IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 24th Sep 2020
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
EDITORIAL HUNT #153 :“State of Democracy in India | UPSC“
State of Democracy in India | UPSC
Pulapre Balakrishnan is Professor of Economics at Ashoka University, Sonipat
Seeing dystopia in India’s democracy
The state’s attachment to the procedures of democracy has not been matched by concern for a fulfilling life for Indians
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Democracy
How does happiness impact the longevity of human being . Does Indian democratic setup satisfy the needs of a mature democracy? -(GS 2,3)
- Evaluation of Indian Democracy
- Democratic setup we need
- REVIEWING DEMOCRACY : This day “provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world”.
- TIMELY EXERCISE : To review the state of democracy in India would be timely given the times we are living through.
- SUITABLE APPROACH : To review the state of democracy in India we would need to adopt a suitable criteria.
A PARTIAL EVALUATION
- DEMOCRATIC PASS : India is a democracy alright. There are multi-party elections with universal suffrage subject only to an age restriction.
- EVALUATIONS : It is often observed, to India’s credit, that it is the world’s largest democracy.
- FURTHER COMMENDATIONS : The smooth changeover in government after elections, the existence of an independent press and judiciary.
- CONCERNED PRIDE : To an extent it amounts to admiring a form of government for its own sake without concern for the socioeconomic outcomes .
- DIFFERENT OUTCOMES : Outcomes differ among countries that are democracies.
- LIFE SATISFACTION : The life satisfaction that citizens report. It should be noted that this is potentially an important metric as it is based on people’s perceptions on what matters most.
- HAPPINESS REPORT : In the UN’s World Happiness Report for 2020 the list of top 10 countries is heavily loaded with the democracies of western Europe.
- RANKING DIP : Further, its ranking has dropped in recent years.
- LESS LONGIVITY : The criterion that in a democracy the people must be satisfied with their life is given very little thought these days.
BUILT BY THE PEOPLE
- LEADERSHIP ROLES : Two leaders who had recognised this criterion in their engagements with the public were Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
- NEHRUVIAN MODEL : Nehru was explicit in his speech on August 15, 1947 when he stated that the goal of independence was to create institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.
- DEMOCRATIC SETUP : He was far too aware that democracy is not synonymous with statism; it is about the people.
- MEANING OF INSTITUTIONS : Ultimately, the institutions that enable persons to lead fulfilling lives are built by the people themselves.
- SUCCESSFUL MOVEMENTS : The above movements were remarkably successful in the outcomes they achieved, while receiving no support from the U.S. state.
- LEADERSHIP MATTERS : This is the sense in which it may be said that it is the people who build the institutions that matter.
- ROLE OF THE STATE : Laws must not constrain liberty when it is self-affirming and must change when it is realised that they do.
AMARTYA SEN DOCTRINE
- EXTENDED ROLE : Role of the State extends to the endowment of individuals with capabilities.- Amartya Sen.
- CAPABILITIES AND VALUES : Capabilities as the endowments that allow individuals to undertake the functionings, or do the things, that they value.
- IMPORTANT INPUTS : A person’s health and education as among the most important inputs into the capabilities that they end up possessing.
- EMPOWERMENT : While radical approaches to empowerment rightly emphasise the importance of self-help.
- CASTE LADDER : Similarly, historically, the caste system in India had excluded a large section from education.
- PRIVATE INITIATIVES : It has had only a limited impact on building capabilities in India as it has focused on those with the ability to pay.
- HDI : In a move to measure the capabilities of a population, the UN devised the Human Development Index.
- HAPPINESS INDEX : As with the UN’s Happiness Index, India fares very poorly in the UN’s Human Development Index too.
NEGLECT AND REPRESSION
- RITUALISTIC ATTACHMENT : In India, the state’s ritualistic attachment with the procedures of democracy has not been matched by an awareness of its implicit goal of a fulfilling life for Indians.
- FREEDOM OF SPEECH : By the 1950s, freedom of speech had been restricted by the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Directive Principles.
- UNDER-INVESTMENT : The consequential underinvestment in a public health system has left the country severely unprepared for the emergency when COVID-19 struck.
- BASIC NEEDS : After reading of bodies left lying in their wards, we now read of an emerging shortage of something so basic as oxygen supply in metropolitan hospitals.
- LOSS OF LIFE : COVID-19 affects the human respiratory system and oxygen is vital to avert the loss of life.
THE SETUP WE NEED
- MATURE DEMOCRACY : Democracy it is asserted is a form of government, namely government by discussion.
- PARTICIPATION : People adopt democracy so that they can participate in their own governance.
Thus, liberty and capability are conjoined as the ultimate aspiration in a democracy.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | State of Democracy in India | UPSC