Indian Polity: Regional Policy Absent and Border Policy Missing
By Amar Yumnam
India has just experienced two events rather close to one another. Both of these events have lost of implications for governance designs and policy formulation. One event has caused a serious embarrassment to the ruling political party and the government it leads. The federal government tried to introduce some amendments to the law relating to citizenship. One whole region, though small in the usual Indian understanding of democratic size based only on population numbers, constituting the Indian Union rose in unison against the proposed amendments. The veracity of this non-acceptance of the proposals became louder and ultimately gained political weight to stigmatise the latter.
The second event relates to the tragic incident where more than forty soldiers were martyred. As unfortunate and condemnable this attack on the soldiers has been, there are also many policy issues to be seriously pondered upon.
Both these events establish beyond doubt that governance and taking the people along means much more than half-literate Spokespersons of the ruling political party using obscene words about others in private and being arrogant in public debates; public governance is a different kettle. Further, ‘public governing capacity’ is not the public display of a provincial leader of abusive disapproval of intelligentsia for his inability to achieve; a true leader should not betray in public his lack of political depth and intellectual depravity.
These two events are quite reminiscent of an international intellectual debate in 2014 when in this year the Princeton University Press published Peter Schuck’s book titled Why Government Fails So Often, And How It Can Do Better; Princeton University Press and Norton published Philip Howard’s The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government. These two books were widely reviewed and many articles on more or less similar vein also appeared in the same year. The following years too were marked by debates on these issues. In 2015 Kalle Moene and Tina Soreide wrote on Good Governance Facades thus: “Fashions come and go in the development community. When a policy idea becomes popular, some governments implement a cosmetic variant of the policy. What looks like development, are institutional façades; pretty from the outside, ugly from the inside. A good governance façade can be introduced deliberately to mislead observers and stakeholders to cover political theft.” In 2017 the World Development Report focused on Governance and The Law WDR 2017 and asserted: “As ideas and resources spread at an increasingly rapid rate across countries, policy solutions to promote further progress abound. However, policies that should be effective in generating positive development outcomes are often not adopted, are poorly implemented, or end up backfiring over time.”
Here we need to emphatically note that the spatial centre of both the events happen to be border regions of India – one in the extreme North-East bordering South-East Asia and another in the extreme north bordering Pakistan. India is now subject to very unease times. The frequency and intensity of the causes of these uneasiness seem to be heightening in very recent years. These necessarily demand rethinking on what have been the policy responses or otherwise to the issues emanating from these regions. Here the observation of the World Development Report 2017 becomes relevant: “Although the development community has focused a great deal of attention on learning what policies and interventions are needed to generate better outcomes, it has paid much less attention to learning why those approaches succeed so well in some contexts but fail to generate positive results in others.”
This is exactly where the heterogeneity of India in social, historical, cultural, geographic, demographic and institutional characteristics needs to be immediately recognised as the context for any policy to evolve and implement. The spatial characteristic as borderlands of the places of occurrence of the two recent events makes us wonder what has happened to the policies for border areas in this country. Or has it been a case that India has not had any border policy whatsoever yet? I understand that our security forces have been rendering a yeomen service protecting the boundaries, but the issue is one of the borders where people live, work and survive. This seems to be the continuing weakest area in India’s policy design and formulation. People in the borderlands expected a change in 2014 but down the line the realities have been perceived as turning out to be different.
In the northern border violence has been responded for decades by violence in both words and action. But this can never be sustainable means for evolving a kind of agreement between the public and the government on a shared common future. The partition of India really gave a costly shock to the polity but seven decades down the line there is inability to evolve any kind of meeting point for a lasting peace. The scenario in the North-Eastern part is of a different nature. During the last decade or so we are increasingly witnessing a more or less shared commitment for a cooperative future. Instead of scaling up this positive development, we have just witnessed a kind of policy-induced upheaval in the region.
Well political arrogance, leadership abrasiveness and half-literate spokespersons cannot the foundation, frame and medium of any policy in India. The policies whatsoever are to be founded on the differentiating characteristics of the vast and rich country. Absorb the context of India and digest the plural dynamics underlying the diversity before thinking on something big. India does not need a Government That Fails. The national objective should be to evolve certain shared agreements and evolve a Government That Performs.
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