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Monday, June 09, 2014  
Outsourcing Democracy!

"India's rulers are eager to embrace this wisdom. A new experiment is in the making to test the waters. Modi's Gujarat & Sharad-Sonia's Maharashtra are leading the country. Soon Indian citizen would have a choice. He could "choose" to be governed by the elected representatives and languish in our broken urban infrastructure or godforsaken countryside; or he could "elect" to be governed by the market savvy corporations by moving into "World Class", "State of the Art" townships that are coming up in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The good tidings won't stop here."

Sadanand Patwardhan

 

 

This is terrific news. It would have drawn wholesome praise from even the founder of Chicago School of Economics, Milton Friedman (MF), or his eager disciple, Donald Rumsfeld (DR), the Defense Secretary when US invaded first Afghanistan & then Iraq. DR's pet project was to downsize Pentagon, but he was no lost peacenik. His was a project to ultimately hand over war-making to markets, to whom it in any case belonged, without having to go through the facade of drumming up citizens's support through concocted lies. MF had observed, "only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around". 9/11 provided that happy trigger. It put in motion the ideas of "Regime Change" that American Enterprise Institute & The Project for New American Century had been assiduously putting together in the late nineties.

MF considered government a nuisance, an anachronism to be tolerated for a few useful functions it performs, like fighting other governments, in an age where Markets can preside over human destiny far more efficiently than elected representatives & their bureaucracy.

Guiding hand of the market would be best at "educating", "health-caring", "policing", "informing", "parenting", and in general at attending to welfare of society like it is in its usual business of allocating resources efficiently for maximizing profits. Markets put "choice" firmly in the hands of consumers, even of "consumers of democracy".

India's rulers are eager to embrace this wisdom. A new experiment is in the making to test the waters. Modi's Gujarat & Sharad-Sonia's Maharashtra are leading the country. Soon Indian citizen would have a choice. He could "choose" to be governed by the elected representatives and languish in our broken urban infrastructure or godforsaken countryside; or he could "elect" to be governed by the market savvy corporations by moving into "World Class", "State of the Art" townships that are coming up in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The good tidings won't stop here. He would also have the comfort of being governed by swanky new laws & rules made by these very same corporations. The promoters of the SEZs would not only run their business enterprises, but would also make laws that would decide how they run their businesses. Neat arrangement!, isn't it? It is a clean break from the constitutional irritant of separation powers. 

It would become a reality once the "Maharashtra Special Economic Zones & Designated Areas Act - 2010" is approved by the assembly in the monsoon session. Central government has already winked it's approval. As the title suggests, State government would be able to designate any area in Maharashtra for this "dream treatment". But this "freedom to choose" comes with a responsibility - The responsibility to "afford" it.

What all is possible in this "Cinderella's charmed world"? 

1] Freedom from many (unfortunately not all) laws : 'Bombay Industrial Relations Act', 'Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act', 'Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act', 'Mathadi, Hamal and Other Manual Workers’ Act', 'Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act', 'Workmen’s Minimum House Rent Allowances Act', 'Rent Control Act', 'Private Security Guards Act', etc.

2] Freedom   from taxes (unluckily not all) : 'sales tax or purchases tax under the Maharashtra VAT', 'stamp duty under the Bombay Stamp Act', 'registration fee under the Registration Act,', 'land assessment tax under the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code', 'electricity duty and tax under the Bombay Electricity Duty Act', 'Maharashtra tax on Sale of Electricity Act', etc.

3] Powers to act like elected bodies (hold on, not yet like Assembly or Parliament) : all the powers exercised by local bodies like Municipal Corporations/ councils, Zilla Parishads (District Councils), Taluka Panchayats (Tehsil level councils), and Gram Panchayats will stand transferred to promoter/ developer of the SEZs and they will have no jurisdiction or say in SEZs administration. Bye, bye Panchayat Raj too.

4] Immunity from conflicting provisions : State government is empowered to override any other laws that have conflicting provisions with this piece of legislation.

A "beautiful" precursor to the vision of India in 21st Century? A Trojan to test our response and alertness? A pilot project to vindicate model for future "governance"? Most probably it is all of this and more. There would be these "islands of prosperity & tranquility" amidst the squalor, grime, and tumult of the badlands outside.  A utopia tailored by "lawlessness" residing within a dystopia governed by web of laws. An idea is in the making that will await its crisis to take center stage.

(Author is a concerned citizen based in Pune)

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