Corrective Measures for Challenges to Democracy

Democracy in India faces certain serious challenges. These are causes of serious concern to all. In fact, the leadership of the freedom movement and especially the framers of the Indian Constitution themselves were very much aware of these issues. They made a number of constitutional provisions to address the same.

Since independence governments have taken various measures to respond to many of these challenges. There have been significant improvements in some of these. However, lots still have to be done. For that, efforts have been going on. There is need for collaboration among governmental agencies, political parties, civil society and citizens in general.

1. Universal Literacy: Education for All

The significance and necessity of education for efficient functioning of democracy was appreciated by the framers of the Indian Constitution. Which is why, free and compulsory education to all children up to the fourteen years of age continued to remain constitutional commitment in India.

Various governments at national and state levels have been making efforts to attain this goal. As a follow up of the National Policy on Education 1986, a National Literacy Mission was set up in 1988 to plan and implement programmes for the removal of illiteracy under the platform, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. But the goal of universal
literacy is yet to be attained.

Currently a nation-wide programme known as Saakshar Bharat is being implemented. It aims at developing functional literacy and numeracy to non-literate and non-numerate adults in the age group of fifteen and above, to enable them to continue their learning beyond basic literacy and acquire equivalence to formal educational system.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is a flagship programme for universalization of elementary education for children between 6-14 years of age. Further, the Parliament of India in 2009 passed the Right to Education Act through which education has become a fundamental right for all children of age group 6-14 years.

2. Poverty Alleviation

From the 1970s, a number of programmes have been implemented for alleviation of poverty in India. These programmes fall into two broad categories:

  1. There are programmes to lift beneficiaries above poverty line by providing them with productive assets or skills or both, so that they can employ themselves usefully and earn greater income.

  2. Programmes are also being implemented to provide temporary wage employment for the poor and the landless.

3. Elimination of Gender Discrimination

It is now being recognized that the goals of democracy "of the people, for the people and by the people" cannot be fully realized if the female population are not included in all ways in the processes of socio-economic and political development. 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.

The 73rd and 74th Amendments of Indian Constitution in 1993 are the milestones in the process of political empowerment of women. These Amendments have reserved one-third of the seats in the Panchayati Raj Institutions, Municipalities and Municipal Corporations.

Another significant development has been the adoption of the National Policy for Empowerment of Women in 2001, the overarching goal of which is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women. But a lot needs to be done to attain this goal.

4. Removal of Regional Imbalance

Redressing regional imbalances has indeed been a vital objective of the planning process in India. Efforts are on to reduce regional disparities. Besides, the State-specific efforts for reducing intra-State regional disparities, a number of Centrally Sponsored Programmes have been in operation for the last two to three decades for taking care of specific aspects of backwardness of such regions.

Some of the major programmes are: (i) the Tribal Development Programme, (ii) the Hill Area Development Programme, (iii) the Border Area Development Programme, (iv) the Western Ghat Development Programme, (v) the Drought Prone Area Programme and (vi) the Desert Development Programme.

For the development of North-East states, a certain percentage is earmarked from the budget for each developmental scheme or programme in the region.

While the development of the backward regions is a national responsibility, the State and the local leadership also have significant role to play. Unless the local leadership - political, bureaucratic and intellectual - resolves to usher in development based on sharing the benefits on egalitarian basis with the masses, results will be hard to come by. Resources are not the real constraints; it is the way resources are spent that remains the fundamental concern.

5. Administrative and Judicial Reforms

The success of the corrective measures primarily depends on the efficient functioning of administration and independence and righteousness of the judicial system. But on both counts, a lot needs to be done. The performance of public administration in India has come under close scrutiny in the last few years. Rampant corruption, inefficiencies, wastages and irresponsiveness to the needs of citizens are some of the commonly acknowledged problems afflicting the administration. No doubt, the Indian judiciary has
remained independent and neutral; there are serious problems of (i) slow disposal of cases leading to delays as well as accumulation of backlog, and (ii) very low rate of prosecution in criminal cases.

Administrative reforms have continuously been on the agenda of the government ever since independence. A number of Commissions and Committees have been set up in this regard. But bureaucratic reluctance to change has prevented the reforms to take place in full measure. The recommendations of various Commissions and Committees focus around the need:

  1. to make administration accountable and citizen friendly

  2. to build its capacity for quality governance

  3. to orient administration for promoting peoples’ participation, decentralization and devolution of powers

  4. to make administrative decision-making process transparent

  5. to improve the performance and integrity of the public services

  6. to reinforce ethics in administration

  7. to inculcate readiness for e-governance

Judicial reform also has been a critical concern since long. Various recommendations have been made on many occasions. The major issues that need consideration in this regard are:

  1. Simplification of Rules and Procedures
  2. Repealing Out-dated Laws
  3. Increase in the Judge Population Ratio
  4. Time-bound filling of Vacant Posts in Judiciary
  5. Transparency in Appointment
  6. Promotion and Transfer of Judges
  7. Judicial Accountability
  8. Transparency of Court Proceedings

6. Sustainable Development (Economic, Social, Environmental)

Indian democracy can adequately respond to all the challenges when it moves forward on the path of sustainable development. A model of development without taking into account the basic needs of millions, today as well as in the future, cannot be conducive for the survival of democracy.

Development has to be human-centred 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.

Sustainable development is a pattern of using resources that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations to come. The term was used by the Bruntland Commission (1987) which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.