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This important activity lays emphasis on

R&D

Lok Satta has established a policy research cell in order to promote healthy, rational and vigorous debate on democratic reforms; and to substantiate its advocacy for specific, practical reforms in our governance.

Lok Satta advocates the following generic reforms:

  1. Democratization of political parties to make them open, member-controlled,
  2. transparent, and accountable in all respects.
  3. Electoral reforms to make elections truly democratic, fair and transparent, to
  4. facilitate and promote participation of the best men and women in our political
  5. process; and to curb electoral mal-practices.
  6. Balanced distribution of functions between the union and the states and local
  7. governments, together with allocation of adequate resources and devolution of powers commensurate with their functions.
  8. Effective decentralization of governance through empowerment of local
  9. governments as participative tiers of constitutional, democratic governance; and direct empowerment of people as stake-holders wherever feasible.
  10. Effective functioning of legislature, executive and judiciary at all levels, with
  11. appropriate checks and balances.
  12. Measures for speedy, efficient, affordable, and accessible justice to people.
  13. Measures to make bureaucracy truly accountable, responsive, and efficient at all levels.
  14. Institutional checks to prevent abuse of office, including freedom of information for transparent governance; insulation of crime investigation and prosecution from partisan pulls and political vagaries; creation of an effective, independent anti-corruption mechanism; and creation of an independent mechanism for appointment of constitutional functionaries.

The specific reforms derived from the above generic principles must be tested against the following basic principles of democracy.

  • Freedom
  • Self-governance
  • Empowerment of Citizens
  • Rule of law
  • Self correcting Institutional Mechanisms

Each specific reform must be in consonance with these basic principles, and must not run counter to them when examined in totality. These reforms together must be complementary to each other, and must not be merely isolated measures without a holistic perspective.

Lok Satta is not committed to any particular reform in isolation except those that conform to the generic reforms listed above and the five principles which must guide our reforms initiatives. Therefore, within these broad contours there is enormous flexibility and room for innovation. Reforms suggested and advocated must be broadly in consonance with Indian ethos, and must stand the tests of factual accuracy, logical consistency and rigorous intellectual scrutiny.

A thorough and professional research on these reform issues is vital to ensure that the reforms advocated conform to the principles listed above. Human progress and innovation cannot be entirely divorced from the environment in which they take place. Nor can they always be unique and untested anywhere. In matters of governance, where even unintended mistakes can have grave long-term consequences to the lives of millions of citizens, and to the course of a whole nation, enormous clarity, understanding of history, human nature and nature of power, and deep insights into democratic processes throughout the globe are vital before any attempt is made to engineer governance reforms.

Many democratic societies throughout the world have wrestled with the problems of reconciling individual liberty with social harmony; equity with efficiency; authority with accountability; visionary leadership with rule of law; and people’s sovereignty with representative democracy. While solutions and institutions which succeeded elsewhere need not always be applicable to the Indian situation, there is great probability of their successful adaptation with suitable modifications to suit our ethos. Completely new and untested solutions are unlikely to bear fruit. Lok Satta believes that we need not reinvent the wheel or rediscover fire every time. All human civilization is based on successful adaptation and constant improvement.

Any analysis or attempts to reform have to be based on empirical study and the realities of half-a-century of our experience in self-governance. In addition to a rich repository of knowledge in our own history, several expert bodies, commissions of enquiry and scholars have produced literature rich with insights. Any serious reform effort must synthesize this body of knowledge and apply it to suit our conditions.

In order to be able to find answers from past experience, a clear and unambiguous definition of the problem in each sector of governance is necessary. A list of suggested topics for research and documentation is enclosed. This list is prepared on the basis of Lok Satta’s advocacy of reforms and a general classification of organs of state and Governance institutions. Inevitably, there will be overlap in actual research and documentation. However, in each research effort, there must be a clear statement of the problem that forms part of the present governance crisis. For instance, if it pertains to membership in political parties, the oligarchic coteries that control parties treat them as their personal fiefdoms, and either deny entry to persons who might be seen as potential threats to their control of parties, or expel those who might actually become a threat. The need therefore is to design institutional reform to facilitate democratic functioning with open membership, while at the same time safeguarding the interests of the party in respect of basic ideology and beliefs, and internal discipline conducive of cohesive functioning. The researcher who takes up this topic on party membership must address this central question, and attempt to find suitable alternatives for debate and adoption. The answers need not, and cannot be predetermined, but must broadly conform to the principles of democracy outlined in this paper, and the generic reforms around which there is a broad national consensus. The research and documentation effort of Lok Satta is not a mere academic exercise, but is specifically aimed at enriching the national debate, promoting public awareness, and building a people’s movement for reforms.

Each research paper is expected to contain the following parts, not necessarily in the same order.

  • An analysis of the subject, and evolution of the relevant institution or mechanism.

  • A review of global literature and best practices – with detailed annotation and citation where necessary.

  • A review of Indian experience as evidenced by common knowledge, news-papers, journals, magazines, and scholarly works.

  • A detailed review of relevant where applicable - for instance in case of the paper on Art 356, there must be a detailed review of all the more than 100 instances of its application.

  • A review and analysis of the reports of expert groups, commissions etc.

  • A clear and unambiguous statement of the problem.

  • A well-reasoned and well-documented set of proposals or various alternatives for consideration, on the basis of the above narration and analysis, with the pros and cons of each proposal.

Such a document will be a positive contribution to the national debate and the democratic reform movement.

Before acceptance and publication, each document will be reviewed and debated by FDR. An editorial Board appointed by Lok Satta will suggest such improvements and changes which are needed to improve its clarity, logical consistency, factual accuracy, intellectual rigour and utility for practical application. These improvements or changes will be incorporated with the knowledge, and as far as possible the concurrence of the author(s). The papers shall be the property of Lok Satta; the authorship and contribution of the researchers, guides or editorial board will be acknowledged in every presentation, publication and circulation of any kind. However, Lok Satta will vouch for their authenticity.

Copious work is done by eminent scholars and reputed academic institutions in India and abroad on issues related to democratic governance in general, and on India in particular. There are also several comparative studies made on democratic issues. It is vital that the research and documentation team of Lok Satta interacts with these scholars and institutions throughout the world, and gains access to their insights and work. Whenever such work or interactions are used as references, the original source will be invariably acknowledged.

The research papers will be published and widely distributed in English and regional languages for wide dissemination and debate in the name Lok Satta.

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