Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Studying Public Policy in the Indian Context

Since my undergraduate days, I've been interested in current affairs. Moving to USA, this interest grew into a passion for public policy especially after seeing how the policies and the processes associated were different in these two countries. In the past few years, I've tried to build my knowledge about the Indian  context of public policy, and a resource I greatly depended upon was Pragati (a magazine) http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/

I admire the people behind Takshashila, the institution and the group of bloggers behind Indian National Interest. During the days of lokpal struggle, I noticed their view point was different from mine. I reflected that mine was more emotional while their argument was mostly based on what works within policy context. I knew it was time for me to develop a strong foundation if I ever want to be part of the process as a bureaucrat, politician, think tank member or just as an informed citizen. When Takshashila offered a graduate certificate in public policy, I knew this was the best opportunity. I wrote the essays, and submitted the application during the last month of my MBA at CBS.

While partying in Puerto Rico, I got the good news that I'm in. Now, I'm a member of a class of 50+ students from various walks learning public policy over the summer. 

For the very first assignment on the course on Intro to Public Policy Analysis, we were asked the following questions. My answers are embedded (thrilled to get an A and start on the right foot!). The expectation is not to base it on value judgments but rather focus on the policy context.

It is not uncommon for thugs belonging to political parties to engage in violence. Such violence could range from enforcing “bandhs” to carrying out organized riots. If a thug is affiliated to a ruling party engage in acts of violence, is the state responsible?

No, the state is not responsible.                                                                                  
·        By “responsible” we mean the state deserves punishment.
·        The event is hypothetical or in other words, yet to happen.
Based on the textbook definitions we know that State is a political union under one government. The ruling party and the government are two separate entities; even if it’s not a coalition. As such, if a thug engages in a violent act, s/he is responsible for the action and should face the consequences based on the rule of law. Also, the ruling party should take disciplinary actions against the individual in the hope of reducing the occurrences of such incidents.  In case the event has already happened and one believes the government has somehow tried/managed to undermine the rule of law then I’d believe the government deserves punishment, may be a PIL to the Supreme Court could trigger the proceedings in such a situation.

The Indian Army stages a Flag March in an area suffering from political violence. The purpose of the Flag March is to deter violence by showing its presence (and implicitly, its superior capability to use force). Peace is restored, in effect, by terrifying the population. Is this ‘state terrorism’?

Yes, it is state terrorism.
·        The Army’s intent to use force is established 100%
·        The people involved are all citizens of India
Terrorism is defined as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. The state by showing intent to use force, is clearly trying to intimidate its citizens. The reason for this action may be to establish the rule of law again in the territory, however that has no bearing on whether it is terrorism or not. If one starts enveloping context around terrorism, then this definition will be a relative one which I don’t agree with. Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of who employs it and for what reason.