The poor showing by the manufacturing sector has pulled down the GDP growth to 5.5% in the first quarter of this fiscal
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There are schools, colleges, institutes and even universities grooming candidates for different careers, but none for politics. Time is opportune for India to think of establishing Schools of Politics at all levels
This decade is finding politicians in India running for life (sometimes literally!) facing severe charges on moral, legal, ethical and financial grounds. What has gone wrong? It may be argued that the deterioration in the quality of political leadership has been a gradual process and no one noticed the decay till it reached the present terminal stage. This writer is of the view that our country has an inherent strength to come out of catastrophes like the present one.
Historically, our political leadership owes its roots to the country’s freedom movement. Till recently, all political parties in India had a sprinkling of honest and patriotic individuals who had benefited from the guidance of leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Vinoba Bhave and several others. Many of them had no formal university education or exposure to the kind of information deluge now available to political workers. But they knew what was good for the village, taluka or district they were working. Now, political parties are trying to make up for this class which is becoming extinct, by ‘recruiting’ businessmen, lawyers and individuals who have graduated from or spent some time around the premises of Harvard, Cambridge, Delhi School of Economics or such other campuses. This article focuses on the need to provide political education to individuals across political parties and age groups.
There are schools, colleges, institutes and even universities grooming candidates for different careers and providing opportunities to take up serious study/research in the area of specialization in which they have an aptitude. Time and resources permitting, one can reach an acceptable level of professionalism by undergoing courses of one’s choice before taking up any career, except one in politics. For a political career, with the exception of some small leftist parties, which have few career openings, major entry point considerations include family background, net worth, public speaking skills and last but not least, organizational capabilities (read fund-raising or mob-mobilization skills depending on the circumstances). Literacy or knowledge of the subject matter they are expected to handle seldom get the priority they deserve in political recruitment. Time is opportune for India to think of establishing schools of politics at all levels, starting from graduation, across the country, to take care of the educational needs of people taking up politics as a career whether in political organizations or in legislative bodies or government.
This time around, the entire responsibility should be shouldered by the private sector. The initiative too must come from the private sector. Because, the ‘babus’ in the government and executives in the public sector have a vested interest in having less literate people in politics and government, which dispensation suits them as it enables them to manipulate things in their own way with ease. Also, private sector bosses do not have much faith and are not too happy about the timely and successful completion of any task by the public sector. It may be recalled that just before the inauguration of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), veterans in the private sector placed much of the blame for initial hiccups in organizing of CWG squarely on the public sector. The loot turned out to be a joint sector venture.
To start with, as usual, a national level working group may be asked to put together a model syllabus for political education at various levels starting from graduation and work out the modalities for integrating the same into the mainstream education system. The working group may have nominees of major industrial houses, national political parties, central government, state governments and other stakeholders. The cost of the working group may be borne by those who nominate its members. Industrial houses, which are magnanimous in giving donations to universities and business schools and government that fund research and development efforts of IITs and IIMs, will not find it difficult to find resources for financing this initiative.
To ensure that the benefits of political education reach the target group, a reverse reservation system through committed campus recruitment of cadre by political parties and transparent remuneration arrangement for full-time political work will have to be thought of. A corollary would be a smooth exit route and rehabilitation scheme for the sick, aged, disabled, illiterate and tainted lot of politicians holding various positions in political parties, governments and legislatures. They should be paid pension to maintain the lifestyle they are entitled and they should be retained as resource persons to support and mentor the new generation entering politics and government.
All these, naturally will take time to materialize. In the interregnum, schools, colleges, professional institutions like IIMs and law colleges should hold short-term orientation programs both in-house and postal (with contact programs of convenient durations). The target group may include sitting legislators, office bearers and activists of political parties and youngsters intending to take politics as a career.
(The writer is a former general manager, Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai. He can be contacted at [email protected])