Dilawar Singh Being Dilawar/ Tools/

Sixty years after the the independence, two phenomena are ubiquitous these days. One is the manner in which public anxiety shows itself over many problems with which our public institutes are beset - misuse of funds, lack of discipline, absenteeism, work stoppage, strikes and so on - all of which are in some way related with failure of some regulatory rules. Second, the growth of civil societies which seems to be outcome of government failure on social front, like markets which were the outcome of government failures on economic front.

From the behemoth state to the smallest government Institute, there is an addiction to ‘create rules of every kind and to the last detail’. After these rules are created to the last details, they are discarded. And then there is a demand for new one. These ‘activity of creating a rule and discarding the same’ is not a malfunction of  government but it is rather a Indian culture of dealing with rules. There are many people who are aware of this and disturbed by it but they can do little about it. Irawati Karve has given this rule about Indian society and it seems to be always operative, ‘The addition of new rules does not lead to the elimination of old ones; they are simply put into cold storage, to be taken out when required to trip up any unwary newcomer who tries to inject some dynamism into the system.’

Our orientation towards rules seem to be indigenously our own. We differ totally in our orientation from other cultures. There is an ambiguity in our rules. Many perceive them the way they like because multiple convenient interpretations are allowed. It can lead to a severe breakdown of system. It was all visible in A. Raja’s acts dealing with telecom policy in 2G scam. He was not only able to use the part of the rules and interpret them as he wished but also he was able to do it quite easily.

Bankimchandra, a nineteenth century writer was troubled by tendencies of some of his contemporaries to quote prescriptions  from the shashtras to support one or another reform they wish to promote. He found these rules to be prolix. He wrote, ‘Indeed, it is not possible in any society to be fully regulated by all the prescriptions to be found in the shashtras of Manu and the others. It is doubtful if ever, at any time, those prescription were fully operative in any society. Many of them are inoperable, involve such hardship to men that they would drop out on their own. Many are mutually contradictory. If any society is ever destined to keep all the prescriptions in operations, such a society has indeed an evil destiny.’ (Quoted in [1]) Those who get frustrated by the maze of rules in offices can find some solace in Bankim reflection on past.

Now how people used to get their work done in the face of this plethora of inconsistent, obsolete and unclear rules? According to Andre Beteille, ‘They improvise, activate personal networks and go about their business without paying too much attention to the rules. This probably is how they worked system in the past, and this is how they try to work it today.’

These days societies are not only much bigger to live face-to-face but also organized in very different ways. When they come into contact with other societies for trade or business; they expect to honor the agreement by some law or rule. Even in our business class, which suppose to understand the value of a consistent system and trust, is notorious is flouting rules and breaking trust if the party at receiving end is powerless such as farmers and workers etc.. I am not sure how taking the streets with the demand of new rules will be effective without a radical change of the orientation towards the regulatory rules of society?


[1] Diversity and Unity, Andre Beteille.
[2] Irawati Karve Biography.