Thoughts on economics and liberty

Lok Satta must press the “Pause” button and re-think its strategy

Some correspondence (in which I was not involved) re: JP of Lok Satta took place recently, I was cc.d in.

One of the correspondents raised these issues:

"Many people I know have contributed funds & other kind of support to JP but he never gets back after he gets the support?? Or whatever assistance people offer him does not respond back??I have also seen that JP has a similar coterie like todays politicians so In that case It will be very difficult for JP to arouse the councious of the Nation untill he becomes a mass leader more important when he is not from Hindi Heartland??Any way I wish him success in this endevour??Pl get response from him on my comment directly if possible??"

One of the senior leaders of Lok Satta then responded thus:

We never had any difficulty in reaching to JP and did not find any VIP culture, Infact we have been fully empowered in our area of LSP's work that need is also limited. Whenever we wanted we could reach him in a reasonable time. If he was not immediately available he reached us back. The man I found is genuine, down to earth and with great vision and a mission. I am now working with Lok Satta for more than seven years. Many (thousands in AP) of my other colleagues are working closely with him for over now 14 years. Most of them are silent workers, working only with a view to contribute and not for recognition there fore away from public glare.

Of-course there could be isolated cases to the contrary because once you know some one is not contributing OR adding value and drags the energy and gets in to only debates (That is the case with most of intellectuals today – In Amrtaya Sen's words – Argumentative Indian), one needs to decide priorities as one has limited time, energy and resources and the mission requires focus.    What Lok Satta stands is well documented and available to all on website and published documents. But my own experience is that even well learned people do not go through that and gets in to debate and demand personal attention. If one reads through, the debate can be meaningful, well structured and require limited time. One other thing these people require is that attention from JP and not from any one else in party. If they discuss with others, then discussion with JP could be that much limited. It is more a times management issue for JP rather then an ego/VIP culture as they perceive,

As regards to mass appeal of JP. JP is the only person, who worked for 12 years as NGO with people, converted in to a political party in 2006. He established LSP units not in every districts of AP but also in every Taluka that too with a very limited budget (i.e. enrolled volunteers). He was elected LSP President (in open party elections, supervised by an independent electoral authority) by more than 80,000 LSP members (His two opponents got 10,000 and 4,000 votes respectively. After losing his opponents are working as Vice President and Mahila Satta leaders respectively.

He recently got elected as MLA by a margin that of more than 17,000 votes. LSP spent in his constituency only Rs 4,00,000/. (His all opponents got united, spent corers with only one mandate to not allow him to go to assembly). He only campaigned in his constituency for about 3/4 days as most of time he was campaigning across the state. As some says "Proof of pudding is in eating". Nothing can be a better proof of JPs mass appeal though currently limited to AP. Of-course that is to be further polished and that is happening with every day passing. 

Question is what are we doing to change the "NATURE OF POLITICS IN THE COUNTRY, unless we believe that nature of politics is NOT the route cause of all of our problem including implementation of laws in their true letter and spirits??  

We need to ponder this question deeply inside and see what and how can we contribute in this mission.  

My comment

I believe JP's commitment to reform of governance is unquestioned. And his integrity. But I also believe that the impression has gained ground that his is a one-man show, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

The fact that JP shows no interest in associating with other like-minded people (at least that has been the experience of some people I know), nor in debating his policies – some of which are clearly not in the best interest of India – brings him out as a recluse. That also leads to the feeling amongst at least some people that LS is just like any other political party – driven by the "high command".

In this day and age of the internet, there is no reason why Lok Satta should function in this way. Many interactive methods of communication exist, and should be used. It is also crucial for LS to make sure that it is distinguished from JP – who should be seen as merely one of its many leaders (assuming it has other serious leaders on par with JP). 

It is not enough for LS leaders to say that they find JP approachable. They may well have found him approachable, but I haven't found him as approachable as he should be even though I know him personally for many years. Emails to him don't get responded, commitments made on the phone don't get acted (he had committed to sending a delegate to the Freedom Team during a phone conversation I had with him before the 2009 parliamentary elections – that didn't happen). When he meets people his focus has been only on raising funds. He believes that his constraint is money. I believe his constraint is leaders.

Big difference between these two things No wonder money doesn't come, either.

LS is deeply constrained by its narrow strategies and does not appear (no matter how many times I look at it) – in its current form and shape – to be the solution that India needs.

High quality leaders are not likely to try to work for a party seemingly driven by one person (or a few). It is pointless also, as a strategy, to win one MLA seat (or even a handful). Lok Satta seems to have very feeble ambitions.

I have often suggested that if JP is serious (and I'm no longer sure if he is) that reforms in India must occur in his lifetime, then he must PAUSE Lok Satta and start afresh, focusing on finding leaders and on building a consensus on policy. Then there are issues regarding governance of the political formation that need to be resolved. Without all this homework (that can take 2-3 years), LS is destined to play a feeble and "also-ran" role in the Indian political landscape.

It would unfortunately be a great opportunity for reform once more squandered – by poor strategic implementation and lack of understanding of how to involve everyone who should be involved. 

And so, despite commendable efforts of LS so far, it has reached a dead end. It needs to totally refresh its strategy.

I remain hopeful that JP (and LS more generally) will learn from his experience and focus FIRST on finding leaders and building a national organisation that people WANT to join.

Please note that this is not about being an argumentative Indian. Certain arguments are crucial before a consensus is reached. People must be persuaded that they aren't joining one more typical run-of-the mill political formation. Currently all signs are that it is a typical formation, driven by just one person. That is untenable. I suggest that JP and ALL his leaders immediately start associating with the Freedom Team of India AS EQUALS,  willing to debate and finalise all unresolved questions before a political movement is launched – a movement that will (then) succeed.

By the way, I have similar feelings about many other formations, as well – too many to enumerate. Each of these entities is jumping the gun. You can't begin the race for reform with one or two players who rush ahead. It is not going to work. Have the patience to engage everyone who should be involved.  

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3 thoughts on “Lok Satta must press the “Pause” button and re-think its strategy


    1. Our country is going through a major economic crises. Inflation is increasing in an unabated manner. Fiscal deficit and Current account deficits are rising. Food subsidy, Oil subsidy, Fertilizer subsidy are on the rise. Indian Rupees is volatile and going down on a continuous basis. The Central Government and Reserve bank are surely trying their best to put the inflation in control. It is not denying the major villain has been rise in petroleum and energy prices all over the world. Government policies and hoarders are also responsible to some extent for the present scenario. Unfortunately, the entire country is shutting its eyes to the basic cause of our present crises. Our economics experts have ignored the rudimentary definition of inflation, too many people chasing too few goods. Any increase rate of production and resources can never match our present rate of reproduction. We are multiplying our population in a manner that no increased amount of resources can ever suffice. The silent explosion took place more than three decades back and still happening. Unfortunately, all the politicians, bureaucrats, media, masses have all ignored the basic problem and have decided to shut the eyes to this issue. The general feeling is that this curse cannot be removed. What pains some of the people in our country is that we are not even prepared to debate this major problem that confronts this Nation. Can we imagine a scenario if had ensured that our Country had frozen our population to 800 million. Our petroleum import bill would have been less than half of the present level. The level of subsidies, we have to cater now would not have been there. Our trains, hospitals, schools, colleges would not have been so over crowded if we had frozen our population thirty years back.

    2. Our population has already crossed 1200 Million. Are we going to remain blissfully ignorant about the new sets of problems our country is going to face when we cross our population to over 1500 million. It is time we all decided, that Country has to freeze its population to 1500 Million the soonest. Thereafter, the population must start decreasing in numbers every year. We are a democratic Country and cannot have “one couple one child policy” like China has. The least we can do is to debate, “On how to freeze our population”. Unfortunately, our parliament has no time to discuss this major issue because of fears of losing their vote banks. Media has no interest as this issue doesn’t help them raising their TRP. In my opinion, let us not give up the major problem our country has today as a lost cause. Firstly, realization has to come this is the root cause of all our problems. Consensus must be built to have a national debate on this issue. As a start ministry of Health and Family welfare should organize a National symposium on “ How to freeze our population by the year 2030”. We could ask experts from all states to present paper on how to achieve this mission. Some of the NGOs on the ground level could bring out their problems, obstacles and logistics issues relating to family planning devices and delivery of services. We could invite foreign delegates from countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines on how they are to tackling this issue and the advice they have for our Country. We could invite representative of the governments of developed world on the kind of assistance at ground level they are willing to provide and suggest ideas to achieve the goal. Also NGOs from the developed world should be be invited for active participation at village level. Clergy from all communities be invited to present their papers indicating their views and modalities on how do we freeze our populations. Participation of MPS’ and other political leaders in the symposium be encouraged. The various session he chaired by Prime Minister, Chair persons of leading political parties and some of the Chief Ministers of various states. Media CEOs and their representatives be requested for active participation and coverage of such deliberations. A copy of Proceedings of the seminar be sent to all the states and every member of the parliament.

    3. A special session of Lok Sabha lasting for about five to seven days be called. Each member of Lok Sabha must be asked to speak on the issue. The honorable member must bring out any peculiarity in his constituency and special needs of his constituency. The Honorable member must clearly spell out the current population levels and net growth in his constituency and how he proposes to achieve this mission of freezing population. Government must issue instructions that thirty percent of MP local area development fund must be spend on family welfare activities. Similar special session of the State legislative assemblies be called to discuss this national issue. It is important such debates are held periodically at district level, Tehsil level and Panchayat level. Elected representatives of people at all levels including the members of Lok Sabha must take responsibility in this mission. They enjoy so many privileges , it is time now for them to be accountable for what happens in their constituency regarding population explosion.

    4. Media has to play an important role in this mission voluntarily. At least ten minutes of prime air time in a day should be devoted to campaign for making zero net population growth. There has to be periodic address to the nation by the President, Prime Minister , Leader of opposition. Planning Commission and other related government departments must be very active in the mission.. Clergy from various religious denomination in our country and our neighboring countries be called on Television periodically to discuss importance of freezing our population and the methods to be adopted to achieve the goal.

    5. All agencies of the Central Government and States must actively participate in this national mission. Population targets for each district, tehsil and village level be specified. Planning Commission and Health Minister can ensure there is an NGO exclusively nominated at a Tehsil level that has to ensure the targets achieved. Cynics might say that the achievements are likely to get fudged. Such aberrations should not be a hindrance to allocation and achievement of targets and mission. We are a democratic Country, therefore we cannot have punitive measures for Non-performance. But due recognition and awards must be given for distinguished performance at all levels.. These awards could begin at district level , thereafter given at state level and national level. We should give recognition to NGOs, District Collectors, Tehsildars, Sarpanches for out standing achievements in this field. Parliament must hold a review session every two years where each MP should talk about his achievement. At least thirty MPs must be given awards for the outstanding work. Similar awards must be instituted by the President at National Level.

    6. Need of the hour is recognition of this problem of “ The Silent Explosion”. We must sink all over differences on this issue. We have to be optimistic that the mission is achievable. The next decade be the decade of “Freezing Population”. Solution to this problem is must if we want health care for every one, jobs for every one and schools for all. Unless we address this issue we cannot get rid of poverty and malnutrition even for next hundred years. Fewer people will get larger chunk of resources. Let us be optimistic that we will a developed nation in thirty years to come.

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  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Col. Kohli

    Thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately I lost interest when I read: “Can we imagine a scenario if had ensured that our Country had frozen our population to 800 million”, and “It is time we all decided, that Country has to freeze its population to 1500 Million the soonest.”

    I’m afraid my standard answer is: please commit suicide to reduce India’s population, if you wish. But no, population is NEVER a problem. People must be celebrated. The problem is BAD POLICY and misgovernance.

    If you are seriously interested in learning how good policy can both reduce population (which is an incidental outcome) and well being, do consider reading BFN (



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