Founder 'Divya Himachal' newspaper, author 'Why India Needs the Presidential System'
Bhanu Dhamija is the founder and chairman of the Divya Himachal Group, the largest newspaper publishing company in Himachal Pradesh, India. Earlier, in America, Dhamija founded a media company that published trade journals and organized conferences for the magazine publishing industry.
Bhanu Dhamija is also the author of Why India Needs the Presidential System (HarperCollins)
Born in Bulandshehar (UP) in 1959, he has lived almost half his life in the United States. After attending Punjab University in Chandigarh, he acquired a postgraduate degree from the Stern School of Business at New York University. He has worked in the financial, computer and media industries in the US and India. While in the US, Dhamija married an American and soon after they moved with their three children to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
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The re-emergence of violence in Kashmir shows once again the frailties of the Indian union. The truth is that forcing diverse people into a union, in the guise of “unity in diversity”, doesn't work. What would work is to give them freedom of self-rule with an ironclad agreement -- Nehru's "binding cement" -- of a strong federal government.
Raghuram Rajan's exit from the RBI demonstrates the rot in India's bureaucracy. Far from being merit-based, it is seriously politicized. Bureaucrats have become sycophants. Self-respecting independent thinkers have no place in India's system. Even the most capable survive or thrive only through their handling of political masters. The quality of their work stands for very little. It is no fault of the bureaucrats. The problem is systemic. It starts from the top.
The recent state elections have proven once again that the Indian people want a true federation. Above all other factors, people voted for local accountability. These results don't mean a rejection of a strong Centre, or a vote for or against Modi, or a lack of nationalistic feeling. They show people's natural desire to control their own affairs.
When the <em>aam admi</em> in India says, "What can I do, our system is so corrupt?" He is absolutely right. The politician, however, would have him believe that it is he who is to blame. People don't live in a vacuum; the system in which they live shapes them.
Hidden in the annals of India's Constituent Assembly is Ambedkar's real vision for India's Constitution. He labelled it 'United States of India' and the proposal was in line with his longstanding opposition to the parliamentary form of government. Had they been adopted, Ambedkar's ideas would have altered the character of the final Constitution, and changed India's destiny.
Lawmaking in India is an entirely partisan exercise. The government, with a majority already in hand, pushes through the laws it wants. Since only the government can pass laws--those brought by private members have no chance--no other Member of Parliament takes the initiative. Party bosses in power decide which laws will be proposed, and those in the opposition decide which will be opposed. The legislators merely vote as instructed by their bosses. No one has any interest in the quality of laws.
Lately, the detractors of the American system have been out in full force. Last month, as soon as the Republicans took a stand on the Supreme Court appointment, a leading liberal magazine published an article titled 'Is America's Presidential System Doomed?' However, I believe that far from being doomed, America's presidential form of government is the secret to her success.
For a nation to prosper, its political system must foster a national vision, ensure fairness and encourage participation. India's parliamentary system fails to deliver any of these ingredients. A great people are languishing because of a poor choice made in their system of government. <em>Why India Needs The Presidential System</em> by Bhanu Dhamija seeks to show that its powers are severely and irreversibly out of balance. And why a US-type system if applied to India will deliver better governance and a healthier polity.
India's founders set out to build a strong Centre with independent state governments. But their experiment failed. Our state governments are not fully accountable - they depend on the Centre for survival and funds. People are routinely left with no local government, or one that is not focused on local issues. This hurts governance just where it touches people most. India's so-called strong Centre is too distant to provide any real representation or participation. What's most menacing, however, is that instead of adding strength, this is endangering our nation's security.
The Central government's power to dissolve a duly elected state government is one of India's biggest constitutional absurdities. Just how preposterous and undemocratic is this feature of India's Constitution? The recent imposition of President's Rule in Arunachal Pradesh tells the whole story.
Far from being elated, the framers of India's Constitution turned sombre when Ambedkar presented his draft. In the six days following his motion to adopt the new Constitution, speaker after speaker came forward to praise the proposed system. Yet others couldn't shake off the feeling that something was amiss. Nearly a third took the floor only to say something disparaging about the Constitution India was ready to adopt. It was evident that it had failed to inspire.