Thursday, September 18, 2008

India's first 'referendum'?

Villagers in some villages in Maharashtra are casting votes to state their opinion on an SEZ, and the government has promised to take their verdict 'into account' in making its decision. Issue based referenda, quite common in many democracies, do not find place in our constitutional scheme. This may be a beginning. In fact, on issues like SEZs where a cacophony of discordant political and corporate voices drowns the real desire of the local people, a referendum might solve the problem decisively.

5 comments:

How do we know said...

You are right. This is an important step in the right direction. But hasn't this happened in at least one other case earlier? Or perhaps i m mistaken.

ravi srinivas said...

Such referendums take place in Switzerland provided a minimum
no. citizens support a proposal
for a referendum.But Swiss system
is very different from India's.
In a country with that population
size referendums will work well.
In India the sheer size of the
population and many other factors
are problems in holding a referendum. I understand that in Maharastra if specified % of residents or more oppose/object liquor shops are closed/made to move out.It seems that a case has been filed against this referendum
on SEZ by the promoters of SEZ.

ravi srinivas said...

Such referendums take place in Switzerland provided a minimum
no. citizens support a proposal
for a referendum.But Swiss system
is very different from India's.
In a country with that population
size referendums will work well.
In India the sheer size of the
population and many other factors
are problems in holding a referendum. I understand that in Maharastra if specified % of residents or more oppose/object liquor shops are closed/made to move out.It seems that a case has been filed against this referendum
on SEZ by the promoters of SEZ.

Chaitanya Safaya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tarunabh said...

This Telegraph article is critical of the Maharashtra referendum, saying that sometimes collective good must override individual good. Well, as has already been pointed out, this is only an advisory rather than a decisive referendum. But in any case, the article does force us to think which issues are amenable to referenda and which are not. Many of us will not be comfortable with referenda on minority rights, for example.
On the particular question of land acquisition, an alternative, and ostensibly successful, process in Punjab needs to be looked at.