July , 2024
The new government & its constitutional issues
20:24 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

Narendra Modi’s third reign begins, of course with a reduced margin and also not without controversies. The opposition

had been campaigning that if he could achieve what he professed – “iss bar 400 paar”- then there would be no more elections. Happily for them, the reduced majority of BJP ensures that for the next five years at least, there can be no constitutional amendments. But the Prime Minister silenced the opposition, mainly the Congress, by stating that the new Lok Sabha begins on a day when the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had

amended the constitution to declare emergency and he swore, again by the constitution, that this could never happen with the new BJP government. The new fight, it seems, would centre round the question as to who would be more faithful to the constitution of India.

This fight around the constitution is both a relief as well as a matter of concern. This election, mainly because of the poor performance of BJP in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the opposition thinks it has ‘cut to size’ the larger than life portrait of Narendra Modi. The threat to the constitution, which the opposition propagated could have removed its ‘secular, democratic’ tag, is now gone. The new BJP government will not possibly, for the moment at least, push through amendments on the citizenship act.

But the new government, from the very first day, seems to have been caught on the wrong foot on another sector that is education. The alarming revelations on the mismanagement of the all India entrance examination for the medical colleges of India, commonly known as NEET, has exposed how deep the rot has set in in the education system of the country. While the fight between the existing UGC and AICTE were on (who is greater?). The government was trying to introduce a ‘one umbrella’ supervisory body to streamline things. The NEET was one of the preliminary steps to a unified approach to education. But this seems to have backfired. When this was thrust from the top, without taking adequate steps down the line, numerous coaching centres for preparations on

NEET sprung up in different states. The obvious thing happened: the corruption termite crawled up the already weakened education infrastructure. The world has taken notice of the vast improvement India is undergoing in its physical infrastructure through its new German ‘autobahn’-like highways. Large capital has been pumped into this scheme, and thanks to Nitin Gadkari, the success in this scheme has contributed majorly to BJP’s win for the third time. But in matters of priority, education has always been a backbencher. In advanced countries – and India now takes pride in marching towards becoming the third largest economy of the world – education is given the topmost priority. In the US and in many European countries, the government allots almost 6% of their GDP to education. Even China, in its new capitalist avatar, has greatly increased its education budget. But in India, the allotment in education still hovers around 2%, even though the NEP 2020 which has now been implemented throughout the country has suggested a 6% budget for education and the government has principally recognized its need. But the funniest part is that the centre continues to allot around 2% of the GDP, and expects the states to fund the rest 4% (since education is in the concurrent list, according to the constitution). Will the opposition now press for a constitutional amendment on this issue?

Another neglected area is agriculture, which too is in the concurrent list. The ’concurrency’ of the states is a tricky issue. This election has clearly shown how the voting patterns

in the states decide who will come to power in the centre. We have seen how the previous Narendra Modi government had failed to reign in the farmers of Punjab and therefore lost control over the state.

The priorities of the new government have to change. To abide by the constitution, the concurrency of the states is a must. Let us watch how Narendra Modi effectively performs this task in his third tenure.

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