Great Indian Media Hoax Of Self-Regulation: Ruchi Gupta
Guest post by RUCHI GUPTA
The past couple of months have seen a renewed attack on the National Advisory Council (NAC). The NAC has been decried as an unconstitutional, undemocratic, “super-cabinet” where unaccountable “jholawalas” hatch harebrained schemes guaranteed to run the government aground. Another line of criticism has focused on the process of the formation of the NAC, its space within the Indian Constitution, and its capacity to influence policy. The two criticisms merge with the demand to disband the NAC on the count that the NAC does not have to face the outcome of its recommendations, and by virtue of it being chaired by the head of the ruling Alliance, can arbitrarily force the implementation of its recommendations.
There is however, a need to examine how the NAC has functioned, what it has done, as well as understand the space it occupies in the policy-making paradigm of the country. While the concerns about the legitimacy of the NAC relate to important issues of Constitutionality, the criticism about the nature of its policy recommendations is motivated by ideology and is of much less relevance to its impact on democratic processes.
It is true that the NAC is an entity created to give the leader of the ruling alliance a role in policy making. Nevertheless, partly through the kind of members chosen, and the norms of functioning it has evolved, it has opened up the otherwise closed and secretive processes of formulation of law and policy, beyond its own membership to citizens groups and people with expertise. It can, in fact with some effort become a platform to further a more just and participative democracy. In this essay, we deconstruct the NAC and situate it in its political context to understand both its pitfalls and potential.
Continue reading Deconstructing The NAC : Ruchi Gupta
Guest post by NIKHIL DEY and RUCHI GUPTA
For many who quite rightly guessed that the Lokpal Bill drafted by the Government would be a non-starter, the alternative merited automatic support. However, little was known about the contents of the two Bills, except that the alternative being proposed by ‘India Against Corruption’ had the prefix of being a “peoples” Lokpal. The consequences are too important to leave to the expertise of the drafting committee. The people must comprehend, and play their part in ensuring that there will be an Act that will empower them to fight corruption- not make them surrender their hopes to yet another anti-corruption organization. How people-centric is the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLP)?
While the JLP is going through rapid revisions – 12 so far – the basic framework and some principles have remained constant. Broadly the Bill can be divided into four sections: the mandate and scope of the Lokpal; composition and selection of the Lokpal; powers of the Lokpal; and functioning of the Lokpal. The composition and selection of the Lokpal is substantively one of the least contentious sections – concerned largely with procedural matters and subjective preferences, rather than ideological or legal viewpoints. A discussion of the other three sections follows.
Continue reading Putting the “Jan” into the Lokpal Bill: Nikhil Dey and Ruchi Gupta