Indian democracy on the verge?

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Samarjit Kambam
Parliamentary democracy in India is hailed as one of the largest democracy in the world. This may deem theoretically sound, yet functionally, this system is permeated with many ills that are eating into the very vital foundations of its being. Democracy implies norms and values which are enshrined in our Constitution. However, these are getting eroded day by day. Saddest aspect of this erosion is the systematic weakening of democratic institutions, especially the Parliament.

Some experts lament that Indian ‘democracy’ now functions at two layers of authoritarianism – at the level of the Centre there is a majoritarian rule, which has little place for marginal, minorities or dissenters. The rule of regimes at the regional level is no less authoritarian. The regional satraps are also authoritarian demagogues who manipulate the masses through threats, muscle power and doles such as short term populist schemes before the election. Some regional political set ups turn voting during the election into a virtual act of conspicuous consumption, which makes one realise that there is a kind of regional Stalinism in charge. Electoral democracy has now become a choice of authoritarianisms. A strong Opposition, the very essence of parliamentary democracy, has become a chimera and regional parties seem satisfied in their own turfs. This makes one feel that the idea of opposition as the national art is lost almost to the point of getting null and void.

In the absence of a strong National Opposition and regional parties confined to their respective turfs, the very idea of a strong national opposition is turning farcical. Democracy in India is stumbling because the two waves of authoritarianism – national and regional which have turned the idea of an opposition into a farcical entity. Attempts at creating a potential third alternative – A Third Front or Secular Front – have thus so far not been able to create an impact because some of the leaders off regional satraps talk of opposition to stake proprietorial turfs rather than map out futuristic strategies of politics. It is almost as if there has been a lazy secession of regions, each pretending to belong to an imaginary nation.

Experts opine that with regional autarchies in place, the ruling party at the centre cannot dent these domains owing to its politics of anxiety. It is further opined that the ruling party will emasculate the Indian politics of hospitality. In fact, at every step, democracy as plurality is declining and the ruling party is congratulating itself for it. There have been past governments in post-independent India, mention may be made of the Grand Old Party that were supposed to have been established on the constitutional principle i.e. by the people, of the people and for the people. The common man is seldom concerned whether a government has been by or of the people. Legitimacy of a government is best tested by the question whether it has been for the people or not.

While weighing this question, Dr BR Ambedkar, the person who took paramount role in making the Indian Constitution had asserted that it would continue to be relevant as long as democracy survive in India. In the concluding session of the Constituent Assembly debate decades back, post British colonial rule Dr Ambdekar said; “By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame except ourselves. There is a great danger of things going wrong. Times are fast changing. People including our own are being moved by new ideologies. They are getting tired of government by the people. They are prepared to have governments for the people and are indifferent whether it is government of the people and by the people”. Ironically, even after seven decades of governments by the people, of the people and for the people; we are still struggling to mend the cracks in society caused by caste division. In fact, these cracks are getting widened for narrow political gains at the expense of the nation’s coffer. Caste-based vote bank has become an important political tool to browbeat the law and order machinery and oiling the wheels of other governance machineries. While calling caste system as anti-national because it brings separation in social life, Dr BR Ambedkar cautioned against the malaise of caste and its attendant and resident evils if India is to become a nation in reality.

Casteism, corruption, criminilisation and politicisation of the wings of governance have significantly eroded their integrity, efficiency and efficacy, more particularly in a state like ours. The governments are elected by the people, but very few of them work for the people. These have to be made people-oriented so that people participate in decision–making and policy-implementation process with increase enthusiasm and vigour. The Indian democracy simply cannot remain like a machine for processing the same old mundane and hammered politics. Reminds me of the movie “Equilibrium” where humans who can sight senses such as love, compassion, kindness etc., are taken as contraband and cleansed of the system to maintain balance, stability and conformity. What if the Indian Parliamentary democracy has no sensory receptors for its masses as the clock ticks by? Then it’s simply a big hall with rounded walls usually filled with dins of politicians behaving like kids without any positive or innovative outcome with the voices of the opposition highly suppressed and theme of love, compassion and kindness for the poor masses who number in millions remain non-existent. Then are the non-rich or more appropriately the poor masses to become contrabands?

We have 1 per cent of the population controlling 58 per cent of India’s economy. With the Opposition too weak or weakened, the demonetization of 500 and 100 Rupee notes which took effect from Nov 8th 2016, even though approval of the RSS was there, was the handiwork of a handful of movers and shakers usually known as the “Gang of Four” comprising of Ambani brothers, Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, Adani CEO and Amit Shah while millions of people are losing their livelihood fed with the false notion of “Another day in Paradise” while service providers like Paytm, RuPay & JioMoney etc, in the name of digitalization of cash or cashless economy are reaping the harvests of the poor with the commissions they get for digital cash transactions . Is the Indian Parliamentary democracy too pro-rich? Think about that.

Out of the successive central governments’ populist schemes which still remains quite successful, one is MGNREGA(Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) which aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work which may be considered as the largest and most ambitious social security and public works programme in the world. In its World Development Report 2014, the World Bank termed it a “stellar example of rural development”.

India is said to be a fast growing country. However, due to lack of basic infrastructure in the rural areas such as non availability of electricity, institutional bankings in far flung areas, digitalisation of cash and e-payments still remain an illusion to the people of rural areas. So, the fact remains that India will hardly attain the position of a developed state if its rural areas are lagging behind. Another populist scheme is Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana of the present ruling government at the centre which of course has far reaching impact and looks quite promising. The result is for us to see. The present incumbent ruling government at the centre needs a thorough retrospection in bringing out populist measures or schemes which will have a long lasting and positive impact on the people. Without people’s welfare measures, democracy, however big is meaningless.

Source: The Sangai Express

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