Coming to the core of the argument on democracy in the developing world – let us unravel the successes and failures of the Indian democracy.
In most of the developing world, democracy’s failures have been blamed on improper implementation – military intervention, international intervention, ineptitude of local leadership, cultural factors etc. etc.
The one example that stands apart is that of India. India has a fully functional democracy with regular elections, freedom of speech, thought and assembly, citizens led initiatives, independent media, independent judiciary and separation of powers. The Indian government respects rule of law and the central government is transparent, open and tolerates criticism and dissent, at times much more than even some of the developed nations.
All in all, democracy is alive and kicking. But, after 60 years of its earnest implementation, where has it taken India?
42% of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.25 a day and about 34 % remains illiterate when the world averages today are about 26% and 16% respectively. There is substantial criminal infusion in politics at the grassroots, law and order has been on a decline, infrastructure is crumbling and the agricultural sector is ailing and sick. Yet through market oriented reforms that began in 1991, India’s GDP has grown but the development remains uneven and has failed to benefit a vast majority of people.
A truthful answer will help the entire developing world face up to the propagation of a system that is ill suited to their socio-economic context and one that is inherently crippling when the majority in a nation is – poor, rural and uneducated. The answers are complex and require an in-depth analysis of the problems. Bumper sticker slogans like “solution to bad democracy is more democracy” will simply not do anymore.
Let us analyze India’s crippling problems one by one and see why democracy is not helping and is indeed standing in the way of development.