Democracy in Bhutan

Democracy in Bhutan

An Enlightened King Ushers in Democracy 

     IT IS remarkable that a tiny Himalayan country – and a kingdom at that turns out to be one of the best models for democracies in the world. The people of Bhutan have put their best foot forward on Monday by voting in the country’s first parliamentary polls.

      This marks the formal end of nearly a century of absolute monarchy in the secluded kingdom. In its roadmap for democratisation, Bhutan doesn’t seem to have closely followed any particular model. Instead, it has apparently chosen to develop a system most suited to its own people.

     In 2001, King Jigme Singhye Wangchuck set the ball rolling for Bhutan’s transformation from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary democracy which led to a new draft con , stitution. Subsequently he abdicated in , favour of his Western-educated son, Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who now becomes Head of State.

     That the new parliament will have the power to impeach him by a two-thirds vote indicates the king’s sincerity in ushering in democracy Thanks to its small . population, Bhutan is ideally suited for grassroots democracy The draft constitu . tion took this into account while outlining a representative democracy – right from village councils at the bottom to the National Assembly and National Council at the top.

            The Election Commission’s insistence on candidates having a bachelor’s degree and a crime-free background will likely ensure transparency and accountability in the new parliament’s functioning. Being one of the last few monarchies around, the democratic transition of Bhutan will be keenly watched by the rest of the world.

         What’s so extraordinary is that the king chose the democratic path voluntarily and not to preempt the possi , bility of riots or overthrows as with other instances in history . Bhutan doesn’t have any major law and order problems or political or economic unrest like, say Nepal (where popular un , rest has put paid to the monarchy).

        But then it’s not surprising for a ruler like Jigme Singhye – who famously prefers ‘gross national happiness’ to gross national product – to try to end his country’s isolation in a globalised world by opting for democracy and modernisation.

Terrorism: Flaws in Fight against

     India is a Soft State.

     Event after event, tragedy after tragedy. Yet no firm organised actions from State Governments or Central Govt to tackle terrorism. 

    HOURS AFTER attackers in Rampur showcased the big holes in India’s fight against terrorism, central and state government officials were fighting over terrorism.

     Central intelligence officials said they had alerted their state counterparts to the possibility of such an attack. Shrugging off blame, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati said officials had in turn warned officials of the CRPF, at whose camp the attack occurred.

     The New Year attack highlighted the fatal flaws in India’s fight against terrorism – how it remains primarily a state subject, and how a crippling lack of information-sharing, databases, a tough legal framework, training and men rarely takes this so-called war beyond rhetoric.

     An amended version of a 1967 law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is currently India’s main counter-terrorism legislation. Tackling terrorism is the preserve of the states – which may, under “normal” circumstances, seek forces, financial help and other expert guidance from the Centre. After the repeal of national antiterror laws TADA and POTA, the government has repeatedly rejected suggestions of a new law against terrorism, which gives the federal government powers but not sweeping enough to en able human rights violations.

      Alongside, the idea of a national body to tackle terrorism – like the US Department of Homeland Security – remains bogged down by political concerns. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called Naxalite violence the biggest internal threat.

      But deep into India’s hinterland, political claims over tackling terrorism seem like a farce at the police stations where there is no electricity, telephones do not work, police vehicles and generators have erratic diesel supplies. Worse, insurgencies have become an alibi for misgovernance in most violence-affected states. India’s biggest anti-terror blank check, Security-Related Expenses, has been spent, says the Comptroller and Auditor-General, on renovating kitchens, repairing pump sets and buy ing guesthouses. The Rampur attack came more than a month after a dozen-odd people were killed in bombings at three courts in Uttar Pradesh.

     Mayawati had then announced the setting up of a special police unit to tackle terrorism. But the truth is that apart from the Greyhound force in Andhra Pradesh and perhaps Maharashtra, few states have shown the willingness or ability to locally deal with the before-and-after of terrorism.

      States barely keep databases and rarely share them. Those databases are rarely accessible in real time, especially after an attack. Of the 75-odd border checkpoints, less than half have computers and far fewer are connected to information networks. And when terror cases go to court, investigations are mired in the 20 per cent conviction rate of state governments – compared to 70 per cent for the CBI, which should be increasingly allowed to deal with terror trials.

     Judges specialising in terrorism cases are lacking – and that cannot yet be expected in a nation which has 10.5 judges per million citizens, compared with 107 per million in the US. The only major success comes from the Financial Intelligence Unit, which is using sophisticated electronic surveillance in the area of blocking out terrorism finance.

     But with some 750 million people in India without bank accounts, and many remittances coming in through hawala, it is a battle far more complex than the click of a mouse.

Good Policing: Palghat Kerala

      Pro fessionalsim, physical condition, community orientation, equal treatment of the public and transparency and accountability at detention centres.

     Palakkad town’s south police station scored 85 out of 100 in these five ‘subjects’ to rank second in South East Asia’s best police station test, conducted by Netherlands-based Altus Global, an accredited agency working for the UN.

     “The state government has received a communiqué from the international agency It is a . great honour. Last week some of our police officers had gone to Kuala Lumpur to make a final presentation,” said state Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The agency had conducted a ‘police station visitors’ week’ in October as part of a global programme to observe the functioning of police stations asking the local residents to fill in individual questionnaires. More than sixty had participated in the random online survey in Palakkad.

     The top prize was taken by Malaysia’s Bhuthang station. “We were on the first position till the final round. Our community policing initiative ‘Jagratha’ has won special mention at the meeting held at the Malaysian police academy It is a big honour,” said .

      Palakkad district superintendent Vijay Sakhre who led the team to Malaysia. A thrilled Kerala government has announced several plans to reform the police organization. “We are planning to raise the educational qualification for recruitment. We will recruit more women in the force to narrow down the gender inequality the ,” Home Minister said. With postgraduates and Phds filling their constabulary , the state police is already one of the best-qualified forces in the country .

     Recently the government had decided to deploy more women constables and other officers at police stations to check their male counterparts. According to the sources with the police, it has had the desired effect in checking “unruly behaviour”.