In the series on the performance of various ministers in the Modi government, let’s take a look at Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister for Law and Minister of Electronics and IT
Ravi Shankar Prasad’s father, Thakur Prasad was a senior advocate in Patna High Court, and one of the founders of Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP. Ravi Shankar Prasad also is a designated senior advocate in Supreme Court of India. Like many others In BJP, Ravi Shankar Prasad also started as a student leader in 1970s, and was active in the student movement against Indira Gandhi, led by Jayprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP movement. He was also jailed during emergency. He then was associated with ABVP – the student wing of RSS, and held many posts in ABVP.
In 1995, he was inducted in the national executive of the BJP. He was the person to file PIL in infamous fodder scam of Bihar, in which Lalu Prasad Yadav, former CM of Bihar is currently serving the jail term. He was first elected to Rajya Sabha in 2000. In September 2001, he was appointed as Minister of State for Coals and Mines. He also held charge for Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as Minister of State during Vajpayee government. In 2014, after Narendra Modi took charge as Prime Minister, he was inducted as Cabinet Minister for Law and Justice and Electronics and IT. He also held the charge of Telecom Ministry for some time in Modi government. In these elections, he is contesting for a Loksabha seat for the first time from Patna against Shatrughan Sinha. Let’s have a look at his tenure as minister in Modi government.
Mobile factories – Make in India is a one of the prestigious campaigns by Modi government to promote manufacturing in India, which will create jobs domestically, as well has reduce import, thereby saving decreasing country’s reliance on imported goods, and saving prestigious foreign exchange. Under Make in India, and due to conducive ecosystem created as a part of the campaign, the number of mobile phone manufacturing units in India has gone up to 120 in last 5 years compared to just 2 before 2014. This includes the world’s largest mobile phone factory by Samsung in Greater Noida from where Samsung intends to satisfy domestic demand as well as export handsets to rest of the world giving a boost to India’s exports. While Rahul Gandhi can assure voters about mobiles made in Bharatpur, Chitrakoot, Kishangarh, while completely ignoring that geolocation used by manufacturers is denoted as a country, and not as a particular place, Narendra Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad have already made it a reality. Today most mobile phones in India come with ‘Made in India’ stickers. Those who have purchased new mobiles in the last few days would be witness to that. Given that India is a country, where almost everyone owns a mobile phone, and is a thriving market for mobile phones, imagine the kind of foreign exchange the country has saved in last four years, since Modi government assumed power in New Delhi.
Digital India – Digital India is another hallmark scheme of this government, with an aim to do almost all possible governance is done through web minimizing human interface at the government offices, and reducing corruption. However for Digital India to succeed, country needs strong digital architecture, backed by websites of different departments and provision of services through digital means. Various initiatives like checking the attendance, online procurement have been started. This government has taken several steps to strengthen the digital footprint of the government. Every top functionary of the government, and all the ministries, now have verified and active Twitter handles, and Facebook pages through which much of interaction happens between the common man. Almost every ministry and department now has an interactive and updated website through which common man can access almost all the information. On this performance dashboard, which is updated daily, people can see the progress made by the government in different areas. His role in Digital India, and success of the Digital India campaign can be adjudged from the fact that, he was featured among top twenty most influential world leaders in Digital and e-Government, and only one to be featured from India in digital government by a UK based NGO.
On the party front, the BJP mandated its ticket aspirants to have Facebook and Twitter accounts, which proves party practices what it preaches. It is a well-known fact the having much better online presence was one the most important factor in BJPs win in 2014. So much so that the Congress which was reluctant to have online presence was forced to catch up with BJP almost after two years of BJP sweeping Loksabha elections.
NJAC – National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) was brought in by the Modi government to democratize, and streamline appointment of judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court by the way of 99th amendment bill, which are currently appointed to opaque, and arbitrary collegium of the Supreme Court of India, in which government’s role is merely reduced to that of a post office, which is not envisaged by the Constitution of India. Constitution of India provides for appointment of Supreme Court Judge by the President of India (Government – as president is titular head and has to act in aid and advice of cabinet of ministers led by Prime Minister), and appointment of judges of High Court by the President in consultation with Chief Justice of India, and the Governor of concerned state (meaning state government).
However current collegium system doesn’t consult the government, as envisaged by the Constitution which is by far, very much unconstitutional, and that too by the Supreme Court of India, which is the highest custodian of the constitution. Even former CJI JS Verma, whose landmark verdict, known as second judges case, paved way for collegium system said, it is not working as envisaged and the government should bring national commission for appointment of judges. Interestingly, Justice JS Verma, the judge who authored the majority opinion in the Second judges case, also did not hide his dissatisfaction at the functioning of the Collegium. He also said, “my 1993 judgment which holds the field, was very much misunderstood and misused. It was in that context that I said the working of the judgment now for some time is raising serious questions, which cannot be called unreasonable. Therefore, some kind of rethink is required.”
Government sought to replace the collegium system by bringing in NJAC bill and got it passed through both houses of parliament and ratified by 2/3rd states as it is a requirement for constitutional amendment bill, however Supreme Court struck down the law going back to the collegium system, giving the signals that Supreme Court is not year ready to accept the primacy of executive in appointment of judges. It is also to be noted that India is the only country in the world, where judges appoint judges and executive has no role in appointment of judges.
This article throws an interesting light on how SC judges are appointed, including former PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s concern on what Pakistan would think, if India supersedes a Muslim SC judge as CJI. However the judge in question was to be superseded not because of his religion, but on account of mental infirmity.
Archaic laws – Modi government has repealed 1500 archaic laws, which had become obsolete and had become of no use, and came into the way of smooth administration. A maze of laws enables corrupt to find loopholes and escape. Many unnecessary laws corrupt ordinary citizens, who find it expensive and time-consuming. All the governments since independence could manage to repeal 1,301 laws in last 66 years, however Ravi Shankar Prasad under vision and guidance of Narendra Modi, has managed to repeal 1500 laws by July 2018.
Justice clock – It is often said that ‘Justice delayed is Justice denied’. PM Modi suggested the installation of justice clocks in all courts, showing pending cases, and the rate of disposals in every court to rank every court and to install a sense of competition amongst all the courts. It is the first step in seeking judicial accountability from Indian judiciary, which is infamous for being laggards. Currently, there is one justice clock ticking at Jaisalmer House in New Delhi, which houses the department of justice.
Digilocker – Under Digital India, the government has come with a unique initiative called Digilocker. As the name suggests, it is digital locker which is Aadhar linked, available to every citizen of India, in which a citizen can store his/her documents like mark sheets, driving license, property documents etc. in digital format. One can directly pull digital copy into his respective diglocker, from participating government organisations of central and state government. These participating organizations are increasing day by day, and in a few days’ time, all your documents can be stored virtually on digilocker. Government hasn’t only given storage facility, but has issued instructions that these virtually stored documents would be treated at par with hard copies, and there is no need to submit hard copies for any verification. For e.g. even if you don’t possess a physical driving license and registration certificate (RC) while driving a car, and if a traffic constable asks, you can show your digitally stored driving license and RC using mobile phone to the traffic cop and he has to accept it a valid license and RC.
UMANG App – Umang App is a one-stop app where the range of government services can be accessed. Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance is a full form of UMANG. As the name suggests, its a unified app to access a range of government services like PF, tax payments, gas cylinder bookings etc. As per UMANG website, currently 362 services of 73 departments of 18 states are available on UMANG, obviating the need of having different apps of different departments on phone.
The author is journalism pass out from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. After dangerously flirting with the idea of left during his IIMC days, due to the proximity of the IIMC with JNU, a den of radical leftists, he became firmly aligned to right after realizing the futility of the left. He tweets at @kpophale.