Sunday, June 21, 2015

Let us think and Act with an open mind to
Develop a Vibrant Democracy – Article 23


Following elaborate studies and discussions in Articles 1 to 20, Article 21 put together some important aspects highlighted in earlier articles to reemphasize the back ground for formulating necessary changes in our democracy. Article 22 emphasized the need to have a comprehensive democracy with many sub systems to overcome the misconception that democracy is required for governance only. It suggested the following aim and definition of comprehensive democracy:

Aim of comprehensive democracy: Ensure that people can live happily with good quality of life and dignity under peaceful environment.

Definition of comprehensive democracy: A system which ensures that people can live happily with good quality of life and dignity under peaceful environment.

To systematically develop comprehensive democracy, we should recognize the basic needs and principles it has to satisfy. Thereafter, holistic action has to be taken with determination and commitment to satisfy these needs and principles. While doing so we should (a) think out of the box and (b) prevent influential persons and power mongers from interfering to protect their vested interests.

This Article spells out the basic needs and principles which should guide formulation of comprehensive democracy.

A comprehensive democracy ought to have:

1. Collective leadership: Historically, democracy was thought of as an alternative to despicable monarchy in which all power was concentrated on one individual. In the type of democracy which was developed power was shifted to elected representatives of people. But, power became concentrated on one leader of representatives who became a sly monarch and the process of developing true democracy was not completed. To avoid such sly monarchy and effectively complete the vision of democracy true collective leadership is absolutely necessary.

2. Efficient sub systems: In addition to governance sub system, other sub-systems should be established for each of the other aspects which ensure that people can live happily with a good quality of life and dignity under a peaceful environment.

At present, sub systems other than governance have hardly received any attention and should be developed after proper studies, dialogues and debates. For example, “religion sub-system”, which ought to promote peace, love, harmony and brotherhood, has often led to disturbance of peace, loss of brotherhood, conflicts and even war. Comprehensive democracy ought to have a suitable professional authority to remove aberrations in religious activities and give proper sense of direction, without interfering in practice of any religion, after carrying out necessary studies, debates and dialogues. The emphasis should be on properly following religious principles to ensure that people can live happily with good quality of life (including spiritual development) and dignity, under peaceful environment.

3. Professional management: There can be no doubt that most efficient management can be provided only by professionally qualified and experienced persons, without hindrance from non-professionals. To ensure that each sub-system functions efficiently, professional management should be ensured and concurrent checks and balances should be provided.

4. Concurrent control by people: At present, elections are conducted once in five years to provide voice to people. This indirect method has completely failed (Articles 1 to 4). This should be replaced by the half yearly meetings suggested in Article 18. In these meetings, authorities under each sub-system, should inform people either directly or through their local leaders (without any exceptions), about their achievements as well as problems faced and future plans. People should give their assessment of the extent to which their needs and aspirations have been met. This direct method of ensuring that each sub system is answerable to people once in six months is far superior to giving indirect voice to people through elected representatives once in five years.

5. A mechanism to ensure systematic changes in the system: Through the frequent and direct control mentioned above, people can give frequent feed backs about how far each sub-system has satisfied their needs and aspirations. But most of them do not have capacity, inclination and time to suggest changes needed in sub-systems to (a) ensure that their needs and aspirations are fully met and (b) adjust to rapid changes occurring in the country and the world. Such ideas and visions can be provided only by a section of intelligentsia which is in touch with people and global changes. A mechanism has to be set up to encourage flow of ideas and visions from intelligentsia, to analyze these and to present useful ideas to authorities of each sub-system. This approach also makes intelligentsia feel much more involved in democracy than at present.

6. Independent authority to regulate and expand media activities: Media failed to systematically put continuous pressure on government to solve problems faced by people and the country and to provide an avenue or platform for interested people to freely spread and absorb positive ideas about development (Article 16). Media was not adequately involved in activities of non-government sub systems. A professional body should be created to regulate and expand media activities, without hindrance from government, power mongers and commercial interests. This body can also make people more knowledgeable and involved in all aspects of comprehensive democracy so that they can participate more effectively in six monthly meetings. Corporate bodies should be debarred from owning or controlling media to gain power to influence governance and mislead people to serve their selfish interests.

7. Adequate opportunities and services to aam admi: Vested interests often indirectly curtail opportunities and services to common people. For example, commercial enterprises, by providing costly sophisticated services which can be used only by the rich, have diverted attention away from providing affordable education and health care of good quality to common people. Honest journalists are hindered in their activities. Sportsmen have very little say in sports matters. Many talented people in the fields of arts and entertainments are bypassed because of vested interests which blow up persons of their choice only.  All these lead to frustrations among people and hinder proper development of these fields in a democratic manner. Therefore, full attention has to be given to provide adequate opportunities and services to people in all fields in a democratic manner.

8. Full focus on prosperity, dignity, peace, humanity and happiness: The single track concentration on GDP growth has resulted in many shameful situations (Article 15). Inclusive prosperity was conspicuous by its absence. Hardly any attention has been given to ensure that people live happily with dignity and peace.  Comprehensive democracy has to give highest priority to a humanitarian approach to provide prosperity, dignity, peace, and happiness to maximum number of people. While growth of economy of the country is desirable, it is not essential for fulfilling the aim of comprehensive democracy.

9. Provide speedy justice with transparency: Justice sub system needs a thorough overhaul (Article 11). Common people find it extremely difficult to get justice even after many years. This leads to prolonged suffering and worry. Lack of transparency in judgments is another serious problem.

NHRC (another wing of justice sub system) miserably failed to have a check on human rights violations (Article 10).
A justice sub system which can provide speedy affordable justice with transparency and avoid human rights violations is an absolute necessity for comprehensive democracy.

10. Reduce inequalities: For many years we have unsuccessfully stressed on removal of inequalities. This idea is utopian and can never succeed. We have to be pragmatic and fix limits for inequalities, without removing incentives for striving for betterment. 

11. Accept change as a part of evolution: Historically, human race has come a long way from living in caves and walking on bare feet to living in multistoried buildings and traveling by aero planes and even planning to travel to other planets. All these happened because of some persons who boldly strived for change despite majority of people opposing change. It is relevant that after some time, those who opposed changes quietly took advantage of these changes and benefitted from these changes. Even more important, though drastic changes were opposed more forcefully and with scepticism, these were the ones which benefited even the sceptics better. It deserves to be repeatedly emphasized that all eminently worthwhile changes in the past were considered as drastic or impossible changes and were vehemently opposed and ridiculed when these were initiated. These repeated experiences over centauries emphasize the need to accept change, even drastic ones, as a part of evolution.

Those who oppose scrapping of present system of democracy which has failed miserably may argue that many modern countries are having similar system of democracy. This is so because they were not bold enough to try better methods despite internal exposes and demands or were not allowed to do so by vested interests. According to a celebrated academician, “governments all over the world have reached a point where they can do nothing at all for the society”. (Article 22)

Moreover, the above argument shows an inferiority complex that we will only copy others.  Even when change is badly needed, we are not prepared to use our ingenuity to set an example for others to copy. It is pertinent that there were times when India had set examples for others to follow.

Over the past sixty odd years there have been 98 amendments to the Constitution. Even this is not the full story. Hidden within there are changes that have been made to over 230 Articles we swear by.(Times of India dated 01-03-14, page 20). Those who oppose change of democracy because the Constitution has to be changed ought to remember that we have already made more than 230 changes in our sacrosanct Constitution!!
Another argument may be that changes will upset stability. This belittles the need for evolution and the fact that historically stability has existed only for short periods of time. Otherwise, we would have continued to live in caves and walk bare foot!!

In stead of opposing changes on any pretext, what change is required and when should be studied objectively and decision taken with an open and constructive mind.

A relevant question to those who oppose change is: Are they prepared to live, eat, work, travel and enjoy life as their ancestors did? If not, opposition to change, after enjoying benefits of change, is hypocrisy.

Needed action: Without further waste of time, people with vision among politicians, social activists, legal experts, authors, celebrities in different fields, the media and younger generation ought to take keen and sustained interest to thoroughly study all aspects of developing comprehensive democracy and act to make it a reality.

As a prerequisite for kick starting badly needed restructuring of our democracy, mass awareness mobilization and healthy dialogues, discussions and debates should be undertaken to arrive at a broad consensus. Then a new Constituent Assembly should be set up to discuss this consensus and finalize changes in the Constitution.

These steps form the peaceful way to develop comprehensive   democracy before violent protests against our sinking democracy (e.g., by Maoists) spread widely and rock the country.  If we do not make joint efforts now to build a better India with comprehensive democracy, posterity will blame us for our callousness which led to anarchy and violence.

Mahatma Gandhi (who successfully fought for independence against a mighty empire) has shown us that extraordinary changes can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things.

Swami Vivekananda exhorted us: “Arise, awake and sleep not till you reach your goal”.

You can help to replace our sinking democracy by a truly vibrant comprehensive democracy by making as many people as possible aware of the basic needs and principles which should guide formulation of the revised system of democracy 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 replace our sinking democracy.

Comments (especially those which point out errors or deficiencies, if any, in this article and thereby help to improve it) are welcome. Please send these to I shall make use of all befitting suggestions to modify the outline of the revised system of democracy (Article 24).