This week I was surprised. Unexpectedly, a group of citizens asked if I would be willing to be recommended to the Governor to be nominated as the Member of the Legislative Council.
I was humbled by the recommendation. I needed to understand myself, my journey, my motivations and why I accepted the request to be recommended.
I needed to reflect on why I should commit any part of my life to being a legislator. This column is, therefore, mostly for me. It is my loud, incomplete, reasoning that warrants sharing publicly because it expresses my motivations to accept the recommendation.
A legislator? I am not a politician. What, I wondered, can I contribute?
I was reminded of almost 20 years ago, when the then Chief Minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, called me out of the blue. We did not know each other. I remember thinking that somebody was playing a prank, it could not be him. “I want you to be the Vice-Chairman of the Government’s Infotech Corporation”, he had announced. “It has lost direction and I need you to set it right”, he said.
I remember having asked myself the same questions “I am not a politician. What can I contribute?”. Slowly I realized that Parrikar had wanted someone who understands public interest and governance. He had wanted someone who does not serve private interests and does not play politics. 6 months on he had signed me on as the governance and IT advisor to the state. A year later and for three years in a row Goa made it to the Planning Commission of India’s list of best governed states in India. Parrikar had, then, clearly recognized the need to ensure governance not politics.
The idea of citizens recommending persons to be nominated echoes similar sentiments. We need governance, not politics. We need to protect public interest, not further private interests through government. We need our government machinery to know its purpose, not procedure. Any government focused on politics, privatization, projects, and procedure, and not the promise of the Preamble, has lost its way.
In the eighties, a few months before the Brundtland’ Commission’s famous report Our Common Future, the Systems Research Institute, where I worked as a scientist on development policy, asked me to coordinate a workshop on sustainable development policy. How can we have sustainable development if we are trapped in the short term? When we do not recognize the Short Now – the lifetime of a child born now? Our laws and lawmakers still lack an understanding of sustainable development. They do not even recognize ideas of environmental and inter-generational dignity and justice.
The French Ministry of Science saw the value of looking beyond the short term. Somewhere in the early eighties they placed a model of the world energy, economy, and environment that I developed with my colleagues from the Resource Use Institute in Scotland in a ten year ‘permanent exhibition’. The Dutch Ministry of Environment and its team developing Climate Change models for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sought me to develop systems design and policy frameworks. That work earned me my Ph.D. as I developed a framework to design and explore sustainable systems.
Our governments, yet, have no awareness, understanding, or even recognition, of the systems that they attempt to change. They do not recognize the purposes of the systems they attempt to govern. Usually they are not similarly rewarded or punished as the actors of the system they govern by events that they unleash in these systems.
They confuse the actors in the system, who have come together to pursue their common purposes, with stakeholders who are actors invested in different systems to exploit them. They have no understanding of places to intervene in these systems, to ensure humane and lasting impact. They have no mechanisms to be self-aware, to be self-critical, to be self-correcting.
Over the decades, as our governance has lost way to politics, the social and environmental worker in me has been working to find ways to redesign our systems that are resulting in the exploitation, encroachment and pollution of our streams, rivers and lakes. For unless we address the designs of our systems, our short-term interventions to hide the symptoms will only result in making our plight worse. The social and environmental worker in me has been helping governments and businesses to build feedback information systems to address the climate emergency. For unless we enable a means for our businesses and governments to recognize and experience the consequences of their interventions on the climate crisis, they will do nothing to alter their interventions.
The teacher in me has been mentoring my students to find meaning in their lives by committing themselves to causes that are larger than themselves. For unless we build a generation of citizens who care about the world beyond their own lives and careers, we will not have a sustainable planet.
Coincidently just last week a columnist from a national newspaper interviewed me about the need to make a new Information Technology Act after 20 years of its existence. I argued that the purpose of legislature was not to make new laws but to examine if existing ones served to deliver the promise of our Preamble. It is important to ask if the laws have ensured and protected the dignity, justice, liberty, and equality of the citizens. It is important to ask if the laws protected the sovereign, socialist, democratic, republic nature of our country. No public purpose is served by laws that do not deliver the promise of the Preamble.
To those who have been petitioning the Governor to nominate me, my sincere thanks for recognizing what I can contribute, better than I could.
Like Manohar Parrikar, Bhagat Singh Koshyari and I do not know each other either. I wonder if our journey together would help further the promise of the Preamble.
I realize, not being a politician is precisely why I can contribute.
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and/or individuals quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph