India As a Democratic Country: Where We Are Lacking

Peoples’ rule known as democracy encompasses the twin principles: popular control over collective decision making and equality of rights in the exercise of that control. These principles have been described by David Beetham and Kevin Boyle in their book Democracy (1996). 

These two principles are the founding stones of a democracy. In a democracy, the government is formed through competitive elections but the issue that the electronic voting machines (EVM) can be tempered with has raised suspicions over their reliability and have raised questions about the authenticity in holding elections. 

Democracy Is Not Just About Elections

A democracy accepts pluralism and provides space for diversity by giving equal rights to individuals for expressing diverse ideas, opinions and viewpoints. Though diversity brings differences, in a democratic system differences are resolved through democratic means of debate, discussion and persuasion and not by imposition. 

Democracy becomes meaningless if ‘freedom of speech and expression’is curtailed. The ‘freedom of speech and expression’is important because no idea is completely false and it always has an element of truth in it as pointed out by John Stuart Mill in his book On Liberty. And it is only through the conflict of such opposing views that the truth emerges. 

Things Democracy Can't Digest

The killing of people like Gauri Lankesh for presenting a different viewpoint is not acceptable in a democratic country which seeks to ensure the freedom of speech and expression of its citizens. The Indian Constitution guides the functioning of the government and it limits the power of political authorities. 

But if people lose faith in the democratic fabric of the country and take law in their own hands, then such a development poses threat to the very survival of democracy. For instance, the Karni Sena revolted against the Supreme Court’s decision to release the movie “Padmavat” in theatres. 

The consequent violence and the damaging of the public property including the attack on a school bus in Gurugram are the incidents that cannot be easily digested in a country which claims to be the world’s largest democracy. Media is said to be the fourth pillar of democracy. It informs people, acts as a watchdog of the government activities and it sets agendas for debate and discussion. 

Media Failing to Be the Pillar of Democracy

But in today’s times, the media has failed to perform most of the above mentioned functions. Instead of mobilizing the public opinion on important issues such as poverty, unemployment, education, safety and environment, the media has become the means of generating quick revenues by sensationalizing trivial issues such as celebrity related gossips and the unending Hindu-Muslim debate along with the controversial statements of the political leaders. 

The un-necessary coverage of certain news hinders the independent and critical thinking of the public. In such a context, the role of the media needs to be reviewed as the task of the media is to provide critical analysis rather than conduct the paid news analysis. 

Now is the right time to raise the question ‘Is India really a democracy?’ Where a party with lesser number of seats is able to set up a government and thus make a mockery of peoples’ mandate as it happened in the legislative assembly election of Goa in 2017. 

Is it really a democracy if intolerance is acceptable and secular principles are ignored? Is it really a democracy if mob rule exists in place of rule of law?

Written By - Nidhi Verma

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