Gandhi’s views on England’s Parliament – 1933


(Source : Indian Home Rule or Hind Swaraj – Mohandas K. Gandhi – pub 1938)

V. The condition of England

READER: Then from your statement I deduce that the Government of England is not worth copying by us.

EDITOR: Your deduction is justified. The condition of England at present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight. That which you consider to be the Mother of Parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute. Both these are harsh terms, but exactly fit the case. That Parliament has not yet, of its own accord, done a single good thing. Hence I have compared it to a sterile woman. The natural condition of that Parliament is such that, without outside pressure, it can do nothing. It is like a prostitute because it is under the control of ministers who change from time to time. Today it is under Mr. Asquith, tomorrow it may be under Mr. Balfour.

READER: You have said this sarcastically. The term “sterile woman” is not applicable. The Parliament, being elected by the people, must work under public pressure. This is its quality.

EDITOR: You are mistaken. Let us examine it a little more closely. The best men are supposed to be elected by the people. The members serve without pay and therefore, it must be assumed, only for the public weal. The electors are considered to be educated and therefore we should assume that they would not generally make mistakes in their choice. Such a Parliament should not need the spur of petitions or any other pressure. Its work should be so smooth that its effects would be more apparent day by day. But, as a matter of fact, it is generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and selfish. Each thinks of his own little interest. It is fear that is the guiding motive. What is done today may be undone tomorrow. It is not possible to recall a single instance in which finality can be predicted for its work. When the greatest questions are debated, its members have been seen to stretch themselves and to doze. Sometimes the members talk away until the listeners are disgusted. Carlyle has called it the “talking shop of the world” Members vote for their party without a thought. Their so-called discipline binds them to it. If any member, by way of exception, gives an independent vote, he is considered a renegade. If the money and the time wasted by Parliament were entrusted to a few good men, the English nation would be occupying today a much higher platform. Parliament is simply a costly toy of the nation. These views are by no means peculiar to me. Some great English thinkers have expressed them. One of the members of that Parliament recently said that a true Christian could not become a member of it. Another said that it was a baby. And if it has remained a baby after an existence of seven hundred years, when will it out grow its babyhood?

READER: You have set me thinking; you do not expect me to accept at once all you say. You give me entirely novel views. I shall have to digest them. Will you now explain the epithet “prostitute”?

EDITOR: That you cannot accept my views at once is only right. If you will read the literature on this subject, you will have some idea of it. Parliament is without a real master. Under the Prime Minister, its movement is not steady but it is buffeted about like a prostitute. The Prime Minister is more concerned about his power than about the welfare of Parliament. His energy is concentrated upon securing the success of his party. His care is not always that Parliament shall do right. Prime Ministers are known to have made Parliament do things merely for party advantage. All this is worth thinking over.

READER: Then you are really attacking the very men whom we have hitherto considered to be patriotic and honest?

EDITOR: Yes, that is true; I can have nothing against Prime Ministers, but what I have seen leads me to think that they cannot be considered really patriotic. If they are to be considered honest because they do not take what are generally known as bribes, let them be so considered, but they are open to subtler influences. In order to gain their ends, they certainly bribe people with honours. I do not hesitate to say that they have neither real honesty nor a living conscience.

READER: As you express these views about Parliament, I would like to hear you on the English people, so that I may have your view of their Government.

EDITOR: To the English voters their newspaper is their Bible. They take their cue from their newspapers which are often dishonest. The same fact is differently interpreted by different newspapers, according to the party in whose interests they are edited. One newspaper would consider a great Englishman to be a paragon of honesty, another would consider him dishonest. What must be the condition of the people whose newspapers are of this type?

READER: You shall describe it.

EDITOR: These people change their views frequently. It is said that they change them every seven years. These views swing like the pendulum of a clock and are never steadfast. The people would follow a powerful orator or a man who gives them parties, receptions, etc. As are the people, so is their Parliament. They have certainly one quality very strongly developed. They will never allow their country to be lost. If any person were to cast an evil eye on it, they would pluck out his eyes. But that does not mean that the nation possesses every other virtue or that it should be imitated. If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be ruined.

READER: To what do you ascribe this state of England?

EDITOR: It is not due to any peculiar fault of the English people, but the condition is due to modern civilization. It is a civilization only in name. Under it the nations of Europe are becoming degraded and ruined day by day.

The Cause is the Business


Social Enterprises are mushrooming across the world.
There are several attempts to define what a Social Enterprise is and there are many interpretations.
How can we build a business that creates social value and makes a profit ethically?
Some of us have grown up believing that ‘profit’ is a dirty word. Profits from social causes is just not done for us. How can we sustain a social enterprise that does not ask for charity or donations and provides ourselves a fair income?

Social Enterprises come in many models. There are some Robin Hood kind of business models that attempt to rob the rich and pay the poor. There are some CSR kind of initiatives that also gain brand equity from their CSR activities.There are some enterprises that work on green technologies and products and gather carbon credits besides an income from their products and services. There are some great social enterprise models that enable community enterprises.

At Methodlabs India I am striving to create a reasonable business model that I can call a social enterprise.
I believe that it is better to earn a profit from working and adding social value than live off charity.
I also believe that the social value my business adds is worth much more than the income that accrues to my enterprise.
I do not want to run a donor funded non-profit organization.
I also do not want to exploit my employees and profit off their labor unfairly.
I prefer to build a trans-organization that has a collaborative, ethical and sharing culture.
To me the cause is the business.

Non Existent Superior Anti-corruption draft law


There is a draft anti-corruption bill proposed by Anna Hazare and his team of activists called the Jan Lokpal Bill.
There is a Government draft of the Lokpal Bill.
We have heard about a mysterious third alternative draft bill that people talk about as a superior alternative drafted by Ms Aruna Roy the Government supported Civil society Activist through her organization/group NCPRI.

As a citizen who is keen on Anti-corruption measures, I went around searching for this superior alternative and could only find a few pages of approach/concept notes and slide presentations.I could not find the real draft of the third superior bill.

I attempted to ask people who were saying that the NCPRI draft is better than both the Government and Jan Lokpal drafts, if they have seen the complete bill draft as proposed by NCPRI.

Nobody could give me the copy of any such draft except a bunch of approach/concept notes and presentations that news articles have reproduced faithfully.

Apparently the NCPRI has not proposed any such draft beyond what i read in the articles and concept notes.

I was avoiding comment till I see how the NCPRI proposes to bring these together as a draft for bill(s).It is only when they try to draft a bill, they will realize if their suggestions can really be implemented.

If they do have such a draft it will make sense to then react to these suggestions and I would love to see the draft and then share my comments or support such a draft.

If they do not have a draft, I urge them to try putting all their suggestions into a draft and it will not surprise me if they come out with a revised summary of suggestions than what their media friends have touted as the superior third alternative.

Without the draft bill(s) I am not able to test use cases. Only by testing use cases can we be certain if their approach will work.
Several issues are likely with their approach:
There are very few corruption cases that needs be handled by less than 2 lokpals according to the NCPRI approach.
Many grievances upon investigation can end up as a corruption case and the files have to move between lokpals causing unnecessary red tape.
How will they separate the territorial/jurisdiction issues between these 5 lopkal?
The 5th measure (they call that a lokpal too) of whistleblower protection is common to other 4 lokpals. How will it work?
If the CVC while investigating a corruption charge against a middle level bureaucrat, finds that a Central or State minister is also involved, will the case be simultaneously be judged by two or more lokpals? Or will it be transferred to a higher lokpal?
There are many such issues and the exercise of forming 5 lokpals seems pointless and complicating.
To me personally it seems an interpersonal ego issue between the civil society activists and it seems a bad idea.
Perhaps if they really work on it and come with a clear draft bill and working procedures, we can then judge these half-baked ideas better.

Life Decision – 1 : Ethics!


Have decided that I would stop being a short term consultant especially when the assignment involves:

1. Cleaning a mess that cannot be done without starting all over.
2. Responsibility without authority.
3. When only a report is expected that nobody would read.
4. Where quality has to be compromised for whatever reason.
5. When the client/representative expects alteration/suppression of truth.
6. Where dishonesty, corruption or favours are expected.

There that is done. A burden off my shoulder. If that means being without an income so be it. I will start selling cups of hot tea on the street.

Spring Pools


It is richer than the most vivid dream, Nor is it a mere mental image. The closest term to describe the experience, of reading Robert Frost’s words would be, teleportation. Yes it is as if we have actually been teleported to the place and not as ourselves but as someone whose senses enhanced to superhuman levels, we see every little detail and sharper, we smell and hear to everything keener and our minds soar in ecstasy. Thanks to Outwardeyes, I indulged in reading poetry today.
Spring Pools — Robert Frost
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods-
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

Break the country into a million governments


Call me seditious. But I say that good governance or whatever good  will come only if you break the country up into one or two million communities and flatten the governance hierarchy making the leaders answerable face to face to the people. Now you would ask , How can we do this in a huge country?
The solution was given long back by a certain Shri Mohandas. Self sufficient autonomous communities with minimal centralisation of powers are the answer.
Every village (i prefer the term community, the so called 638,596 villages are also artificial groupings of settlements that may have conflicting communities) should be provided the inputs to become self sufficient directly by a central government along with autonomy in every governance function that is possible. Get rid of the British relics such as blocks/taluks/districts and even the state administrations. Retire most of the Government employees and dismantle everything that has become a baggage for the country. encourage local government employees to start social enterprises (as UK is doing now) that will ultimately empower communities to own and manage everything. With currently available technologies managing a million local governments by a central structure that has a minimal set of portfolios is very feasible.