India: A Failing Democracy
In the past few months, I have been aghast to see the direction in which democracy in India appears to be heading. Almost 65 years after the dawn of independence, Indians still have’nt fully realized the fact that their both democratic and sovereign. We still consider our democratically elected governments as our sworn enemies. Every problem in the country is the government’s and only the government’s fault. The solution to every problem, is mass protests and non-cooperation. True, protests and freedom of speech are important parts of democracy; but they are certainly not the only parts. Nation-building involves much more then screaming out in the streets. We love to have quick, easy solutions to every problem. Corruption for instance cannot be resolved by merely spending a few days fasting and forcing bills. Ultimately, the Government is an image of the people. If the government is corrupt we must first look into ourselves. Indians seem to glorify rule breaking. Not following traffic rules is a habit, evading the police an achievement, littering the streets is second nature. Small surprise that our government is what it is.
Our problems won’t be solved by simply protesting but by changing ourselves from within. However we choose the quick, glorified former path over the slower and more difficult second path.
Freedom of Speech:
“What is freedom of speech if not the freedom to offend?”-Salman Rushdie.
What alarms me most lately is the decline of the critical Freedom of Speech. India poorly understands the meaning of this right. Freedom of Speech means your allowed to say just about anything that comes to your mind so long as its not libel/slander/incitement to crime. Various religious and political groups are under the impression that they are in some way immune from being spoken against. The government’s drive to prosecute Google and Facebook because they contain data that insults the them (the government) is ridiculous.
Radical Right-Wing parties seem to find it fit to attack immigrants and threaten. Denying Salman Rushdie security and safety in India when he was’nt even going to talk about his controversial book was a disgrace to Free Speech.
The release of movies are threatened with violence while law enforcement bodies remain passive. Books are censored while Internet is currently under screening.
I was aghast this morning when i heard the ministers of Karnataka accused of viewing pornography in the House saw fit to shut off power supply and create a news blackout in their constituencies to prevent news of their disgrace from spreading. I was even more aghast when I saw that the media put this bit of information in so little light and lie dormant to such a clear violation of our most basic fundamental right.
The Indian legislature is in a poor state of affairs. This winter session of the Houses did almost nothing useful due to constant deadlocks and disciplinary breakdowns. The fundamental guiding principal of Indian politics seems to be “Either you get what you want; or you don’t let others from getting what they want. ” Watch a session of the House of Representatives or the House of Commons and then a session of the Lok Sabha and you see a huge difference. In the former you see a calm, controlled discussion/debate, while in the latter you generally see constant shouting, banging and angry debating. In a democracy, if the desire of the majority is against your desire, then you ultimately have to accept it. You cannot have everything you want nor can everyone have what they want.
Fall of Secularism:
India is supposed to be a completely secular country. Yet 65 years after independence, we still see reservations and so called ‘backward classes’. The concept of reservations is fundamentally flawed. Every country has its own minorities and ethnic groups. If these groups are backward, then the obvious thing to do is create specific development programs for those groups. Providing education and financial support to these communities may help.
Elections are supposed to weed out all the inept people and thus allow only the very best of people to make it to the upper levels of administration. Reservations allows otherwise inept people to enter the system. It undermines the whole purpose of entrance examinations and elections.
Take for instance the introduction of 33% reservation for women in the House. What difference does this make to the woman who is a victim of domestic violence and/or economic poverty?
What difference does it make to the poor, uneducated children in the slums whether universities offer 5% or 10% reservations for OBC.
The only people who benefit from reservations are those who don’t need the help. Moreover, deciding who needs special help and reservations based on caste is ridiculous as the caste system is all but extinct. There are those in the depressed classes who are quite well-off and those in the so-called upper castes who are struggling in poverty.
Its time we woke up to where our “Democracy” is truly heading and work hard to put it back on course.