People For Nation
 

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ABOUT US

People For Nation (PFN) is an all-India organization registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1860 and having its head office in New Delhi.

PFN is an initiative by a group of concerned citizens geared to work in the areas of good governance and democracy in India. This group includes people from all walks of life, regions and backgrounds.

The organisation is aimed to provide a platform for research, debate and dialogue on matters relevant to political, economical and social life of contemporary India and further to organise advocacy for alternatives emerging from such deliberations. Accordingly, the organisational activity is bifurcated into two streams for administrative convenience. The first among these intends to identify and study various complex issues faced by Indian polity and society through research activities like workshop, seminar, public debates and come up with policy alternatives on these issues. It is also responsible for publications in form of booklets, working papers and research articles on the issues deliberated upon. The work of other wing is largely to organise advocacy on issues emanating from the brainstorming sessions and if possible provide advisory inputs to governments and other institutions. PFN also intends to make effective interventions through judicial mechanisms (such as PILs).†

The organization being a non-partisan autonomous research institution would sensibly take only those issues, which are of national importance and are non-divisive, non-religious, non-partition in nature. The organization would make a conscious endeavour not to be swayed away by issues which may on the face seem to be of great national importance, but at the same time concealing in itself discourses that would lead to segregating people on religious, caste, class or regional lines.

The Idea of PFN

Indian democracy has been hailed as the biggest democracy in the world. Post-independence India emerged as an ideal for third world countries by sustaining and upholding the democratic institutions despite its multiple ethnic cleavages and acute poverty. The sheer resilience and endurance of Indian democracy since its inception from post independent era has instilled hope and confidence both within India and outside. Since 1950, the representative institutions in India have been evolving at a regular pace and it is safe to assume that we have made major inroads towards institutionalised democracy which has fairly stood test of time.† One can also observe that due to new social movements and widening of the social base of polity, civil society as a phenomenon is evolving in a big way and is growing its genuine participatory sphere day by day. The written constitution of India that was adopted on the 26th January, 1950 was mainly derived from the western liberal democratic tradition. The architects of the Indian Constitution though deriving mainly from external sources depended heavily on the constitutions of British and United States. However, the mechanical details of running the Indian government were carried over from the Government of India Act, 1935 which was passed by the British Parliament.

After six decades of independence and two decades of economic reforms the makeover of Indian democracy has changed a lot which has raised some important issues before us. The sphere of state activity is shrinking (according to some it is merely transforming) and market and its derivatives have started playing important role in decision making and opinion formation. In this expanding global economy and retreating state model, Indian democracy and its institutions should be re-examined and it should be specifically done in order to provide alternatives for new emerging issues in this transformed order of things. †

People For Nation is an effort to understand challenges before Indian democracy and to provide policy alternatives for the same.

Vision

The organization is of the view that our present social-political-economic system needs significant changes in order to attend to complexities arising out of the changed circumstances in contemporary India. There are many archaic laws which have been continuing since colonial times and have lost their relevance. There are also many institutions which need to be re-defined (and if needed re-designed) in new changed scenario so that they should be able to deal with the new challenges and tackle new tasks that lies ahead of them. In this context PFN wants to work in the direction of debating policy issues and come up with new alternatives. PFN strongly believes that there is urgent need of policy reforms in various constitutional laws and institutions.†

PFN wants to create a non-partisan, non-divisive forum to discuss and debate the issues/policies of national importance and to provide policy alternatives for an inclusive, transparent, accountable political and economic system in the country.

If judged on the barometer of development, India has maintained modest and consistent rate of growth. However, there is a vast majority which is not contended with this and their justified impatience if read aloud demand that a lot more needs to be done both in terms of economic growth and human development indicators. Even after 64 years of independence, our political parties have not arrived on any consensus in this regard on many national issues/policies; therefore we are short of a definite vision/roadmap for many such issues. We are today facing a governance deficit which demands our urgent attention. Both state and non-state actors have to engage each other in a manner that is best suited to engage with these issues in a time bound and a strategic manner.

There is a vast disparity when we analyse the pace at which our economic system has matured as compared to the changes made in the formal-legal and representative institutions of our country. It is safe to assume that we have not been able to completely come out of our colonial hangover when it comes to the later. For example, our structures and practices have evolved minimally from colonial times when it comes to judiciary, police, administration and many other such institutions. Reforms in different fields are need of the day. Reforms can make a government more open, responsive and accountable, and can increase its legitimacy and popularity, even when odds are stacked against it in difficult times. Reforms are also essential to increase the reach of benefits accrued from it. The real test of democracy also lies in reaching effectively marginalised and disadvantaged groups when it comes to redistribution of resources.†

In this backdrop, there is an urgent need to realise the ideals of participatory democracy and engage all stakeholders in debate on existing socio-economic and political systems to develop new ideas in terms of policy reforms and policy alternatives. We need prioritised intervention especially in the field of police reforms, judicial reforms, administrative reforms and political reforms (which has its base in the electoral reforms).

Electoral Reforms

PFN is committed to work on different issues of national importance. However, to begin with we have taken up the issue of political reforms. Our understanding in this regard emanates from the fact that the most pressing need of our times is to bring about changes in the political processes in India. Democratic political system in a country like India is central to bring about changes in other spheres of life. Consequently the structural construct of the political system also becomes crucial area of study and reform. Therefore it is imperative that electoral practices which are at the heart of political processes need a wider span of our attention. In this context, PFN has identified electoral reforms as a key area to work upon. It is our firm understanding that we need more path breaking research in this area and at the same time there is a vital need to integrate works already done in this regard to come up with innovative policy reforms. This is needed in order to adapt and fine tune our political processes in accordance with the needs of time so that it can deliver more.

The electoral reforms are extremely important in a vibrant democracy as ours. A lot of work has been done on this issue by government and non-government organizations. The Tarkunde Committee report (1975), the Goswami Committee report (1990), the Election Commissionís Recommendation (1998 and 2004) and Indrajit Gupta Committee report (1998) produced a comprehensive set of proposals regarding electoral reforms. The Election Commission has also started a number of new initiatives to cleanse the electoral process in India. Need of the hour is to make a collective effort to make these reforms possible.

In a functioning democracy a number of roles are performed by a political party. However, their purpose was perhaps best encapsulated by Sartori, who argued that the primary function of parties was to link the citizenry with the government. This process is necessarily and fundamentally communicatory. A democracy needs strong and sustainable political parties with the capacity to represent citizens and provide policy choices that demonstrate their ability to govern for the public good. In short, political parties are the most important component of political process in any democratic system and any the route to electoral reform cannot bypass political party reform.

When it comes to political parties in India, there are a plethora of issues that needs our urgent attention in order to initiate reforms in them. Laws relating to political parties, audit of financial accounts of party, inner party democracy, criminalisation of politics, etc. are a few to mention in this regard. Some of the other issues plaguing our electoral process are: issue of black money, contestants and representatives having criminal record, menace of growing number of political parties and independent candidates, etc.†† ††

We need to initiate immediate and effective actions with regard to all these issues (and many others) mentioned above and considering the seriousness of these issues, the task of electoral reform is to be undertaken on a mission basis. Electoral reforms are imperative to widen the substantive definition of democracy in India and realise its ideals. The enhanced idea of inclusiveness in democratic process thus achieved would lead to a two way process. On one hand, it will help to augment the political maturity of the people. On the other hand, it will also lead to election of a significant number of worthy people who would further contribute in initiating policy reforms in various other sectors of importance.

Keeping this view in mind, PFN would study the issue and establish dialogue with other likeminded organizations and individuals.

Objectives

  • To create a platform for debate and dialogue to identify the need of necessary reforms in present political and economic system.
  • To study the existing models of political and economic reforms in India and other countries.
  • To provide policy alternatives and recommendations regarding existing political and economic systems.
  • To coordinate with state and non-state actors to advocate for these policy alternatives. In pursuance of this objective it is also intended to create comprehensive discourse around these recommendations through seminars, workshops, media, PILs etc.


Activities
  • Conduct research, documentation work and survey.
  • Conduct workshop, seminars and public meetings.
  • Publish booklets, research papers and pamphlets on issues/policies of national importance.
  • Collaborate with other likeminded organizations working on the issues of national importance.
  • Provide advisory and academic support to state and non-state actors.
  • Provide financial assistance to scholars/students working on the issues of national importance.
  • To begin with, take up the issue of electoral reforms.


Electoral Reforms in India

There is a dearth of alternative policies and current political and economic system is in deep crisis in absence of new alternatives. We are in dire need of new policies and reforms in various fields like judiciary, police, administration and most importantly politics. People For Nation (PFN) is of firm belief that electoral reforms is a gateway for all other necessary reforms and is a progenitor when it comes to political reforms.

In a representative democracy like India, political processes is the medium through which people individually and collectively assess, negotiate and select suitable persons for entrusting certain responsibilities, along with appropriate powers. However, the political process of Indian democracy is facing acute crisis today. Criminalization and corporatization had badly affected the political process in last two decades. Money, mafia and muscle power have unfortunately become the dominant precondition in the selection of candidates. Although Election Commission and efforts of other non-state actors through PILs have made some impact and efforts were made in order to ensure that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner, there is still a long way to go.†††††

The electoral reforms are extremely important in a vibrant democracy as ours. The Tarkunde Committee report of 1975, the Goswami Committee report of 1990, the Election Commissionís Recommendation in 1998 and Indrajit Gupta Committee report of 1998 produced a comprehensive set of proposals regarding electoral reforms. The Election Commission has also started a number of new initiatives to cleanse the electoral process in India. It is a process to strengthen and improve the working of democracy through free and fair elections.

Complete over-hauling of the electoral processes for the largest democracy of the world, in order to bring transparency and accountability into the political system will be a gradual evolutionary progression, but there are certain immediate measures that are imperative to mark first successful step towards an attempt to cleanse our electoral system. Some of the areas calling for urgent redressal within the election system are de-criminalisation of politics, political partyís reforms, state-funding of elections, and adoption of certain ingenious methods to increase the voters participation and say in the political process.

There has been a vigorous debate on criminalization of politics and illegitimate use of excessive and unaccounted money power in elections. The Election Commission, the Law Commission, and various committees have studied these issues. There is no dearth of solutions. However, all efforts at reform have been stymied for want of parliamentary action and political will. The political parties and successive governments are guilty of inaction in the face of a mounting crisis of legitimacy in the political process on account of criminalization and use of unaccounted money power.

After six decades of independence, itís high time for a paradigm shift in electoral arena. Electoral Reform is a wide term and various organizations are working on the different aspects of the electoral reforms. Our effort would be to coordinate with these organisations to create a synergy in this direction. To begin with, we want to concentrate on some issues of electoral reforms which are:

  • Funding of political parties and candidates
  • Criminalisation of politics
  • Powers of Election Commission
  • Political party reforms and laws relating to them
  • Internal party democracy
  • Criteria for national and regional parties
  • Relevance of independent candidates
  • Paid news
  • Increasing voterís participation


At present we are going through studies, research documents, legal documents and other materials available on issues mentioned above and anything on electoral reforms.

We are also trying to mobilise people from different walks of life to shape public opinion by organizing brainstorming sessions with activists and experts working on these issues.