Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Duncan Green visits Delhi

and comments in How change happens in India- via Supreme Court and 'judicial activism':
"At a national level, when it comes to rights and poverty, India seems to combine a sclerotic legislature, a fitfully interested government, and a hyperactive judiciary, which produces a rather unique brand of politics. Social activism in India often seems to involve getting the Supreme Court to rule that the government has to do X, then mobilizing around implementation of the ruling. Whether it’s on the Right to Food(right) or the Right to Education, the Court has been involved in some of the best known progressive legislation in India.
And that culture filters down to the grassroots. Activist talk is dotted with references to PILs – public interest litigation. Women in slums told me they were bringing claims under India’s Right to Information Act to find out what their children’s schools should be providing, or to get community toilets functioning again (cutting through the bureaucratic fog – who is actually in charge of these toilets, which have been shut for the last 7 years?).According to Harsh ‘the Supreme Court is the most effective arm of government on social policy. I’d been talking to government for years on homelessness without result. I wrote a letter to the Supreme Court saying people were dying in the Delhi winter, and this is the result.’
Shailaja Chandra, ex chief secretary of Delhi says “if the Supreme Court doesn’t react and pull up the government, who can? But they can only hammer the government, they can’t do anything themselves. It’s like a dog, baring its teeth. But it’s well informed and does shame ministers into action, both centrally and at state level. PIL is effective; litigants do their homework, and come up with solutions to implement.”
Fine, but not all activists are as well connected as Harsh, and not all PILs are progressive – plenty of industry lobbyists use the tactic, leading to an overall environment that is volatile, characterized by abrupt and unpredictable changes in policy direction."


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