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Out of my mind: Beer, beef and buses

Over time, the Centre has weakened, though it has financial clout. The states have become more powerful.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Published: January 24, 2016 12:15 am
federalism, CM nitish kumar, Bihar, bihar, Tamil Nadu, congress, alcohol, beer, beef, city buses, sunday opinion, express opinion Look at Maharashtra. Here a progressive young Chief Minister has gone on to implement a beef ban which is unnecessary and provocative.

India was designed to be a Union, not a federation. The founding fathers (not many mothers alas) envisaged the Congress ruling at the Centre and in all the states. So, there was a centralist bias in the arrangements. Over time, the Centre has weakened, though it has financial clout. The states have become more powerful. Tamil Nadu, for example, is an independent nation in all but name.

We now have competitive federalism. States which are large enough to be independent nations have begun to experiment with governance and innovative policies. Not all the innovations are well designed. Yet, there is a value to local autonomy which should be prized. India is a nation of many nations, like Europe which is even now struggling to be become an effective Union.

With autonomy comes diversity and differences in effectiveness and popularity. Three experiments have been worth watching. First is of course Delhi, where the ultimate ideal is reduction in traffic and the replacement of the car by the bus. Of course it won’t happen like that nor be sudden. But whatever the shortcomings of Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP, one has to acknowledge the success of the odd- even policy. Delhi’s citizens surprisingly cooperated and gave up their law-breaking tendencies.

The policy was a success. It was intelligently implemented. Of course it did not solve the pollution problem but it eased it. This was an example of intelligent and innovative way of using the limited autonomy the government has.

Then look at Maharashtra. Here a progressive young Chief Minister has gone on to implement a beef ban which is unnecessary and provocative.

It started with a gesture to curry favour with the Jains. Then it lost any logic. Banning cow slaughter or beef-eating is unnecessary. The aversion to beef-eating has no sanction in the Sanatan Dharma. It confuses cow and buffalo meat. It detracts from the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai. I can see large business corporations, especially those who have international employees, deciding to move out of Mumbai and even Maharashtra. But this is an example of misusing the power of the State.

In Bihar, the charismatic Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is planning to impose prohibition of alcohol.

No doubt one should advise people about the effects of alcohol on health and family finance. Inebriated men also indulge in domestic violence. It is possible to educate people about the costs of drinking and making health intervention. But prohibition is the worst option.

Not only will it affect the revenue, but it is also guaranteed to encourage criminal activity. Ban alcohol, and you make it immensely profitable for illegal gangs to supply it. The poor will drink illicit unhealthy liquor; the rich will evade it. Why follow the Gujarat model in its failure? Bihar needs development, not return of the liquor mafia. But individual states have the right to cut their own throat.

In due course, Maharashtra will become parochial, and other states will attract multinational firms which will distance themselves from parts of India which adopt an orthodox stance about what to eat or drink. Bihar will lose revenue and spend money on controlling the liquor mafia. Money which could be spent on development.

But that is the way competitive federalism will work. Sensible states will win.

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  1. B
    Jan 24, 2016 at 2:58 am
    Alcohol resits in domestic violence in India and also many other crimes all over the world. De addiction centres are important.
    1. Sundar BN
      Jan 27, 2016 at 12:16 pm
      the more important brain wave to be encountered in the Chronicles of Phadnavis is, the decision to ban "Sound Horn" from the rear ends of trucks. A fine lawmaker woke up one fine morning and perhaps gorged on something y and decided that, men, on meeting with the adjuration, "Sound Horn", shall, perforce lean on their horns and bellow like the bulls of Pampas. Thusly, the wiping out of that villainous sign. After all, which of us can resist being a psychologist and imagine that we know every man's mind? BTAIM, there's an odd State that hasn't gone in for any of the thingies these three have : down south. It just will *not* do anything. It could be garbage, pots, hands in the tills or whatever. Like monarch oaks that shade the plane, it never ever has a lucid interval of thought. It exists in a bliss that only blithering baboons can achieve. Its own town council - the Palike - is ever in the news because its men apparently stole 49Cr sometime last year and others collude with the builder mafia to forge certificates that transmigrate some piece of real estate from the abhorred B-register to the A-register thusly increasing its value about a 100 times. The media reported an official saying that it was going on even as he spoke. In the end, this eny has mortgaged some buildings 'cos it is bankrupt. So, they got a bright idea : tax the citizenry to make more money 'cos y'see, they're paupers. They announced that property tax shall henceforth include some 2% as vehicle tax so that the Palike may repair roads.... They have 900 accounts see, so they know how to grab money. When the w world is screaming that this body is sieve for all revenue and yet they're asking citizenry to pay so it may repair roads. As to how would they ensure that the money wouldn't be pilfered, they have yet find a suitable answer.
      1. G
        G M
        Jan 23, 2016 at 8:13 pm
        Thank God we have strong states starring straight into eyes of centre with confidence to take on any misadventure. Now , due to this state oriented political scenerio we have many worthy Prime Ministerial candidate namely- Arvind Kejrival, Niteesh Kumar, Mayavati, Manta Banergee etc. And if all failed then out Rahul is always available as age is on his side.
        1. C
          Common Sense
          Jan 25, 2016 at 9:27 am
          Yes in the U.S., the police is powerful enough to kill you. In India, the cops are powerless and stand by and watch as a mob kills you. It maybe because India is a "true" democracy that a lot of BJP supporters prefer to migrate to the West.
          1. K
            Jan 24, 2016 at 1:17 am
            Beef ban is not just for Maharashtra. The w ethos of India depends on banning beef and killing cow slaughterers. Unless these 2 things are done immediately urgently and strictly implemented, India can never progress for no country can progress by killing its soul. Gau is Mata and Gau Killer is The Devil Incarnate as far as India is concerned.
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