The seemingly simple question hit like a ton of bricks…
Strangely, although the question seemed so simple, there seemed no clear answer. And like when there is no clear answer, there was little agreement.
There was shocked silence on realization that rarely, if at all, the question would be asked. The more everyone thought about it, the more important they realized it was.
The question, to end the suspense, was what is the purpose of representation of the people?
Some argued that representatives solve problems in their constituency. Others said they develop the infrastructure. Some said their role is to seek and obtain funds for their constituency. Yet others argued that their role was to pass laws. Few felt they keep in check the executives who execute public services.
Where does the role of the representative come from?
The role cannot be arbitrary. It cannot be the whims of the majority. It cannot be the coercion of the minority. It cannot be dictated by the money and muscle power either. Nor can it be decided by the lobbies and partisan interests, can it?
Where then can the role come from?
Our representatives make up the government. Their role cannot be independent of the government they form.
Why do we need a government?
What is it that a government can and must do that no business or NGO can? Businesses and NGOs can deliver practically all the goods and services that we need. In fact, businesses argue that they can do so more efficiently than governments.
NGOs argue they can do what government can’t or don’t do. Why then do we need the government?
The only thing a government can do, that neither businesses or NGOs are equipped to do, is to protect public interest. And to protect national interest. Not create infrastructure, not grow the economy, not deliver goods or services, but protect national and public interests.
While businesses protect the interests of their promoters, shareholders or customers, they have no automatic obligation to protect national or public interest. While NGOs may protect the interests of those that fund their projects, of those that are the beneficiaries of their projects or those that sponsor or partner with them, there is no automatic obligation to protect national or public interests.
The Preamble to our Constitution has defined us as a sovereign, socialist democratic republic. Can there be anything other than protection of self-rule, ownership of the people, equity of people in protecting public interest and the supreme rule of the people be in national interest?
The Preamble to our Constitution has promised we the people justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. Can anything other than ensuring the affairs of businesses, NGOs and people do not cause injustice, cause coercion, create unequal treatments or violate the dignity of people be public interest? After all this is something only a government can do.
Naturally then, the role of the representatives of people follows from the government they form. Their role is to protect national and public interest. Nothing can be arbitrary about that.
When we recognize that the representation of people is all about the protection of national and public interests, we ensure we protect the Short Now, or the lifetime of a child born today.
When we ensure that our representatives understand their role, and that it is not arbitrary, we build a government that truly represents the interests of the country and its people.
When our representatives do something that is not in national or public interest, they are working for partisan or private interests.
When our representatives promote procedures, projects, or laws that do not serve national or public interest, they corrupt the government.
When our representatives do not question the national and public interests of the projects implemented by the executive, the procedures of government or the laws that they create, they fail to represent we the people.
They put the short term, or their term, above the Short Now, the lifetime of a child born today.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph