Bengaluru, June 3: A commission was formed under him by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in February 2000 to review the working of the Indian Constitution. He also served as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission from 1996-1999. Meet Maneppalli Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah, the former Chief Justice of India who at 85 is still active enough to contribute to the country's public domain and policy-making.
Justice Venkatachalaiah was in Bengaluru on Tuesday at an event of Public Affairs Centre (PAC) to launch a book titled The Paradox of India's North South Divide: Lessons from the States and Regions. Oneindia met the former CJI, who is the chairperson of the PAC's Board, on the sidelines of the event for a brief interview. [PAC releases book in Bengaluru]
Here are some excerpts from the discussion:
Oneindia: We have spoken about the comparison between the northern and southern regions of India and how the latter have done better than the former since the 1980s. Where lies the northeast in this debate or has that been completely ignored?
Justice Venkatachaliah: It's a good question. We really have a problem in defining India. Northeast faces an omission whenever we define India though personally I am optimistic about the fact that northeast will be at the heart of the Asian union one-day.
The reason for that region's isolation is both historical and political. The region has a high level of literacy, is rich in resources and the states are small that make them fit for good administration. But despite all these advantages, northeast's story hasn't been encouraging. Their influence in politics is too little I think for their representation in the Lok Sabha is very less.
Oneindia: Coming back to the North-South divide, is politics/political leadership of this country responsible for this gap?
Justice Venkatachaliah: It is more the social criteria that shape this gap. The north has lagged behind in terms of education, health care and land reforms. It is the social reality that is more important than the factor like political leadership. The leadership itself also evolves from the society. It doesn't create people and the society.
Oneindia: As we heard during the addresses, do small states necessarily guarantee better performance? Yes, there are examples whereby we see smaller states have been more efficient, but there are also states like Jharkhand that have failed. The two small states formed after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh are also facing challenges.
Justice Venkatachaliah: Of course, small states are more efficient as they are administered better. Goa and Himachal Pradesh are two perfect examples of that. Their successes can be held as a model to follow.
Oneindia: Historically, North India is a region which has seen more unstable times, be it foreign invasions or the consequences of Partition. South India has been more stable in that aspect.
Justice Venkatachaliah: That's true but at the same time, we must also remember that states like Madhya Pradesh were not exposed to foreign invasion. But still it has been a member of the BIMARU club. Historical reasons have their expiry date. We can not continue to carry on the baggage of history. Today, North India is falling behind because of certain reasons.
Oneindia: If we speak of governance as a factor that determines the progress or failure of states, we have seen a new brand of politics emerging in the north, like that practised by the Aam Aadmi Party. This politics involves the civil society and is more connected to the common man. Can we hope that this brand of politics will help North's cause in bridging gap with the South?
Justice Venkatachaliah: This new brand of politics that we have seen emerging is basically a consequence of the distrust on maladministration. People are so much fed up with the failure of the establishment that they have decided to seek an empowerment for themselves.
Oneindia: What's your view on the recent verdicts passed on Bollywood actor Salman Khan and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa who were let off after being convicted?
Justice Venkatachalaiah: No comments on that.
Oneindia: Finally, on your commission on reviewing the working of the Constitution of India. If you can say something on that
Justice Venkatachalaiah: It was quite a detailed task that he had undertaken. Our main thrust was to take on the aspect of reservation. We stressed that instead of taking the reservation route, it will be better if we focus on improvement of the backward people. This is something the US had done. We said that there is a need for affirmative move and not protective measures for the latter wouldn't last long.