Tuesday, March 17, 2009

India - a democracy in denial?

Post extensive legislative and executive efforts, India has now managed to have negligible electoral violence and rigging. Power changes hands peacefully and the national media is free. India is a pluralistic, tolerant society and minorities too enjoy significant rights, often holding even the highest offices, including those of the Prime Minister and the President. The rule is as per the constitution and there is separation of powers among the judiciary, the executive and the legislative. The political leadership is largely tolerant of criticism and dissent and has tremendous ability to negotiate and compromise. India is also one of the first few nations to have electronic voting. So, this is a pretty good implementation of the processes of democracy.

India does deserve credit for making reasonable enough success of a system where many have failed. But in more than 60 years of its earnest implementation, where has it taken the nation? Even today, 41.6% of India’s population estimated to be below poverty line and 34% s also illiterate. Further development is restricted to the already overstretched metros and large towns and rural comprises 72% of the population. The nation faces deep challenges and problems. Yet you may say it must count among the few developing nations where people feel free to opine and criticise. So, democracy is a mixed bag. Then why is it on trial? It is on trial because in terms of end delivery, it meets higher order "aspirations" like freedom of thought, speech and assembly but has thus far failed to meet basal "needs" like food, water and shelter for a vast "majority" of people..