India@75: As we celebrate the nation, we must also reflect on the mixed nature of our democracy

Source: The post is based on the article “India@75: As we celebrate the nation, we must also reflect on the mixed nature of our democracy” published in the Indian Express on 13th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Indian Constitution—Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.

Relevance: Functioning of Indian Democracy

News: India is going to celebrate its 75th year of Independence on and around August 15, 2022. It refers to the celebration of India’s assertion of our nationhood (national self-respect and identity) as well as how India established a democratic system in order to conduct the affairs of the nation.

What are the deep concerns of Indian democracy?

Firstly, at present, there is a nationalistic rhetoric, in which there are attempts to shrink the idea of India as a nation into one community. The rhetoric is marked by exclusion and an overemphasis on community identity. Therefore, in the present narration, democracy is secondary to the nation.

Secondly, a contradiction in the celebration of the Constitution of India: Although the document is being celebrated, the adoption of its spirit in social and political practice is half-hearted. For example, the two most revolutionary elements of the Constitution, fundamental rights and directive principles, are conveniently set aside from time to time for vested interest.

Our legislative choices, executive practices and judicial interpretations have undermined the Constitution from time to time.

Thirdly, Web of institutions: The Constitution gave us many institutions. Subsequently, Parliament has added many other institutions. But most of the new institutions created serve the purpose of controlling citizens. There is a serious erosion of most institutions. This is partly due to political interference in functioning of these institutions in India.

Fourthly, Indian politics is marked by deep inequalities. Ordinary Citizens are not able to “do politics”. One can enter into Indian politics through the family route or by finding out family connections. This political inequality is exacerbated by and in turn, enhances various other inequalities.

Fifthly, there is no balance between the people as a collective and the individual in India’s democratic life. Here, the idea of the individual seldom carries weight. Within communities, individuals are secondary. Further, fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals such as freedom of expression, right to life and liberty are seen as unnecessary both by the public and rulers.

What should be done?

The best way to celebrate 75 years of our nationhood is to remind ourselves of the contradictoriness of democracy that we practice.

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