The UK is not a democracy. People are not sovereign there, till date ! The UK remains only a Constitutional Monarchy. The UK joined the EEC on 01.01.1973. Conservative Party which was in power was in favour of remaining in the EEC while the Labour was against it. In the general elections of 1974, Labour won the elections. Just because Labour captured the Parliament, it did not use ‘that’ power to withdraw the UK from the EEC. Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister and his party MPs did not choose to arrogate to themselves the authority to decide the issue as they pleased.
When an issue that was going to affect the people of the nation economically in a far-reaching way and when the forecasts of economists were based on the theory of probability and not certainty, the MPs of the ruling party in Britain acted with caution and concern. They did not want to play with the lives of the people. They did not want to demonstrate self-righteousness, by acting overwise and assuming responsibility, if the predictions and speculations of the economic pundits went wrong, later, on economic front. Parliament decided to consult the electorate on the question whether the UK should remain or not in the EEC. A Referendum was held, in 1975. And, the people voted for it. That vote was against the stand taken by the ruling Labour Party before it contested and won the elections in 1974.
The Grace and the Disgrace
Was it obligatory for the M.Ps of the U.K. to refer the matter to the people to be decided through referendum? No. They could have learnt a lesson or two from the political leaders of India and could have done whatever they liked. Because, once elected, the MPs, practically, constitute an oligarchy and could join together and range themselves against the people of the nation. They have been given the law-making power with which they could make any law on economic matters. Still, the MPs in the UK did not abuse the power vested in them by the people in trust. They knew the concept of moderation in wielding political power as representatives of the people. They acted graciously as the representatives of the people and wanted the people themselves to decide the issue of being part of mini-globalisation process called European Common Market. The people of the UK were sovereign in that Constitutional Monarchy.
But, Indian politicians who inherited the British pattern of Parliamentary system never exhibited such grace or maturity to work that Parliamentary System in India. They demonstrated time and again that they cared two hoots to adhere to the well-established British conventions that pave way for a civilised public life. They had, long back, given a go-by to the admirable British conventions in electing Speakers, allowing the MPs to exercise Conscience Votes, using the Parliament forum for real discussion without creating pandemonium, etc., It is plain disgrace to jettison the Conventions that accompanied the Constitution. The Constitution is the letter while the Convention is its spirit.
Conventions are invisible part of the Constitution
“A complete account of the Constitution, therefore, involves a statement of central custom as well as of central law” – Sir John Salmond). But, Indian politicians have cultivated a habit of acquiring power by resorting to all foul means and retaining that power by resorting to all questionable means and using that power to do all kinds of unholy activities. Instances are too numerous to cite. All because the Indian politicians do not care for the Conventions go along with the Constitutional provisions. When the issues pertaining to such Conventions were discussed in the Constituent Assembly, there was demand from some members for reducing those conventions in writing. But, the majority of the Founding Fathers considered that it was not necessary to do so.
They believed that their descendants would also be honest in public life. They, therefore, believed that those unwritten conventions would be followed in India, even if they remained unwritten. Clauses like “I think we would trust”, “ I hope”, etc., had been used to pacify the members, who raised doubts whether the relevant provisions would be abused in future. “(… Of the democratic systems which are prevalent in the world) we have adopted largely the British model…..what I feel is this, that in this country, we should develop the conventions which go with the democracy in England and those conventions govern not only the Government – but also the people” – From the address of the President Rajendra Prasad to the people of Chennai on 15.08.1950), But, the descendants have betrayed the Founding Fathers.
Rules of Morality
Conventions under British Parliamentary procedure are called as Rules of Morality. But, the Indian political leaders do not care for those Conventions because they do not, actually, care for Morality in public life. The nation has seen it on numerous occasions. “The rules of Parliamentary procedures in India are modelled on the practice of conventions that obtain in the Mother of Parliaments – The House of Commons” ( Parliamentary Procedure in India – A.R. Mukherjea, Former Secretary to West Bengal Assembly – Oxford University Press)
‘Say anything to please the masses to occupy the power-centre and do everything that pleases you after occupying the power-centre’ is the Convention invented by the Indian politicians. They keep their manifesto unenforceable by law. They believe that once they get majority they can do anything and everything they like, in the belief that the nation has been given on unconditional lease to them by the people for five years. And that kind of belief gives them courage to bring in laws to suit the convenience of their financiers, the business-magnates, without bothering themselves about the state of society in the long run.
Such political leaders choose to keep their MPs as ignoramus. They are happy to have only ignorant and inefficient MPs who would be just loyal to the leader and would not have any opinion on any issue. That, they see as their power. These leaders do not have any inhibition when their nation itself is ridiculed by others in the international arena.
Ignorance and greed makes them easy victims to Shylocks
The MPs, on their part, are happy about their status as MP and the privileges and pelf that accompany that status. They do not bother about acquiring knowledge on the issues that affects the people. They do not talk of the people’s problems in the Parliament by analysing the issues. But, they boast of their ability to shout in the Parliament to stall the proceedings. They want money to ask questions in the Parliament on public issues, when people approach them and apprise them on the issues that must be taken to the knowledge of the rulers through the House.
Such a situation is tailor-made for business magnates to get anything done through such government. purchase anything from and through that Government. In the year 1985 itself, Swiss Government had declared that it had no intention to be a haven for any ill-gotten money, when the issues pertaining to black money on foreign soil was discussed in Parliament. Yet, the politicians in power drew the blank for the past 29 years while, at the same time, they kept pretending that they were against black money. As long as the political parties are run on black money, the nation’s future will continue to be bleak. Every political party that gets scared and runs for cover when asked about transparency of its sources of funds is, actually, anti-poor and pro-rich in its activities, and its leaders cannot claim and do not have the right to claim that that party would usher in an honest society.
Because, the political parties that make ‘collections’ for elections are not able to resist the Moneybags. Offer of large sums of money is so attractive to these politicians that they are not able to resist the pressure from the businessmen. They are, therefore, willing to betray the people and make them slaves who could be used, disposed of and dispensed with by the rich. They use their ‘power’ to advance the purpose of the ‘rich’. Corporates actually pay money to the political leaders to purchase them. Such a collection is, really, not a donation but payment for certain quid-pro-quo, for which they pressure the political leaders at the opportune moment. And, the political leaders do not blink an eye before yielding to such pressures with money. The eagerness and appetency exhibited by the rulers in pressing on with the Land Acquisition Bill, Small Factories Bill, and the present proposal to dilute the provisions of the ESI Act, 1948 are symptomatic of their willingness to yield to the money-pressure from the Shylockian business world.
Sky-high powers of Indian politicians
The politicians in India wield more powers than permissible in a mature democracy. That must be reduced. There must be more checks and balances in the interest of the nation. When the 123 agreement was signed, the USA did not accept it at once. It was placed before the Congress and Senate where amendments were suggested. Indian PM agreed to that amendment. But, that agreement was given by him without the formal knowledge of the Indian Parliament. Thus, in practice, Mr. Manmohan could do whatever he wanted while Mr.Bush could not.
In the case of Sri Lankan agreement the then Prime MInister Rajiv Gandhi had, without any sense of restraint, signed an agreement with Jayawardane for placing the sovereign Indian Army at the disposal of a foreign head of state. That agreement was not placed before the Parliament before making it enforceable. But, In Sri Lanka, that agreement had to be placed before the Parliament for approval before enforcement. Moreover, as a result of the misguided filenotings of the bureaucrats of the MEA, the improper agreement that had been signed, resulted in India witnessing the ignominy of seeing its sovereign army sent packing by the subsequent President of Sri Lanka unilaterally on 15.06.1989.
In India, the Indian politicians have demonstrated time and again that they would to to any extent to use and abuse their power and were not bound to follow any British conventions like Referendum. So much power in them is not in the interest of the nation, at all.
The healthiest nations
The society cannot expect such political leaders to stand up to the might of the corporate moneybags. There will, therefore, be wide gap between the rich and the poor and the gap will continue to widen in India with every passing day. A Canadian study suggests that the wealthiest nations do not have the healthiest people; instead, it is countries with the smallest economic gap between the rich and poor. (Mark Bourrie – Inter Press Service -23.7.1999). But, the Indian politicians, who rely upon Corporates for their own survival, do not have the intention or, even, desire to usher in such a healthiest society in our nation.
The Voice of Reason and Justice
In Samatha vs. State of AP (1997), Hon’ble Apex Court has held, “The core constitutional objective of “social and economic democracy” in other words, just social order, cannot be established without removing the inequalities in income and making endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status through the rule of law. The mandate for social and economic retransformation requires that the material resources or their ownership and control should be so distributed as to subserve the common good. A new social order, therefore, would emerge, out of the old unequal or hierarchical social order. The legislative or executive measures, therefore, should be necessary for the reconstruction of the unequal social order by corrective and distributive justice through the rule of law”.
✓ ESI Act, 1948, and the other labour laws aim at ensuring distributive justice. ✓ Social and economic democracy can be achieved best only through ESI Act, 1948. ✓ And that is what the Scandinavian countries and Germany, the cradle of Social Security, have taught us, in spite of our not being ready to learn from them.
But, that is Not Enough
Although the benefits under the ESI Act, 1948 are par excellence, we have not travelled the entire distance in providing social security to the people, by taking the Act forward to various sectors as mandated by its Sec. 1(4). Diluting the provisions of ESI Act, 1948 would result in perpetuation of unequal and hierarchical social order, which must be shunned away. When the rulers advocate globalisation in everything except their area, I.e.. politics, they must spare a few moments for the working population too and improve the social security measures which is considered as the “human face of globalisation”. Because, the assessment of the ILO, in the year 2010, is that India has not done enough in Social Security space.
It is, therefore, time to improve upon social security measures instead of doing the opposite as is being done by the present rulers.
Do not widen the gap between rich and poor
Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to the following statement of Dr. Ambedkar too, in the aforesaid judgment:
“…On the economic plan, we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. We cannot afford to have equality in political life and inequality in economic life. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradiction? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffered from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has laboriously built up.”
Willing participation of Labour
Privatisation of the ESIC is not a panacea for any evil that is afflicting the society. It would make the life of the working population even more miserable. Let the rulers not hurry into misadventures, just because they have the power, now, and send the society into disarray. Taking action to run the organisation corruption-free would ensure that the working population feels secure ensuring, thereby, willing participation of labour in the making of the nation.
It would only be proper if the rulers are made by the people to come to them with a Referendum on the major policy matters like the
◆ Land Acquisition Bill.
◆ Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, 2014,
◆ Privatisation of ESIC by diluting the provisions of the ESI Act or simple dilution of the provisions of the ESI Act, etc.,
Already, when the requirement of formal inspections by the Department of Labour had been relaxed, the employers at Vellore imposed a fine of Rs. 20, if the workers visited the urinal for the third time in a day.
The workers who earn only Rs. 4300/- p.m, but sign the records for Rs. 4500/- learnt to be ‘careful’ to go for urinal only for two times a day. (Business Standard, November 2010). They control themselves not to go for the third time, except when they are desperate. Because, they find that such wage-cuts because of the third and subsequent visits cost around Rs. 500/- per month. That was none of the botherations of Mr. Manmohan Singh who was working overtime to spread red-carpet to Walmart. Mr. Narendra Modi is walking the same path and more concerned about Adanis. With the abdication of responsibility of the Government in providing social security, the conditions of service would worsen and the Indian labour market would be converted into Slave Labour market. Our freedom struggle was not to free ourselves from being slaves to British traders to become slaves to Indian traders.
It is Distributive justice which ushers in a Just society through Social and Economic Democracy. Neither the Communist Parties which demand and accept funds from the Corporates nor the Trade Unions of other political parties which are funded by the Corporates can rescue the working population from slavery, as long as these political parties shy away from being transparent about their source of finance.
In the circumstances, in India, among other labour laws, it is only the government machinery like the ESIC which makes it best achievable !
Forward in 1919 & Backward in 2015
The ILO Charter of 1919 diagnosed that peace and harmony of the world got imperilled because the conditions of labour that existed earlier involved such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest. The Charter wanted the nations to adopt humane conditions of labour. The High Contracting Parties went by the sentiments of justice and humanity and said that they were constituting the ILO to secure “permanent peace of the world”.
There is such a close connection between the social security measures and peace and harmony in the world.
The ILO Charter read: “The High Contracting Parties, recognising the well-being, physical, moral and intellectual of industrial wage earners is of supreme international importance, have framed, in order to further this great end, the permanent machinery” called the ILO. With employers imposing fine for the calls of nature, and with Governments ignoring these cruelties and refusing to inspect the factories through Labour Departments,in the name of liberalisation and globalisation, India is going back to the pre-1919 era.