Indian democracy

Harjinder Singh
Stalling of  Parliament session by the opposition has been widely debated upon. Perhaps it was the outcome of these debates, a general public opinion came out that what parliamentarians were doing was nothing but rabble rousing and  opportunism. People were fed up with all this ‘drama’ going on in the Parliament. When normal functioning started, Prime Minister described the role of the opposition as ‘obstructionist politics’ which amounted to ‘total negation’ of democracy. Terming it as ‘grave violation’ of democracy, he expressed apprehensions that it could lead to ‘deeply divided and disenchanted’ country. If P.M. apprehensions are genuine then we should not take his statement lightly and it should be a matter of concern for all those who believe that our democratic set up is an ideal system for the country. Leader of the opposition justified their manoeuvring saying that ‘this is also a form of democracy’. She further said that similar type of behaviour was resorted to by, now ruling party, in case of Tehlka  and Kargil coffin scams. This dictum proves that if one party can resort to hullabaloo type disruption then why the other can’t. This further proves that objective is not to follow norms but a tit for tat policy. This should be sufficient to convince an average thinking person across the nation that what intentions our politicians, whichever side they are, have and what country men should except from them. This also makes us to ponder over what democracy is all about and where it has landed us after 65 years of independence. This also impels us to deliberate upon whether parliamentarians/politicians are to be blamed or the system itself, of which they are the product. To arrive at some conclusions we will have to know the pluses and minuses of democracy.
Although the idea of democracy has been talked of since the period of ancient Greeks but it is only after coming of  enlightenment, technological advancement and weakening of church in Europe, new ideas and theories were propounded.  Old dogmas of supremacy of few were demolished, establishing authority of a common man. Thus concept of democracy took roots and started flourishing. The postulate of democracy is that masses are the master of their destiny. Secularism, equality and liberty are the fundamentals of democracy. Majority of the countries of the world have adopted this system now. But despite captivating millions of people, democracy has also been criticized by some European thinkers. Before we discuss what these philosophers have to say, we will deliberate about the system as it is working in India.
On the face of it ours – largest democracy in the world – is more or less a text booktype. People exercise their franchise to elect their representative. Elected legislatures can be unseated if the electorate wish so. Our constitution guarantees freedom of speech, religion, profession andone can profess a way of life one chooses for oneself. During the last 65 years, no attempt has been made to usurp it except in1977 when emergency was imposed which was opposed tooth and nail by one and all. In the eyes of the world Indians are staunch believers of democracy. But the other side of the story is not that rosy.
The right to fight an election is hardly exercised by lesser one because of financial implications involved. Those with wealth, status and clout  rule the roost. Money and muscle power is brazenly used. Even those with criminal past manoeuvre to find place in the legislature. Conviction and arrest of ministers have increased with each passing year of our ‘great democracy’. Numerous scams are the blatant examples of misuse of vast discretionary powers by those running the govt. Laws are recklessly violated by the powerful. Bureaucratic red tape is the order of the day. Reservations, quota fixing, disruptive religious activities, growing regionalism and uncontrolled population which has already acquired explosive dimensions are the banes of vote politics in Indian democratic setup. As regards conditions of common masses, a good percentage is still below poverty line and many more are far from normal standard of living. The gap between rich and poor has widened manifold. We are among the first few in corruption index and among the last many in health care facilities. India at no. 61 has highest, under- five mortality rate. Neonatal and infant mortality stands at 32.3 and  47 per 1000 live births. In some cases we lag behind Afghanistan and  Bangladesh too. Countless still don’t understand the meaning of democracy. Exploitation of the poor has led to movements like Naxalism & terrorism to boot. Community is afflicted with numerous other problems the mention of all will make this write up too voluminous to find place in the newspaper column.
The flaws detailed above are typical of Indian democracy. Nearly similarly conditions prevail in other developing countries too, who profess democratic values. In developed countries the conditions are different because people over there are 100 percent literate, aware and forth right. Despite all this the system carries its own drawbacks. No doubts they have better living standard but their insecurities and stress have simultaneously increased. Market economy is encouraging consumerism. Earning and spending becoming main motive in life. In fast paced life morality becomes causality. In the name of freedom and liberty many absurdities have crept in. Joint family culture and respect for the elders has gone missing. Presently whole Europe is passing through deep recession. Wall Street protests speak of the state of affairs where U.S.A, beacon of democratic values, has landed itself into.
European philosophers like Machiavelli and Hobbes have criticized the concept of democracy. Machiavelli denounced democracy for its weakness as a system of gaining and maintaining power. He viewed human as being self centered animal  and believed them more prone to evil than good and therefore can’t be trusted in politics. English philosopher Hobbes believes that in the state of nature, everyone was entitled to everything he could land his hand on. Justice wrong and good is all product of social contract which is only valid as long as it is enforced by sovereignty. He believes that democracy is but detrimental to the preservation of peace in the society because it breeds discard and takes man back to the rule of jungle.
From the above discussion an average thinking person can frame an opinion to some extent about the pluses and minuses of a democratic system. I am not advocating for some non democratic type of setup or system. Evolving humanity keeps on inventing systems as per its needs and requirements.  All I intend to convey is that country men should be aware of the misdeeds and malevolence going on in the prevailing system. If these can be rectified, well and good, otherwise we should be in a position to deliberate upon what system can be suitable for our community at large.
(The author is retd.D.F.O.)