As India continues its daring experimentation with democracy, a model of human organization never envisaged, evolved or designed for 1.3 billion individuals, we the people are paying the price for it by suffering the unrest, the indecisiveness and in general a chaos that is not allowing us to grow at a pace that our biggest enemy China is growing.
With every legal reform, we have a new set of unhappy people.
While it may take millions of votes to win an election and earn the right to make a law, it just takes couple of thousand people, genuine or financed, to protest and possibly enforce a roll back of the same law. So, the days ahead where India will have to make massive statutory changes to survive in a rapidly changing world, we are bound to see many waves of “peaceful” protests like the farmers’ agitation.
As this process is part and parcel of having precious democracy, we have to accept it as an unavoidable loophole in the system and find a way to deal with it.
A democracy at the scale of India is, at the best a “representative” democracy, as the actual democracy born from the idea of collective opinion starts falling apart at the point where the number of individuals start getting bigger than that can get together for every change and express opinion. So, the closest one can get to make India-like democracy to work is to break it down in smaller units.
In case of India, we have an imaginary construct of local bodies rising all the way to form states that have come together as a federation, so the only way to break down Indian democracy into a working idea is to bring a difficult-to-resolve legal question a notch down to see if it can be made to work.
The best test-case of this model is the way we have implemented the equally tricky legal change of pan-India enforcement of GST.
I would like to recognize that, though GST touched even more lives than the farm bills, it was not exactly as potent a problem that spilled over to the streets because those getting impacted by it were not habituated to carry sticks or ride tractors.
As GST impacted people far less violent and far more scared of the stick of the police, it did not face the direct, in-your-face resistance, but it matched up by having even more doubters, so it was not possible for even a populist government to make it unroll pan-India overnight.
The fact that we are now almost out of the woods with GST is because it is implemented by taking it one notch down and bringing states in the game and it worked because a large number of people also looked at GST implementation as good.
Farms laws essentially have the same quality, as it appears that there are many of those who favor them and hence the agitation, though very intense is still comparatively local.
This means that there is a strong possibility that formation of a Farm Bill council of the states on the same line as GST council and adopt the same model for farm bills implementation, a more democratic process may allow the bills to get ironed out and evolve in a more acceptable form for the entire nation.
This idea does have its cons also as it may weaken the Parliament by starting a trend to demand the same for every law; but, as farming sector actually belong to the state list in Indian constitution, it is a logical remedy worth proposing by the Supreme Court to break the impasse that is looking dangerous now.
As the Supreme Court is already approached to intervene in the issue, it can rise up to the occasion and help resolve this crisis as soon as possible before it spirals out of control and take more lives due to frustration of a few stubborn individuals who are unable to see the impact of their irresponsible actions on the wellbeing of collective.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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