governance, political economy, institutional development and economic regulation

India looks its age at 66. Tired, despondent, shambolic, spiritless. Odd for a country where 50% of its population is below 15 and another 40% below 54 years of age. Part of the explanation is we die young of malnutrition, poor health care and (believe it or not snake bite) but the main reason is a curious adherence to “seniority linked to the date one starts political work…very much like babus”. For fresher MPs those who are already in Parliament are “seniors” not colleagues as though Parliament were a continuation of Doon School, which u enter on the strength of your parents money and leave when u find more interesting things to occupy yourself or when u are called to a “higher” service.

India needs to get out of this mode of grandparents looking after it. We need parents in charge, in the age group 40 to 60; skilled, professional and energetic  men and women. Why is it so difficult to amend the constitution and prescribe maximum age limits for ministers in the same manner as they are prescribed for bureaucrats? Post 60 one is a liability to everyone so why thrust yourself on a nation? After all if a bureaucrat is not efficient after 60, will not an executive politician attract the same disabilities? Why not make a distinction between MPs and Ministers with the former coming in at any age but the latter drawn from the pool of MPs of eligible age. The two sets of politicos do different jobs. MPs use their wisdom, experience and direct link with the people (Lok Sabha) or the states (Rajya Sabha) to represent their best interests through legislation. Ministers on the other hand, take executive decisions and manage a huge organisation very much like a CEO of a listed large company. 

India has changed rapidly over the last six decades; in the 1970s M.S. Swaminathan’s Green revolution transformed agriculture; gave an economic fillip to farmers and empowered backward land owning castes; positive discrimination (reservations) in education, government jobs and Parliament for scheduled castes and tribes (and post 1990 for backward castes via Mandal) churned Indian society further; economic liberalisation post 1985 created a generation of new entrepreneurs and professionals and broke through the last vestiges of the “koi hai” colonial club of anglicised Indian businessmen and Marwari industrialists and traders. This social transformation is not reflected in our Ministers.

In business, old age is not a qualification. Narayan Murthy led the way by retiring at 65 (though he is now back at INFOSYS as a grandparent caring for its bottom line). Rattan Tata retired belatedly at 75. Lets start forcing politicos to similarly retire..choose any age but lets say no to old age in power.

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