7 PM Editorial |Democracy: The Current State Of It In India|24th September 2020

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Democracy: The Current State Of It In India

Topic: GS-2, Polity

Sub-Topic – Indian Constitution- Features

Overview – Assessment of the state of democracy in India.

Introduction

The United Nations has declared September 15 as ‘International Day of Democracy’. It has a provision which says that it reviews the state of democracy in the world. This calls for an opportunity to review the state of democracy in India.

What is the state of Indian democracy?

There are two ways in which the state of democracy in a country can to be assessed. They are:

  1. Procedural state.
  2. The state of outcome because of democracy.
Procedural State

The factors that need to be taken into concern while assessing the procedural state of democracy in India are:

  1. There are multiparty elections with universal suffragesubjected only to age restriction.
  2. There is smooth changeover in government after elections.
  3. There is an existence of an independent press and judiciary,and the guarantee of civil liberties justiciable in courts of law.

All these suggest that procedurally it very rightly holds its ground as the largest democracy in the world. However this is only a partial evaluation and the outcome also needs to be assessed to get the right picture on the state of democracy.

Outcome
  1. Responsiveness of the government to the needs of people
    1. In the UN’s World Happiness Report for 2020, the list of top 10 countries is heavily loaded with the democracies of western Europe. The U.S. barely edges into the top 20. India, on the other hand, is ranked 144 out of the 153 countries evaluated. Along with this, there has been a slide in recent years meaning the condition isn’t improving. This indicates that the governments have not been capable enough to satisfy the wishes of people living under it.
  2. Endowment with capabilities: According to Amartya Sen, capabilities are the endowments that allow individuals to undertake the functionings, or do the things, that they value.
    1. In the UN’s Human Development Index 2019, India ranked 129th out of 189 countries. Judged in terms of human development, Indian democracy is severely challenged.
The Human Development Index (HDI): It is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living. The HDI is the geometric mean of normalized indices for each of the three dimensions.

The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth, the education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita.

The outcome of democracy points to a sorry state of affairs. Though democracy may be a form of government but surely the people have come to adopt this particular form of government with a goal in mind. We may safely assume a fulfilling life is that goal. Authoritarianism is not compatible with such a life, only democracy, which at least in principle grants individuals a voice in governance, is. Second, people adopt democracy so that they can participate in their own governance. They cannot but have foreseen that they must be endowed with capabilities if this is to be possible at all. Thus, liberty and capability are conjoined as the ultimate aspiration in a democracy.

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. It is to be noted that Nehru had not promised that the government would create these institutions. He was far too aware that democracy is not synonymous with statism; it is about the people.

Conclusion

In the current times of COVID-19, severe underfunding in a public health system over the years has left the country severely unprepared for the emergency. There are reports of bodies lying in the wards and even shortages of something as basic as oxygen which is absolutely necessary for COVID-19 treatment. Not only has the state neglected its responsibility but it has resorted to repression when its inaction is questioned. Recently, an agency reported that a representative of the State in southern Andhra Pradesh publicly threatened to arrest a government doctor who had dared to mention at a review meeting that there were not enough beds in the primary health centre that he was responsible for. This calls us to question whether we are far from dystopia meaning a place where the people experience great suffering as they fend for themselves under the watchful eyes of an authoritarian state.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question
  1. The United Nations has declared September 15 as ‘International Day of Democracy’. In light of this, assess the state of democracy in India. Suggest the role that the pillars of government need to play to improve the state of affairs in the country.

 

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