ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is India a Secular Nation?

This is the full unedited text of the speech titled "Is India a Secular Nation?" that was supposed to be delivered on 4 April 2016 by former Union Home Secretary Madhav Godbole at a function organised by the Maharashtra branch of the Indian Institute of Public Administration. The lecture was suddenly cancelled three days before it was scheduled to take place.

More Questions than Answers

More Questions than Answers A Call to Honour: In Service of Emergent India by Jaswant Singh; Rupa & Co, New Delhi, 2006; pp 391+ three annexures, Rs 495.

Aftershocks of Dabhol Power Project

The ruling political and bureaucratic elite seem to believe that the ghost of Enron project and the monumental failure of governance in its approval can be exorcised by reviving it at any cost. The settlement reached with the two foreign equity holders and the international banks and financial institutions is far too generous. In addition there are the large subsidies (estimated at Rs 10,000 crore) doled out at the cost of the unsuspecting taxpayer to hide from public scrutiny how totally unviable this project was.

Police Reforms: Pandora's Box No One Wants to Open

While the draft of a new Police Act is in the pipeline, this article emphasises the need to strengthen the role of the police in upholding the rule of law and to make them the protectors of the weaker sections of society. It argues that there is a need to evolve a broad political and civil society consensus on the complex and vital issues involved in the policing of the country. Without adequate public debates on these issues, it is futile to draft a new law.

Power Sector Reforms:No Takers

Starting with Andhra Pradesh, several state governments, including Maharashtra, have announced free power for farmers. In this rush towards competitive populism, the past experience of states that adopted the suicidal policy of giving free power for agriculture appears to have been lost sight of completely. Moreover, considering that subsidies for agricultural consumption largely benefit big farmers and other well-to-do people, the subsidisation of these sections by common taxpayers militates against all canons of the welfare state.

Reform of Political System

Against the experience of political instability, increasingly fractious polity, and unmanageability of multi-party coalition governments since 1990, it is necessary to do some fresh thinking on a number of matters pertaining to the political system in the country. Unless concerted steps are taken to remodelling the political system - for instance, enact laws on the conduct of political parties, on the formation of governments, - and consider seriously whether the Rajya Sabha and the legislative councils which have ceased to serve a purpose should not be abolished and whether first-past-the-post system should not be changed, the very foundations of democracy may get weakened leading to voter apathy and disillusionment.

Resolving Dabhol Tangle

The inordinate delay in resolving the Dabhol tangle has meant that a huge investment has been lying idle for an unconscionable period of over three years. Discussions seem to be largely confined to the financial restructuring of this highly controversial and badly designed project. But there are substantive issues that need to be addressed. With the implementation of the Electricity Act, 2003 other factors - such as the easier norms on distribution and captive generation - will have an impact on the project and will have to be worked into any plan for resolving the Dabhol imbroglio.

Good Governance: A Distant Dream

Responding to a public interest litigation on the state of civil services in the country and on making good governance an explicit right, the Supreme Court held that it was not in favour of declaring good governance as a fundamental right as this would bind the court to looking into every aspect of governance. The court's refusal to take cognisance of the critical issues of public interest involved in the petition raises important questions for the governance of the country.

Electricity Act, 2003: Questionable Wisdom

When the bill which was in due course enacted as the Electricity Act, 2003 was under consideration of the standing committee of parliament, a number of issues which deserved closer examination had been highlighted. Several of these issues remain unattended. The Act, which is a halfway house, also raises a number of new issues which are likely to pose serious problems in the coming years.

Power Sector Woes: No Easy Answers

No Easy Answers Against the Current: Organisational Restructuring of State Electricity Boards edited by Joel Ruet; Manohar Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 2003; pp 224, Rs 500.

Law on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management

With the changes suggested by the standing committee of parliament on finance, the revised fiscal responsibility and budget management bill will be a dead letter and will have no impact whatsoever in terms of either inculcating fiscal responsibility or improving budget management. With the central government adopting a lukewarm attitude to enacting a meaningful fiscal responsibility and budget transparency law, there is a growing feeling among the states that there is no level playing field between them and the centre so far as managing their finances is concerned.

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