Talk given under the auspices of course for IAS Probationers

Recorded speech (BPST/1145)
Dr. Kashyap

Friends, I am very happy to welcome amongst us Professor M.L. Sondhi. I am reminded of a question that I asked of an American professor in Washington long time back about the committee that they had in the House of Commons, they had a Committee on Foreign Affairs and in the Senate, they called it the Committee on Foreign Relations. I asked that professor, “Why was this difference in nomenclature?” In reply, he said, “So long as you are in the House, you are qualified to have only stray affairs, but when you move to the Senate, you are adult enough to have relations.” Today, Professor Sondhi, whom we have amongst us, is an expert not only on foreign affairs but also on foreign relations; he is not only an expert on foreign affairs and foreign relations but he is much more. He is many things into one. He is a distinguished academician. He has been a visiting scholar at Colombo, Harvard and Warsaw. Now he has been with the Jawaharlal Nehru University, as you know. He is an eminent parliamentarian and a politician. He was a Member of the Lok Sabha during 1967-1971. He is also a distinguished former civil servant. It might interest you to know that he stood first in order of merit in the All India Competitive Examination for IAS and IFS and served the Foreign Service before he resigned voluntarily to take to academic work, and if I may add, later politics. So he is such a person we have amongst us to speak to us on the subject of the position of Parliament in Indian polity.

Prof. M.L. Sondhi:

Thank you Dr. Kashyap. Since you have been good enough to speak in a human context about my contribution or my capacity, I would, first of all, express myself on the question of the level at which discussion of this sort should proceed and following your precedent I also narrate a story about the Christian father. The Father of the Church was questioned by a person as follows: “Holy Father, do you see the face of the country and then pray to God to give wisdom to the Members of Parliament to save the country?” The Holy Father replied, “No. I look at the faces of MPs, then pray to God and ask him to save the country.” I think, mine is a face of a person who was an MP. You could have had many other people, a choice of people amongst whom you could have asked someone to come and speak on this fascinating subject of “Parliament and Indian polity”. It could have been a communist MP; it could have been an MP on the extreme right-wing; it could have been a member of the ruling party. I think, the perspective would have varied in each case because the questions that we have to consider are, in fact, interwoven with questions concerning the very future of human civilisation.

Now, if we take up the question of the constitutional importance of Parliament, if we take up the question of defining its role – we have an elaborate theoretical structure to draw upon – and even if you take up the relationship of the two Houses, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, we straightway come across questions which link us to the very logic of legislative processes and the manner in which our federal polity works. Then, we have questions of contemporary Indian perceptions of politics, domestic politics and external politics. My aim today will be to develop a method of analysis and I trust that each one of those who respond by way of questions and answers would also perhaps find it useful to develop a methodology because that would probably help more than anything else. The substantive answers can perhaps come in course of time.

I would, first of all, outline what appear to me relevant issues. Then, I propose to give you an account of how I personally try and bring meaning into the chaotic nature of possibilities, events, concepts and, finally, I would suggest perhaps a hopeful way of looking at the Indian Parliament and Indian polity – hopeful, not because we have to be hopeful but because, I think, there are objective grounds on which we can be extremely hopeful. I think, one has to begin with an understanding of the traditional values and the contemporary involvement in the world situation in which India finds itself by way of a statement of traditional values. We can go back to Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj where he did not speak of Parliament with any great respect. As a matter of fact he was very sharp, almost full of invectives about the concept of Parliament. He had two main criticisms to offer. One, that nothing productive comes out of Parliament and the other, that it is misused – different Ministers or Prime Ministers misuse Parliament. I should suggest that if one takes that as the starting point of the analysis, one can then say that this was the Parliament which we imported.

Now, the question is: What are the different policy decisions which Indian decision-makers made which resulted in Parliament developing an ethos of its own? Here, I would just digress to mention the fact that there are some very strong factors affecting the Indian polity. There is in the world today the inter-imperial system of the United States and the Soviet Union which exercises through their relationship enormous pressure on the rest of the world. Since India has chosen a model of development which does not fit in either with Soviet or American requirements, there is a field in which India’s very functioning is a challenge to them. Indian swaraj is, in fact, a continuing exercise to maintain autonomy. It means that the commitment to political freedom which we find expressed in the Constitution of India is not just as if it were embodied in some lifeless statuary but it is, in fact, a very living process in the shape of a Constitution striving to maintain, if not enlarge, an area of autonomy. Therefore, the very philosophy of parliamentary form of Government which we have developed, if one were to study it as a living process, not as a photograph, one would find that the Parliament, in fact, is the centre of political debate in India, even when it is not in session.

A student of mine, a Japanese, had an opportunity to examine the role of Parliament at the time of the Arab-Israel war when the Parliament was not in session. But here was an outside observer who wrote a paper of 40 pages or more in which he pinpointed a debate. In fact, the debate turned on the Parliament, whether to call a special session of Parliament or not. This itself became a centre of political debate and the press reacted to the possibilities that would have occurred on such an occasion. In other words, we have always to take into account not only Parliament as it is but the possibilities inherent in Parliament. This is something which makes us constantly aware of the institutionalisation that has taken place in the form of Parliament.

Parliament is, in fact, a continuous election campaign. I think, this is something which we have to bear in mind because this also will help us to understand how to take account of what Mahatma Gandhi had said. He was right in a sense that Parliament can be sterile and that Parliament can be misused. But here is another factor which comes in. Parliament is a continuous election campaign and it provides a sort of activity which you see in a specialised form these days when elections have been ordered.

There is another aspect also and that is about bureaucracy which functions in Government and the counter-bureaucracy which exists in Parliament. This is an accepted notion of political force. It is a fairly useful one. All the time we do not have to talk of Parliament vs. bureaucracy. We do not have to condemn bureaucracy. We have really to take into account the fact that there is a balancing of opinion within Parliament and this balancing of opinion requires from us some kind of contingency planning. It requires from us re-assessment of the political objectives and a formulation of long-term objectives. Therefore, we have to re-examine the received doctrine, whether it comes from the May’s Parliamentary Practice or from Mahatma Gandhi. We have here a situation where we need a very clear and comprehensive definition of what Indian Parliament is.

All the time Parliament receives signals and sends out signals. I am not saying it as a political pundit but on the basis of the fact that I happened to be in Parliament and that helped me to verify certain matters. When you are a Member of the House, the moment you step into the House, the moment you feel yourself as a part of the House, you are receiving signals and sending out signals all the times. The manner in which you are coming and going out of the House, to give you a ridiculous example, not a serious example, has its effect. I remember, one day, when I was coming to Parliament House, from Gate No. 2, Shri Morarji Desai was going out.

I remember to this time that very encounter because nowadays nobody bothers at what time a Member of Parliament comes to Parliament, but at that time, Mr. Desai looked at me severely and pointed out that I had come late. That was enough of an indication to me that I was to deal with a person who was austere, Gandhian, inflexible, rigid, but very interesting.

So, what you can get from Parliament depends on the type of service you give and receive from your own leader if you happen to be a member of a Party. There is a signalling going on all the time – and if it is from the ruling Party, it may be to a Minister or an MP. A Minister may be important outside, but in the House, he is just like any other Member of the House.

This is a subject which borders on the area of psychology: it is also concerned with management and it is also concerned with the administration of organisations. You get an inter-disciplinary or a trans-disciplinary approach to this problem from the very beginning. You suddenly get a world which is full of deeper psychological forces. There were the so-called ‘ginger’ groups in the Congress Party and you find those very people today in different positions, wearing different faces. If the Congress Parliamentary Party is meeting, it is not only the Congress Parliamentary Party which is meeting but there is an overflow of sentiments from all sides. There are psychological permutations and combinations.

Then, again, the question is that you cannot come to any simple judgment. Supposing there was an extremist in political life speaking here today, he might well say that parliament is a ‘talking shop’, that it represents only the bourgeoisie, etc. But then, any person will have to concede the fact that you cannot come to simple judgements. It is not as if Members of Parliament are approached only by the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry: there may be influences and there may be dinners or invitations to dinners etc. to MPs from Public Relations officers of multi-national companies but, at the same time, members of parliament are also in touch with the citizens; they are in touch with people who live in different situations and where they generate political power and political forces. In essence, therefore, it is the total disposition of political forces that matters. And, above all, the roots of Indian political culture are not those which attune the Indian polity to those of the bourgeois or which have a total involvement with the capitalists. It is not so because, somewhere in the Indian political culture, there are austerity, simplicity and other worldly values.

Now, when we talk of the procedure of Parliament, I can talk of the present inside process at least from one vantage point. What one has to find is how far it meets India’s political needs. Therefore, the first area we have to consider is the area of primary policy problems because these primary policy problems are important. They are important because it is these which bring out the quality of the Members of Parliament and it is these which ultimately interest the civil servants, and these are the areas which have sometimes received attention in the newspapers; these are the areas where Parliament develops certain higher levels. There is a quotation, for example, about the average British MPs that they get quite rowdy while taking beer or wine, but they also have a high-mindedness when it comes to the affairs of the nation. In India’s case, this is even more true. Somewhere, a sense of responsibility remains. An MP may be boisterous or he may be slovenly but once you make him a Member of the Estimates Committee or the Public Accounts Committee or the Public Undertakings Committee you will find that, suddenly, that very person displays an attitude which you least suspected was there. These are people who make an estimation of not only what is happening but of the future. They are prepared to wait and watch and, all the time, there is a calculus going on. This is also a situation where effective criticism is always available. The Ministers are under watch while they perform as also the Deputy Ministers and ordinary MPs. It is here that one gets to know the whole situation. As a matter of fact, it is in Parliament, perhaps, of all places, that one realises that, somehow or other, for the people of India the most scarce resource is not oil or water or coal etc. but time – because, in the process of governing the entire sub-continent, all the wheels of the entire machinery – the bureaucracy, business, the peasantry, the Army etc. – require time to undertake a study of the dimensions of all our problems. So, this time has to be used very carefully. Time is very important for the Prime Minister; time is very important for the Opposition leaders. And, after all, when Parliament meets, it brings itself to an artificial situation in the sense that the Members have to come away from their constituencies. They have other work to do, but they come away from their occupations. So, every single minute in Parliament has to be used carefully. You therefore have a particular political strategy to use time effectively and it is extremely important to know what are the matters which Parliament takes up (details of which can be attended to by other people) and the extent to which Parliament gathers facts and figures, sifts the material and scrutinises the results of the various Ministries which are presented in the form of administrative reports.

So, we are now understanding the role of Parliament; we are now understanding the manner in which Parliament is to undertake certain tasks. Its given tasks would be, firstly, to adapt itself because, if parliament is to remain a vibrant, living organisation, it must understand the constant need for adaptation. It must change and change hopefully in the right direction and not in the wrong direction. Then, again, it is concerned with the entire Indian people: it is not the Parliament of Punjab or Tamilnadu but it is the Parliament of the entire Indian people. Therefore, I would say that it is always on the agenda of the Indian Parliament that it should aim at national reconciliation and at a national valuation of political personality. So, what we get, therefore, is a lot of political computation all the time, in the context of opportunities for consultation and for developing something which can then become a base for an informed discussion on policies.

If I may make a theoretical digression, there is a book called ‘Fights, Games and Debates’ which shows an understanding of human behaviour. Human beings want to fight each other. If you put two children together, they hit each other. If you put two men or two women, they are likely to collide. We try to convert that situation into a game and that is how we play football, cricket etc. But we play political games also which by itself, is not a desirable state of affairs. But what we are finally aiming at is a debate which means that we want to deal creatively with other persons who stand in the way of attaining our desired result. In other words, we have a process of conflict resolution in our Parliamentary procedure and the Indian people have sanctioned it in terms of their own political culture. We have to aim at a continental organisation of the Indian people.

Our national anthem refers to Kashmir and all other parts of our country; it refers to the total setting. Our national song, Vande Mataram, focuses the image of a benign mother. In other words, if we see the development of Indian polity, we will see in it the possibilities for understanding the multi-faceted development of the Indian people, at least in its ideal aspects. But we also have the practical need. And what is the practical need of a government? Legitimation. Whether it is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru or Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri or Shrimati Indira Gandhi, the direct and pressing need is that they should be legitimate in their office. This need for legitimation in a modern society is extremely important. It is very economical also. If you are not legitimate, then you have to assert yourself, and for asserting yourself, you have to use violence. Violence is very costly. Hence, the need for legitimation, hence the need for Parliament, hence the need for elections. The Indian Parliament has to be understood not only in this theoretical framework, which I have unfolded, but also in the realistic political dimension – I will unfold this realistic political dimension in another five minutes.

I should think that the debate today which occupies the minds of men of goodwill, people who think, is not so much between the Executive and the Legislature as the rather ambivalent situation which exists between the Judiciary and the Legislature. Why has this happened? It is again an Indian phenomenon. Historically, the Judiciary was independent of the Crown in England. It was considered a natural ally of Parliament and both of them used to face the Executive. But what exactly has happened in India has to be seen in the context of developments over a period of two decades. We have received a liberal theory which we do not find suitable for development needs. The liberal theory, whether it is in the form of utilitarianism or in its various other manifestations, essentially requires that some reforms are necessary in order that the excess of capitalism does not destroy the fabric of individuals or society. In India, the task is entirely different. We need to understand that the situation in our country has been that exploitation has been going on for at least several centuries; and in this exploitation we find ourselves at the receiving end of a system in which the centre is in England or America or the Soviet Union, and we are on the political and economic periphery. And what we get is violence not only in the form in which the East India Company behaved, but a structural violence, an in-built violence, when we sell tea or tobacco or jute; in any enterprise we find that they are exploiting us. When we want peace in the Indian Ocean, we find Diego Garcia. At every stage we find violence introduced into the situation. Therefore, any political party which goes into the General Elections, has to deal with a situation which is not the same which the British Parliament faces. There it is a question of Parliament re-arranging certain items on the table. In our case we have to build the table, we have to put the items on the table. Actually our table is not here; it is in England or America.

What every important Party, a dominant Party like Congress, does is that it seeks a mandate from the electorate. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru used to ask for a mandate. Shrimati Indira Gandhi has been asking for a mandate. This means that there is a political origin for every single item on the agenda, whereas in a country like England or Netherlands or elsewhere, you have got the philosophy of de-politicization; they will not raise everything to a political level. But here a total, systemic effort has to be made to give India a place in the comity of nations, and this gives a very powerful thrust to politicizing every item on the agenda, with the result that sometimes it is ‘garibi hatao’ mandate, sometimes it is on foreign policy, and so on. This creates conflicts.

You get total and absolutist views presented in the form of a mandate from the people. When you go to Parliament, you should avoid pathological conflict. Conflicts are of two types: one is benign conflict – it is good to have a conflict of this type – and the other is pathological conflict; you forget how the conflict started. Feud is a pathological conflict: my father was hurt by your father, my grandfather was hurt by your grandfather, and so on; you forget the original nature of the conflict. For example, at the Bus Stop, two persons starting fighting; they have a row; then some other people also join in that; while those two persons who started it go to a restaurant and take tea together, the others are engaged in that pathological conflict. In India, this is the main problem. The primary political demands are reasonable, but to generate electoral support for them, conflict at a very high level is created. This sometimes becomes pathological, and the Parliamentary political system cannot work if we have such a conflict.

What we need, therefore, is this: we should develop certain processes in Parliament itself which could keep India an open political society, which could provide a source of legitimacy to Government and which could also generate confidence between the Opposition and the Government. There are various ways in which compromises can be created. In order that Parliament plays its role in the total Indian polity, you have to see Parliament as a certain way of consensus-building at all levels. The top political leaders must not persecute each other. If there is lack of majority, then some political devices must be created so that it does not lead to the breakdown of the total system. In other words, the conflict has to be seen in its reality.

I have four areas in which we could try to solve the problems in our polity. Firstly, be it any political crisis, we must see it in its reality; we must not be carried away by examples from other political systems: if there was a Watergate in America, there must be one in India also. We must understand our political crises as they come. We must also have confidence in our own capacity for crisis management. If you see the procedures of Indian Parliament, you do find most interesting innovations of solving crises; quietly we have faced them; we have been able to do things in our own quiet way. I would, therefore, suggest the need for understanding the conflicts – between Parliament and Executive and between Parliament and judiciary. I would recount here the contribution of a person like Mr. Nath Pai. It was Mr. Nath Pai’s Bill which started the whole controversy; the controversy actually started with a Private Member’s Bill. This was a problem which occurred to him; he started looking at the problem of relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary. We forgot that. Then what happens is that we get too much information coming from outside; we have examples and models which are alien to our way of thinking. The realities of political crisis must be understood and parliament is, in fact, a very useful place where the litmus test can be employed.

Second is the structure of national values. This is very important. There is a contemporary discussion going on in Europe that the core beliefs are extremely important. They are not easily changed. People can wear bush-shirts, jeans or anything, but they remain something within themselves. We must not be carried away by the surface events. The structure of national political values in India is pretty secure.

Thirdly, there are certain rules of game in national politics and these rules of the game are for overall cooperation. We can fight one day, we cannot fight all the time. If you have excess of energy, it is good to have a game or run, but after that, you must get down to work.

The fourth item, under which I consider the whole problem, is that if there is a breakdown of some political structure, it does not matter, we can create a new political structure and that can serve the goals and values of democracy and egalitarianism.

In order to understand this, we must understand the Indian political system as made up of inter-related sub-systems. The Indian Parliament is a fascinating example here. Now, I would tell you about the six sub-systems.

First, democracy has been very often called an ‘import’ into India. In that case, you must regard it as an artificial activity, but this is an inverted perspective and I would suggest that this needs to be replaced by a description of the Indian socio-cultural sub-system which has survived the onslaught of colonialism and imperialism. A problem-solving approach would look for the inter-relationship of the fundamentally integral patterns of Indian cultural consciousness and the complex and skilled political tasks for strengthening democracy. The creative evolutionary processes of Indian education and Indian mass media cannot be held up by a meaningless imitation of the distortions and deformities introduced in the area of political enslavement. The operative cultural sociology of the Indian people will increasingly influence the political power structure and democracy and socialism will develop specifically Indian attributes to be widely effective. And perhaps it is the Indian political model with all its deformities which is more futuristic.

The second is the chains of dependence and exploitation in the economic sub-systems. These have to be related to Parliament. In our economic sub-systems, there is a lot of dependence and exploitation. Then, much of the development which has been recommended by the Americans and Russians is actually not development, but development of under-development. The more development we do, the more under-developed we become. In the economic sub-systems, Parliament has the opportunity to analyse the extent of freedom and democracy in a developing country. To that extent, we are a model for the third world. And the more we resist the hidden persuaders in the mass media of the Americans, the better it will be for our future. The structural characteristics of Indian under-development can only be overcome by a mobilization programme which deals a blow to the ‘asymmetrical’ relationships inherited from the past. If the economic system stagnates, this can pave the way for the total destruction of political and economic independence. The close interdependence between a programme of comprehensive economic uplift of the solidarity of the political community, must be seen in a comprehensive and direct way if national capabilities are to be synthesised with national commitments.

This again can only be done by Parliament. With all the drawbacks, Parliament is the only place where all things appear in their bare essentials. Elsewhere, you see these filtered through the eyes of a Galbraith or a Gulenovasky.

The third point which should be of interest to administrators is the psychological patterns on a nation-wide basis which affect the country’s democratic identity. The Indian political synthesis is not dependent only on the ideological interpretation of those who take political initiatives. The emotional processes in national politics are of crucial importance particularly in periods of rapid national development. Ideologies here have to be understood in a continuum – religious, social etc. and not in very narrow fields. Here, freedom of speech and freedom of political agitation can never be the cause of Indian democracy. We need freedom of speech, political agitation, but that is not the cause, that is the effect. In the Indian ethos, even by silence you can communicate. It is a form of communication. Gandhiji’s silence for a day was more eloquent than all the radio stations of the world put together. There are many areas on which Indians do not speak out at the slightest provocation. If we develop an attitude of remaining silent on certain things, that would have a powerful effect in the world. It is a psychological capacity of Indians which has not yet been exploited.

The psychological sub-system is extremely important. It is not only GNP, but it is how a Government officer talks to the public. That has got nothing to do with the GNP. It is the courtesy and the behaviour of the parliamentary staff which develops a certain atmosphere and you feel that you are in the Parliament House. The psychological factor is very important.

The fourth sub-system is the technological sub-system. It is extremely significant for a developing country like India, because we want a Parliament not just to dig up the past. We want a Parliament which is committed to the application of science and technical progress for transforming our national life. It is here that the Parliament will face the test of the future. The test of the future is, how Parliament will stand up to the penetration by multinational corporations and other international financial organizations which bring in malicious influences and work against the conception of national development. It will be for the Indian Parliament to coordinate technological decisions which will lead to centralization of power within the political system. We have to accept the centralization of power. But what the Parliament can do is, it can express the aspirations of the whole Indian community in a long-term assessment of balanced relations in technological interdependence. Then, India will be a model to the third world.

The fifth point which I would like to make and which is extremely important is the demographic subsystem. I know the word ‘family planning’ can make people very depressed and very agitated. I have two children and I think I do not come at the receiving end of any campaign. But the point I would like to make is that the demographic subsystem has a direct relationship to the economic subsystem. We can note this not only to emphasize the relationship at the historical level. On the functional level the trends of demographic change affect the organizational patterns that govern the management of education and cultural activities. The collective perception of the basic principles of democratic method is influenced by the demographic environment. The other day there was a very relevant talk given by Ericson, the famous psychologist. He made the point that one or two things are important. One is what you call the generative impulse. Man and woman have to generate. But if family planning is necessary and it is necessary for India as otherwise there will be many other difficulties, then not only must you do the family planning but you must also maintain the generative impulse. “I will look upon the whole of India and all Indian children playing anywhere as my children”. But that is easier said than done. If the Indian Parliament is able to develop the proper approach to family planning, then the Indian Parliament will be helping a great deal. Otherwise if you just check the generative impulse, then you are asking for further conflict. You must take that impulse to a higher level and provide what is called the humanistic outlook in the wider sense of the term.

The sixth point is that the national system is always part of the international system. It is often thought that the Deputy Commissioner working in Poona or some other place is working only for Poona. They forget that there is an outside world which is much bigger than that place. To avoid rigidity in role performance the chief decision-maker has to relate the new issues emerging in the national context to global patterns of change. The physical size, population and political importance of India require a policy framework that takes into account national as well as international needs and aspirations. India cannot afford political apathy to problems of a new and just world order. In order to widen the scope of democratic processes within the country, new strategies have to be designed in order to maintain flexibility in dealing with international issues of peace and security, environment, and expanding economic opportunities. India has not accepted the sharp duality of economic determinism and laissez faire and has, therefore, to constantly search for solutions which appear to be elusive from the standpoint of messianic political cultures. It is the final point which makes me very optimistic about the future of India and the future of the Indian Parliament.

Thank you,

Question: In characterising the system into various subsystems and trying to analyse their relationship, will it not lead to a conflict between them? Unless all these subsystems cater to a particular goal, conflict between the subsystems is bound to arise. Secondly, I feel that the economic subsystem may dominate other subsystems.

Answer: It is a good question. My answer would be in three ways. One would be that in India the democratic institutions have captured the people’s imagination. It is something which can be understood and seen.

Secondly, democratic institutions in India are not stagnant. They are evolving. The question is that there is an urgent necessity of action. Now if you take the economic system, already there is talk going on in the world in various places as to how far we are justified in isolating economy as a cash balance transaction. We have a very clear understanding now of what happens when the second industrial revolution takes place. It creates a communications network. It creates so much which overlaps. Now if that happens then the economic system starts taking the character of other things also. It starts looking at the processes in a very intellectualised way. There is no get-away. Human labour also gets intellectualised. Intellectual processes start. Now the computer can be misused. It can be thrown very badly at society. It could be an excuse for running away from social injustices also. But let us also take a little more reasonable view. After all can we really deny that so much mental work is necessary in the world? So much mental work is done. So many ideas are being generated. So with regard to the economic behaviour one sees at the existing injustices in terms of the clash between those who have more of the cake and those have less and those who are exploited and those who are exploiting as that correctly explains the point and as you look at it, different types of problems confront you. We have to understand these problems as problems in which the economic part has a greater role. Now ideas have also become extremely important. This is also the way in which the various systems can be related to each other because the ideas act as the carrier of what you need. You need a scientist as also an economist.

Question: In the Parliament the economic point seems to dominate and in that case the signals from the other subsystems will no longer come into the Parliament. In this one-way flow a change becomes no longer possible.

Answer: Perhaps you are looking at it at a different way. You have another theory in mind. I would say that every political crisis has a context. The Parliament has a role of resolving the conflicts. When conflicts take place, there are conflicting views. Now conflicts can be created and sometimes solved in a very slavish way.

The context is extremely important. What we are envisaging is whether we are able to do so many things in society free from violence. There is a society which exists and here is the Parliament which receives all these raw materials. Parliament has a role of preventing conflict getting out of hand.

Society escalates at all points, such as right of self expression and freedom of speech. Then they talk about ‘law and order’.

Parliament allows questions and categories which are free from certain limits. Therefore, it is a very good instrument to resolve conflict.

Question: You have mentioned about the importance of time. In my view there are two or three alternatives. We change the system from authoritarian to materialistic. The other way is that of village economy. As Mahatma Gandhi said that would not be possible because of certain limitations. Do we want to go in for materialistic side or the other side?

Answer: I would say these matters are not too catalytic. Parliament is a vehicle for the purpose. Let us get it moving. This jargon in Parliament has a feed back process. The feed back takes a little time in reaching. In India it is a good system. We get the feed back. You take the horse to water. You cannot make it drink. You can educate your child but you cannot make him laugh. I say the burden is on the Indian Parliament. Allow the Indian Parliament, allow it to get the feed back. Once it gets the fed back, it is corrected.

Question: It is a question of choice. This is a slow process form of Government.

Answer: We were discussing that the Indian Parliament should be a model for the third world.

In our case if we have to reject the so-called pathological thinking, we have to reject it at all levels.

Perhaps we are now making real progress. In spite of all the ups and downs we are making real progress, in the sense that we have maximum effectiveness.

Question: We are talking in terms of Indian values. Some historical developments have taken place. Some political systems have passed through the ages. Can we ignore these? Can we say we have our own system? Have we time to find our own system?

Answer: I am not presenting you so much of the Constitutional view but I am presenting you a view on the basis of experience. The main factor in the Constitution is the allegiance of the Indian people. Any movement which theorises without allegiance, I do not think, will make any headway. Allegiance will make all Indians as one people. That is a very clear demand from the people.

The American Civil War had affected us, when everyone was coming to India and talking about the breaking away of the South. The people from the South did not want to break away. Rather they wanted to come to Karol Bagh. The allegiance of the Indian people is to social and economic democracy. The Indian Parliament is a very important institution. It gives you scope to express what the Indian people feel.

We were discussing why is it that the third world countries find the Indian model very attractive. It is because we are in a position to understand why retardation has taken place. The time element is important. We must realise how long it took the Western countries to do certain things. Let us take one example. Mr. Young has been made a Member of the President Carter’s Cabinet. He is a black. When did blacks get emancipation? They got emancipation about 150 years ago. Look at the distance. In India I should think we have not yet considered making an assessment of our past and of our problems. We have problems at all times. I am not under-estimating. My point is basically related to the scope of our discussion. The scope of social choice in India is very wide and it does not require somebody coming from some other country to come and tell us about it. We have a feed back process also which gives us a lot of data. Our problems are solved in the parliament. (Almost in every case the Indian problems have gone to pieces.

Of course, I am not advocating complacency. You should see how these inter-actions takes place which are growth-oriented, what the conflicting processes are and how the conflicting processes can be balanced with non-conflicting processes and so on. There is no conflict between one step of the staircase and the other; they do not fight that way. In our Indian approach I am not asking for interplay of prejudices or uninformed judgements. We should develop a basis of thinking which gives us some sort of assurance whereby, without distorting our political reality, we will be able to explore the limits to which we can go. We have not done that. We have not posed the problem. We are complaining that these are similar problems as in England in earlier days. At the time of the Glorious Revolution, how did Locke become well-known? He wrote two treatises on Government; he developed certain propositions. We did not do that; we allow other people to come in and do it for us. Ideology has to be translated into action. Marx once said, thank God, I am not a Marxian. So, the point is, it is an exercise of choice, of real adaptation. These are problems which are happening in every political party, in every group. Look at the communists, what they were doing and what they are doing today. They have adapted to the social forces. Bureaucracy, Parliament, University, all have this task of ‘social reconstruction’ which is, to remove backwardness from within, rather than to impose a model from outside. If you impose a model from the outside that gives rise to an exploitation syndrome. You introduce cultural exploitation for economic exploitation. Thank you.

Shri Ajoy Acharya: Members of the Bureau and friends, the IAS probationers thank Mr. Sondhi for his very interesting talk on Parliament in the Indian Polity. He has raised a very significant point that we view Parliament not only as it is but also in its inherent possibilities, that is, the institutionalised as well as the non-institutionalised aspects of parliament. Parliament, as he says, should have adaptability and aim at national reconciliation. These and the other fundamental points have been brought to our notice. As understanding of these basic concepts will help us to better appreciate the talks and the discussions which have to follow, whether they deal with the Role of the Administration vis--vis Parliament, or Parliament and Parliamentary Committees, or again, the position of the Leader of the House and the Whips. I thank you, Professor Sondhi, once again.
<< Back