Two major issues cropped up during a recent discussion on the state of affairs in India-one was the ‘power shift’ and the other was the catastrophe in Indian banks. BN Uniyal, a veteran journalist, asked me, “Don’t you observe that power is shifting from the legislature to the judiciary to the media?” I was confounded. And so gfiles’ cover story on this power shift was born. Our ace writers, Alam Srinivas, MG Devasahayam and Dr GS Sood, were equally troubled about the escalating Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of Public Sector Banks (PSBs). If the PSBs keep doing business the way they are, the financial system of the country is in jeopardy. gfiles is carrying the power shift in India and the NPAs catastrophe stories with equal emphasis. Uniyal has keenly observed the Indian polity, society and politicians for five decades. He writes about the impact of the power shift, “Bureaucrats and their decisions and actions are also affected as much by the impulses flowing in the system from different quarters. If these impulses are not in harmony or synchronised at some higher level of thought or theory, bureaucrats are sure to get disoriented like a robot whose wiring gets tangled up.” The power shift and the NPAs are both serious governance issues. The resultant mayhem is the accumulated effect of non-performance of the legislature, which has ultimately intimidated the financial and democratic set-ups. Why has this happened? Is the democratic set-up faulty or are our governance tools not working in a coordinated manner? The prime factor is that our legislature could not anticipate the impact of the multiplication of problems in India. Our leadership seems to have been myopic. Planning and implementation were not robust. In the last 68 years, the population has grown four times from 33 crore to 127 crore, but the nation’s resources have not grown with the same rapidity.
The lacklustre governance created a new mass which exploited the financial and natural resources of India and amassed wealth which created a society of haves and have-nots. In 1991, India opened the Pandora’s box of liberalisation. We invited everybody though the system of governance was not in place for regulation and monitoring. India needed proper planning for education, healthcare, roads, science and technology, agriculture and so on. Our only capital is human resources (HR) but a technologically untrained and semi-literate HR is a liability. The legislature failed miserably in realising the desires and aspirations of unemployed youth. The judiciary and media noticed the distasteful emergence of crony capitalism in legislatures. The crumbling system led to the power shift. Why has this happened? The system of governance that India inherited from the British was meant to rule Indians, not India.
Independent India adopted the system verbatim, destroying the basic fabric of Indian governance. But there is still hope. We have to create a system which is more cohesive and accountable. The legislative bodies have to work hard to create a robust system where the gap between haves and have-nots can be eliminated and democracy strengthened. If the shift of power from the legislature to the judiciary and media is not halted, then a new breed of unaccountable satraps will emerge and the legislature will face an unmanageable crisis, because, as it is rightly said, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.