oppn parties Is Covert emergency Threat Real?

News Snippets

  • Centre sanctions Rs 15000cr for Covid19 emergency response, part of it immediately and the rest over a period of four years in mission mode
  • RBI says Covid-19 has "drastically altered" the growth outlook in India
  • Third coronavirus death in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai
  • Odisha becomes the first state to extend the lockdown until April 30. Schools and colleges in the state to remain closed until June 17th
  • The Supreme Court orders all coronavirus testing, including by private labs, to be done for free, says will look into the matter of reimbursement for private players at a later date
  • Former Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Akhtar proposes an Indo-Pak ODI series to raise funds for fighting coronavirus
  • Maharashtra government says many Tablighi Jamaat members who attended the Markaz and returned have gone into hiding
  • West Bengal government identifies hotspots in Kolkata and the rest of the state, inclined to extend the lockdown in those places only
  • Prime Minister Modi holds a video conference with floor leaders of opposition parties, hints at extending the lockdown
  • UP seals hotspots and makes masks mandatory
  • Masks made compulsory in Mumbai, violators will be arrested
  • ICMR says an infected person can infect 406 people in 30 days without social distancing and lockdown
  • Stock markets make a smart recovery. Sensex up by record 2476 points on global cues
  • Schools, colleges and shopping malls likely to remain closed for a further period of one month, says empowered group of ministers
  • PM Modi tells BJP workers that India is in for a long battle against the coronavirus and there is no scope to feel tired or defeated
Total Covid-19 cases rise to 5734 on Thursday and the death toll stands at 166, says the health ministry in its daily briefing
oppn parties
Is Covert emergency Threat Real?

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2015-09-24 17:45:00

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Forty years ago, a desperate Prime Minister made a weak and compliant President sign the proclamation of internal Emergency in the country when she was faced with public protests organized by opposition stalwarts like Jay Prakash Narayan. Fearful that her government might lose the ensuing elections and she would be held accountable for the many corrupt deals and arbitrary decisions under her government, Indira Gandhi resorted to imposing the dictatorial regime. She was ill advised by her cronies and her younger son Sanjay. Ultimately, she only succeeded in delaying the inevitable and earned herself international notoriety that put black spots on her otherwise impeccable political CV.

The threat to public order and peaceful life of citizens was largely blown out of proportion by her cronies who thought that the opposition would be able to convince the people of the various wrongdoings of the government. Mrs Gandhi had always been a forceful communicator. She was a wily enough politician to know that the rag-tag combination of opposition leaders, with king-sized personal egos, would crumble faster than a cookie. Hence, it was surprising that she allowed herself to be so ill-advised. But insecurity has made man, or woman, do things that were more desperate. The political crisis should have made Mrs Gandhi go to the people and earn their trust by communicating with them. Instead, she imposed the Emergency and retreated into a shell.

The people were told only what she wanted them to know. Any act that prevents information from reaching the people seems good only to a despot who has many things to hide. But the act of prevention results in misinformation and rumour mongering that has a harmful effect. The people were in a permanent state of fear during those 19 months, not knowing what exactly was happening in the country. That increased the trust deficit between the government and the people and it was primarily responsible for the rout of the Congress party in the 1977 elections.

But the situation has undergone a sea-change since then. Constitutional safeguards apart, it is impossible to have an Emergency similar to the one in 1975 in India mainly due to the advances in technology that has taken autocratic control over collection and dissemination of information and news out of the government domain. The internet has made a reporter of every citizen with a mobile camera, access to the net and an urge to protest wrongs. News travels faster than light nowadays and no government has the wherewithal to block or sensor it completely. There are also institutions in place that cannot be subverted all at once. But these institutions can be downgraded or made redundant individually, chipping away at the foundations of democracy.

That, now, is the looming danger. The executive might, over a period of time, like to subvert certain institutions. It might also engage in a turf war with other organs of democracy. If it manages to win at certain times, it would result in larger concentration of power in its hands, disturbing the democratic equation and putting the in-built checks and balances in the Constitution under serious jeopardy. A scenario like that would result in a covert Emergency that does not even need to be imposed. An all-too powerful executive is a democratic anomaly. Hence it is the duty of the civil society to be vigilant and resist the executive in its attempts to downgrade institutions, norms and procedures to concentrate more powers in its hands.