Saturday, November 18, 2006

Democracy ka tamasha

Every society tries to organise itself and comes up with a system of governance to ensure that order prevails and it is not engulfed by the darkness of chaos. Our founding fathers opted for a democratic system of governance, since it was the reigning favourite at that time. It still is the favourite, with the Big Brother of the World (aka US) trying to bring it to any country which doesn’t bow to it. As a side note, certain countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are exempt since they are the “good guys”.

This creature called democracy is supposedly based on the will of the majority. How is it different from mob-rule, I do not know and will leave the user to ponder on. I often wonder if the majority demands something like all people should not wear clothes, is it legally and morally enforceable ? Usually it is a simple matter of passing a law or two, perhaps even amending the Constitution. Courts can be taken care off by putting it in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, along the lines of what the Tamil Nadu government did on the issue of reservation.

Democracy assumes that the electorate supports the candidates on issues. There are no permanent loyalties or captive vote-banks. This compels the winning candidates to actually fulfill their promises. The group of people (or party) getting the majority form the government whereas the remaining people are in the Opposition. The Opposition’s role is not, as the name suggests to oppose the government, but rather to offer constructive criticism. It can try to be the “inner-voice” of the government, although Sonia Gandhi’s “inner voice” is doing that for the moment. Another prerequisite for democracy is a free media and an independent judiciary.

Let us now reflect on the current situation prevailing in our country. Voters are unable to break away from caste or religious loyalties. Each group is looked upon as a vote-bank to be cultivated. The influx of Bangladeshis in the NE is a part of this trend. This kind of divisive politics has led to fragmentation of legislatures, with big parties relying on the support of 1-2 MP parties to form governments. An extreme example of this can be seen in Jharkhand where an independent MLA has become the CM!! (Incidentally, this article has been motivated by the absurdity of the said situation). With this kind of fragmentation, every group in the minority becomes more important than the majority. A vocal minority can get books and movies banned. As explained earlier, the judiciary is an irritant which can easily be taken care off by our politicians (who only value the oft quoted “junta ki adalat”). The media, which is supposed to help us make informed decisions is too busy tracking Lakme Fashion Week or John Abraham’s cold.

In such a gloomy scenario, uneducated voters are paid for their votes. Although, given the state of student politics, where the electorate is supposedly educated, violence and money make a potent combination. With such issues, comes the trivialisation of the electoral issues. The public may want free power or colour TV or free pay, but they should not be given the same. Responsible parents do not give into all the demands of their children. The case here shouldn’t be any different. But with unstable coalitions, politicians cant be blamed for playing Santa Claus to all and sundry. Nobody likes a Santa who doesn’t give presents to the naughty children, especially the naughty children.

The present system of democracy based on the noble ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity has been corrupted and needs to be fixed or replaced with something better. At each stage of human civilisation, people have tried to think of a better system of governance. Unfortunately in today’s world, democracy has become a dogma, which cannot be questioned. Anyone doing so runs the risk of being labeled a fascist or elitist or whatever-ist.

Indian society is facing challenges on all the three foundations of demcracy. Equality should be understood as equality before the law and equality of opportunity. With it should come the acceptance that all of us are different and can never be “equal”. No efforts should be made to impose an artificial equality, as the government is doing in the case of reservations in jobs and educational institutes. The global economy is not going to be bothered with our noble intentions and leave us far behind.

Liberty too is an interesting concept. My liberty stops where yours begins, but that holds the same for you too. Today people take offense at the slightest pretext making us an intolerant society as a whole. Fraternity cannot be present if we look upon others with an “us or them” approach that was made famous by George Bush.

To sum up, the system is screwed but something needs to be done to stem the rot to make a conducive atmosphere for a successful democracy. For every verdict of 1977, we have people voting for petty personal gains. For every bill passed, we have ten others that were stalled due to the House being adjourned. Of course, the honest tax paying public is paying for this “democratic experiment”. All the deadwood bureaucracy and politicians are supported by the public, which is being taken for a ride more expensive than the Palace on Wheels.

This section of society is growing quite fast, with the middle-class increasing at a very fast pace. But it is a very silent section of people, who are kicked into action only when their comfortable lives are threatened. Hundreds of people are killed by terrorism or Naxalite violence, but the middle class only takes notice when someone like Jessica Lal is shot dead in the heart of the Capital. This apathy does not augur well for the middle-class. It takes to the roads to protest against reservation, but is too busy to go out and vote. The day of election is a public holiday to enable people to vote, not to take a well deserved break by waking up late.

Arm-chair politics makes good drawing room conversation, but doesn’t do anyone any good, except perhaps the speaker’s ego! Instead of making grandiose plans of changing the system by far-fetched means, voting and convincing others around you to vote would be far more effective. You cannot be heard in a democracy unless you speak up and voting is the means by which you can express yourself. At the cost of sounding tacky, I would like to end by saying be the change you want to be!


Blogger Miracles said...

A free Govt has been functioning since 1947. Laws have been enacted to end social oppressions; plans have been made to end hunger. But how have those plans and laws percolated down. The birth of an Indian village is –life and sudden death impinge but not outside their village.

4:43 AM  

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