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What is Democracy? August 15, 2008

Posted by Karan in General.
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I had a terrific discussion separately on this with Varun and Pagare a few days back. What is democracy? Is it as simple as for the people, by the people, of the people? 61 years after Independence, people call us one of the biggest and truest democracies in the world. Unfortunately, I can’t fathom how. For a general person like me, what options I have if I don’t like the system? Try make my voice heard, which is pretty difficult. Plunge into politics, which I would not like to do, leaving the comfort of my life. Or just sit back and relax? They say that don’t criticize the system, try and improve it. But is that possible for each and every one of us?

They say that I have all the choices to select my own candidates. But what if I am not satisfied with the choices? What if I don’t deem any of the candidates fit enough? Should I just go and strike out the ballot paper, as Pranav says? Does that serve any purpose?

In early democracies, every decision was passed by the people. It might not be possible today, but is this the best system we have come up with in all these years? Thanks to coalitions, a party might come to power in spite of the people rejecting it. Elected governments take decisions which a majority of the people may oppose. What can people do in such cases, especially when such issues are lost during the time of elections. Governments are selected not on the basis of performances, but on politics, casteism etc.

I seriously think that form of democracy we are following does not serve much purpose.

PS1: This is my 100th post.
PS2: I hope I don’t receive a backlash on this post, just that this issue is eating me up. Hence I decided to post.

Comments»

1. Aniket - August 15, 2008

Nice topic.

Does a child, born of however great parents become a great person, or even a simple, mature, law-abiding citizen overnight? It takes at least a quarter of his life to reach some level and then too, the process has to continue for as long as he/she lives.

Don’t great people waver towards darkness en route to becoming great? Take Mahatma Gandhi, for example.

Wasn’t the USA a thoroughly backward country with NO VOTING RIGHTS and SLAVERY for blacks till after more than 100 years of becoming free? Even now the blacks, for most part live as second rate citizens over there.

There can be numerous such examples like these, and the aim here, please note, is not to pull someone else down but to opine that a good citizen, leave alone a good democracy or a good nation cannot be built overnight. All of France’s problems weren’t solved after the French Revolution. The Russians suffered gross human rights violation, and still continue to do so, even years after getting freedom from the autocratic czars. The process is long, and the problems are many.

61 years is a long time in the life of a person, but for a country as big and diverse as India, it’s but a passing phase. As almost every speaker at today’s function said, we have achieved much, but we have still greater roads to chart. The system has done well for some people, you’d agree, and not so well for some others. The aim should be to extend the goodnesses to more and more,as people like Sandeep Pandey are doing. As for the problems, they might seem insurmountable at the moment but if every person gives her/his best, things will slowly change.

Can one man change the system? I think it’s possible. How? that’s for each individual to answer, as each can change at least some part of the system in at least some way by doing what she/he does best. Not everyone can give as much impact as Mahatma Gandhi did, but the point is trying your best. It can be frustrating as the results might not show, but I think Prof. Sangal hit the nail right on the head when he said that what matters is direction. I don’t think India can be a perfect democracy in my lifetime; the country is too big and the problems too many and too complex, but I’ll be happy if we are able to go in the right direction from here.

I hope you don’t consider this looong comment as ‘backlash’! 🙂

2. mythalez - August 16, 2008

there is no such thing as perfection when it involves a group of people … leave alone a nation…..
as about democracy, I guess this is the best form of governance that humans have been able to come up until now (though am not very confident abt its virtues) … the main advantage with democracy is that no one has absolute power and no one is in power for too long .. thereby limiting the damage 😉

3. abbulu - August 16, 2008

congrats on your 100th post 😀

and yeah! Ours is a system of irrelvant bureaucracy and red tapism than a puritan democracy … 😦

@ mythalez:
corruption came into the indian democracy with industrialization.So for progress we had a trade off ethics. And as far as power is concerned, the Indian Business houses literally control everything (at least those who use informal perks to politicos, gifts to gvt. legal officers,etc., are the ones who literally control everything)

So though conventionally, it might things are fin with the concept of democracy, we must understand that some rights can be exploited by some while most can do nothing about it (most boleto common man)

4. @nks - August 18, 2008

hey …. good topic … but i have a different question

how do i recover my wordpress a/c some one has hacked it 😦

5. @nks - August 18, 2008

ok found out ..

from the previous post ….

thanks neways 🙂

6. Raj - August 19, 2008

I’ll not go about democracy or any other system.

But one thing i can tell is, we are living in heaven if I compare with other countries.

In US, at some places, if you honk you might be killed. If police stop you, you need to show them both your hands without moving otherwise you will be killed.

In China, they will treat people like animals in jails. Thats why many of their products are cheap. They have no value for humans.

I can write a list of these kind incidents which involves humanity and freedom

In India at least I have freedom. I can do whatever I want.
One more thing is good here, if you have talent you will achieve what you deserve. No politics, money, power can stop you. They might delay but can not deny.

7. Sanjay Maroo - August 19, 2008

Karan- Congrats on your 100th post!!
If you get up in the morning and can pray freely to god of your belief you are in a democratic country. Young people should take responsiblity of improving their country- not only their life. Exercise your right to Vote. Don’t be indifferent to injustice in society. Take part actively in politics.
Indian morals and values teach everything for making world a better place- there is no need to look anywhere else.
I beleive strongly the younger generation would bring in changes in society and country for better. May God bless you all!!

8. Anonymous - August 19, 2008

Sanjay Maroo above me is completely right. Not much will change, unless the younger generation gets politically involved in the ways he has mentioned. We are blessed to be in a democracy, although Raj has some things very wrong about human rights in the US. The kind of treatment that he has described is given to evidently suspected ciminals, and yes drunk drivers are criminals, and the fact that Indian drunk drivers are not scared to be stopped by the cops is more a shame than an achievement. ~Peace

9. Karan - August 19, 2008

@Aniket. Thanks for those lovely thoughts. Though I agree with the point of India needing time to evolve, I still think that the form of democracy we have chosen is not the ideal one. Coming to the US of A, I don’t think their form is ideal either. Do ordinary citizens over there feel empowered?
Your point about the direction is interesting, I think we need furthur discussion on this.

@Mythalez, Haha.. As we say in Hindi, “andhon mein kana raja”.

@abbulu. Thanks a lot.

@Ankit 🙂

@Raj. I think anonymous here has an interesting counter. I agree with what you have to say on China, but not the USA.

@Papa. First of all, thanks a lot 🙂 The point you are talking about- joining politics, I think that is where a lot of us, or the younger generation might not head towards. Call it an apathy towards politics, or a disbelief in the system, an eagerness to make your own life very succesful (atleast financially). However, I think you have made some beautiful points regarding the Indian system.

@anon. I think I’ll agree with you on the counters you’ve given to Raj’s view.

10. Varun - August 20, 2008

Lok Satta Party ………thats all im gonna say 🙂

11. Raj - August 20, 2008

@Anon, i did not say anything about human rights in US.(although this saying is perfectly fit for US “9 sau choohe khakar billi huz ko chali”). It was for China.

Also, u say “suspected Criminals”. Without checking or verifying how can you kill someone? You can arrest , interrogate. but kill. I think you need to give a serious thought on it.
Suppose you are innocent and police stops you for checking with guns pointing at you. Now you have to be extremely careful in your actions/movement. In situations like this no body will be perfectly calm or confident. And you loose your life.
To make a handful of criminals fearful, you make rules like that? And moreover criminals do not fear anyone otherwise they are not criminals.

“hundreds of criminals can be forgiven if it saves even 1 innocent life”. I do not know where it applies but as far as I know it is the basis of all criminal laws in India.

I do not know whether you experience or not but all the strict rules are only for innocent people because criminals anyway do not follow any rule. No matter what rule you make they will always escape.

Now you will say then what do we do, I’ll say educate people. Teach them what is good what is bad. Respect others freedom. And if educated people are not behaving correctly then that is shame. Even god cant help.

12. Deepti - August 21, 2008

What does giving complete authority to people mean? – That you can rig and win in the elections ? Or that just because you have right to express yourself, you create havoc by destroying the public property and blasting of innocent people?
Countries like Denmark which have Democratic system of government, were able to apply stringent rules and come out of their oil crisis in a brief span of 20 years. Singapore builds houses for every individual in their country their by avoiding the problems which effect their economy due to land retails. Now I do agree that these are pretty small countries when compared to ours, why can’t we do anything closer to this? Why doesn’t our government apply strict rules for population control, compulsory primary education, child labor et al ?

13. Anonymous - August 21, 2008

Okay so you are not as misinformed as I thought. Yes if a cop shoots you just because he suspects you, its wrong and rest assured, at least in the US and even in India it wont go unnoticed. Cops are not even allowed to beat up a suspected criminal, let alone kill them. In your previous comment it seemed like you had some weird misconception of American cops :).

I am never stopped while I am driving properly, and if I am speeding I deserve to be stopped and questioned and get a ticket. And just because some criminals escape rules, I am not gonna fret about why I am not that lucky , that would be too stupid. I understand your frustration, but the the problem is a lil deeper than you think.

And education is the key I agree. The main chapter, with rights come duties 🙂

14. Anonymous - August 21, 2008

Raj, Okay so you are not as misinformed as I thought. Yes if a cop shoots you just because he suspects you, its wrong and rest assured, at least in the US and even in India it wont go unnoticed. Cops are not even allowed to beat up a suspected criminal, let alone kill them. In your previous comment it seemed like you had some weird misconception of American cops :).

I am never stopped while I am driving properly, and if I am speeding I deserve to be stopped and questioned and get a ticket. And just because some criminals escape rules, I am not gonna fret about why I am not that lucky , that would be too stupid. I understand your frustration, but the the problem is a lil deeper than you think.

And education is the key I agree. The main chapter, with rights come duties 🙂

15. yogesh - August 28, 2008

whoops,bade bade logon ki baatein!
….btw I am quite impressed with the Aniket’s comment.

16. Namrata - August 29, 2008

For a 20 year old like me democracy is being able to live with a certain freedom and yet having a sense of responsibility towards the nation. As mentioned in many of the comments above we need to educate the common man about his/her rights and duties so that the lure of money does not force them into voting for some unworthy candidate. Also the agendas of the parties should be well publicized.

17. Pulkit - September 26, 2008

I beleive that just exercising your franchise isn’t good enough. Unless you have done some analysis on what you expect from the govt and which party is likely to provide that, your vote is just a random one and I don’t see that being of much help. Of course, instead of abstaining, it’s better to vote not to vote, so that there is no way your vote can be misused.

I am an optimist and I am with Aniket that even if we can’t completely change the face of the nation in our lifetime, we surely can bring about a marked change. Good governance, while maximally affected by the politicians, can also be contributed to by other means. People using RTI to make things transparent and up the (media) pressure on the govt, activists protesting about the environment or labour rights and NGOs doing a part of the community development work our currently inapt govts are unable to do, are all adding their two cents towards just governance.

The key thing for those who hate being mute spectators is to be involved in the process of change early. A great starting point would be to join a local group working for the underprivileged or the environment [If you are really after the corrupt politicians, you have a great weapon in RTI]. From there, the future possibilities are numerous: A) You could continue to juggle your time between work and community stuff B) If you are truly passionate, you may quit your revolving-chair/AC-cabin jobs to get into IAS or full time social work involving some of the poorest of the poor. C) Once you are involved neck deep in this kinda work and gather substantial community support, even politics comes back into the fray. I closely know people who have done B and are attempting C (People doing A are comparatively more common).

By the bye, a great post and a stimulating discussion!


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