Monday, March 16, 2009

Indian Democracy : Road Ahead

Here we are at the threshold of exercising our right to rule our own selves in the most populous democracy of the world. We, the people of India, are once again gaining prominence as the General Elections approach in a month's time. We have reason to feel elated about this exercise being conducted in a country with a population of 1.15 billion people, representing 17% of the world's population. We feel elated because we have been successful in holding on to democracy in such a culturally, linguistically and genetically diverse geographical entity for more than 61 years. We feel elated because we have been successful so far to remain united against periodic onslaughts from divisive forces, by holding on to the ideology of democracy. This means that as a polity we have been able to hold on to power for 61 long years. And over these years we have only gained in strength as a free democratic nation.

In this journey of democratic India, I have had my share of experiences as a voter - bitter as well as sweet. In the process of evolving into a strong democratic nation we have to go through these bitter experiences. But after every bad experience if we as a nation can take lessons and improve upon our system then we are ultimate gainers. On the other hand if we simply shrug off the bad experiences as necessary evil then we stand the risk of moving backwards. Let me assure you that none of us will like that.

So what should be our action plan? What should we, as responsible citizens of the largest democracy, do to evolve faster as the strongest democratic nation on this planet. For that first we have to identify our bad experiences and then only can we find remedies for them. Here I have made an humble attempt to identify some bad experiences from my point of view, which are listed below:-
  1. There is very little to choose from as far as candidates of all parties in fray are concerned. I know this point has been debated often but it still needs our attention. We as voters are reminded again and again that we must firstly exercise our valuable votes and secondly we must do so in a judicious manner. But you tell me, if I don't find even a single suitable candidate in fray, what should I do? No Vote is not an answer because 65% of our population is not literate and hence can be swayed by unscrupulous candidates. Isn't it the prime responsibility of political parties to give tickets to only untainted and genuinely respectable candidates?

  2. There is a general tendency to employ unfair means and all parties are culprits for the same. In a country where 60% and more of the population live below poverty line and 86% live on less than Rs 120 per day, it is so very easy to employ unfair means. But will that not make us a week democratic nation in the long run? Are the political parties listening or do they think that they will not be effected by India becoming weak? Let us not live in fool's paradise and imagine that it doesn't effect us if we are in a political party. You don't have to look far to get an answer as to what happens to political parties in a weak democracy. Just look at Pakistan today!

Although the list of what is bad with our democracy can go on and on, but to my mind these are the two major malaise that Indian democracy is suffering from. We as a nation have to find remedies to these ailments and we do not have a choice. If not ballot then the other option is bullet. We have no choice but to put our faith in democracy and see to it that the roots grow stronger by the day.

What can be done to remove the ills in the process of electing a democratic government - this question is uppermost in the mind of every common man. Let me take the liberty to put forward some of my ideas below :-

  1. We have a literacy rate of 65% which is abysmally low for any strong democracy since democracy rests on the pillar of literacy. This is after 61 years of trying in every manner that we could. And if you look at China they have 98% literacy after they decided to give priority to education in 1985. It took just about the same time for all South East Asian nations to show the same result in literacy. What is wrong with us? We need to wake up and have Public Private Partnership to promote education and literacy to the remotest corner of our country. Lets not take shelter in the argument that we are geographically a vast country with a massive population and the task is difficult. China's example should silence such voices.

  2. 60% of our population lives in villages. Poverty is rampant. Here if I espouse Public Private Partnership in financially empowering our rural and semi rural areas, there will not be many takers. But I can see light at the end of the tunnel even though you may not agree now. We are headed towards a situation where Corporates have started taking serious note of C K Prahalad's arguments that there is "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid". This happy situation has been galvanised by the global economic crisis. Just a couple of years back some corporates were mocking C K Prahalad saying that there is no fortune but "Mirage at the bottom of the Pyramid". Now we find the corporate world seriously planning to tap the bottom of the Pyramid, that is the poorer sections of our society. This is the current strategy of Indian Corporate houses for survival. Once that happens we will find Government joining hands to improve infrastructure in rural and semi rural areas, meaning more jobs will be created in those areas. From there on the virtuous cycle will take over and one day we will find a strong rural India as the backbone of a strong nation.

Here I am reminded of lines from a song called Imagine by John Lennon : " You may say I'm a dreamer..... but I'm not the only one".