the fact that we live in a highly politically polarized
environment, participation of independent civil society
representatives in bodies like the NAC is bound to be contentious.
Predictably therefore, the role of independent, non-partisan
citizens in NAC invited considerable comment and speculation.
Satta has been working for political and governance reforms
with political parties across the spectrum. Of late, the
political parties are showing a welcome awareness and urgency
to address the growing crisis of governance. The many changes
brought about unanimously during the life of the 13th Lok
Sabha including political funding reform, tightening of
anti-defection provisions, amending the residency requirement
for Rajya Sabha elections and limiting the size of the council
of ministers are a testimony to our nation's political resilience
and deepening of our democracy.
We need to remember that in a democracy government is a
servant of the people, and it exists to fulfill the felt
needs of the society. The government draws its legitimacy
from the willing consent of the people. Similarly, political
parties are integral to our democratic political process.
We believe that all of us in civil society should constantly
engage the government and political parties. This is particularly
vital when our goal is not a change of players, but a real
change in the rules of the game in order to build citizen-centered,
accountable, just state and promote human dignity.
Politicians are not the only culprits for all the ills that
are afflicting our democracy. In fact, all organs of state
and all actors are involved in the decay of our state. However,
while the politician is not guilty of all that is wrong,
the responsibility to initiate changes and improve things
still rests with the political process.
There is an even more important philosophical reason in
support of working with the executive and political parties.
In a democracy the citizen is sovereign and elected representatives
and the bureaucracy are there only to serve their masters,
the citizens. If the relationship between the citizen and
the politician is that of a master and servant, how can
the master refuse to work with the servant? Therefore, while
there is unavoidable tension between the establishment and
reform advocate, there should also be creative engagement
to make progress possible.
If the government of the day seeks consultation and advice,
it becomes the duty to interact with it. "Civil Society"
does not necessarily mean that we should always be in an
adversarial position with reference to the state and its
The terms of NAC are broad and flexible and the National
Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) adopted by the UPA government,
among other things talks about improving the quality of
education and healthcare, decentralization of power, rural
and agricultural development and political and administrative
reforms. We strongly believe that all these are integrally
linked. Electoral reforms, empowered local governments,
speedy and efficient justice and instruments of accountability
are at the heart of such a reform process which restores
dignity to the citizen, ensures justice and promotes opportunities
for vertical mobility.
In a democracy, every election is a mandate for change and
political parties and elected governments are the vehicles
for change. It is the duty of every concerned citizen to
work with governments and all parties to make positive change
possible and to deepen democracy. In this quest, the government
and parties need to be supported and strengthened, not reviled
We are optimistic that the political system will respond
to people's urges, and transcend party differences and act
unanimously to improve the quality of governance, and build
a corruption-free India helping every child fulfill her
potential and prevent all avoidable suffering.
I believe that the members of the NAC will act with profound
respect for the elected Parliament and Council of Ministers,
and will do everything to uphold the letter and spirit of
the Constitution. Civil Society can utilize this opportunity
to initiate reforms aimed at deepening democracy and promoting
citizen-centered governance and ensure that NAC act as a
catalyst in identifying and implementing many practical,
sensible, acceptable, and effective solutions to resolve
the crisis affecting our polity and society.