DEMOCRACY ON TRIAL

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, still remains the sovereign definition of democracy.  There can be dangers to democracy “in popular prejudice, pressure groups, even political parties, and also in sincerely motivated reform movements seeking to establish utopia without regard for someone’s lawful rights. 

We have learnt to fear not merely the wicked but the just………..when the conviction of being right blurs our sense of justice and dampens the spirit of mercy” said  Rev. N.H. Parker.  India claims to be the largest democracy in India, but not many are happy about the state of democracy in India.

India Today Conclave 2013 held on 15th and 16th March inaugurated by Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the past President with participation of all classes of citizens, intellectuals, innovators, decision makers, entrepreneurs as well as  spiritual gurus presented interesting, but different aspects of the functioning of our democracy and suggested solutions  in the conclave as reported in different articles on it in the Special Issue of India Today dated 1st April 2013. 

A pessimistic note is struck in the article on conclave  referring to the feelings of the participants, that the present age to be  the age of resentment with pressing need to reinvent democracy. “The defining characteristics of twenty-first century India are: Political corruption; economic stagnation and the cult of the regulator in the market place; a paranoid ruling class cracking down on dissent; weak leadership suffering from vision deficiency; the illiberal temptations of the elected; the growing communication gap between the ruler and the ruled; and the angry street. The perversions and pathologies of power – power drawn from the possibilities of democracy – are on full display”.

Embrace the network

Malcolm Gladwell, a writer points out to the information explosion to proclaim that the age of hierarchy is on the wane and that the era of networks has begun.  Family businesses are being replaced by professional ones.  There has been a paradigm shift between generations because of the internet. 

What are required now to be sold are the merits of  discipline, rules, strategies and independent responsibility.  There will be  sixteen millions social media users in urban India by June 2013, the media being face book and twitters making a global impact with one billion users.  He would appeal the Indians to embrace the net work.

Corruption – How tackled?

While the crime increases with public agony and anger as was evidenced from public reaction to Delhi gang rape in 2012, the Government is reacting with more laws to tackle the crime in a mistaken direction.  What is required is the enforcement of existing law and not merely more laws.  Law’s delays are tolerated.  Loopholes are allowed to continue, so that punishment is evaded.  The protracted justice system with hierarchy of appellate fora offering  escape route can take decades for guilty to be punished.  Arun Shourie points out that 80 per cent of rape cases are still pending.  31 per cent MPs and MLAs have criminal cases against them and six thousand eight hundred corruption cases are pending in CBI Courts. 

Apart from an independent Lokpal,  he has four suggestions for curbing corruption (1) placing the onus of proof on the accused, (2) to disallow trial adjournments, (3) confiscation of assets of a corrupt person and (4) exemplary punishment such as imprisonment and a ban from public life.  When the  implementation is poor, no law will be useful.  Arun Shourie’s solution again depend upon a corrupt free Government or an incorruptible enforcement agency.  There is no dearth of honest and efficient persons in Government services or elsewhere.  But where are they now?

Gender and ethnicity in cine field

India’s opportunities in the new world of entertainment was stressed by Freida Pinto, an actress in Slumdog Millionaire as Latika.  She spoke in  the conclave about the lessening Hollywood  barriers, while Anushka Sharma another actress was blaming the gender bias in  Bollywood.  They propose to replace stereotyped  roles  of ethnic with chaste and pious figures by more realistic  and meaningful characters for a sweeping change in India.  It must create  a better reflection of the space of India in the modern world. 

Indian market  requires expansion  with better technology and better ideas.  The potential for the  same has been shown in Slumdog Milliionaire and Life of Pi.  Irfan Khan, an actor has pointed out  that he had no difficulty in  entering Hollywood.  His colour of skin  had not been a handicap.  There are brilliant directors, but there  has been a degeneration  in films with  intellectual  content on the decrease.   Stories  are required to  be told from the  heart and should touch the heart.

The odd voice on behalf of  entertainment was  probably unexpected, but is one in the cards, if  played well, may be another force towards democracy.  

Sports

The  scope for sports which India has was stressed pointing out that it is   slowly entering  the world market not  merely with cricket, but also in other games, where India  is participating with many athletes and sportsmen.   With better training facilities, there  is no reason why  this can also have an expanding horizon towards internationalisation, a factor which can promote democratic value.

Entrepreneurship

It was Alok Kejriwal, a technocrat, who required dynamism of new ideas.  India  still runs on conservative societal norms.  Failing businesses  are kept alive.  The increase in first generation entrepreneurs will only alter societal perception.  Risk taking  should be more  common.  Kejriwal himself has set an example by quitting family business to take up the  marketing for Hindustan Lever through internet and thereafter creating  an online company promoting  various kinds  of contests in world-wide  web (www).  He feels that there is need for everyone wanting to become rich.  He wants a reform  in business laws, which  will make easy exit possible and would like job  creation of a new class of young and educated entrepreneurs to challenge the existing  businesses,  which is badly in need of competition.  Entrepreneurship  is to be celebrated as  job giver is more valuable than job-seeker.  

Initiation  expected from Government

Initiation of more projects by local Government for waste management and water harvesting,  besides strengthening  grievance redressal procedure and sponsoring a sense of commitment on  the part of bureaucracy by dispensing with arbitrary  transfer system and  enabling free exchange  of new ideas with increasing public contacts were other suggestions made in the conclave.

Research

Research is the watch word of tomorrow.  It is ideas  which will  conquer the world.  Bottlenecks  are required to be  identified and  dealt with.  International exchange  of ideas through wireless  devices to connect people is required to be encouraged.  The laws of physics assure that  the scope for  spectrum is infinite,  though we can access only a limited portion of it.  Even what is available is not being utilised.  The patent laws  often come in  the way, but change is needed  in respect of them.  Rohan Murty from Harvard University  had voiced the enormous scope  for research  with India  participating in a big way.

International co-operation

The enormous scope for India through  international collaboration was highlighted  in the conclave by the Qatar Ambassador, when he talked  about  the enormous  scope of inter-State co-operation in business between  India and Qatar and from business  collectively in the Arabic  world.  Qatar  is the largest producer  of hydrocarbon, so that a growing  synergy is possible between the two countries.  India can go abroad in a  big way, while  making significant  contribution to its own development  and its image abroad.

Poverty eradication

Steps for poverty  eradication is a method of utmost urgency.  With proper steps taken, poor can be partners for development as significant contributors for growth.

Outlook for  the future

It was pointed out by Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who inaugurated the conclave, development requires  political participation to the extent of 70 per cent, while it is now  less than 30 per cent.  Government’s activities  relate to shifting of  income from middle class to middle class  with no impact on the poor.  Attempts alround is to legitimise populism and not ideas for development. Government activities are not open, since  people do not yet know where tax collected are being spent  or applied.  Religion does not  serve even its professed purposes of building character.  Political democracy without economic democracy has no meaning or substance.  All our goals can be achieved only by new ideas.  

The present ills of society  aired  in the conclave echoed  those of Periyar, while the reforms suggested are that of the institutions  he had founded.  There is potential for development  with innovation and aggressive implementation. “Think, Innovate and Transform”.

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