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RETHINKING ON DEMOCRACY
Recent years have witnessed many perceptions and some of these raise question. referring to democracy. However, although the parliamentary system openly challenges the presidential system, one hardly comes across any serious questioning of democratic order per se. At the same time, one cannot overlook the fact that some of the manifestations of public conduct under democracy have raised serious questions in the mind of the people.
The question arises, that in India which-adopted the path of democracy, which was a revolutionary step at that time and revolutionary act in the prevailing circumstances to serve for more than 62 years and which leads India to stand at the forefront in the race of democratic set up of the world. Then why there is a need to re-thinking on democracy. The question lies in the fact that it should be conceived in the perspective of the problem faced by democracy.
Democracy does not merely mean a form of Government. In a broader and moral sense, it means a way of life, order of society, way of socio-economic relationships and above all a belief system. Such a political and socio-economic system is based on the ideals of Principles of Equality, Liberty, Fraternity and Justice and norms of government responsible and accountable to people. These ideas, principles, norms to be implemented require certain favourable conditions which are pre-requisite of democracy. Today these pre-requisites have not been funded, therefore, the problem areas invite us to rethink,
To begin with, Preamble of Indian Constitution & chapters on Fundamental Rights (FR) and Directive Principles and State Policy (DPSP) makes it clear that framers of Constitution wanted Indian Constitution to be an instrument of socio-economic justice and the basis of this justice is equality—political, socio and economic.
However, even after 62 years of independence, we have enormous inequality in our society and these are posing a serious challenge to the democratic system. Of course, socio-economical inequality in India is a heritage of long history. India is the world’s classic unequal society from time immemorial which was the result of a rigid caste system. Various efforts have been undertaken to improve the inequality in society, However, the result so far is not much encouraging. The Constitution of India establishes equality, justice & liberty as the cardinal point in regulating the society and state in India. F.Rs ensure equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Thus it is clear that the issue of social inequality on the basis of caste system was boldly tackled by the framer of the Constitution. But as a whole, the real benefits of the Constitution have not reached the neediest and deprived person. One can go back in the Constituent Assembly in 1949 when Dr Ambedkar observed. We are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social life, we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social life and economic life by reason of social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradiction? How long shall we deny equality in our social and economic life ?” If we continue to deny it for long we will do so by putting our political democracy in peril. These words of Dr Ambedkar even after 62 years it seems to persist. Again it proves that there is a need to rethink on democracy.
A vast section of Indian people is caught in the situation of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. More than 60% of people do not have access to basic sanitation. In spite of many health programmes, there is almost a collapse of public health. Of course, GDP has increased four times and the per capita GDP has doubled in last decade but the reality of Indian society is the fact that economic development has not accompanied by institutional changes that could have moved in an egalitarian direction. Moreover, it is clear that there is a cult and moral dogma to implement the various measures to remove the socio-economic and political inequalities. This reveals that though political institutions have developed a political culture which has the same role as a culture in society has not developed. There is a need for a new political culture. There is no question of declining it but there is a lag.
Participation is the fountainhead of democracy of universal adult franchise, has given the common people of India a sense of identity as well as a conscious recognition of their position of exploitation and discrimination. Politicians wanting their votes have played up this feeling but have taken no concrete action to see that the weaker sections were given a participatory and effective role in the socio-economic development of the country. Consequently, people are getting alienated from the system and losing faith in the electoral system. Today elections, as such, have become ends, instrumentation of status-quo and of self-promotion rather than change.
PRI ushered in the era of democracy at grass root level which ensures direct participation of masses in the decision making the machinery of the state. However, there are lacunae in the actual working of this system that invites re-thinking, Pills were meant to be kept out of party politics. But today we see that elections are fought on a party line, caste line. Villages are divided along with the different party and caste stands.
Problem is there, the policy is there, the act is there. The Centre is willing to implement but the state is not willing. Of course, 33% representation has been given to women but it had been seen that they are dummy candidates. All official functions are performed by husband and they are reduced to rubber stamp. Here we need to ponder about such incidents, which shows that measures with good intention often fall victim to the social and cultural narrowness of society. It should be rethought how to come in terms with such base upon which the democratic institution have been building.
Even in highly developed countries like the UK and USA, the franchises granted to all citizens gradually by stages but 62 years ago India which adopted a relatively revolutionary act by giving women equal rights to vote in democracy. It is an irony that same Union Legislature which gives 33% reservation in PRI has been unable to make such provision for its own setup. Though nearly all political parties agree for such reservation deadlock is upon the question of reservation.
A reservation within the reservation is demanded. This demand has more to do with caste politics than with the genuine question of women participation in a democratic institution. The question of a political party more concerned with solving gender-related discrimination require re-thinking of democracy. Communal politics has been reflected in Indian democracy.
It has its genesis in divide and rule policy of colonial rules. At the time of framing of the constitution it was believed that with the passage of time, the Indian electorate would rise above caste and communal question. But the need to have politically correct number has led, even so-called communally neutral politics, to exploit communal question. Incidence of Ayodhya issue, 1989 riot., Shah Bano case are anything are but examples of it. This leads to rethinking as to why democratic institutions formed with high ideals have failed to rise above caste and communal question.
Indian Democratic Institutions are facing a threat from corruption which reflects the corrupt mindset of Indian society. The past 62 years have witnessed avaram Jayaram politics. Use of money power to buy votes in PRIs as well as in Parliamentary election. JMM case, MP case, the question for cash case etc. are the live incident of the same. In wake of such widespread corruption, there has been re-thinking going on the sustainability of democratic institutions.
Above all, there are larger factors having an impact such as institutions are melting down, as the functioning of Executive, Legislative, live, Judiciary is degrading. The system based on willing obedience for people as a whole is not there, there is a total disregard towards the form of institution. Judges do not judge, teachers do not teach, politicians do not do politics. They have lost their “Swadharma”.
Overall, there is a crisis of representation in India. Majority represents thumb to take decisions. It is the moral responsibility to -regard the views of the minority, although they have been defeated they cannot assert. There are areas where the majority is needed but somewhere majority divides, in India majority recklessly is used without any regard to the opinion of the minority. This is a crisis of majoritism. With the decline of the single-party system, it is seen that the government elected does not enjoy even the simple majority. Similarly elected legislature usually gets around 30-35% of the voters polled. It is the need of the hour that new tradition infuses that elected would also respect the aspirations of the electors who did not vote for him.
Above all moral authority of the state is weathering away. One Veerappan holds India for 20 years, this shows that the state is helpless. For example, criminal people are thinking that they have a strong hold on the functioning of the state. The States have to see what politicians are doing. Lawmakers are themselves defying the law. Respect of the people towards the state is less and vice versa. Lawmakers have also less respect for the state that is why some problem is there. Old problems are continuing and the new one is emerging.
There is a crisis of all India leadership at all levels. As no new leaders are emerging, the only succession is continued. If this leadership vanishes, there is no leadership which can manage the affairs i.e. political parties are not doing their job. This does not mean that democracy is loosing. There is functional anarchy. India has won praise for democracy which is true.
Its people have faith in democracy, which is true. Within the last years, the government has taken some measures under democratic pressure. Such as RTI, which make government more accountable towards its people. It has a very strong democracy. Panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) is a great tribute to Indian democracy. It may be corrupt, but there are many ways we can punish the corrupt. India faced terrorist, attack from within and from outside but it survived in all the wars. So, in this way people are rethinking on democracy. Democracy is a big International Asset. Media is the fourth pillar of Indian democracy. Media functions as the dispenser of education, information and formulations of public opinion. Lately, there has been phenomenal growth in media in light of Liberalisation. Privatisation and Globalisation (L.P.G.) reforms. However, it is seen that the commercialization of media has led to its corruptibility. Moral ideals have given away to need to maintain TRP ratings. Media today is playing a role of confusion maker rather than playing an instrumental role. The fourth pillar is acting as if it is independent of other pillars, this mindset requires a rethinking of democracy.