Saturday, September 20, 2014

Let us think and Act with an open mind to
Develop a Vibrant Democracy – Article 14

Introduction: I have identified thirty obstacles which cause a distorted and ineffective democracy and possible solutions for these. Because very few people have time / inclination to read long articles, these are presented in separate brief articles for pointed attention and easier assimilation. I hope this will lead to spreading of awareness and facilitating point by point debate on each of these for saving our sinking democracy.
(Please keep these articles within easy reach for referring back till the series is completed.)

Fundamental weaknesses of present day democracy

Successful governance of a country requires the services of multiple professionals with specialized qualifications and experience at the top level. This basic requirement has been ignored for the top functionaries of government in almost all countries.  Functions of policy making, enactment of laws, planning and implementation of projects and overall governance have been usurped from qualified professionals by politicians without the required specific qualifications under the  claim that they have been elected by people!! How can this absence of qualification for governance be justified even if the claim is true?  Moreover, this claim is completely hollow because of the basic defect that people who elected them did not have the knowledge and expertise needed to select efficient persons with specialized qualifications and experience to enact laws, make policies and govern the country!! This lack of knowledge and expertise among people becomes deplorable when large numbers of people are illiterate or do not have even a moderate level of general education. Just imagine what will happen to a patient if the surgeon is selected by people or to a dam, bridge or house if the engineer is selected by people or to delivery of justice if judges are selected by people and so on!! Selecting top managers of governance by people is bound to have similar atrocious consequences. It is significant that such calamities have not occurred only because the multiple professionals responsible for governance have been selected by specialized institutions manned by highly qualified selectors with many years of experience. In sharp contrast, the political leaders who have to supervise these expert professionals are selected by people without requisite knowledge and expertise!! This topsy-turvy situation is a fundamental weakness of democracy as practiced at present.

Fortunately, even though people were least competent to select efficient persons to run a democratic government, they had awareness enough to distinguish between the bad and the worse and throw out the latter who, they knew, had failed miserably to meet their needs and aspirations. They have also refused to be fooled by the high decibel propaganda about high growth rate which has benefited the rich but not the poor. This awareness, which had received praise after general elections,  has so far saved our democracy from crumbling down further and ruining our country by cautioning such politicians that their misdeeds will not be tolerated indefinitely and rejecting bad governance - the so called incumbency factor which is a reflection of this awareness. Despite their frustrations, this awareness has also kept in check revolutionary violence for the time being. Further frustrations may burst the dam!!

A second fundamental weakness pointed out in Article 2 is that  peoples’ representatives have seldom been elected by majority of people and do not generally have the support of even 50% (often much less) of the people  in their constituencies!! 

A third fundamental weakness  is that there is no system to assess the efficiency of performance of political leaders every year as is regularly done even for the qualified professionals involved in governance.  This topsy-turvy discrimination is obviously illogical and risky. It is also not realized that this discrimination is actually down-grading politics as a strange profession which can be practiced by anyone (even without basic education) without being assessed for efficiency!!  The only “peculiar assessment” called for by this strange profession is that some people (not even majority), that too without knowledge and expertise of governance, consider their governance as satisfactory, that too once in five years (not annually), even if it has not fulfilled their needs and aspirations. This has been achieved by using the power of their oratory to mesmerize people to blindly believe that they are their benefactors. Ironically, this situation has been continuing for such a long time that no questions have been asked.

Moreover, this situation makes a mockery of education and training and also the need for assessment of efficiency of performance. The message conveyed by this is that these important practices may be allowed to continue but used only to make a justification whenever called for!!

It may be argued that increased GDP growth rate has proved the efficiency of this distorted system. This argument is faulty for two reasons:

(1)It ignores that growth has not been inclusive and poverty, hunger and malnutrition of children continue to be rampant. Inflation is stifling; food prices are spiraling; infrastructure projects have slowed down; manufacturing sector is in dire straits; petroleum prices are constantly increasing; the rupee has collapsed; fiscal deficit is high; the rich are becoming fabulously richer; and even the high growth rate is dwindling. Moreover, governance by non-professionals (politicians) has not only resulted in these shameful situations but also to complete callousness in rectifying these shameful situations. (Many more examples of shameful situations faced by the country are given in a later article.) The single track pursuit of growth rate and other misplaced priorities have been at the expense of welfare of people. All these clearly show that except for growth rate, which has resulted in a sense of complacency, the system has hardly achieved anything substantial to speak off for welfare of people.

(2)There is a strong possibility that if the qualified and experienced professionals, who formed the back bone of governance for many years, had been allowed to govern the country without interferences by politicians for selfish and party interests, the situation could have been much better and shameful situations could have been avoided!!

These fundamental weaknesses of present day democracy form the twenty-second and most important obstacle which resulted in a distorted and ineffective democracy.

Three fundamental weaknesses have been pointed out above:

(1) People are least competent to select efficient persons with specialized qualifications and experience to enact laws, make policies and govern the country   because they do not have the required knowledge and expertise.

(2) Politicians who have usurped power from qualified professionals under the  claim that they have been elected by people have seldom been elected by majority of people and do not  generally have the support of even 50% (often much less) of the people in their constituencies!! 

(3) There is no system to assess the efficiency of performance of political leaders every year as is done for the professionals involved in governance.

The incompetence of people to select suitable leaders  emphasized under (1) above gives further justification to the suggestion in Article 2 that we should seriously consider an alternative for the election system because it has failed to elect true representatives with majority support of the people. Therefore, considering both (1) and (2) above, the only solution is to find an alternative for the defective election system.

Meanwhile, the elected representatives should be given the necessary basic training before they start functioning as MPs, MLAs or Panchayat members so that they can do justice to their work at least in a semi professional manner. It                                      is desirable to train some of them to work as specialists in a field of governance of their choice to qualify as professionals in governance. It is pertinent that, unlike for political leaders, basic training is a normal practice for all persons recruited for civil and military services before they are given responsibilities!!

With regard to (3) above, at the end of each year, efficiency of all elected representatives should be objectively assessed and those not performing efficiently warned to improve, as suggested in Article 3. If the elections are held only for those who become inefficient in later yearly assessments or cross a prefixed age limit or voluntarily retire, as suggested in that Article, the training period for new political leaders will not affect much the continuity of governance because the majority of political leaders would have been already trained as suggested in the preceding paragraph and working more efficiently because of yearly assessment of efficiency.

A better alternative to overcome these fundamental weaknesses may be to thoroughly overhaul the system using a professional approach, which is badly needed. This aspect is discussed in detail in another article

Comments (especially those which point out errors or deficiencies, if any, in this article and thereby help to improve it) and suggestions to overcome this very serious obstacle are welcome. Please send these to I shall make use of all befitting suggestions to prepare the last two articles of this series – Articled 23 will spell out the basic principles which will guide formulation of the revised system of democracy and Article 24 will outline the revised system of democracy for public debate to arrive at a consensus.

You can help to save our sinking democracy by making as many people as possible aware of these obstacles and possible solutions, through personal group discussions, newspaper articles, e-mail and social media like face book and twitter so that we can have healthy debates and arrive at some innovative ideas to save our sinking democracy.