The rise of bulldozer governance

Source: The post is based on the article “Suhas Palshikar writes: The rise of bulldozer governance” published in “The Indian express” on 12th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.

News: In this article author discusses how India’s democracy is shifting, with governments using more forceful methods like bulldozers and police encounters. These actions often target the poor and marginalized. The government is also bypassing standard democratic procedures in the legislature. The author suggests this trend is worrisome and challenges the true essence of democracy.

How is India’s democracy shifting?

India’s democracy is shifting in the following ways:

Bulldozer Governance: Governments are using force, symbolized by bulldozers, to assert their power. Examples include demolitions in Haryana following communal violence.

Decreased Regulation: Despite the ideal of minimal government intervention, there’s an increased use of physical coercion to maintain law and order.

Surveillance: Governments are using advanced techniques like drone surveillance and facial recognition without much legislative oversight.

Police Power: States are increasingly giving the police a “free hand,” resulting in encounter killings, like the Telangana police incident in 2019 (killing suspected rapists)

Legislative Functioning: There’s less discussion and vetting of bills, with some being pushed through as Money Bills, limiting proper democratic debate.

Executive Dominance: The executive branch is gaining more control, even intervening in state matters, challenging the federal principle.

This shift, seems to be moving away from democratic ideals.

What are the major concerns of this shift?

Citizen Concerns:

The use of force, like the bulldozer incidents in Haryana, affects the marginalized the most.

Advanced surveillance techniques such as facial recognition threaten citizen privacy.

Governance Concerns:

The government’s assertive actions, like not properly vetting bills, reduce transparency.

Leaders assert dominance, sometimes bypassing federal principles to intervene in state matters.

Judicial Concerns:

The judiciary often remains a silent observer, not intervening in cases of potential overreach.

The direction of governance primarily targets less privileged sections, without adequate checks.

Social Concerns:

Media might not consistently challenge high-handed governance.

Terms like “bulldozer baba” highlight societal acceptance of forceful governance.

Idea of Democracy:

Bypassing democratic procedures in the legislature erodes democratic norms.

The rising belief in a leader’s ultimate wisdom weakens the need for democratic checks and balances.

What should be done about it?

Strengthen Oversight: Enhance judicial involvement to ensure government actions align with democratic principles, as seen with the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s intervention in Nuh.

Legislative Reforms: Encourage thorough vetting of bills and promote discussions to avoid bypassing democratic procedures.

Enhance Accountability: Ensure surveillance techniques, such as facial recognition and drones, are used with proper legislative oversight.

Promote Media Vigilance: Media should consistently highlight and critique instances of high-handed governance.

Public Awareness: Educate the public about the importance of checks and balances in a democracy.

Emphasize Federalism: Respect the federal principle to maintain the balance of power between the central and state governments.

Restore Democratic Ideals: Prioritize citizens’ rights and well-being over forceful measures, ensuring democracy serves all.

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