Times of India Editorial & Vocabulary – Weakening federalism

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Weakening federalism

State governments of Andhra Pradesh and Bengal last week shook the federal structure by placing hurdles in the operations of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Both governments withdrew “general consent” of CBI to freely pursue investigations in their states. Consequently, CBI will in future have to seek permission of the state governments to carry on operations. In the case of Andhra Pradesh, the withdrawal of consent spans some other central agencies and serious crimes such as hijacking. Such action is neither unprecedented nor beyond the ambit of the law. However, its political and institutional contexts are worrisome.

Representatives of Andhra government point out that states have withdrawn “general consent” in the past too. Moreover, not all states in India have provided “general consent”. Two aspects suggest the issue here is more complicated. Till recently the Chandrababu Naidu government in Andhra Pradesh thought it appropriate to give “general consent” to central agencies. The only discernible changes are a ratcheting up of political tension between BJP and TDP, and CBI finding itself in a mess of its own making.

Politics is indeed at the heart of the problem as Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that CBI is being used as a political tool by NDA. This is an oft-repeated charge by all major political parties. For sure, India’s premier anti-corruption agency has an uninspiring track record and has been referred to as a “caged parrot”.  But putting up hurdles in its operation will not improve things. Instead, it can dilute a deterrent to corruption. At another level, this development also evidences a worrisome level of distrust between the Centre and states administered by opposition parties. Elections may be at the heart of a democracy. But only an impartial and effective permanent executive keeps it functioning smoothly.

In this context, CBI’s current predicament where the top two officials have been sent on leave doesn’t help. Given its importance in India’s institutional framework, its autonomy has been strengthened by Supreme Court and subsequent legislations. Yet the agency’s standing is in stark contrast to Reserve Bank of India whose credibility has helped it push back against government pressure. This underlines the importance of institutional credibility in strengthening the federal structure and also improving the quality of our democracy. Both state governments should roll back their positions in larger interest. CBI too needs to transform itself into an agency which evokes respect and not derision.

Vocabulary

Hurdle: an obstacle or difficulty.

Example: There are many hurdles to overcome

Synonyms: obstacle, difficulty, problem, barrier, bar, snag, impediment

 
Consent: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Example: No change may be made without the consent of all the partners

Synonyms: agreement, assent, acceptance, approval, approbation, permission

 
Ambit: the scope, extent, or bounds of something.

Example: Within the ambit of federal law

Synonyms: scope, extent, range, breadth, width, reach, sweep

 
Complicate: make something more difficult or confusing by causing it to be more complex.

Example: Middlemen can complicate the process

Synonyms: make more difficult, make complicated, mix up, confuse, muddle

 
Worrisome: causing anxiety or concern.

Example: A worrisome problem

Synonyms: alarming, worrying, daunting, perturbing, niggling, nagging, bothersome

 
Distrust: the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied on.

Example: His distrust of his mother’s new suitor

Synonyms: mistrust, suspicion, wariness, chariness, leeriness, lack of trust

 
Impartial: treating all rivals or disputants equally; fair and just.

Example: Independent and impartial advice

Synonyms: unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral, nonpartisan, nondiscriminatory

 
Subsequent: coming after something in time; following.

Example: The theory was developed subsequent to the earthquake of 1906

Synonyms: following, ensuing, succeeding, later, future, coming, to come, next

 
Evoke: bring or recall to the conscious mind.

Example: The sight of American asters evokes pleasant memories of childhood

 
Derision: contemptuous ridicule or mockery.

Example: My stories were greeted with derision and disbelief

Synonyms: mockery, ridicule, jeers, sneers, taunts, disdain, disparagement, denigration

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