The next step in democratic evolution is overdue

Source: This post is based on the article “The next step in democratic evolution is overdue” published in The Hindu on 1st September 2021.

Relevance: The article highlights the importance of democracy and the base or structure on which it is built i.e constitutions and laws.

Synopsis: India must change, from elected authoritarianism towards participative governance.

What is the difference between democratic and authoritarian regimes?

The democratic regime is different from the authoritarian regime due to,

  • Citizen Participation: In a democracy, citizens participate effectively in shaping policies and laws by which they are governed.
  • Democratic constitutions provide elected assemblies of citizen’s representatives to shape new policies and pass laws.
What are the problems with democracy?
  • Inter and Intra Party politics
  • Floor battles are often seen in Parliament
  • Citizens being dissatisfied with the performance of their elected representatives
What is required for a healthy democracy?
  • Open-minded discussions: These are necessary for a good democracy. It can provide an effective and acceptable solution to various problems like climate change, historical inequities, increasing economic inequalities etc from different perspectives.
  • Democratic deliberations among citizens: Democracies are not limited to elections alone. People from different walks of life, with different views and perceptions, must come together to deliberate and solve the problems.
  • Filling the gaps: There is a huge divide between people like ‘us’ from ‘people not like us’ – especially in the Indian context. Majoritarian electoral systems of democracy further harden these divisions. Therefore, stronger processes are urgently required for democratic discourses among citizens to bind the fabric of the nation before it frays further.
  • Role of media: The media used to provide space for diverse perspectives. But now, with fake news and paid news, the role of media itself is under the scanner. The media should regain its role as the 4th pillar of democracy.
  • Role of Technology: Technology backed smart algorithms have created echo chambers of people who like each other. They do not listen to the opinion of those in other chambers. This blocks the other viewpoints and reinforces and hardens their own partisan beliefs. Technology should in fact act as an enabler for the open exchange of views.
What can be done?

Consent of the governed is about more than periodic elections. So, we should go beyond period elections through the widespread inclusion of people in the political arena.

A civil society movement, Citizens for Europe, has proposed a solution: a European Citizens’ Assembly — a permanent transnational forum for citizens’ participation and deliberation.

Read more: Why the citizen assembly is an idea whose time has to come

What is the significance of dialogues?

We need to understand that the debates have a broader purpose. The aim of the debate is not to listen to what the other person is saying, but to understand ‘why’ or his/her perspective on his/her view. India, which has had a diversity of views from its inception, should strengthen the culture of debates and discussions to strengthen democracy.

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