girls look for clothes in a garbage dump near Bombay August 3:
a Super Power or a Failing State
DELHI, August 4: The term "failed state" entered our
lexicon, initially, in the context of Somalia, Afghanistan, and
now, increasingly, for Iraq. State authority and power are often
confused as being the same.
derives from constitutional legitimacy and respect for the institutions
such as the judiciary, Parliament, permanent bureaucracy, and
the press, whereas power is really the power to coerce and enforce
the will of the State. Authority is abstract while power is physical.
is not to say that in a failed state the power to coerce or enforce
does not exist. In Somalia, there are more guns in the hands of
the various warring clans than a legitimately constituted state
would have ever required. Ditto for Afghanistan. Ditto for Iraq.
these countries, the symbols of statehood are much in evidence.
There is a currency and people trade with each other. Goods are
imported and exported. Services like electricity, water, and transport
are still available. Schools and courts function. There is even
foreign representation. Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq have embassies
in New Delhi.
Yet, we call them failed States
because the people who call the shots, or more often fire the
shots, are without any constitutional, legal, moral, divine, or
civilisational authority. They are in a state in which societies
existed before the advent of the modern state. That they are nationalities
or even States is not in doubt, but the point is that they have
failed to be states where constitutional authority reigns and
power does not grow from the barrel of a gun.
mediaeval times, the State mainly existed to enrich the king and
the durbar, and increase their power and area of domination.
Not so the modern State, implicit in which is that the State is
tasked with not only providing order, but also improving living
standards and transform society.
while the ability to provide order is important, to judge whether
a state has failed or only partially passed, one has to judge
it by the other broad parameters. India is certainly not in the
Somalia league. It is not even in the Pakistan league, where the
internal situation is so appalling that many western observers
have taken to calling it a failed State.
our own performance is not something we can be proud of. Jammu
and Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Nagaland, Manipur,
Assam, and significant parts of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh
in the states where we consider there is some order, what is the
record of the police? Recorded crime in Delhi was up by 55 per
cent last year. In Mumbai and Delhi, the police have had to resort
to extralegal methods, euphemistically called "encounters",
to curb criminals.
press and society, generally, laud this, not realizing that such
activities have a tendency to go out of hand and start devouring
the innocent. Instead of exposing the essential criminality of
a Rajbir Singh of the Delhi Police or Daya Naik in Mumbai, the
media entertains us with stories of their unidirectional close
encounters. We never hear of a policeman getting even a scratch
in these encounters.
Only about a third of major crimes
like murder and dacoity are solved, and less than 10 per cent
end with convictions. On a more mundane level, not many people
stop at red lights anymore. At the half-year point, nearly 800
persons have perished in Delhi from automobile-related accidents.
It has been a steep descent from Sardar Patel I to Sardar Patel
II, and then some more now.
institutions from which our State should derive authority are
in a poor way. The quality of justice, particularly in our lower
courts, is suspect.
are routinely rigged. There is the case of Sanjay Dutt, a man
caught with two AK-47 assault rifles, and he is set to be excused
because his late father wanted it. More importantly, Shiv Sena
boss Bal Thackeray wanted it.
Kashmir or Manipur, just the possession of such lethal weapons
will invite an "encounter". Not just this, Sanjay Dutt
gets to have dinner with former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
in New York.
"party with a difference" had as a Member of Parliament
(MP) a person who has been "acquitted" of the (unsolvable)
murder of the husband of the woman he now openly lives with. Another
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP has been known to be an associate
of the Dawood Ibrahim gang that set off the Mumbai bomb blasts.
One cannot turn to the courts for justice, although there is a
growing tendency to do so. Several million cases clog the higher
courts, which has had a devastating impact on orderly civil and
commercial transactions. Delays in justice routinely lead to broken
contracts and agreements. Even the State has joined in exploiting
the manner in which government departments and companies routinely
hang on to properties where the leases have long expired. In fact,
it is so accepted a practice that not to do it is to invite suspicion.
We have created a system which encourages distrust. It is small
wonder, then, that after politics, law is the most lucrative profession.
friend who lives in Haryana was recently relating a harrowing
story of how he had to pay an inspector of police to get a case
of theft registered. It is not surprising that common people without
the wherewithal to get expensive and slow justice seek other avenues.
Mumbai, they go to godfathers like Arun Gawli Member of the Legislative
Assembly; in western UP, they go to the caste panchayat; in Bihar,
they go the caste mafia leader; and in Telangana and Bastar, they
go to the Peoples War. The supreme irony is that more often the
quality of justice delivered by the informal system is considered
to be superior to that offered by the Constitutional legal system.
Even policemen seem to prefer them.
is so well entrenched and accepted that one is not required to
dwell upon it. The phrase "to enjoy power" has acquired
an entirely different dimension. The critical thing is that no
action of the State, however highly placed the decision-maker,
as Indira Gandhi once self-servingly pointed out, is a worldwide
phenomenon. Compared to the scale on which the Suharto, Marcos,
and Bhutto families prospered, the activities of the Narasimha
Rao and Vajpayee families, real or adopted, were small change.
They can even be condoned as inevitable and a small price to pay
in a country where sycophancy and flexible notions of morality
are inherent cultural traits.
the record of the Indian State in improving the living standards
of the majority of its people is abysmal. India languishes among
the bottom five of the World Bank's annual Development Report.
Almost 70 per cent of the Indian nation lives below a poverty
line that would factor in balanced diet, shelter, access to education
and healthcare, and basic civic amenities.
60 per cent of Indians are illiterate. Infant mortality is 137
per 1,000 births. On all infrastructure indices we are well below
— forget China — even Pakistan!
The Central government earmarks less for health and education
than the cumulative pay raise the bureaucracy got last year —
Rs 90 billion.
State spends much more on the bureaucracy — a whopping Rs
1700 billion for all Central and state government employees each
year. That is a good 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product
and is growing. The service sector is doing so well because public
administration is growing at 11 per cent each year.
If we remove this growth from the annual growth of 5-6 per cent,
about which all our sarkari and pink paper economists
crow, you will get a real growth much closer to the Hindu growth
rate of 3 per cent we used to deride.
bureaucracy has a self-serving methodology to determine poverty
— 2,200 and 2,400 calories, respectively, for urban and
rural areas. Given the rise in food grains production and the
State's ability to make much smaller food subsidy investments,
every successive regime is able to crow that poverty levels are
Dr Manmohan Singh's last year as finance minister, the government
reported that poverty was down to 19 per cent, and tried to make
us believe that its industrial liberalization policies were percolating
Oxfam report and studies by leading economists like Suresh Tendulkar
revealed that due to inflation and contraction of the economy
in the initial years of "liberalization", simple economic
logic says that poverty levels actually went up.
that time, the BJP said that it would use more parameters to determine
poverty. Such a step would have resulted in targeting poverty
alleviation differently. Rather than focus on providing food grains,
the State would also have to focus on education, health, water,
work, transport, sewage, and so on. We would see more investments
in the rural sector, where the war on poverty has ultimately to
be waged. On the basis of this parameter, after 57 years as a
modern state and with very clear non-realisation of the Founding
Fathers' dreams of a modernized state, we are clearly a failed
failures of the first 50 years set out the task for the BJP, India's
first truly non-Congress government. When the BJP came to power,
the Congress truly symbolized corruption, venality, and an uncaring
leadership. But, instead of change, we got five more years of
the same, the same monumental corruption, the same concentration
of powers, the same uncaring attitudes to the real problems, the
same kind of statism.
instead of a doting father, we now had a doting father-in-law.
Liberalization became Suhartoism instead of an all-encompassing
The two United Progressive Alliance
budgets have made no significant alteration in the general direction
of the previous decade. There is a decline of spending on critical
sectors. The Central government spends less on agriculture and
irrigation than on civil aviation. About 70 per cent of our people
are dependent on agriculture, which accounts for 23 per cent of
the Gross National Product, whereas there were only 12 million
air-passengers last year.
Delhi has the highest level of air pollution in the world. The
Ganga is so polluted that health experts say that exposure of
even a small wound to it will lead to infection. All urban, human,
and industrial wastes flow into water bodies, and thence into
the groundwater or rivers. All over the country, groundwater tables
are falling alarmingly as the State has abandoned its responsibilities
to provide for water harvesting and irrigation.
article is the introduction of a detailed cover story in the August
Edition of Hardnews, which claims to go beyond
what one finds in news reports and analyzes, exposes, strategizes
and looks at every aspect of Indian lives through the prism of
politics. Web site: hardnewsmedia.com