Saturday, September 02, 2006

Strange Bedfellows: Sex and Another Constitution

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune and faculties must, generally be in want of a similarly situated man. A Jewish friend of mine notes that Eve (of Adam and...) was created, not from Adam's head to be higher than him, or from his foot to be lower, but from his rib to be his equal. What I'm trying to get at is that if, in a relationship, there is no unity of sense or sensibility, (seriously, I need to be exorcised of Jane Austen) if there is no similarity of personality, or moral code, or family background, or interest, or occupation, or manner, or common goals it is doubtful that a friendship, much less a marriage (see Charlotte and Eric), will succeed.

What is true for a marriage of people, then, is no doubt also true of a marriage of states...if states that come together under the chupah of a constitution, it is necessary that they have at least something thing in common, else be small enough to see themselves as a single 'individual' state. Again this all seems to be a bit of a truism...

A few days ago, I was speaking to a good friend of mine about India, its problems and its future. India has many problems - bribery, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, supersitition (which goes along with female subjugation). It's good bits have to do with its variety and diversity. The obvious solution then, would be to have a government in place to solve all these problems. Why, you may ask, has the government not been able to do so until now, in a country where democractic participation (in polls) is among the highest in the world.

One reason at least, is that India is massive. It's the 7th largest country in the world and has the 2nd largest population. It is impossible for Parliamentary representatives to truly represent the people of India. The number of representatives (lower house): 545, the number of people: 1 billion plus. You may or may not be Indian-but you should be able to do the math. It is impossible that all the members of a constituency of nearly 2 million will have homogenous interests,or be able to communicate those interests to their representative. Thus, a large percentage of Indians are not effectively represented.

To gain the votes of their massive constituency, many representatives rely on force, most rely on middle men, who may be village leaders or the localities' mafia lords. These middle men can get the votes of the people they rule. (For a comparatively realistic situation of politics in rural North India, see Omkara, an adaptation of Othello). In turn, if the representative himself is not the 'overlord', he is coerced into following these demands of these middle men, rather than what he believes to be those of the people who should be represented. These demands are, to a large extent, those of a semi-educated, conservative, feudal group, who eschew social reformation, and wish to maintain rigid hierarchy, both for self preservation, and as a moral imperative. In this way, the basic needs of the people-education, health, food and shelter are either not provided, or if provided, are done so to local lords in a way that solidify their own position in local society, who neither knows, nor cares about a distant government in Delhi.

Second, India truly is a divided country, divided between the rich and the poor, between barriers of religion, caste, and class. The problems of one part of the country differ completely from those of other parts of the country. Thus, some parts of the country may need economic protection and quotas ('affirmative action'); some may need the government to focus on programs providing basic food, health and education; some may need to focus on cultural reformation, and eradication of practices like sati, female infanticide, etc. Others can afford to make their primary considerations foreign dictators and sexual deviancy.

Now, this would not be an issue if our politicians realised the need for a policy domestically tailored to meet the precise needs of various areas. However, the ideologues in our government are more harmful than the ideologues of other large democracies, such as the United States. The US, compared to India, is a largely homogenous country. Disparities in income, while increasing, (since, the 1970s-so much for Reaganomics) certainly are not even comparative to that of India. Cultural differences are practically, (comparatively) nonexistent. Most people can speak the same language. In India, my neighbors speak only English, the shop keeper downstairs speaks only Hindi, my maid addresses me in Marathi with Hindi grammar (as I don't speak Marathi), go 200 km south and you enter areas where they speak neither national language, but various regional languages which are further away from Hindi than Hindi is from English, with scripts as similar to Hindi, as Japanese. Furthermore, America has remained (despite the best efforts of Earl Warren) a Christian country, whose Supreme Court justices do not sodomise their wives. While India cannot boast of sodomitical SC justices, (to my knowledge), it does boast of some of the largest religious minorities, with more Muslims than any middle-east country, as many Christians as several smaller European countries, and several indigenous religions to boot.

Given these facts, when left-wing members of a coalition demand that the government create national policies (such as increasing quotas for ethnic minorities in universities), some areas which do not need these policies, are disserviced. Similarly, with greater disparities in income and education between states than any elected government its size, states that are more financially independent are held back by policies designed for poorer states, and have to bear unequal support of a national economy. Finally, because of this 'diversity', India faces more known separatist movements than any other country its size, with demands from and terrorism in the north, south, east, and (until lately) west for separate states for regional and religious minorities. States themselves often obstruct the policies of the national government which they (often, rightly) believe will hinder the interests of their people.

The solution which I'm leading up to is drastic, but practical - split India. While it troubles the conscience of every Indian, indoctrinated with myths of unification and legends of Indian brotherhood, it seems to provide a solution to many of the problems I have listed, and have few reasons against it. Of course, instead of a complete split, one could always look at looser political union instead, along the lines of the EU (which is, arguably, more homogenous than India), in which states would have autonomous domestic policies and agendas and coordinate (if not the same) foreign policy.

For one thing, more representation. With greater access to political leaders, with the corollary of more visibility of political leaders to the populace there will be greater accountability for political leaders, while the power of unelected mafia lords will decrease. Constituency sizes will decrease, and governments will better be able to adress the unique problems and solutions regarding education and poverty. Furthermore, smaller democracies generally have greater political transparency, having smaller bureaucracies and greater media concentration on smaller government, which would help clean up government.

Finally, even if this argument is not accepted-if readers believe that poor states will remain poor and rich states (i.e.,the South) will get richer, the fact is that today, rich states are, by international standards, still poor, often because they are held back by policies and burdens unsuitable for them. I suggest it would be better for them to first develop completely, and then help poorer neighboring states, rather than trying to limp along, while trying to carry the carcass of a dead elephant at the same time...

What are the reasons then to oppose this loosening of ties? History? The fact is,that India never was a single country. Unification happened because of a unified struggle against the British,not through common culture. However, unifying a country because of a common enemy, while following to some extent, along the lines of the German and Italian unifications, is hardly healthy or sustainable when dealing with a country with greater heterogeneity than either of the other two.Religion? While Hinduism is the main religion, and some people undoubtedly would prefer it to be the state religion, as shown by frequent massacres of Muslims (and Hindus in Muslim neighborhoods) as well as harassment of Christians etc., there are sizeable minorities in the country. In fact, such an argument would play into my hands - it would be better to let those areas that want to form Hindu states form Hindu States (e.g. Gujarat) thus letting the minorities living there know exactly what they are in for. Arguably, even if minorities chose to remain in those states, the majority in the area, having had their superior status acknowledged, would reduce persecution. For example, the Ayodhya/Babri Masjid conflict: if Ayodhya fell within a Hindu State, there could be no conflict regarding its disposal, as the state religion would dictate the result, and while there would possibly be dissatisfaction among the Muslim minority, there could hardly be contention among the general population, and indecision as to what should be done, as the issue would have been handled according to the legal dictates of the State. Most Muslims, knowing that they could not affect the issue would not bother agitating in the first place: behavior theory tells us that we will only fight for an issue, if the issue is undecided, not if it already decided in one way or the other.

Finally, there is the major issue of sentiment. I do not heartlessly dismantle the structure created with the loving care, and blessed with the martyred blood of so many freedom fighters and historical statesmen. Instead, I look at the yawning abyss into which this structure is leaning, into which it will topple and slide, if it not, as lovingly, albeit heartrendingly taken apart, brick by brick, piece by piece, hopefully one day to be reconstructed on firmer ground. This is a solution in which India as a whole can be glued back together again, rather than splintering and foundering in oblivion.

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on India or developing countries. Also, as a wannabe historian, I know the dangers of talking in counterfactuals. Thus, please correct facts and opinions you think should


At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Saifuddin said...

Dear Craig,
I love your article. Though it can never be a reality. coz like the most of the world the masses in india also think at the superficial level. i bet 95% people will not read the whole article. U will loose 90% of ur indian audience when u talk about the problems ( yeah they wud say America mei reh kar sala firangi ban gaya); and when u say Split india u will loose 90% of the remaining 10 %.

infact i like your idea too its some thing similar to what i think too. But you know how bereaucracy bequeths India. and where do you begin with you have given a solution but there should be sumthing more ardent as in the constituitional. besides what if as the course of Divide india turns out to be like some of the African countries who have broken out form the shackels of European rule but stuck in a civil war. I think the rural india wil fight over for power. this is a major problem. and The lack od Education makes it worse coz people are short visioned in spite of being educated in india.So u can imagine the uneducated lot.

I agree with u regarding the disparage that exists in between states, society, cities, Religions, Castes etc. but what is the way to open up. Is american fully open to Same sex mariages? America devoids its population from their right to know. To know the truth boutht ehappenings of the world. What about the different Propagandas created in the world issues. Who makes them HEARD??

I dont mean to be the devilz advocate to your opnion. But whenever i have put up a propostion like yours to people. I faced such Questions. Well these may b not skin deep problems.

The way I see it as india claims to be th elargest democracy then It should BE a democracy. the people should be heard as you said about 1 billion people and only 245 seats. but what about the parliaments int he states. I think the refining of the constitution written 60 years back needs a change. this might give a solution to the problem as u said sum states are being held back. ( well you knw better than i do... and there must b a procedure).

I am seriously in a dillema about people calling india and china the next super power. Tho I beleive India has a better chance China ( china made their human resource to mass production as in workers ) as india has made its human resource in Brains. But, seriously the glory days on Indian education system is gone. I read an article in the BBC website and it said the same thing. besides India's large human resource does not allow the international community to participate in the economy and its Bereaucracy makes it worse. China on the other hand is open to the world but its communism ( Phew).Accoridng to BBC India produces 170 new millionares every year. and it is the fastest growing economy. But i seriously dont see it much except form the mtro cities!!!
So where is the world heading...... And as for india will it Be or not be the next superpower.If india is the nest super power what example will it set for the wold. Coz it has bits and pieces of all and a mothful of none.
9/01/2006 4:14 PM

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Craig K. said...

Hey Saifu

Thanks! Btw-the 'friend' whom I had the convo with was chaddu :) He may have something to say on it...pass on the link. I don't have his email, and will probably forget to ask for it the next time I speak to him...

At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah. I don’t buy it. And while I can give you many reasons, the most pertinent one is, as you admit, your failure to understand how India works. Critiquing India is easy. It always has been. Yes there are constituencies with 2 million people, perhaps more, and its fair to suggest that they don’t have homogenous interests etc. But then how would you justify democracy as anything other than the “tyranny of the majority”. What if the constituency was smaller, say 30,000, and a representative was selected by a 50.1/49.9 margin? Would that be representative? It’s a logical question to ask but the flaws are in the concept of democracy in general, and not the Indian system in particular.

Middlemen are not new in politics, especially parliamentary politics. Canadian politics, for instance, is full of such incidents, in its early stages of democracy - post 1867 onwards. There were men handing out money at the ballots. Literally just handing out money. Even nowadays it is not uncommon for campaign helpers to identify potential voters and literally give them a ride to the ballots (albeit without the threats that characterised the late 1800s). The idea is to sway the voter by any and all means.

I would go so far as to suggest that nearly every democracy has gone through the stage that India is going through and that it should be treated as nothing more than a transitionary stage. Look at it this way. India is 59 years old. In the 1950s and 60s, India was ruled by Brahmins - educated etc, but a small elitist group at best. The 1980s and 1990s have seen the rise of the regional parties and the religious parties. Its certainly a messy situation, and definitely not good, but it is an important part of a transition to a stronger, possibly better, system. In some ways it does suggest that people are able to identify their interests. Chandrababu Naidu, despite all the praise he has recieved for his work in Andhra, is guilty of not doing enough for the drought hit farmers. And he got booted. Some would argue that this is bad for India as he was a progressive leader. But at the same time, he failed to look after ALL the people in his state. It is a sign of a strong democracy. People are using their votes. These are lessons being learned the hard way by the leaders. This isn’s a simple case of “this is right, therefore we should do it”. Votes are being used to show the flaws in the mentality. They re making sure that the poor aren’t forgotten. And it is crucial for national development, not just for the leadership but for future leaders. I doubt Naidu, if he does get back into power, will forget the rural electorate. That the BJP got booted after bringing remarkable economic growth to India says volumes in itself. People are using their votes to ensure that they don’t get left behind.

As for India being divided, well, yes it is. But then again, which country isn’t. Sure theres a rich poor divide, but which country doesnt have that. I mean Canada is wracked by similar problems - the Quebecois and Albertans are hardly comfortable with each other. Does it justify breaking up a country? I don’t think so. For all its flaws, a unifying federal system goes a long way towards ensuring that as many benefits can be spread out over the largest amount of area as possible. Its good and its bad. On the one hand, some states are essentially paying welfare to others. On the other hand, instead of having one rich state next to one dirt poor state, there is some hope for bettering the lot of the poor state (Bihar notwithstanding). There will always be rich states and there will always be poor states. Redistribution of wealth is always a tricky issue, but when you have a strong federal system, at least there is some hope.

India never was a perfect country. Every policy made is put through the grinder by various groups. Very few come out in the form in which they were designed. But that is what democracy is all about. Like I said earlier, India has to be seen as a country that is in transition, not a country that has reached its peak. Theres a long way to go and the system is being tested on a daily basis by the demands of a billion people. But the simple truth is that it is working enough to keep most people satisfied. It may not be perfect for another century or so, but it is constantly being challenged by new problems and is being adjusted accordingly. Right now progress may be slow, but I honestly believe that the country will, in the future, benefit from the trials that it is facing now. Learning something new is never easy. It requires patience. On the bright side, India is mildly better off than it was 59 years ago. As for the separatist movements, well, I think given India’s size and diversity, it’s a fairly moot point. Some people are unhappy to the point that they re resorting to arms. The vast majority arent.

State autonomy in India is pretty strong. In fact I think its as strong as you want it to be. I don’t think the federal system has as many powers as you suggest. That states are willing to pursue their own local interests is apparent in South India, Punjab, Gujarat etc. These are all states with strong state governments that are not entirely subservient to the federal system. Disparities in state performances can be attributed to the difference in the governments at the state level. I think it’s a pretty clear indicator that the states are as autonomous as you would want them to be in your EU style system.

States have assemblies. The number of federal level Mps from a state is not an indicator of the number of representatives present in the state assemblies. Manipur has 60 members in its state assembly - at the federal level it has 2 seats in parliament. I think you re overlooking the presence and strength of state governments in India. They do play a crucial role. As for the dead elephant comment, what makes you think that a rich fully developed state would one day decide to help out is poor neighbour. When one state becomes rich, while another struggles, migration will take place, further stunting the development of the poor state.

I can continue on and on, but the simple reason behind why India must continue as a unified state is because it will turn into a miniature version of the Balkans if it doesnt. India as a series of small unequal states is a dangerous proposition because it will not be as stable as the ungainly hulk of a country that we know as India today. Without even considering the threats posed to India from beyond her borders, it is better that a Hindu Govt in Gujarat is balanced off by a secular government at the center. Its certainly better than ushering in a wave of muslim departures.

Yours is a strange proposition. One of the most significant things that North America has done better than is embrace some sort of unifying melting pot formula. It is a continent blind to the many cleavages that plague mankind elsewhere. And it is certainly better than the Xenophobic European model that has marginalized its muslim population so well, to maintain its homogenity. I believe that the North American model is more beneficial to the future of mankind. You want to return to the Homogenous European model that, in my opinion, is in such a bad shape that it is facing all kinds of internal troubles. India is an example of a nation that might just be able to pull off the North American model. It’s the kind of country that suggests that there is hope for the future and that diversity neednt always be a divisive issue. Adopting the European model is a step in the wrong direction. And, after typing two pages of this gibberish, I m in no mood to edit it. Apologies.

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