Questions on Indian Democracy

1. What do you mean by political democracy?

Democracy is defined as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and is exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodic free elections. In essence, democracy is a form of government which is run by the elected representatives of the people.

2. Do you think, the definition of democracy is incomplete unless it is defined in social and individual contexts as well? Give reasons for your answer.

The definition of democracy is incomplete unless it is defined in social and individual contexts as well. In the present age, it means more than a mere form of government. In its comprehensive form, democracy means, (i) a form of government, (ii) a type of state, (iii) a pattern of social system, (iv) a design of economic order, and (v) a way of life and culture.

Therefore, when we say Indian democracy, we mean not only that its political institutions and processes are democratic but also that the Indian society and every Indian citizen is democratic, reflecting basic democratic values of equality, liberty, fraternity, secularism and justice in social sphere and individual behaviour.

3. Write at least two essential conditions of political and social democracy?

A system can be termed as a genuine democracy only when it fulfills (a) political conditions as follows: (i) having a Constitution that vests supreme power in the people and protects fundamental rights, such as equality, liberty of thought and expression, belief, movement, communication and association; (ii) having universal adult franchise as the basis of electing representatives; and (iii) having a responsible government in which the executive is answerable to the legislature and the legislature to the people; and (b) social and economic conditions as follows: (i) the system ensuring social development that is in tune with democratic values and norms reflecting equality of social status, social security and social welfare; and (ii) the system facilitating a situation where the fruits of economic development reach all and especially the poor and deprived sections of the society.

4. How do illiteracy, inequality and poverty adversely affect the functioning of Indian democracy?

Illiteracy, inequality and poverty adversely affect the functioning of Indian democracy. (i) Illiterate citizens are not able to play their roles effectively and exercise meaningfully their right to vote which is an individual expression of the power of the people. Literacy enables citizens to be aware of various issues, problems, demands, and interests in the country, be conscious of the principles of liberty and equality of all and ensure that the representatives elected by them truly represent all the interests in the society.

(ii) Poverty is perhaps the greatest bane of democracy. It is the root cause of all kinds of deprivations and inequalities and is the state of denial of opportunities to people to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

5. Do you agree that the portrayal of women by popular entertainment channels or films depict gender discrimination? Justify with examples.

Yes, the popular entertainment channels and films generally depict gender discrimination. In fact, the serials on television channels are reinforcing the prevailing patriarchal system showing females playing traditional roles of mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. It is true that a few of them question the traditional roles, but those also somehow reflect gender discrimination.

6. Explain with two examples as how do casteism or communalism impact our day to day lives and influence Indian democracy?

Caste System: The most detrimental and inhuman example of the prevailing caste system is the practice of untouchability which is continuing in different covert and overt ways in spite of the constitutional ban imposed on it. The Dalits still bear the brunt of discrimination and deprivation. This has led to segregation of so called low castes, depriving them of education and other social benefits.

The second example relates to politicization of caste system. Casteism has become notorious as a strategy of exploitation of caste consciousness for narrow political gains. The caste system acts against the roots of democracy.

Communalism: It disrupts quite often the smooth process of co-existence in a multi-religious Indian society. Communal riots happening in the country since independence have been dangerous for peace order and social harmony. Secondly the misuse of religion by fundamentalist people during elections and even in other situations has always been proved to be counter-productive.

7. If regionalism and sub-regionalism are inseparable part of Indian democracy, why are they considered as challenges?

Although development process in the country aims at growth and development of all regions, the regional disparities and imbalances continue to exist. Existence and continuation of regional inequalities in terms of differences in per capita income, literacy rates, state of health and educational infrastructure and services, population situation and levels of industrial and agricultural development both among States and within a State create a feeling of neglect, deprivation and discrimination.

8. What are the reasons for criminalization of politics in India?

The influence of muscle power in Indian politics has been a fact of life for a long time. Political parties and candidates do not hesitate in seeking the help of criminal elements to dominate the election scene in India. Earlier in the 1960’s, the criminals were content by covertly helping the politician win the election so that they could in turn get protection from him. But the roles have now been reversed. It is the politicians who now bank on the support of the criminals for protection.

9. What are the reasons of increase of political violence in India?

One of the major reasons of increase of political violence has been the emergence of serious conflict of interests between higher and middle castes as an outcome of agricultural development, abolition of zamindari system, and developments like green revolution and white revolution. These have led to aggressive competition for political power which many a time leads to violence.

Another reason is the backlash of the higher castes against the growing awareness and assertion of their rights by the lower castes, particularly the Scheduled Castes and the lowest backward castes. Moreover, violence has been associated with demands for separate States, re-organization of States or adjustment of State boundaries. As we observe, the Telangana Movement in Andhra Pradesh and Bodo Movement in Assam often turned violent. Violence has also been used quite frequently during industrial strikes, farmers’ movements, students’ agitations, and a number of other civil disobedience campaigns.

10. Describe the measures undertaken to achieve the goals of universal literacy, poverty alleviation and removal of gender discrimination?

To attain the goal of universal literacy a nation-wide programme known as Saakshar Bharat is being implemented. Moreover, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is a flagship programme for the universalization of elementary education for children between 6-14 years of age. Besides, the Parliament of India in 2009 passed Right to Education Act through which education has become a fundamental right of all children in the age group of 6-14 years.

For poverty alleviation, two kinds of programmes are being implemented: (i) 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, and (ii) Programmes to provide temporary wage employment for the poor and the landless.

Public Distribution System (PDS) contributes towards meeting people’s basic food needs, the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) provides rural households below the poverty line with credit to purchase income-generating assets, the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY), provides more than 700 million person days of work a year. Moreover, TRYSEM (Training Rural Youth for Self Employment) was started to provide technical skills to the rural youth and to help them to get employment.

11. Discuss the steps needed for solving the problem of regional imbalances in India?

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.

12. What needs to be done to reform administration and judiciary in India?

For administrative reforms, the following recommendations need to be implemented: (i) to make administration accountable and citizen friendly, (ii) to build its capacity for quality governance, (iii) to orient administration for promoting peoples’ participation, decentralization and devolution of powers, (iv) to make administrative decision-making process transparent, (v) to improve the performance and integrity of the public services, (vi) to reinforce ethics in administration, and (vii) to inculcate readiness for e-governance.

For judicial reforms, the steps that are to be taken are as follows: (a) Simplification of Rules and Procedures, (b) Repealing Out-dated Laws, (c) Increase in the Judge Population Ratio, (d)Time-bound filling of Vacant Posts in Judiciary, (d)Transparency in Appointment, Promotion and Transfer of Judges, (e) Judicial Accountability, and (f) Transparency of Court Proceedings.

13. What is sustainable development? How will it strengthen Indian democracy?

Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use 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 the future generations. When the development is 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. All these steps will strengthen Indian democracy.

14. What do you mean by participation of citizens in the democratic process?

Participation in a democratic polity is not confined simply to participation in elections. A vital form of participation comes through membership of political parties and more importantly, active membership in independent non-governmental organizations, that are known as "civil society organizations." Civil Society Organizations represent a variety of interests of different groups: women, students, farmers, workers, doctors, teachers, business owners, religious believers and human rights activists.

15. What are the various forums or tools available to a common citizen for making the government accountable?

Citizens have to make the democratic system responsive and responsible. They are needed to ensure that the Parliamentarians, Members of State Legislatures and their representatives in Panchayati Raj and Municipal Institutions are accountable. The instruments created by Right to Information Act, 2005 in our country enable citizens to play their role effectively. Citizens must watch carefully how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own opinions and interests.