Tuesday 31 March 2015

An upsurge of Wahabbis confront the “Sabahis” (Gateway House)

More than a decade ago, this writer pointed to Kuwait and its ruling house of Al Sabah as being the ideological challenger to Saudi Arabia and the Al Sauds, who from the start of their rule have embraced the principles and practices of Abdel Wahab, the founder of the Wahabbi ideology.
Even the merest glance at the Holy Quran shows it to be suffused with moderation, compassion and benevolence. As with other religious texts, there are certainly elements of warfare within the prose, but the constantly repeated injunction is to identify the three qualities listed above as being at the core of Islam, the faith born out of the revelation of the Holy Quran fifteen centuries ago.
However, a significant boost was given to Wahabbi teachings by the Al Saud’s panic reaction to the happenings of 1979 (the coming to power in Iran of Ayatollah Khomenei and the attempted takeover of the mosque at Mecca by followers of a deluded youth believing himself to be the Mahdi).
Since the dawn of the 20th century, Wahabbi ideology has been given support by countries such as the U.S the UK—as a means of weaning away Arab communities from the Turkish caliphate in the early years of the last century, which backed a much less restrictive interpretation of Islam than was popular among Wahabbi preachers.
During the 1950s and beyond, Wahabbism came in handy for the former colonial powers of Europe and their newfound champion in the underdeveloped world – the U.S. – in rolling back the Gamal Abdel Nasser tide of Arab nationalism. At its core, the Nasser nationalism sought a cutback in the dominant position that the former colonial powers and their North American partner still had within the Arab world.
In the 1980s, this toxic creed once again proved its value to U.S. geopolitical interests, when it was fanned to unprecedented levels in order to motivate hundreds of thousands of young Wahabbi Muslims into taking up weapons in order to confront the USSR in Afghanistan. There was an alternative to such a mobilisation of this extremist creed, and that would have been to train, fund and arm Pashtun nationalists rather than radicalise a hitherto moderate people through Wahabbi preachers and accompanying audio, video and printed material.
Universities in the U.S. were given contracts by their government to design and publish textbooks and other material for West Asia, which would steer young Arab minds towards the Wahabbi ideology, setting aside the qualities of mercy, compassion and benevolence that are imprinted in every sura of the Holy Quran.
The reason why the Pashtun fanatics won over the moderates was the fact that the nationalists within that ethnic group were hostile to Pakistan, a state in occupation of vast tracts of Pashtun land leased for 99 years to the British but due back to Afghanistan since the period of the lease expired in 1992. As has been a habit with policymakers in Washington, the interests of the Pakistan military were given precedence over those of U.S. citizens, who would have been much better off were the radicalisation and empowerment (into violence) of Wahabbi youth not so sharply accelerated during the Brzezinski-Casey period and beyond.
Even after 9/11,the Saudi establishment and its ideological followers across the globe, have been funding and expanding what may be termed as Wahabbi International, a network of institutions and individuals with the aim of convincing the followers of Islam that the teachings of Abdel Wahab are in fact the “purest” version of the world’s fastest-growing faith rather than its antithesis
In the Arab world, what has kept Wahabbism ascendant is the support given to it by the Al Sauds of Saudi Arabia, and since the 1990s, by the Al Thanis of Qatar. The latter saw in Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, a possible precursor to the invasion of their own country by the Al Sauds. Judging by what happened next,it would appear that the Al Thanis decided that the best way to neutralise the Saudi “threat” would be to be acknowledged as even more determined followers of Abdel Wahab than the Al Sauds.
From that time onwards, the Royal House of Qatar began to compete with their counterparts in Riyadh, by funding and supporting Wahabbi missionaries worldwide. From the start of the present century, the rulers of Qatar added a fresh layer of protection by becoming a military auxiliary of the U.S. as well as becoming at least as big a demonstrator of soft power as the Saudi royals – the latter chiefly through a quantum jump in support given to Al Jazeera, which is today the predominant Wahabbi news channel worldwide, edging out its Saudi competitors with ease.
The rivalry between the Al Sauds and the Al Thanis have benefitted Wahabbi International. Doha has emerged as a haven for Wahabbi missionaries, and Qatar has become a financial backer of Wahabbi International objectives, such as the removal of the Assad family from power in Damascus and its replacement with a dispensation that owes fealty to Wahabbism. Indeed while Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah sought to move away from Wahabbism, Qatar filled the resulting vacuum in support – although since then King Salman appears to have returned Riyadh to the traditional Sudairi clan policy of a westernised personal lifestyle coexisting with a strictly Wahabbi dispensation within the theological institutions of a country which has within its borders the two most holy sites of Islam.
Judging by his initial months in office, King Salman seems determined to ensure that only members of the Sudairi clan will become his successors. In effect, this confines the Saudi monarchy to a single clan within it that has wielded power for much of the period since the 1939-45 war, even going to the extent of seeking to marginalise family members of his predecessor, King Abdullah, who was born of a non-Sudairi mother with roots among the common people
The Al Sabahs of Kuwait have been the outliers within the ruling families of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, introducing a written constitution more than five decades ago. More recently, the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al Sabah, not only continued the system of free elections but extended the franchise to women, in spite of opposition from elements seeking to bring into Kuwait more elements of the Wahabbi (and Salafi) ideology – the same practiced in Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Qatar and in parts of Yemen, and which for the past decade has been steadily advancing in Turkey.
Those seeking a return of West Asian society to the Sufi ethos of the Turkish caliphate would have preferred “Sabahism” to prevail over Wahabbism. In this, the other GCC states would copy the policies followed by the Al Sabahs and introduce democratic practices into their own dispensations, besides ensuring a level playing field between Shia and Sunni, the way it is in Kuwait, Oman and to a considerable extent in the UAE, although not in Qatar, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia. In the latter pair, Shia are subject to severe discrimination and are routinely abused as being “puppets of Iran”, an allegation that is as untrue as is the other fiction of the Shia in Iraq being under the control of the mullahs of Teheran, or the Al Assad family in Damascus being as hostile to the Sunnis (including the Wahabbi element) as the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are towards the Shia.
In fact, several of the Assad clan have Sunni spouses, including Bashar Assad himself, while the government in Damascus has nearly seven of every ten ministers hailing from within the Sunnis, although none of this would be obvious to those tuning in to Wahabbi-boosting commentators such as Christiane Amanpour of CNN, who adopts the orthodox Wahabbi position on disputes within the region.
Rather than “Sabahism” prevailing over Wahabbism within the GCC, it is the former that is being threatened by a rising number of supporters of the latter in Kuwait. Unlike in the past, when the population of Kuwait remained a haven of theological moderation within the Arab world, an increasing number of citizens are adopting the Wahabbi mindsets common among those resident in Saudi Arabia.
Fewer and fewer Kuwaiti women, for example, are daring to go out in public without at least a headscarf, if not the full-length abaya. Those wearing western-style clothes are subjected to disapproving stares from the increasing number of Kuwaitis who back Wahabbi (and Salafi) ideology.
Indeed, not only are citizens of the State of Kuwait appearing with regularity together with other ISIS volunteers on the fields of war in Syria, Libya and Iraq, but Kuwait-based donors are playing a role in the funding of ISIS affiliates and proxies, although not yet to the extent to which backers in Qatar and Saudi Arabia do.
What has weakened the opposition to Wahabbism within the GCC has been the shock defection of Turkey from what may be termed the Sufi stream. President Recip Teyyip Erdogan used his “European” credentials to ensure the neutering of the Turkish military (the strongest Kemalist force within the country) but shed the same affiliations as he went about changing the chemistry of governance in Turkey into a direction that is openly Wahabbi— although as yet co-existing with Sufi elements rather than overwhelming them.
Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, the present Emir of Kuwait, has fought with success to retain at least some of his country’s moderate traditions. However, he has had to keep a watch on the sensibilities of Wahabbi elements, refusing for instance, to follow the example of the UAE and Bahrain and permit the sale and consumption of alcohol within the country. Kuwait Airlines is alcohol-free, thereby giving a competitive advantage to UAE carriers such as Emirates and Eithad, which have refused to be cowed by Wahabbi diktats in the matter.
Were Kuwait to have followed the more liberal policies of the UAE, the country could have emerged as a global business hub like Singapore. But the influence of conservative theology has thus far prevented such a transformation, despite freedom of choice being the essence of democracy.
These days, in newspapers in Kuwait there are more and more reports about how the Emir is patronising events such as the handing over of the (sixth) “Holy Quran International Recitation and Memorization Award” – given to this year’s  winner on March 30 by Prime Minister Jaber Al-Sabah. Funding to the “Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Matters” is being substantially increased, even though as yet Kuwaiti authorities have refused to adopt the Saudi practice of banning, even in cities such as Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah, any house of worship other than those approved by Wahabbi clerics.
The moderate traditions of the Al Sabahs have ensured that Kuwait is a country where official hostility to faiths other than that followed by the majority is absent, and where there is an atmosphere free of intimidation and disapproval for those practising faiths such as Christianity or even Hinduism. It had been expected that King Salman would follow the moderating policies of his predecessor, King Abdullah the Wise. Instead, he appears to be returning to the hard-line practices of his Sudairi predecessors, and has even gone ahead with a military intervention in Yemen certain to inflame sectarian passions throughout the region, including within his own country.
Still – not all the portents are dispiriting. “Sabahis” are still in a majority within the people of Kuwait, with women and the young especially being firm in defending their freedoms and their rights. In Kuwait, women, a group which faces discrimination in several other parts of the region, have been at the forefront of the struggle against restrictive ideologies, making Kuwait the only country within the GCC where citizens belonging to the fair sex can reject codes designed for them by Wahabbi preachers without the displeasure of their families and indeed their husbands.
The expansion of democratic choice in Kuwait has ensured a strengthening of the defences against the creeping expansion of the boundaries of Wahabbism seen in Erdogan’s Turkey, which till his consolidation of power six years ago was the societal role model for moderates throughout the region.
During a taxi ride to the Embassy of India in Kuwait city, this writer was surprised that the Bedouin driver (Ali) spoke English with effortless ease, despite a lack of formal education. Across Kuwait, the desire to connect to the 21st century is resisting the influx of Wahabbi thought and keeping alive the prospect that rather than become a clone of Saudi Arabia, it is that latter country which will learn from Kuwait and bestow the freedoms of democracy to its populace.
At present, it would appear that the Wahabbis have the upper hand over the “Sabahis”, even in some elements of local society in Kuwait. But the war for the hearts and minds of a people as gifted as the Arabs, is far from over.
M.D. Nalapat is Director of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University, and a regular contibutor to Gateway House.
This feature was written exclusively for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. You can read more exclusive features here.
For interview requests with the author, or for permission to republish, please contact Reetika Joshi at or 022 22023371.
© Copyright 2014 Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized copying or reproduction is strictly prohibited.

Sunday 29 March 2015

For Modi, North Block is what will matter in 2019 (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

The Justice Shah Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed by Team Modi on the lines mentioned in a Supreme Court verdict, and has sat several times since the time it was set up. Lawyers, not unexpectedly, usually regard existing or new laws as a panacea for societal ailments, a view embraced with fervour by television anchors, and press reports indicate that the many sittings of the SIT have generated a flurry of recommendations designed to tighten further legal screws on delinquent behaviour. Given the number of laws in India (some of which have their roots in the period when Aurangzeb was ruler of Delhi), many may find it difficult to understand precisely how yet another set of laws would improve the situation, especially those where the onus is on the citizen to prove his or her innocence of charges levied by officials acting at the behest of business or political interests. Certainly, the implementation of the J.S. Verma recommendations, which added to existing laws on violence against women, has not improved the situation, while making it a relatively simple matter to file a case against any male imprudent enough to enter into any form of communication or contact with the opposite sex.
In India, our colonial-era laws are often used to collect bribes in order to fund the education of wards abroad, or to build a residence as opulent as that into which a former Principal Secretary to a former Prime Minister moved after demitting his job, while he had earlier been staying at a modest apartment in Vasant Kunj. His offspring too moved into much grander places of residence, in the way such well-born offspring are frequently known to do, naturally to silence from those government agencies tasked to track precisely such details and penalise those guilty of infringing the maze of law on the subject.
Apart from information which accidentally fell into its hands (and into that of several other governments), thus far the government seems to have come up with little in the way of retrieving moneys illegally placed abroad by citizens of this country. Expecting such individuals to have foreign bank accounts in their own name seems a trifle naive. Almost all those with cash kept abroad would have placed such money in the accounts either of relatives or friends, who have been made NRIs for the purpose, or would have availed of the legal and accountancy services abundant in offshore tax havens to create a chain of nominations for accounts whose secrecy would consequently be close to impossible to penetrate. As for those with accounts in the US, the gap of several months between news of US authorities offering data on the bank accounts of nationals to their respective countries and the actual signing of the protocol with the US government was sufficient to allow such account holders to have cleared out such accounts, thereby ensuring that all that the Government of India will finally come up with as a consequence of the Black Money (in foreign countries) law will be the same as will be dredged up by the Shah SIT, which is a derisory figure. And by levying confiscatory taxes and penalties on the funds disclosed, the government has ensured that the new law's success rate (in bringing back money illegally deposited abroad) will be as meagre as that generated from the sittings of the Shah SIT.
Fortunately, North Block mandarins have already declared that the Black Money law was "not a revenue raising measure". If the purpose was not to raise funds by getting back money illegally kept abroad, perhaps the objective of a law mentioned in this year's Budget speech was to sharpen the drafting skills of the North Block bureaucracy. By the time the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls roll by in 2017 and the Lok Sabha polls two years later, should the moneys brought back by the Government of India be a piffling amount, the impact will be substantial on the political fortunes of Prime Minister Modi, whose party was elected to power because of the confidence of voters that he would succeed in bringing back vast sums of such cash. His success or lack thereof in this will be a major factor in future election campaigns. The problem is that those steeped for decades in the present colonial system of governance may find it difficult to change their ways. As was the case with the British Raj, the "stick" is usually outsize, while the "carrot" is shrivelled and inedible. Take the case of the recent increase in Service Tax, a measure that has had a devastating effect on employment generation in India. Rather than raising the rate even further, lowering it to at least 10% would have increased compliance and therefore collections, a fact that must be known to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose practical approach to governance in Gandhinagar is what has ensured his present stay at 7 Race Course Road. Unless he succeeds in changing the processes of governance in Delhi the way he did in Gujarat, for example, by ensuring the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars back to India from offshore banking havens and from international investors, what took place in Delhi is likely to be repeated elsewhere. More than the Ministry of External Affairs and even the Ministry of Defence in South Block, it is North Block — specifically the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs — which will decide the result of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

‘Sonia Gandhi was godmother of 66A’ (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  28th Mar 2015
Who was responsible for the abomination referred to as Section 66A of a revised Information Technology Act which itself has features which belong less to a democracy than to an authoritarian state? It took Justices Chelameshvar and Nariman of the Supreme Court of India to move the legal system in India closer to what it ought to be in a country which claims to be a democracy. A 24-year-old lawyer, Shreya Singhal was the trigger behind the challenge to the Act in the Supreme Court. For after all, it is the young who have the most to lose unless the shackles of the colonial legal and administrative system carefully preserved by Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors gets scrapped and replaced with methods and laws valid for the 21st century. The Information Technology Act 2000 was replaced by an amended version passed without discussion in both Houses of Parliament on December 23 and 24, 2008, coming into force ten months later. It is not coincidental that it is after the amended version has come into force that this country's advantage in Information Technology has been severely challenged by other countries, including the Philippines. The amended Act made any internet-related activity operating out of India a hazardous occupation, because of the ease with which both service providers as well as users of the worldwide web can get tossed into jail, in effect at the whim of an official or the political, commercial or other individual controlling the decisions of such a functionary.
From the start, this writer has opposed the amended Information Technology (IT) Act, and in the process, sought to ascertain the inspiration behind its origins. What key political insiders claim is that the amended Act was the result of the "advice from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi that legislation get passed which would assist in preventing the flood of less than complimentary references to her and others close to her in several websites". Both the print as well as the broadcast media have treated Sonia Gandhi with the same elevated degree of reverence as shown by Prime Ministers Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Modi, so it is understandable that the Congress president would have been less than happy at this section of the media being in parts considerably less solicitous of her than the "Establishment" in India and abroad has been over the decades. These insiders say that the UPA chairperson's pressure on the government to deal with uncomplimentary posts by muzzling online freedom of speech was relentless, especially from end-2007 onwards. They claim that it was because of this informal directive from the Congress president that the amended Act was devised and passed in 2008 with the support of the BJP. Although A. Raja's name has been tossed about — most recently by H.R. Bharadwaj — as the prime mover of the amended IT Act, insiders say that "Raja was listened-to only when it suited the Congress leadership". Whenever the Congress leadership was lukewarm towards a Raja proposal, "Sonia Gandhi would speak to Karunanidhi, who would fall in line. Hence, to say that A. Raja was responsible (for the amended IT Act) is laughable". When asked whether Rahul Gandhi was of the same view as Sonia Gandhi in the matter of laws to intensify online policing, the reply was that "Rahul is considerably more liberal than his mother". They claim that "incessant oral complaints were made to the UPA ministers about uncomplimentary posts on Sonia Gandhi, sometimes in very strong language" and that it was largely because of such informal communications from the Congress president that Government of India went ahead with the infamous 2008 amendments to the IT Act of 2000.

As was pointed out by this writer multiple times in the past, the UPA has, numerous times during its decade in office, passed pieces of legislation that would appear to have come after consultations with Kim Jong Un, the boisterous boss of North Korea. In practically every sphere of significant activity and operation, already harsh laws have been tightened, often significantly, so that life has become a minefield for those citizens lacking the billions of rupees needed to afford a top lawyer or the good luck to be related to (and possess a soft corner within the heart of) a politician of influence or a senior official. In such writings, this writer placed the blame for such enactments on Kapil Sibal and Palaniappan Chidambaram, but credible individuals reiterate that the brain behind the incessant intensification of colonial-era laws and administrative practices was Sonia Gandhi, and that Chidambaram and Sibal were merely following her wishes with the fealty and dogged determination both have demonstrated in this regard over the years.

Others view such placing of the blame on Sonia Gandhi as unfair, pointing out that she has been vocal on multiple occasions in expressing her love for the common man and the underprivileged, and has shown a partiality towards known campaigners for citizens' rights such as Aruna Roy, who mentored Arvind Kejriwal during that period when the Chief Minister of Delhi was not yet being informed by his key supporters that he was born to save India from sloth and poverty, and that the most effective way of ensuring success in such a task would be to expel or marginalise from the Aam Aadmi Party all except those holding a similar view. As for Chidambaram and Sibal, the duo have modern views and intellects considerably above the average, which indeed was why it was particularly disappointing that they ensured that Manmohan Singh would enter history as the Prime Minister who in his time created a system of laws, practices and regulations which sought to enslave the people of India as comprehensively as the British did in their time, and which marked a shameful retreat from the low levels of "reform" practised since Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister of India in 1992. Those who defend Sonia Gandhi claim that such measures were actually the result of the combined efforts of Chidambaram and Sibal, encouraged by Manmohan Singh (who seems to believe that the citizens of India need to be constrained and foreign interests liberated from the regulations imposed on locals). They say that this triumvirate was constantly looking for ways of tightening the control of state agencies over the citizen. They add that Sonia Gandhi is in fact "liberal", as evidenced by the fact that the Congress Party (of course, in a way which had zero practical effect) endorsed the repeal of the Queen Victoria-era law on homosexuality, and asked for the waiver of the death penalty in the case of a lady who was part of the plot to murder Rajiv Gandhi.

Despite the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared his intention to transform the structure of governance in India in a 21st century manner, elements in his government somehow ignored this objective and followed the standard (19th century) practice of the Delhi establishment and justified in court even Section 66A of the amended IT Act rather than get it repealed, as several BJP leaders had promised before coming to power. Now that the Supreme Court of India has reminded the government that Article 19(1)a of the Constitution of India (despite a significant watering down of the provision by Nehru in subsequent years) stands at the core of the democratic process, hopefully, the magnificent judgement of Chelameshvar and Nariman will be followed by other SC decisions which go towards ensuring that India morphs into a country where it is civil society which rules, rather than (as in North Korea), the state machinery. What the NDA needs to do is to repeal the entire amended Act and bring back with some small modifications the original Information Technology Act 2000 passed by Prime Minister Vajpayee.

Prime Minister Modi needs to continue repealing several of the odious enactments that have the simultaneous effect of slowing down progress, while increasing the quantum of bribes collected. Hopefully, sometime in the future, enough of the records hoarded in secrecy by successive governments will get released, so that it becomes known as to whether it was Sonia Gandhi who was the prime mover behind the UPA's flurry of Pyongyang-style laws and regulations, or the triumvirate of Manmohan Singh, Kapil Sibal and Palaniappan Chidambaram who were responsible for giving the state powers over the citizen that are contrary to any definition of democracy.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Go beyond CBI in probes (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

Why not set up a ‘Civil Society Investigation’ team with those having a record of battling graft, individuals of the mettle of E.A.S. Sarma or S. Gurumurthy?
D.K. Ravi
Ranjit Sinha is among the numerous appointees of the Manmohan Singh government who are either serving the current dispensation or who have retired with honour. Mr Sinha's qualifications for the top slot at CBI were obvious: he was the officer who looked into the soul of Lalu Yadav and saw a blameless soul, even while the uncharitable were metaphorically throwing gobs of fodder at the poor man. Almost every night of the week, the then CBI director was gracious enough to meet at his official residence those who his organisation was investigating. It would be churlish to claim that such meetings were born out of a desire to negotiate a satisfactory conclusion to the probes against them. The Sinhas were probably discussing the Indian team's prowess at the IPL matches, or were engaged in conversation about how the rate of growth of the Indian economy could get pushed up to the double digit figures, needed to eliminate poverty in India within a generation?
After all, the targets of CBI probes could very well be authorities on these and other subjects of interest to the Sinhas. Is Ranjit Sinha blameless of the allegations made against him, despite his odd choice of visitors to spend a quiet evening with, now that a government elected to office on the promise of accountability and clean governance has allowed him to serve out his full term, rather than suspend him and launch proceedings against him?
The BJP secured an absolute majority of Lok Sabha seats ten months ago, entirely because a significant number of voters believed in the efficiency and probity of Narendra Modi. Since 26 May last year, the former Chief Minister of Gujarat is the Prime Minister of the country, and therefore in effective charge of the CBI, the ED, the DRI, the Income-Tax Department and other investigative wings of the gargantuan governance mechanism in India. In view of his stand against corruption, especially the vow that neither would he indulge in "eating" up funds or allow any other leader to do so, citizens are awaiting the promised period of accountability, when government begins to initiate action against the many VIPs and VVIPs guilty of having enriched themselves illegally through misuse of their office during the preceding two decades. Narendra Modi will be judged by two criteria, first his success in inflicting punishment on those guilty of large-scale corruption, and next, in boosting economic growth to two digits. Such a process would get speeded up and made more comprehensive were Civil Society to be brought into the cleansing act and not just the Civil Service.
For example, why should it be the just CBI which has been entrusted with a government-initiated probe into the death of D.K. Ravi, the IAS officer from Karnataka? Why could not have a "Civil Society Investigation Team" been set up with the inclusion of those having a record of battling graft, individuals of the mettle of E.A.S. Sarma or S. Gurumurthy? Why not empower such non-official probe teams so that they can record evidence and examine both records as well as personnel? Why not SITs of such individuals rather than officials and retired or serving judges? Why not appoint to the Election Commission at least a few individuals who have actually fought an election, so that practical experience is brought to bear, besides length of service within the administration? Why not appoint as information commissioners those with a record of seeking transparency, rather than merely confine such choices to officials, who for decades have resisted precisely the sort of openness which the 21st century demands of all but a few processes of government? Why not go ahead with appointing direct recruits from Civil Society to fill at least a quarter of Civil Service posts? Indeed, even posts as vital to good governance as that of principal secretary to the PM or other posts within the PMO and other ministries could in future get filled by those from professions outside government with a proven record of overcoming obstacles to progress in a country still bound by a colonial system of governance.
At the same time, those in the Central services should be encouraged to spend stints outside government, in think tanks, in universities and in the corporate sector. In this way, the two sectors will seed each other rather than remain separated by a colonial-style wall.
Prime Minister Modi exemplified the promise of change, a transformation introduced at a speed closer to the way in which technologies and mindsets are changing in this century than the bullock cart pace of our colonial administration. Calling on a fusion of Civil Society and the Civil Service in more of the essential tasks of governance would represent a welcome initiative by Prime Minister Modi in the necessary process of changing the governance system from its longstanding colonial and people-smothering mode into a mix that is democratic and people-empowering.