It is a very valid question for us to think that in case a policy is loathed by the public, can it succeed? The Constitution begins with the terms ‘We the People’. This in itself is very important for us to understand that the Government has been appointed by the people. The people have provided the Government with its powers. The famous maxim ‘Derivata potestas non potest esse major primitiva’, meaning that the power which is derived cannot be greater than that from which it is derived, is the best way to explain this concept. The Government is always subordinate and responsible to the people. It represents the people and their ideologies. Thus, can it succeed in getting a disliked policy implemented? The answer to this question will be dwelled on, in the light of an example from the current situation of Corona Virus in India and we will understand that who is greater? The public or the policy?
UNDERSTANDING SECTION 377: A LANDMARK PARADIGM SHIFT
It is a well-known example in the historic case of Navtej Singh Johar and Ors. v/s. Union of India, the Secretary Ministry of Law and Justice1, the Supreme Court had struck down Section 377 of the India Penal Code (I.P.C.), which mentioned about criminalizing ‘unnatural’ sexual activities. However, this age-old Section got repealed in the year 2018, almost after 158 years since the inception of the Code in 1860. This is a well-known example that if the public develops or metamorphoses its mentality, then, the Government too has to function accordingly. There was a time when homosexuality was considered to be something very obscene and bizarre. However, as society changed its mentality, the policy too got struck down. This example shows us that for a policy to succeed, the public must support it.
Interestingly, the lockdown under which all of us have been quarantined, is also, at the end of the day, a policy! In this particular example, the public was completely against the lockdown, as for almost all of the people, their means of income had stopped, they weren’t able to fulfill their daily expenses and as a result, it was becoming extremely difficult for everyone to be quarantined anymore. But, the tag attached to this situation was that of ‘necessity’. The necessity, the gravity of the situation forced everyone to stay indoors, even when they despised it every single second. This is an example where a policy, though loathed, was successful.
DEMYSTIFYING THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PEOPLE TOWARDS A POLICY
In general, policies don’t affect each and every person in a country. For example, the Ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh Government to completely suspend almost all of the labor laws for three years only affected the workers of the U.P. However, the Citizenship Amendment Act was something which was related to every citizen of the country. Understanding these arguments is very important. In one case, the policy is region-specific, but, in the other, the whole country got affected. So, the main point is that it isn’t the region, normally, which affects the satisfaction of the people towards a policy, in the current scenario. Even though for a particular State, still the Ordinance raised an outcry throughout the nation. Thus, the current psychology is very simple- if it is wrong, protest. However, the level of protests definitely depends upon the extent of the effect that the policy has.
However, we also need to look upon the other side of the coin. Sometimes, even if the policy is for the benefit of the people and the people like it too, still they may exploit the policy in order to gain an unfair advantage. The best example is that of Operation Sunshine implemented in West Bengal. In this particular case, the hawkers and street-side shopkeepers of the whole city of Kolkata were forced to remove their shops so as to clear the footpath, and in return, a separate shopping complex had been constructed for them to set-up their shops and to carry on with their business. Initially, the shopkeepers did what was ordered. The policy had succeeded, but, later on, the shopkeepers had either sold their shops to someone else or rented them and again came back to the streets, thereby failing the policy.
Another example of the same type is that of ration. People in the slums usually buy the ration given to them by the Government at the extremely low prices. Then, they sell the same to the retailers at higher prices and also keep some amount for their own consumption. Saying that India is poor is true, but, saying that the poor are tortured all the time is completely wrong. Policies that are implemented for their benefit are misused by them, as in the above examples and thus, it renders the purpose of the Government useless. So, this reveals the other side of the psychology of the people- if a policy is good, exploit it.
The success of a policy is not something that has a concrete or a well-defined formula. It depends on time on the various sociological mindsets, to the demands of the subjects. But, one thing is very clear. In case the public is unhappy with a policy, then making it successful can be very difficult. We are all aware of the C.A.A. protests and outbursts. Just looking at C.A.A. as a mere policy, its implementation was hindered due to the protests and discontent of the public. The same can be said for the Ordinance in Uttar Pradesh. Hence, it is not the policy that is successful. Even a utopian policy can fail if the people don’t abide by it, by non-cooperating. The success of a policy is definitely dependent upon the people, but, not always upon their satisfaction. The lockdown succeeded, even though the people hate it. Why? Because there is no option. Thus, we may very well say that without the ‘public’, there can be no ‘public policy’.
Author(s) Name: Raunak Chaturvedi (Amity University, Kolkata)
- P. (Crl.) No. 76 of 2016 (Supreme Court of India).