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Pretty Good Principles (PGP) for India

August 2nd, 2010 · 35 Comments

Building on the idea proposed in the It’s Up To Us Now essay that I had written, Atanu Dey and I built on the idea of “Pretty Good Principles” for India, which I will outline over the course of this week. We would love to get your feedback. 

India, like every successful entity, must have a set of principles at its core from which all governance and policies are derived. These principles should be understood by its citizens and therefore must be

  • Comprehensive
  • Comprehensible
  • Minimal

These principles are an expression of fundamental and foundational values which are acceptable to a large number of people who have different secondary value systems. We call them “Pretty Good Principles,” or PGP for short. They are:

  • Minimal Government
  • Individual Rights
  • The Relationship Between the Individual and the Government

Tomorrow: Minimal Government

Tags: Uncategorized

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Karmasura // Aug 2, 2010 at 5:18 am

    I would say the system should be balanced between individual rights and duties, so I wish the PGP that you are going to propose should have four points, including one on individual duties.

    Having a give and take (duties and rights) with the government will also assist your last point about relationship between Government and the People.

  • 2 Atanu Dey // Aug 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Karmasura,

    The PGP as Rajesh articulated it is about governance and the basis for its policies. Individual rights and duties follow from those, and therefore are not foundational in the same sense as the principles are claimed to be foundational.

    Citizens have rights and duties, as you point out. Those rights and duties depend on the structure of the society, which in turn evolves out of the foundational principles of governance.

    If one were to structure governance on the PGP outlined above, then it becomes clear that the duty of the citizens boils down to obeying the laws of the land, including the obligation to pay taxes. Rights include the right to freedom from coercion — most importantly coercion from the government.

    Given good governance, citizens are not called upon to do much. They just do whatever it is that they want to do and take care of themselves and theirs. In the absence of good governance, citizens have to do whatever the government fails to do. For instance, citizens have to organize to provide social services in the absence of good governance. In some cases, the matter is so hopeless that foreign aid is required to fix the problem.

  • 3 Himanshu // Aug 2, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Rajesh,

    Equality and non-discrimination: All citizens have equal rights and the government must treat all citizens equally – the first PGP

    “India is my country and All Indians are my brothers and sister”, it’s the first line of pledge that we were taught in school. Never realized than that though we are the citizen of the same country we still not considered equal.

    I don’t have the intention to debate, but my concern is whether it is possible to create an environment where all Indians would be treated equal. There are 18 major languages spoken in India and over 1600 regional dialects with 800+ political parties including national, regional and local parties and our 25% population consist of SC/ST. The sessions at parliament many a times are suspended due to disputes over quotas. Government/ public properties are destroyed over regional disputes. I was surprised to learn that the term ‘Votebank’ was first used in India.

    Everyone in India wants quota for themselves maybe it be a Gujjar, a Jat or a tribal and to make life more worse our government approves all, then how can we consider ourselves equal.

    I agree that having equal rights seems to be easy but if we say that all citizens to be treated equally than I guess we are in a wrong country. To make government consider that all citizens should be treated equally means asking government to break its votebank. No party would ever do it.

    I have been reading your Blogs and I appreciate your writings and with a vast experience that you hold I look a as rookie in front of you, but I don’t agree with your view on Equality and non-discrimination. We won’t ever get a India free of quota system or regional disputes.

    The roots of discrimination has been laid strong.

  • 4 Praveen // Aug 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    how very extremely shameful, is there something we can do about this

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/CWG-corruption-gets-murkier-treadmill-hired-for-Rs-10-lakh/articleshow/6247519.cms

  • 5 Karmasura // Aug 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    “Given good governance, citizens are not called upon to do much. They just do whatever it is that they want to do and take care of themselves and theirs. In the absence of good governance, citizens have to do whatever the government fails to do. For instance, citizens have to organize to provide social services in the absence of good governance. ”

    Atanuji, unless the importance is given to developing duties first, and then governance, the people will not realize the importance of duties. In fact, the good governance that you adore can get even better in the face of a citizenry cognizant of its duties. Perhaps, people cognizant of their duties beget good governance over a matter of time automatically.

    Take the example of plague in my city, Surat in 1994. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_plague_epidemic_in_Surat). The situation was more aggrieved because citizenry lacked the initiative to clean up what the government could not. Ever wondered how we Suratis could come out of repeated flooding of the city and to take it up to getting elected as the cleanest in India within a span of 18 months? (http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/solwaste/surat.htm)

    On the contrary, here are some examples of a people that are not cognizant of their duties. (link 1: http://churumuri.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/an-epitaph-to-the-educated-literate-middle-class/) & (link 2: http://haryanawatch.blogspot.com/2008/09/40-hindus-converted-to-islam-in-mewat.html)
    Perhaps, these people were never trained to realize the might that following their duties can give to their societies.

    So in conclusion, my point is that we cannot leave the chapter of duties for granted while writing something about governance. Duties come foremost in anything, and then you get good governance. And even in the presence of good governance, people should follow their duties with equal fervor as they would in the absence of good governance, in addition to paying government taxes & obeying laws

  • 6 Akshar // Aug 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Excellent. Concise and to the point. Will look forward eagerly for the entire series.

  • 7 Atanu Dey // Aug 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

    In a comment above, Himanshu writes, “I agree that having equal rights seems to be easy but if we say that all citizens to be treated equally than I guess we are in a wrong country. To make government consider that all citizens should be treated equally means asking government to break its votebank. No party would ever do it.”

    I believe that Himanshu has misunderstood what the intent of PGP is. It is not a statement of what is; rather it is a statement of what ought to be. The distinction between is and ought is important.

    It is nobody’s case that the government treats all citizens equally, or even that the present government is even interested in doing so. The point is that if the government were to treat all citizens equally, then it would make for a better social order and have better outcomes.

    There’s another point which should be mentioned here. That is, it is not true that all citizens are equal. It is more than evident that all people can never be equal. Some are short, some tall, some more intelligent, some rich and others poor, some talented and other not — the dimensions of inequality are varied and many. What matters is that regardless of the fact of inequality, before the law and in the context of rights and privileges, all citizens should be treated equally.

    Repeat after me: people are not equal but they must not be discriminated against by the government based on their origin, sex, caste, religion, or any other criterion that has no bearing on their being a citizen of a free country.

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