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Democracy in Lincolns famous words is Government of the people, for the people, by the

people. The rudiments of democracy are well-known. It is a form of government wherein every
individual has a say. Democracy has come a long way since the classical times when Aristotle in
his classification categorized it as a -perverted form of government. Rouseaus concept of
General Will which had entrusted sovereign power to the masses paved the way for the French
Revolution with its cry of liberty, equality and fraternity. It marked the turning point for the rise
of modern democracy -ultimate authority of government is vested in the common people so that
public policy is made to conform to the will of the people and to serve the interests of people
today we have indirect democracy where government is conducted by the representatives of the
people, who are elected at regular intervals Have we ever given heed to the kind of democracy we have in India and under what conditions it
had been established? Well, lets explore this. It is impossible to define Indian democracy as
liberal, participatory or deliberative, because it is a blend all of these at the same time. It is not
enough to only examine the formal presence of democracy but checking how effective are the
institutions and procedures by relating them to the conditions that sustain them and reproduce
them is equally important. So lets check and examine what conditions were present when
democratic values and procedures were adopted.
According to Samuel Huntington, Indian democracy as an institution was facing few crisis at the
eve of independence. They were: crisis of national integration, crisis of identity, crisis of
participation, crisis of penetration and crisis of legitimacy. Thus we see the number of
challenges, which the newly independent and decolonized India was facing while adopting
the system of democracy. The major problems before India were linguistic problems, caste
system (which further took a new form of economic class system), poverty and illiteracy. To add
to them malnutrition and poor health conditions, poor housing, poor work capability, lack of
occupational adaptability and an inadequate level of savings reflected the clear picture of India.

Democracy Today

Democracy has come a long way. It was an idea that developed over the years to be seen as it is
today. There is still no specific form of democracy. There are however some basic ideas that
democracy embraces. All individuals have equal access to power, freedom and liberties.
Democracy has its origins in ancient Greece. However, ancient Rome contributed significantly to
its evolution. In Athens, government offices and citizens were held by ordinary individuals and
all male Athenians were allowed to vote. This right however did not extend to women and
slaves. Also; the votes of the wealthy were given more weight. Hence a major element of
democracy, universal suffrage was not exercised completely. Vaishali District in Bihar, India,
was one of the first governments in the world to have elements of the present democratic system.
Democracy has many versions. Many anarchists believe that the true form of democracy is direct
democracy, when majority decisions are not binding on the minority. This, they believe does not
curb individual liberties. American representative democracy is said to have been influenced by
the Iroquois society. This however is still being debated. Sortition is another tool of democracy
where representatives are chosen randomly, without elections. The belief is that the population at
large would be better represented through this process of random selection.
Today, the most common form of democracy is representative democracy where policy makers
are elected by the people. The governing bodies however, have specifically defined powers and
their rights do not extend over a well defined limit.
India is today recognized as the largest democracy in the world. One of the major reasons on the
basis of which we are pressing for a permanent seat in the UN. But should we really pride
ourselves on being democratic? Are we really a democracy in the true sense of the word? There
are still factors to be proud of. The press plays an extremely large role in a democracy and ours is
one of the most independent in the world. Democracy and suppression however, should be
mutually exclusive. Yet, voices are still throttled.
An everyday example that can be taken is of gay rights. A topic which is debated incessantly. If
we claim to be a democracy, how come a chunk of the society is still fighting for their rights?
They are not fighting for concessions or quotas or representation, but for the basic right to exist
as they are. With respect. And with grace. The basic rudiments of democracy like freedom of

expression and basic liberties to all come under scrutiny. Is democracy just a huge hypocritical
At last it can be said that Democracy is not a definition or a meaning. It is a process. It has a
goal. And we will achieve it. One day, differences will be celebrated and the dissimilar voices
will ring out as a beautiful melody.
Many scholars compare the status of development and democracy, since independence. Does
democracy leads to development or development leads to democracy? This dilemma still
remains. India had a firm nationalist base with the strong leadership of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru as
the first Prime Minister. But during that time, the members of legislative assembly were elitist.
The democracy was functioning smoothly but in their favor because the masses were illiterate.
Congress at that time was working for indigenous bourgeoisie. Thus congress became a party of
social status quo.
1967 was the turning point when the state parties suddenly came into power. This was a signal of
democratization of Indian politics. Due to balance of payment problem, international financial
institutions devalued rupee and India started drifting into economic crisis.


Indira Gandhi swept the polls in 1971 elections with the eradicate poverty slogans. In 1975
with the misuse of article 356 of Indian constitution, Mrs. Gandhi declared an emergency in
India. Economic crisis, formation of Bangladesh and Authoritarian rule at the center weakened
Indian democracy. The decision-making roles and powers of the cabinet members and ministers
were consequently dissolved and were taken over by Mrs. Gandhi. Though the Panchayati raj
system was to democratize the country at the village level but the power was still concentrated at
the top of the pyramid.
But after all the turbulent years in India, democracy still exists in its unique forms. Arguably it is
the best form of government. Democracy would thus appear differently to different classes of
India. To more privilege classes of society it would mean the freedom of enterprise and to the
lower orders it would mean equality (at least between communities) and representation. But
whatever the contradictions democracy may offers, Indian democracy will continue in spite of its
paradoxical and surprising history.

Its noteworthy that despite everything, India has sustained a fairly stable democracy, while the
countries with comparable (and in some cases much less serious) problems have abandoned
democracy for authoritarian form of rule. There are many conflicting views on the success and
failure of democracy and they all are associated to some ideals. For some an ideal democracy is a
construct where people are truly equal citizens, politically engaged with an equal voice, tolerant
of each other and where representatives are accountable. On the other hand, scholars have
viewed democracy as an institution, which would mean free and fair elections, legislative
assembly, and under this understanding India is considered as the largest democracy in the
world. But any evaluation of democracy is of course, a combination of both.
Indian state has a deep commitment to democratic system and values as democracy provides
impulse towards change and looks at contemporary struggles and movements of the people as a
part of the democratic process.
Democracy centers certain rights on the people. But more often than not these rights are abused
in the name of resisting oppression. Au unbalanced insistence on ones rights without a
corresponding realization of ones duties creates indiscipline and disorder and, in reality, an
erosion of the democratic principle.
Liberty and equality are both basic to democracy but are not these two concepts intrinsically
opposed? Can liberty, which allows a human being to develop his/her individuality, be
reconciled to equality, which by its very nature puts a check on such individual aspirations for
the welfare of a group. a community, a collectivity ? Democracy contains within it seeds of
dissolution and decay as well as of life and progress. In truth, it calls for a balance between selfinterest and consideration for others, between rights and duties and a successful democracy
manifests a reconciliation of opposites.
India today proudly proclaims its position as one of the foremost democratic nations of the
world. In terms of the size of the electorate, it is the largest democracy in the world. India, on
gaining independence from colonial rule, had forthwith decided to adopt the parliamentary
system of government of its erstwhile coloniser - Great Britain. The founding fathers of the
Constitution, truly inspired by egalitarian zeal, had ensured universal adult franchise to citizens

of the country, without any discrimination on the basis of caste, religion. sex, education or
ownership of property. India had its first general elections in 1952 and the democratic processes
have been vigorously functioning ever since. Belying all doubts and apprehensions on account of
the large number of illiterate citizens in the country; the people have displayed an amazing
political maturity and have ensured that democracy becomes a part of the social ethos of the
To express their dissatisfaction with the agendas and policies of a particular government or with
the qualities of governance -in general, they have skilfully utilised their democratic privilege to
oust the incumbent from power. Democratic processes have earned such credibility that there has
not been a single instance of a coup detat or mass revolution to destabilise or overthrow the
government. The regular, periodic elections have almost become a source of envy to other
countries in South Asia whose experimentations with democracy are marred by interference from
the army top brass as well as extremist religious leaders.
One of the biggest achievements of the Indian Constitution is the protection of democratic rights
since its inception. The success and failure of a democracy can be judged by looking at its track
record in the protection of right to freedom. Any erosion of these rights can ultimately lead to
the breakdown of the very Constitution of the country. We the citizens need to be vigilant against
the assault to our rights. If we overlook these violations today, it will be a licence for the
unscrupulous and unethical elements to subvert our very democratic system. which we value
Such admirable achievements not with standing, India is often characterised by critics as a
pseudo-democracy. The time is ripe enough to look back at the errors committed, to analyse the
maladies that afflict the present day political system. In other words, what ails Indian democracy
The reasons are not far to seek. India had failed in its primary democratic responsibility of
ensuring liberty and equality to the people. Fifty-six years since independence and still, every
night, one third of the population goes to bed on an empty stomach. Thirty percent of the
population lives below the poverty line, without au, means to meet their consumption
requirements, without access to safe and clean drinking water, sanitation or proper health
facilities. Governments have come and -,one, policies have been framed and supposedly

implemented. crores of rupees have been spent, and yet India staggers into the New Millennium
with millions of disadvantaged people to whom every day is nothing but a struggle for existence.
Surely it is a grave sin to talk about democracy and voting rights to a person lying oil an empty
The right to freedom is the most fundamental of the Fundamental Rights in our Constitution.
Without this right the moral and intellectual development of a citizen cannot be achieved.
Articles 19 to 22 describe this vital right in the Constitution. which is the very backbone of the
Fundamental Rights. Democracy is meaningful only when these rights are fulfilled.
Of late, our Fundamental Rights are under severe stress from certain elements in the state. In the
name of national interest and protection of privileges this essence of democracy is being
crucified by vested interests.
Equality has also taken a beating in a society totally raven by communal considerations.
Casteism today is perhaps more rampant than it ever was. Untouchability remains abolished only
in theory, with frequent newspaper reports of Dalits being denied entry to temples or other public
places. Class conflict, too is on the rise with entire Dalit families being massacred by upper class
landlords and the retaliatory violence that the Dalits indulge in to seek vengeance. The dreams of
Gandhiji for an egalitarian casteless society lie shattered on the ground. It is the political parties,
organized on caste lines that thrive on such societal tensions and rivalries and perpetuate the
animosity between upper & lower castes to serve their vested interests.
The liberal, humanistic principles which can result in the establishment of a just and humane
society have been subjected to criminal negligence. Indian democracy signifies nothing greater
than party politics and elections. The very process of election has become suspect, marred as it is
by allegations of rigging, booth capturing and bogus voting. A large number of police personnel
and paramilitary forces have to be deployed lust to ensure that legitimate voters get opportunity
to exercise their right to vote. Serious distortions are visible in the. democratic process - a recent
example being the Panchayat elections in one of the States where there were widespread
allegations that candidates belonging to opposition parties bad been prevented even from filing

their nomination papers - thus making a sham of all the rhetoric about democratic
decentralization and grassroots participation of people in democratic process.
An unsatisfactory aspect of Indian democracy is the practice of defection from one party to
another-ironically justified on the basis of democratic considerations of freedom of choice.
The problem with Indian democracy is that it has been transplanted recently and has not grown
from the roots. Government by the people is not and never can be a reality; it is only a cry by
which demagogues humbug us into voting for them said George Bernard Shaw.
All of this is direct fallout of the criminalization of politics and the politicization of crime. The
visionary giants who led the country to independence and secured its future through a democratic
Constitution have all departed; the present day leader is a creature driven greed and the lust for
power; he can resort to any measure to capture power and then retain it. His value system is
warped, he is driven by narrow, selfish, parochial interest and he does not hesitate in flexing
muscle power to eliminate his opponents. Multiparty democracy; so essential for a diverse
country like India, has come more as a bane titan a boon. Parties have become the vehicle for the
leaders and faithful to amass wealth and shield themselves from the law of land. National interest
has been made subservient to parry cause: The motto is self before party. party before nation.
The Peoples Representation Act, 2002, passed in Parliament recently, exposes the shameless
lengths to which politicians - of all hues and colours - can go to save their own skin.
A subversion of almost all democratic norms and values has led to a seething wave of intolerance
and hatred, searing and destroying the bonds of love and harmony that had held the society
together for ages. Violence assumes many forms - terrorism, insurgency, and communal tension,
violence against women and through it all, the fabric of the society gets distorted beyond
recognition. Intolerant, ignorant about the countrys composite culture and heritage, devoid of
any sense of history, people indulge in relentless, meaningless criticism of all things Indian and
blindly imbibe whatever crumbs of Western culture come our way, courtesy globalization.
Negative criticism is, however, not an attribute limited to the uncomprehending masses - the
august body of the parliamentary opposition. forgoing all attempts at constructive criticism,
utilizes every single opportunity to humiliate and embarrass the government. Quite literally, its
function has been reduced to mere opposition.

The question that naturally arises is whether the form of British parliamentary democracy, which
was to a large extent imposed upon the nation without making sure whether the people were
ready for it, is actually a suitable method of governance for a country like ours. The religious,
ethnic, racial and caste diversities are deeply entrenched in the social ethos as well as the psyche
of the people and they cannot be eradicated by just wishing them away. Doubtless, the needs of a
country like our are vastly different from Britain, a small island nation with a largely
homogeneous population.
The retrograde effect of Indian democracy has led a section of the educated masses to clamour
for an end to democratic rule. Instead, they favour a brief stint of martial law and military
dictatorship and justify their demand by arguing that such a step would help to restore discipline
and confidence among the masses and reverse the process of degeneration that has set in. In fact,
a lack of discipline and absence of national dedication was one of the six fatal mistakes which
had brought the country to its present sorry state, as pointed out by the great jurist late Nana
Palkhivala. But it would be fallacious to assume that respect for the rule of law can be enforced
through a military govenment because such obedience based on fear of reprisals would be
transitory. Love for the country is something that comes from within, through a proper
appreciation of our unique social, cultural, historical legacy. No other political setup, except a
democracy permits an individual to think freely and reach this level of realisation.
In India, we are fortunate enough to possess firmly established and functioning democratic
institutions. Their weakness is their rigidity and inflexibility, their inability to adapt themselves
to the changing times. Erosion of values has led to opacity of vision and this wrong can be set
right only by that section of the population which constitutes its majority-the youth. No hurdle is
formidable enough if people act to remove it. Action is important today, as the liberal educated
intelligentsia turn their faces away in disgust from the murky world of politics and governance.
People who plead helplessness in the face of rampant corruption are the very ones who sustain it
by their silence acceptance of it. People who do not vote as a sign of protest are actually
instrumental in perpetuating the lawlessness and anarchy around them.


Thus, it is thus clear that without a sense of discipline in all wakes of life, democracy is likely to
turn into anarchy, chaos and disorder. If we wish to preserve democracy in India. we will have to
practise restraint and discipline each citizen.
The onus is on the youth of the country-to create awareness, to sensitise the illiterate masses, to
enable the downtrodden to ask for their rights, to teach them that rights are always accompanied
by corresponding duties, to warn the politicians that we have borne the assault of the last straw
on our back and will not tolerate any more. Democracys defects do not, however obscure its
basic value. It guarantees freedom to the individual albeit that freedom is certainly restrained by
virtue of masts living in a society. The freedom is certainly accompanied by certain
responsibilities. self-defence and the difficulty of judicious choice but a democratic way of life
alone comes nearest to satisfying. the love of freedom in man.