Mme Droupadi Murmu can do a lot constructively
Much has been discussed about the powers of the Indian President. Every student of politics broadly knows them. I’m not going to discuss them here.
Is there much that a President can do? This is a different question, and the answer to this question will be different. We don’t have to assume that the President has to do whatever she wants to do, in confrontation with the Cabinet or the PM.
I believe, the Indian President-elect, Mme Droupadi Murmu can do a lot constructively in coordination with the ruling government, helping the government, in a non-controversial way. She has the right background and the goodwill of the PM and the people.
Dr. Abdul Kalam gave us glimpses of what a President can do and did so non-controversially, but even he was stymied by the system. The protocols particularly are very restrictive. As a result, though he didn’t get involved in any specific government project, he did a lot indirectly, and met lots of youth during his tenure and inspired them. He also set a stellar example of humility for everyone to follow.
Mme Murmu has 2 choices:
- Just be the ceremonial head of state which most Presidents end up being and be forgotten after the next President takes office.
- In addition, also be an exemplary role model for the STs (Adivasis) and even SCs and other underprivileged, and inspire the next generation to overcome their odds and become part of the national leadership in their own right.
She can do so, in consultation with the PM, pushing beyond what Dr. Kalam dared to do, without giving anyone the impression of trying to hog the limelight. This is not to belittle what Dr. Kalam did; the best tribute any President can do to Dr. Kalam is to be a better President than him; nothing would have made him happier.
I’m not suggesting that the president should take an active role in governance. No.
If 75 years after independence, we are still discussing how we should give more crutches to the SCs and STs to help them climb up in life and be able to compete with the rest of the society, it shows that either we have failed in terms of affirmative action, or that whatever we do, it will be impossible for SCs and STs to compete with the rest of the society. The latter is an absurd hypothesis.
This is not merely a problem of SCs and STs; it’s a problem of the nation.
Why have we failed to facilitate SCs and STs to actively compete with the rest of society? Because, instead of using reservation as a temporary prop and coming up with affirmative action plans by which to help them become competitive, we made them slaves of reservation. We have indirectly told them, “the only way for you is to come up through reservation, and so keep fighting for reservation in every sphere, every day”.
I’m not anti-reservation; in fact, I’m pro-reservation. I think the best model is to have a reservation, and also come up with affirmative action plans and have both running parallelly, let some come up with the help of an affirmative action plan, and the rest through reservation. As the % of those from SCs and STs who come up through affirmative action keeps increasing, which can be scientifically established, we can reduce reservation by that % progressively.
If this is done in all seriousness, everybody should welcome it, both the beneficiaries of reservation and the others.
Unfortunately, we have no affirmative action plans, nor anyone to champion such plans. This is where I believe the new President-elect, Mme Murmu can come in. She can, with the consent of the PM and his Cabinet, facilitate the creation of a National Task Force with the right people being part of it, who can make it deliver the results.
For those who don’t believe in government task forces, I was a Member of a Sub-Group of the IT Task Force set up during the period 1998-99 under PM Sri Vajpayee, and we know how the Indian IT industry grew to its current levels subsequently.
Without meaning to be restrictive in terms of the possibilities of such an affirmative action plan, I humbly draw the readers’ attention to my article on this topic titled, “Need For A Big Idea On SC-ST Empowerment” dated January 30, 2017. This article focuses on training and development as tool. This article is still valid.
Mme Murmu can be an official or unofficial Patron of this task force, and guide it all the way in planning and in implementing the plans. The fact of her involvement itself will make the government and bureaucracy take it seriously and help it succeed.
I can hear some asking, will the PM and the system permit this kind of role for a President? An optimist will try to find a way to do it and at least has a chance of success, but the pessimist has none.
If she succeeds in this, she would have demonstrated to the nation that a President can do a lot, and would have set a new benchmark for future Presidents of India. And she would have immensely helped the current PM substantially in his effort toward nation-building.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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