There was a stimulating discussion on “Elected Representatives of the People v/s Eminent Representatives from the Civil Society” at BIC on 11th December, 2011. Prof. James Mayall, eminent thinker and academic from Cambridge University, and Prof. Sudhir Krishnaswamy from the Centre for Law and Policy Research participated in the discussion.
Giving an international perspective on the whole issue, Prof. James Mayall highlighted the fact that the functioning of representational/ elected democracy has been facing a crisis world over because of the increasing disconnect between the hopes and aspirations of a large number of people and those of their elected representatives. This has given rise to certain articulate groups mobilizing public causes either for or against certain policy thrusts and/or action points. This has been considerably facilitated by improvements in information and communication technologies and through social networks. Prof. Mayall thought that such mobilizationsserve an useful purpose to fine-tune the elected representatives and the institutions and felt that certain structural changes in the institutional mechanisms should be brought about to facilitate course-corrections as and when the disconnect between the people and their representatives become too acute.
Prof. Sudhir Krishnaswamy dealt with the Indian scenario against the backdrop of the anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare. While he was appreciative about the cause highlighted and the sharp focus brought on the issue of corruption, he was hesitant about the claim of Team Anna that they alone represented Civil Society and that the solutions suggested by them were the only ones to solve the problem. Quoting statistics, he drew attention to the fact that the record of the functioning of the Office of the Lok Ayukta in Karnataka- which is being touted as the ideal for the Jan Lok Pal Bill- has been dismal in terms of success in prosecution cases investigated by them. He also cautioned that the simplistic solutions suggested by some people of strong opinions need not necessarily be the ideal solutions or for the “greatest good of the greatest number”.
The interactive session was both informative and illuminating. It was a high-voltage discussion which was conducted in the most civilized manner possible. The event was a co-branded one by BIC and the Oxford and Cambridge Society of India.