By Tej N Dhar
Contemporary India with Controversial Neighbours, Rajkumar Singh, Gyan Publishing House, Pp 338 (HB), Rs 750
In his preface to the book, Rajkumar Singh states that its main purpose is to take “into account the real position of India’s political system adopted in 1947 with its effectiveness in the age of liberalization and globalization.” He divides it into two parts. The first one, consisting of three chapters, assesses the working of the country’s political system, expansion in its base, and its place in the world around. In the second part, he writes about the country’s dealings with its neighbours: Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Since India chose to become a democratic state, Singh traces its origins to the British times, refers to the Acts of 1909, 1919, 1935, and discusses the views of M N Roy and several other political theorists on the democratic system. He pays compliments to Nehru for strengthening the democratic base of the country, which ensured the smooth transfer of power to the Janata Party in 1977. In spite of this, Singh sees problems in the working of the system, which arise mainly because the electorate is largely illiterate. Things deteriorated further after Nehru’s death. Internal feuds within the Congress Party led to the rule of Mrs Gandhi, who imposed emergency in 1975, which shook the democratic edifice of the country. Singh also writes a separate section on human rights, and the constitutional provisions related to them. His conclusion is that the standard of public life has declined in the country.
Singh’s chapter on the expansion of the political base of the country deals with the empowerment of women, which he discusses right from the country’s pre-independence past, the concept of Panchayati Raj and its relation with globalization, rural development, disaster management, and issues related to human security. In the final chapter of this section which is about India and the world, Singh writes about India’s policy of non-alignment, a long section on the origins of SAARC and its functioning, and international terrorism.
Singh’s plan for discussing the Indian political system is quite inadequate. He hardly writes anything about the changes that have taken place in the political culture of the country, in the nature of the party system, in which nationalist parties are slowly yielding ground to regional parties, the tension between the centre and the states, and a steep decline in the state of governance. Likewise, the last chapter leaves out many aspects of India’s involvement with the western world.
Singh’s discussion about India’s connection with its neighbours is quite weak, because it lacks focus.
The chapter on Nepal is just about Nepal, the beginnings of democracy in the state right from 1769, the role of numerous kings in strengthening and weakening the country’s democratic base, the rise of Maoists, and power struggle between them and the others, and the problem of the Madhesis. We see a little bit of India only in the chapters on China and Bangladesh.
I have already shown that Singh’s book lacks cohesiveness of content. It is also riddled with errors of language.
(Gyan Publishing House 5, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002, email: [email protected])