It was a welcome move for Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi to preside over an all-party meeting convened to discuss prospects for the ongoing Parliament session. The Monsoon Session lived down to its name and was a legislative washout. Given the storms brewing across the globe in matters of economics and security, it was unfortunate that months were lost during which essential reforms such as GST could have been enacted in Parliament and ratified by state Assemblies. The GST Bill, once passed, is expected to add as much as 2% to the economic rate of growth in India, if not more. This would translate into hundreds of thousands of jobs for the young in a country where at least ten to twelve million new jobs need to get created each year in order to absorb new entrants to the labour market. Should the economy fail to generate such a large flow of employment opportunities in steady stream, the consequences would include social unrest and economic insecurity. Certainly the GST draft bill suggested by Government of India is not perfect, and hence it would be desirable to examine and wherever needed adopt the suggestions made by opposition parties. These suggestions, after all, have been made in order to make the GST measure work better rather than sabotage the move, and should be viewed in a positive light rather than ignored or belittled. The afflictions facing the economy are substantial, and need cool heads and an absence of egos to tackle. A particular responsibility vests within the ruling parties, for there is an essential difference between them and the opposition, in that the former are vested with vast powers that are denied to the latter. This mandates the need for those in the government side to be accommodative rather than aggressive, and search for commonalities rather than highlight differences, especially where parliamentary work is concerned.
If the country is doing much better than some of its neighbours, credit should also go to the people of India, who have shown their commitment to democracy as well as their moderate nature. In particular, the armed forces deserve kudos for always rejecting the horrible example of Pakistan, where the men in uniform seized power from the civilian authority and have since the emergence of the dictator Ayub Khan in the 1950s created and maintained a structure of primacy for the military over the civilian that is completely at odds with the spirit of democracy. At no stage did the armed forces in India even remotely consider following such a toxic example, which is why it is time now to ensure that the men and women in uniform be given the same level of participation in the Ministry of Defence as is found in countries such as the US. Giving primacy in decision making within the MoD to generalist officials rather than to those directly involved in operations made no sense in the past, and does not do so now.
Significant changes need to be made in the way this country is governed, such that as would recognise and utilise the skills present within the broader population rather than simply a narrow band of administrators who follow the colonial pattern of being made responsible for a multitude of tasks for which greater specialisation would have been better. Fifteen years have gone by of the 21st century and it is expected of PM Modi that he will initiate the process of re-configuring the administrative system in India into ways more suited to the needs of the present rather than the principles and procedures of the past. It is expected that the Winter Session of Parliament will herald a period of dynamism and change in the way India has been governed, so that the people of India finally be given the government they deserve. In such a transformation, the role of Parliament is core, and hopefully the institution will deliver in expectations during the coming weeks.