Pachattar Saal Baad – 75-years on … A self-critical view


India has great diversity. It is geo-climatically diverse, with the Himalayan and trans-Himalayan mountains, the Indo-Gangetic plains, deserts, the peninsular plateau with mountain ranges, and riverine and coastal plains. People who live in different geo-climatic regions have different ways of living. They speak, eat, dress differently, and have different customs and cultures, sometimes even among co-religionists. Even within these geo-climatic regions, they may have different ethnic origins, with entirely different external appearance, and be followers of different religions. India has more than 120 languages (22 languages notified in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution) and nearly 20,000 mother-tongues or dialects.

Since the beginning of civilization, the multi-dimensionally diverse Indian sub-continent has been a cultural entity. However, over millennia, different rulers were focused on gaining power and control over the land, its people and its wealth. Empires were founded, grew, declined and fell, as rulers competed, bickered, schemed, fought and waged internecine war with each other. Political boundaries kept shifting. The sub-continent remained politically fragmented.

The British East India Company, incorporated under the British Royal charter, gained a trading foothold on the sub-continent. Taking advantage of the political fluidity, it used deceit, skulduggery and military force for economic benefit and corporate growth, by increasing its territorial control. But it triggered the 1857 “sepoy mutiny”, which was India’s First War of Independence. Starting in 1858, and continuing with the tried and tested methods of the British East India Company, the British Crown consolidated political control over the Indian sub-continent. Its most wealthy colony, the “Jewel in the Crown”, became a base for expansion of the British Empire.

Persons who envisaged independence from the colonial ruler, emerged as leaders of the people’s movement for political independence and freedom from British rule. Among other slogans,‘Swaraj’ – meaning self-rule or self-governance – was used during our Freedom Movement, to oust the cruel and economically exploitative British colonial rulers. Sensing the strength of the independence movement, the British government offered India dominion status under the British Empire. Rejecting the offer, in 1930 our freedom fighters insisted on ‘purna swaraj’, complete independence.

Generations of Indians, mostly from rural backgrounds, under the leadership of our founding fathers fought the British, were imprisoned, suffered, bled and died for purna swaraj, and we achieved Independence on 15 August 1947, 75-years ago.

The Republic of India

Even during the years of colonial rule, our founding fathers had conceived the need for a Constitution for the independent nation of their vision. Perhaps the first mention of a Constitution was by M.K.Gandhi, writing on ‘Parliamentary Democracy’ in his weekly journal “Young India” dated 10 September 1931 (p.255): “I shall strive for a constitution, which will release India from all thralldom and patronage…”. The instrument for creating a Constitution was a Constituent Assembly, a body of persons representing as wide a range of interests as possible. The formation of a Constituent Assembly was proposed in 1934. It was actually founded in November 1946, and assembled for the first time on 9 December 1946.

The 299-member Constituent Assembly comprised persons representing different interests and backgrounds, of caste, region, religion and gender. It appointed a Drafting Committee with B.R.Ambedkar elected as Chairman, on 30 August 1947. There were 166 meetings of the Constituent Assembly between 9 December 1946 and 24 January 1950, of which 114 were devoted to discussion, debate and amendment, to finalize the Draft Constitution of India.

Meant “to free India through a new constitution, to feed the starving people, and to clothe the naked masses, and to give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity“, the Constitution of India was formally adopted on 26 November 1949, and promulgated on 26 January 1950.

The Constitution is the outcome of clear-eyed determination of the members of the Constituent Assembly, to peacefully sit together and create a document to build an inclusive nation of ‘We the People’.

The objectives of the Constitution are for the State to secure for all its citizens: (1) Social, economic and political Justice; (2) Liberty of thought, belief, expression, faith and worship; and (3) Equality of status and of opportunity. These objectives were based on the Resolution which Jawaharlal Nehru drafted and moved before the Constituent Assembly on 13 December 1946. The Constituent Assembly included them in the Preamble of the Constitution, and Fraternity was added by B.R.Ambedkar on 21 February 1948, to maintain the unity and integrity of the nation. The Preamble represents the solemn resolution of We the People of India.

The Constitution of India begins with Article 1(1), stating: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. This Union of States consists of citizens living within our country’s territorial boundaries, with their various social, cultural and economic resources, and natural resources.

The Constitution sets out the laws and rules according to which We the People live and work, and all the creatures of the Constitution – principally, but not limited to, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary – must conduct themselves in all aspects of the affairs of our nation. The Constitution set out Fundamental Rights in Articles 12 to 35, and the 42nd Amendment set out Fundamental Duties in Article 51A.

The Constitution, India’s primary document, directs and guides our nation’s strategy to provide all its citizens with the primary needs of food, water, shelter, clothing, education, work, health-care and security, through the instrumentality of justice, liberty and equality. It is the fountain-head of all laws, codes, rules, regulations, doctrines and policies which guide the governance of the social, economic and political life of our nation.

The ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution is its ideals, principles, spirit and philosophy, which include: (1) Supremacy of “We the People”; (2) Primacy of the Constitution and its unitary nature; (3) The sovereignty of the Nation and the State; (4) The republican, democratic, parliamentary form of government; (5) Separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, the three primary branches of governance; and (6) Its federal character.

The Constitution of India is a source of strength to We the People. It has unified these diverse communities, through citizenship of the Union of India, making us all Indians first and foremost, regardless of regional, linguistic, religious, ethnic, or other differences. The Constitution is the reason for the phrase “Unity in diversity” to describe India.

It has been said that the Song of the Indian Republic is its Constitution. Its melody is Democracy. The lyrics of the song are about Justice, Liberty, and Equality for all its diverse people, and Fraternity among all the people of this proud nation, provides the harmony. [Ref.1]

When India’s independence movement began in the 19th Century, when the British were departing in 1947, and even thereafter, commentators had been rudely dismissive and skeptical of the survival of India as a united, sovereign, democratic political entity. The skepticism was primarily because of India’s many-faceted diversity which the colonialists could not comprehend but schemingly used, to create a religious divide, which led to Partition and the creation of Pakistan.

However, our founding fathers proved the skeptics wrong, and India has been called the most remarkable successful political experiment of democracy in human history. Thus, India not only survived as a nation, but also grew in all fields of endeavour and excelled in some, and today stands proudly as a mature member of the comity of nations.

Undeniably, over the past 75-years, India has made huge strides of progress on social, economic and political fronts, through the continuing hard work, blood and tears, sufferings and sacrifices, of We the People. We have weathered social, economic and political storms. We have repeatedly resisted and punished external aggressors on our borders. However, equally undeniably, humongous numbers of our fellow Indians continue to suffer hunger and homelessness, and live with little hope for their future.

The People and the duty of the State

Articles 36 to 51 in Part-IV Directive Principles of State Policy, concern what the State is obliged to do as a duty, in the governance of the country. Regarding the application of the principles contained in this part, Article 37 reads: “The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”. The Article directs that the principles, even though not justiciable, are fundamental in nature, and it is the duty of the State to apply them in the process of enacting laws.

The Directive Principles essentially reflect the core values of Justice, Liberty and Equality. They place great responsibility on the State Executive and Legislature, since even though these duties cannot be enforced by a Court, the State is still obliged to do them in the interest of the people. Thus Part-IV recognizes that the State has great power, although it is unaccountable in the strictly legal sense. It is only the People who can call the State to account through their elected representatives in Legislatures, and during elections, by changing governments.

It needs no emphasis that the role of the People, the public, to protect their own democratic Republic and themselves, is through awareness of their own Constitution, and by asserting their rule over the Republic. This can only be done by questioning the creatures and institutions of the Constitution, especially including elected Central and State governments, and the People’s elected representatives at every level, in the context of the Directive Principles of State Policy, and their own Fundamental Rights.

The values of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity which “shall inform all the institutions of national life” can only be ensured through democratic processes. The democratic processes are

essentially based upon the social, economic and political awareness of We the People, combined with their participation in the democratic processes through representation (voting), and informed and cogent questioning, dissent, debate and discussion. People need to maintain vigilance on the State by direct contact with their legislators, and by using their Right to Information, and not permit surveillance by the State on the People.

Since the 1970s and greatly intensified in present times, People’s questioning and dissent are frowned upon. More recently, such people are targetted by the State, using various means including charging them under draconian laws or foisting cases against them. The political class, with honourable exceptions, appears to be beyond using the political tools of decent debate and discussion even within legislatures, leave alone in public. It is difficult not to link this erosion of the democratic spirit and democratic practice, with endemic moral, material and political corruption – now in epidemic form – in the economics-driven power politics in today’s India, 75-years down the road.

It is well accepted that India has had successes and made progress in several fields of social, economic and political endeavour and practice, including science and technology, since Independence. But it is also well accepted that questioning is the first step towards learning, and that no person, group or society learns very much from successes.

It is therefore pertinent to critically view and review shortcomings, mistakes and failures of the principal organs of the Constitution over the years, as a learning process, by examining what went wrong, but without in any manner trivializing the positives of India’s successes over the past 75-years. [Ref.2]

Some landmarks

Eight defining landmark events in our 75-years post-Independence, which impacted on the social, economic and political life of the nation, and also concern the values of the Constitution, are below.

  1. 1958. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was enacted in 1958. It was imposed by government – not by the Indian Army – notifying NEFA as a “disturbed area” to control Naga political forces which questioned India’s control, by using the Indian Army. Even now, 64-years later, AFSPA remains invoked, demonstrating continuing failure of governance. It was also later invoked in Jammu & Kashmir, and remains invoked. Needing to call the army in aid to the civil power continuously over decades, adequately demonstrates the political and administrative ineptitude, chicanery and corruption in successive state and central governments.
  2. 1975. Indira Gandhi, as PM, declared internal emergency in the country in June 1975. It lasted 21 months, during which PM Indira Gandhi ruled by decree, suspending elections and curbing civil liberties. This delivered a body blow to India’s democracy, with the legislatures and judiciary effectively emasculated.
  3. 1984. In May 1984, PM Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star on the Golden Temple at Amritsar, to capture the Sikh separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The damage to the Golden Temple caused heart-burning among the Sikh population, and on 31 October 1984, PM Indira Gandhi’s own personal guards – who happened to be Sikhs – assassinated her. This triggered off huge anti-Sikh riots all over the country, leaving a blot and an as-yet-unhealed wound, on the democratic character of the Republic.
  4. 1991. PM P.V.Narasimha Rao’s Congress government introduced the New Economic Policy to remedy the severe economic crisis caused by an adverse Balance of Payments situation. NEP-1991 irrevocably pushed India into the market-oriented globalized world, through economic reforms of liberalization and privatization, which were corporate-friendly, and neglected the poverty in India. The essentially socialist nature of the economy was ditched in favour of a capitalist model. The NEP-1991 marks the rapid increase of economic inequality within India, such that today, 1% of India’s population owns 73% of the wealth. This gross inequality directly violates the spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 38) of the Constitution, as well as the preambular guarantee of equality of status and opportunity.

The NEP-1991 placed India firmly on the capitalist path, with subservience to the dictates of IMF, World Bank and WTO. It created the “mantra” of development by economic (GDP) growth through industrialization and mega-projects. This was inevitably accompanied by large-scale displacement of people, and destruction of the environment, which again adversely affected people. The political power of democratically elected people’s representatives remains in nexus with the big money of corporate power. This assault on democracy continues to-date, as Government of India aspires to India becoming a $5-trillion economy by 2025, while India’s population with a high proportion of malnourished and stunted children, is set to cross China’s population in 2023.

  1. 1992. On December 6, 1992, Hindu kar sevaks demolished the 16th Century Babri mosque in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), after a 1,50,000-strong political rally at the site went out of control. One version has it, that the kar sevaks were actually exhorted to demolish the mosque. The aftermath of this was outraged Muslims going on a rampage, resulting in large-scale, nation-wide, weeks-long communal violence between Hindus and Muslims, involving burning and looting homes, shops and places of worship with many rapes and deaths. All this was outright violation of constitutional values of liberty and fraternity, not to mention democracy. Its fallout is still in evidence.
  2. 2002. Beginning with the burning of a train at Godhra railway station on 27 February, in which 58 Hindu kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya were killed, the violence between Hindus and Muslims rapidly escalated, with alleged complicity of the state apparatus. Over a month of mayhem including many incidents of rape and arson, according to official figures, the riots ended with 1,044 dead, 223 missing, and 2,500 injured. Of the dead, 790 were Muslims and 254 Hindus. The 1992 communal tensions were irreversibly aggravated, violating all constitutional values. [Ref.3]
  3. 2016. At 4-hours notice on 8 November 2016, all ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes, consisting of 86% of cash in circulation, ceased to be legal and valid tender. The objective of demonetisation was to curtail the black economy, increase cashless transactions, and reduce the use of illicit and counterfeit cash, which was funding illegal activity and terrorism. The public was obliged to exchange the old banknotes for new-issue ₹500 and ₹2,000 banknotes at bank counters before 30 December 2016.

Government assured the public that all black money would be taken out in 50-days. However, according to RBI figures, ₹15.31-lakh-crores worth of notes out of ₹15.41-lakh-crore in circulation (99.3% of demonetised currency notes) returned to the banking system.

Apart from the inconvenience and hardship of millions of people who stood in serpentine queues for many days to exchange their cash, the heavily cash-dependent national economy came to a virtual standstill. The combination of the negative effects of demonetisation, its planning, and its abrupt implementation, on People’s lives, livelihoods and jobs, and on the national economy, were questioned.

The first Petition challenging the constitutionality of demonetisation and the manner of its implementation, was filed in the Supreme Court on the day following the demonetisation announcement. Six-years later, it is still being heard by the Supreme Court along with 57 other Petitions on the same matter.

  1. 2019. On 17 November 1952, Parliament inserted Article 370 of Part-XXI of the Constitution of India. It provided certain temporary, transitional and special provisions to the State of Jammu & Kashmir. On 31 October 2019, Parliament abrogated Article 370, and removed the special status of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, and re-constituted it as two union territories, namely Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh. The constitutionality of abrogating Article 370 was questioned by 23 Petitioners in the Supreme Court of India, but the Petitions remain pending 3-years later. Not adjudicating on this issue – besides several other constitutional issues pending for years – has been variously interpreted, including reflecting negatively on the Judiciary, and affecting public trust in the last-resort constitutional institution for justice.

The institutions of the Constitution

There are more such events, but the foregoing eight suffice to demonstrate that the institutions of the Constitution have failed to deliver governance in keeping with the Constitution of India, and particularly the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Undeniably, there have been pro-People laws enacted, such as the Environment Protection Act 1986 (EPA), Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA), the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA), the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA), and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. However, Governments have amended these laws or their notifications, to permit better “ease of business” with industrial and business corporations, but adversely affected the interests of the People, for which the laws were enacted. Also, these amendments make the cost of violation cheaper than the cost of compliance with the law.

Over the years, some politicians (usually from ruling political parties in the States and Centre), bureaucrats and corporates have formed a nexus, and have been flagrantly violating laws, especially PESA, the RTI Act, and FRA. This forces People to seek remedy in distant Courts of Law, where expensive proceedings take years, and intentional and procedural delays benefit the vested interests that have amended or violated the laws.

Parliament enacted PESA 1996, to ensure self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in ‘Schedule-V’ areas [Part-X, Article 244(1)]. PESA recognized the traditional rights of Adivasi people over community resources of land, water, and forests. According to PESA, every Gram Sabha is competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution, and approve of government plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development, before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation.

However, successive state and central governments have reduced or circumvented the power of the Gram Sabhas to promote business of mining and other industrial corporations, as for example, for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri (Odisha), to feed an aluminium refinery. Today, the powers given by PESA to exercise rights over community resources are almost non-existent in many states.

Similarly, according to FRA, Adivasi Gram Sabhas have a definite right over the forests, and any sort of forest diversion or eviction needs their informed consent. However, by amending FRA or its notifications, Governments have substantially reduced the pre-eminence of Gram Sabhas in matters of forest governance. Now, Gram Sabhas are neither the final authority in settlement of rights, nor is their consent mandatory in diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. The authority has been transferred to the subdivisional committee, and representation of forest-dwelling tribes in the subdivisional-level committee has been excluded, thus providing opportunity to departmental officers to exercise their authority on decisions. Gram Sabhas have no role when it comes to demarcation of a protected area. The Government reserves the right to decide the area, and whether there would be eviction or not – the Gram Sabha only gives its consent on the resettlement package. Thus, Government has actively degraded or denied People’s legitimate power for the benefit of industrial and business corporations.

Article 48A reads: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country”. But successive governments have viewed adherence to this Directive Principle as an obstacle to industrialization for economic growth.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and the corresponding ministries in the States, unquestioningly – often motivatedly – clear projects which destroy the environment, which they are duty bound to protect, preserve and conserve. The amended Environment Protection Act 1986 and its Notifications, enable Government to readily provide industries fast-track environmental clearance for industrial growth for the holy grail of economic development.

Elected representatives and bureaucrats in the centre and the states, fail to see themselves as citizens who are bound by the fundamental duty of Article 51A(g), which states: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India, to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures”.

Social justice

Article 38(1) reads:“The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life”.

Caste and untouchability was abolished by our Constitution, and Parliament enacted The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, to prevent atrocities and hate crimes against SCs and STs. Despite this, successive governments have done little to create a social order to provide justice to Dalit and Adivasi people. This is evidenced by frequent reports of “upper caste” persons committing atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis. The perpetrators of atrocities are even sometimes public servants – who have taken oath of office – but many politicians, bureaucrats and police turn a blind eye, and often actively connive to allow the perpetrators to get away.


Probably one of the rarest cases of corruption was what came to be known as the Hawala scandal which broke in 1991, when the police apprehended two Kashmiri militants, Shahbuddin Ghauri and Ashfaq Hussain. The Hawala scandal – also known as the Jain Diaries case – is a landmark case because it displayed corruption across the political spectrum. At least 115 elected representatives, all prominent legislators of opposing political persuasions, made common cause. They joined together to prevent the Supreme Court from proclaiming their names as offenders, for illegally transferring unaccounted (black) money from one country to another country, for what can only be illegal purposes, possibly including unintentionally or clandestinely funding terrorists, with dangerous consequences for national security.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) comes directly under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, which is headed by the prime minister of the day. The CBI was created to investigate bribery and governmental corruption, and its charter was expanded to include breaches of central laws and cross-State organised  crime, including economic crimes.

Accordingly, the Hawala racket investigation was entrusted to the CBI, but despite Supreme Court monitoring, the case was not properly probed. It is not unreasonable to assume that it was because of the influence of the politicians involved in the case.

In spite of life threats, Vineet Narain, a courageous journalist, filed a PIL against the concerned politicians in 1993. The PIL was ultimately disposed of by the Supreme Court in 1997, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence. Thus, all 115 politicians received a “clean chit”. Corruption had prevailed, setting the tone for public life.

It is no secret that the CBI has been misused by politicians in successive governments to keep their political opponents in check and secure their own position of power, and rarely in genuine public interest. When the same politicians are in the opposition benches in Parliament, they criticize the party in power for doing what they themselves did when they were in power.

In 2013, the Supreme Court revisited its 1997 judgment, to build jurisprudence on insulating the CBI from executive interference. It was during this process that the Supreme Court bench described the CBI, the country’s premier investigative agency, as a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”. Amusingly, this was quoted in August 2022, by a politician of a party which was out of power – an instance of the pot calling the kettle black!

Due to the unaccountability and intransparency of the People’s representatives, and their misuse of power, the CBI has not served the public good anywhere nearly as much as it should and could have done. Other investigative agencies of the State, like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax Intelligence & Criminal Investigation Wing, have also been used against political opponents. Unsurprisingly, moral, material and political corruption remain at the highest levels of political power in the States and the Centre.

Perhaps barring the first few years after Independence, people’s representatives almost across the political spectrum, were mostly engaged in acquiring money and muscle power to perpetuate their public office, or deny it to opponents. Even if they were aware of the details of our Constitution, they neglected their oath of office and constitutional duty towards the People and the country.

Economic inequality

Article 38(2) reads:“The State shall, in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations”.

Rather than minimizing income inequality, the economic reforms of the 1991 New Economic Policy actually widened the economic gap into the present unbridgable gulf. Thus today, the richest 1% of Indians own 58% of national wealth, and the bottom 10% of Indian society own 0.2% of national wealth, while the richest 10% of Indians owning 80% of the wealth have been getting steadily richer. The lives of people at the bottom 10% are characterized by low wages, long working hours, and lack of basic services such as health care, drinking water and sanitation.

The NEP-1991 economic reforms were carefully promoted from 1996 onwards, and since 2014, they have been driven vigorously. The unfortunate result is that today, the large majority of our 1.35-billion citizens are in very difficult economic and financial circumstances. It does not take much thinking to understand that the majority of these unfortunates are from the bottom 25%. Because these people are worried on a daily, meal-to-meal basis for their children and themselves, and live in abject conditions, it is also easy to join the dots of economic inequality, poverty and social unrest.

Nutrition and Health

Article 47 reads:“The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties ….”.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2019-21, India has seen no significant improvement in nutritional and health status. The data shows that 7.7% of children are severely wasted, 19.3% are wasted, and 35.5% are stunted. That is, 62.5% of children are underfed, undernourished and unhealthy. They are from families which are at the bottom of India’s socio-economic layers, lacking the most basic roti-kapda-makaan. The survivors among these children who attain adulthood and working age, are India’s citizens in coming years.

Here again, it does not take much effort to understand that the majority of these unfortunate children are from the bottom 25%. This tragic situation did not occur in just the past few years, but is the result of decades of neglect of primary duty by successive governments.

Even as India’s food production has increased over the years, food stored in FCI warehouses rots or feeds rodents, and food is exported for corporate profit. Persisting hunger and falling health parameters are the result of policy made by successive governments, in neglect of their primary duty.

Health, especially for physical and mental growth during childhood, is the outcome of nourishment of a balanced diet, along with play, exercise and rest, and gentleness of upbringing within the family. This is possible only in a family and social environment of security, peace and tranquility, which are vital for mental health. Adult health also requires these, but it largely depends upon health of the individual in childhood. Healthy children usually become healthy adults.

Hospitals and medical facilities are created and designed to attend to disease, and handle the effects of ill-health. Public health does not improve by increasing or extending hospital facilities. Hence Government attention and financial investment concerning health needs urgent re-consideration, to give much greater accent on creating the conditions for healthy individuals in a healthy society.


Providing security and public order by fair and just enforcement of laws, and maintenance of supplies and services essential to the public, is the primary task of governments. Governance is done by the civil administration, through combining the powers, roles and functions of people’s elected representatives in legislatures and governments, bureaucrats and the police forces.

Governments can function in the interest of people when there is peace and order in society, functionaries in power use people-oriented politics, and the rule of law prevails among all sections of society.

Social, cultural and economic progress and development for People cannot be meaningful unless there is peace and tranquility in public life. Peace and tranquility can be brought about and continue, only with the efforts of People, within the ambit of the supreme law of the land, which is the Constitution of India, the laws, rules and regulations that flow from it, and its social, economic and political institutions, which are meant to uphold and further its spirit and values.

The Constitution provides for the Legislatures, Executives and Judiciary, along with other institutions of the Constitution, to function together to provide governance. However, the effectiveness of governance depends upon the persons who hold office within these institutions to implement the provisions of the Constitution. These persons are elected and appointed public servants – servants of the People – who take solemn oath of office, according to Part-V of the Constitution. They are accountable to the People, in their behaviour and conduct in public life while holding public office. The working of a Constitution depends far less upon the document itself, but mostly upon those entrusted with its implementation.

A lack of peace and tranquility, and disturbance of law and order, can be attributed to public servants not using, wrongly using, or perversely using, the power and authority of their offices. However, over the past few decades, rather than serving the interests of the People, public servants continue to behave more like arrogant masters of the People, and not infrequently misuse their public office. Many are corrupt in the moral, material or political senses, as evidenced by the large number of elected representatives who stand charged with offences and crimes, but still hold public office. Sadly, in addition to arrogance and corruption, there also appears to be ignorance of the Constitution and disregard towards their constitutional solemn oath of office. A cynic wryly commented that our society is afflicted by CIA, which stands for Corruption-Ignorance-Arrogance, not USA’s Central Intelligence Agency!

Of course the People, who comprise civil society, also certainly have a role and responsibility. For a start, we need to remember that our fellow citizens who take public office come from amongst us, from families like ours, schools like ours, communities like ours. It is true that power and authority of office can corrupt the person who holds office – and “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. But it is the morals, values and ethics of primary inter-personal relationships, of the operation of the “power structure” within the home and immediate community  environment, which a person imbibes in his/her formative years, which largely although not entirely, determine his/her behavioural traits and his/her actions as an adult in private or public life.

Governance is provided by political and administrative public servants, who are citizens holding public office. The quality of governance depends upon the manner in which they use their official power and authority to serve the public cause and public interest. This has to be largely based upon the morals, values and ethics imbibed in their formative years. The quality of governance also depends upon the demands, needs, expectations and aspirations of the People, who send these public servants into office.


Generations of electors (the public) and elected persons (public servants) since Independence and upto today, are directly, indirectly or vicariously responsible for the present state of affairs.

India’s diverse societies can progress and grow in an ambience of peace and tranquility only with the “treatment” of honest political effort through transparent dialogue and engagement of politicians with the people of their constituencies, and the “nutrition” of good governance. Only this can create the conditions to achieve the constitutionally guaranteed goal of becoming a more socially and economically equitable nation.

Some may be tempted to say that honesty in politics is an oxymoron, but this writer believes that honest politics is not an impossibility, that it is do-able although not easy, and that it is the only solution to the present situation. However, as US President (1801-1809) Thomas Jefferson famously said, and it is loaded with unexpressed meanings, “The government you elect is the government you deserve”.

Stark reality is that hungry and homeless people are unlikely to understand, leave alone empathise with, the enthusiasm of celebrating 75-years of Independence, with displays of patriotism by flying tirangas on homes, and public-expense full-page ads of programs celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Paraphrasing US satirist-comedian Andy Borowitz in an Indian context, It would be nice to spend crores of rupees on food and shelter for the hungry and homeless, but right now that money is desperately needed for political ads”.


  1. Vombatkere, S.G., “Our Nation, Our Constitution: A Layperson’s Understanding“; <>;; June 18, 2021.
  2. Vombatkere, S.G., “After 75-years of Independence“; <>;; August 14, 2022.
  3. Vombatkere, S.G., “Is there a threat to the Constitution?”; <>; The Citizen; February 9, 2018.

Major General S.G. Vombatkere retired as the Additional Director General, Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi. The President of India awarded him the Visishta Seva Medal in 1993 for distinguished service rendered over 5 years in Ladakh. He holds a PhD degree in Structural Dynamics from IIT, Madras.
E-mail: [email protected]

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