HOW TO PROTECT THE RIGHT TO DEMOCRACY
Author: Sanhita Chakrabarty
KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar.
Participation of citizen in the decision making either directly or indirectly through elected representatives is democracy. The word ‘democracy’ is derived from the Greek words ‘demos’ which means ‘people’ and ‘kratos’ which means ‘power’. Hence, democracy means the power of the people. Indian democracy is considered as the largest democracy in the world. However, it has faced a lots of social and economic inequalities challenges like poverty and unemployment, Illiteracy casteism, communalism, corruption etc. that are required to be addressed, for there is a need to device new proposals. No doubt, law plays an important role to outcome the Indian democracy from these issues but mere legal proposals are not enough to the desired reforms in the society. The Constitution of India came into force from January 26, 1950, declares India as a democratic Republic. The Constitution lays down the requisites for sustaining a democratic governmental system. Our Constitution contains the following democratic ideals:
- Government system that holds people as the source of sovereign power, with the head of state elected by the people.
- Fully protected fundamental rights.
- Governing process established under rule of law. These are held as the lifeblood of democracy in India.
- Special protection for those who are socially and educationally marginalized.
- Directive Principles of State Policy that ensure social and economic equality.
- Transparent and independent elections.
CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIAN DEMOCRACY:
(i) Growing economic and social inequalities among the people: The most important problem in democracy is the growing social and economic inequality among the people. Although all the citizens have the right to vote and fight elections only rich people have a chance to win the election. The poor are sometimes even forced to sell their votes to fulfill their basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. So rich people are elected representatives in the legislature who make laws and frame policies which favour them.
(ii) Role of Anti-Social Elements: The role of anti-social elements has increased very much during the elections. Voters are coerced to vote for a particular candidate or party. Rigging also takes place during the elections.
(iii) Corruption and Inefficiency: In many democratic countries of the world, political leaders and government officials are corrupt, dishonest and inefficient. As a result, people do not take interest in elections and have no faith in government officials. This affects the working of democracy in the country very badly.
(iv) Casteism, Communalism and Religious Fundamentalism: During elections, a large number of voters give weight to the caste and religion of the candidate. Political parties also keep in mind the caste or religion of a person while distributing tickets for the election. Representatives elected on the basis of caste or religion work for the welfare of the people belonging only to their caste or religion. Religious fundamentalism also reinforces communalists in exploiting both religion and politics. In fact, fundamentalism acts as an ideology which advocates a return to orthodoxy and a strict compliance to the fundamental tenets of religion. Religious fundamentalists vehemently oppose progressive reforms in order to establish their exclusive control on their respective communities.
(v) Lack of Quality Education: Radical reforms in the education sector are a long-standing demand of the nation. When it comes to primary education system, it suffers from pathetic infrastructure and poor availability of quality teachers. The large chunks of government schools, especially in the rural areas, are even devoid of proper sanitation facilities. In higher education sector, there is high percentage of dropout, growing number of educated unemployed, and the lowering of teaching standards. The governments in the past had laid emphasis on “quantitative expansion “instead of qualitative and structural change. They had tried to hide the fundamental shortcomings by pumping in infrastructural investment.
(vi) Gender Discrimination: Discrimination against girls and women exists in every walk of life. But gender equality is one of the basic principles of democracy. The Constitution of India enjoins upon the State to ensure that men and women are treated as equals and there is no discrimination against women. Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties as well as the Directive Principles of State Policy make these intentions very clear. But the discrimination against females continues to be a fact of life. It is clearly reflected in the sex ratio, child sex ratio and maternal mortality rate. The number of females in comparison to males has been declining ever since 1901. It has been declining because of several factors, like the prevailing preference for male child, discriminatory treatment against the girl child right after birth, and the increasing incidence of female infanticides and female foeticides.
(vii) Poverty: It is generally said that for a hungry person right to vote does not have any meaning. For him/her the first requirement is food. Therefore, poverty is considered as the greatest bane of democracy. It is, in fact, the root cause of all kinds of deprivations and inequalities. It is the state of denial of opportunities to people to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Of course, India inherited poverty from the long exploitative British colonial rule, but it continues to be one of the gravest problems today. The persisting phenomenon of poverty is attributed to many factors, one of which is mass unemployment and underemployment. A large number of people in rural areas do not have regular and adequate work. In urban areas also the number of educated unemployed is very high. The growing population is regarded as a reason for poverty, though population is considered as the greatest resource in the country. In fact, the process of economic development has not been able to ensure social justice and gap between rich and poor has not been bridged. Because of all this, poverty continues to remain a great challenge to Indian democracy.
(viii) Infrastructural Gap: The major obstacle to realizing the dream of inclusive growth is insufficient infrastructure. The primary challenge in bridging India’s infrastructure gap is the shortage of natural resources, corruption, and disproportionate rise in demands due to population explosion. Critical sectors such as power and utilities are suffering from significant shortages.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE PROTECTION OF RIGHT TO DEMOCRACY:
- The electorate should be imparted with the awareness of political consciousness by making them aware of their rights and privileges by organizing seminars, workshops, conferences, etc.
- Proper education should be given to the illiterate people of India so as that they can vote sensibly. The countries like USA, Britain, and Germany etc. are successful countries by giving progressed democracy in all spheres just because of high literacy.
- Opinion Polls should be banned completely which creates adverse impression on the minds of voters.
- Media should play work in a positive manner by bringing about true facts and maintaining the true spirit of democracy.
- The politicians must have the spirit of democracy as they play a vital role for maintaining the democracy. They should act as a servant not as a master. They should do politics on the basis of issues not on the basis of caste, religion or communal politics.
- The citizens should be aware while electing their leaders with good moral values and integrity. Common man should have the ability to recognize the character and conduct of the politicians. They should have an intelligent understanding of public affair, justice and unselfish devotion to public interest.
- The Directive Principles enshrined in the State Policies should be made justiciable rights just like fundamental rights of part III of the Indian Constitution.
- Political education should be the part of education system, so that either they can become effective leaders of tomorrow or can chose their leader wisely without getting influenced from the unethical factors.
- Legislatures and Judiciary should work collectively by keeping an eye over the affairs going on around same sex marriages, abolition of death penalties, etc. and try to keep pace with the changing world around us. Elected representatives should be the role model for the youths should not act violently in the four corners of the Parliament and Legislatures towards each other’s.
- Efforts should be made to reduce the social and economic inequalities among the citizens.
- People should be educated. Only educated people can realize the importance of the right to vote and other political rights. They should be politically awakened to elect the right of representatives who are honest, selfless and efficient.
- Democratic values should be cultivated in the families and the society at large. Every citizen should respect the rights and freedom of others.
- Use of caste and religion during the elections should be banned. Organization of political parties on the basis of caste or religion should be checked. Candidates making use of caste or religion during the elections should be disqualified.
- Indian democracy can adequately respond to all the challenges when it moves forward on the path of sustainable development. Development has to be human-centered and directed towards improvement of quality of life of all the people. It has to be focused on removal of poverty, ignorance, discrimination, disease and unemployment. The development process has to aim at sustained economic, social and environmental development.
- The goals of democracy “of the people, for the people and by the people” cannot be fully realized if the female population is not included in all ways in the processes of socio-economic and political development; therefore there should be elimination of gender discrimination. That is why, besides constitutional provisions, several laws have been enacted, policies have been made and implemented, and institutional reforms have been carried out for the development of women.
- For poverty alleviation, there should be programmes to lift beneficiaries above poverty line by providing them with productive assets or skills, so that they can employ themselves usefully and earn greater income and programmes should also be implemented to provide temporary wage employment for the poor and the landless.
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