At the heart of all problems lies the politics of the country. We opted for democracy as our political system. But I have been wondering for quite some time – how democratic is Indian polity?
Indian polity has failed to provide solutions to the common man’s problems. If a government teacher plays truant or does not teach properly, can the parents do anything about it? Or if a doctor in a government hospital does not treat properly or does not give medicines? What can a poor person do if the ration shop keeper openly siphons off rations? Or what can any one of us do if the policeman refuses to register my FIR or registers a false case against us?
We cannot do anything about it. We can only complain to higher authorities who do not act upon our complaints. So, the citizens do not have any control over government employees.
We also do not have any control over government funds. Sundernagari, a slum in East Delhi does not have a secondary school, water, sewer, etc. The people have been demanding these things for ages. But the government says there are no funds. But the government made fountains worth Rs 60 lakh a few years back. Obviously the people did not need fountains. These fountains did not work for a single day, even on the inauguration day, because there is no water!
Likewise, we see that the same footpaths and roads are broken and repaired again and again. But the road in front of my house never gets repaired.
So we, the citizens of India, do not have any control over government funds. Government money is our money. We pay taxes. Even a beggar on the street pays tax – when he buys a piece of soap, he pays sales tax and many other taxes. All this money belongs to us. And we have absolutely no control over it?
We also do not have any control over government policies or the kind of laws passed by our legislatures. Recently, the government introduced Nuclear Civil Liability Bill. It seeks to cap the liability of a foreign company to just Rs 500 crore in the event of an accident on its nuclear reactor. It will have no criminal liability. I thought the government was playing with our lives. Almost selling our lives. And why is the government doing this? Some companies seem to be lobbying for this Bill. And we, the people of India, have no say in it?
So, we have no control over government employees, government funds, government policies. Is this democracy? Just vote once in five years and then plead before the same people who you voted to power? Or plead before the officials who take salary out of your taxes?
We have a democracy of elections to elections. After winning an election, the parties become brazen and arrogant. They would do all wrong things and if you question them, they would say – why don’t you change the government next time? But that would be five years later. What do I do right now? I am suffering right now.
Right to Information is a small concrete step in making our polity more democratic. In this bizarre democracy of elections to elections, it has given power to the people to "just question" the governments. Is it not time to move a step forward and demand some kind of direct participation in government decision making? Is that possible?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
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Democracy in India success or failure?
June 29, 2013
Though India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, as a nation, it is quite young. India is the world’s largest democratic country (second largest in area and second most populated country). Democracy was ushered in India when the Constitution of India was framed on 26th of January, 1950, the world’s longest written constitution. Democracy in India should ideally function as a well-oiled machine but certain detrimental factors throw the spanner in the works, the result of which is that the constitutional goals and democratic aspirations of India remains unrealized.
In the Preamble to the Constitution of India, the pledge to make India a democratic republic and ascertain equality, liberty and justice to all its citizens remains just a promise. The vast majority of the illiterate Indians are often prey to intimidation and misrepresentation. Politically insensitive, democratic principles and ideas are Greek and Hebrew to them. Illiteracy is one of the main causes of inequality. We have a capitalistic democracy where the rich inevitably exploit the poor. Besides, India is a land of many languages, many religions. As a result regionalism, communalism and sectarianism have evolved unfortunately along with a tendency of intolerance. Casteism is more evident now. So even today reports of the Dalits being not allowed in a public place or a temple is quite common.
Indian politics is a multi-party system. But politics has become a game of opportunity and corruption. There is corruption in every stratum of the society. Bandhs, strikes and terrorist activities have punched a big hole in the democratic ideals.
Democracy is for the people, by the people and of the people, as quoted by Abraham Lincoln. In a democratic country the laws are made for the people. However, in this aspect India can be safely declared to be a minimally lawful country. Laws are bought and sold here depending on the financial strength of the rich people involved. According to the constitutional law expert John P. Frank, “Under no circumstances should the State impose additional inequalities. It should be required to deal equally and evenly with all of its people”. Unfortunately, such conditions do not prevail in India. Even a simple constitutional right of a common citizen, the Right to Information Act (RTI) is often a farce in this country.
So, from the above brief analysis, it appears that most of the conditions that make democracy a success are absent in India. But owing to a long struggle against imperialism, an anti-imperialist, anti fascist and anti-authoritarian outlook has developed in India. The masses by and large seem to be aware that democracy is the only choice for them. Communism has proved to be a failure and, let alone India, it will not work even in Heaven.
The success of the Parliamentary democracy in the last few decades is indeed a proof of the fact that democracy in India is keen to check the decline of the constitutional morality. All these processes are surely helping to build in India, a democracy that is not only in name but also in soul and essence.
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