By Akhil Bansal : We, as a nation, got freedom in 1947. People were given the hope of a country where they can breathe freely, where they can decide their destinies, where they can no longer be slaves, but the part of an unhedged society where they can “rule themselves”, as we transitioned into the world’s largest democracy. The world’s largest democracy!!! These four words can fake anyone’s thinking about us, who can easily create fanciful illusions in his mind about what the reality is. So much distorted as a democracy we are that many have forgotten the original meaning of democracy and many call it unrealistic, therefore “rule by the people”.
But lets analyse that why we are still not able to evolve into a “desired system”, even more than six decades after independence. Before 1947, we were under Britishers and before it, under monarchs, so we never had a taste of democratic system. But after our tryst with freedom, we were a democratic system. Now the government was under a legal boundation to get public mandate for its rule. There was a serving attitude in our initial leaders, who formulated our Constitution and had a pro-people inclination to an extent, but as our polity evolved with single party rule for almost two decades, proliferation of many self-seaking elements was witnessed, as the check and balance in the system was weak to control the Congress’s power. Further, since our public was, and still is, illiterate, unaware and politically inactive, so there was no “people’s control” also. Furthermore, the fissures in our social system along caste, religious, linguistic and regional lines gave our politicians ample scope to exploit us. The result of this is that most of the votes today are “already determined” and the only right which our people seem to exercise is also held hostage to “the elites”.
The basic cause of this can be said to be the imposition of a democratic system on a traditional society with primordial loyalties and the opportunism demonstrated by the “rulers” of the ensuing turbulence, who rather than contributing positively are actually trying to maintain the divides or even further to widen the fissures into chasms, so that they can maintain their grip through these “social gaps”. The innocence of our people is exploited time and again to such an extent that they find themselves caught in a paradoxical situation where they vote to power the same person they don’t trust at all! Its like sheer helplessness. And this helplessness furthers manifests itself when people start feeling that governance is not their issue, it is something to be done by a selected minority.
This situation ramifies itself in other peculiar incidents like leaders being openly corrupt and criminals, but still enjoying power; failure on policy implementation front, where glossy policies are formulated in legislatures with leaders very well knowing that these are just paper planes for them to throw at public and many other day to day incidents which you and me witness everyday and let pass as if we don’t know that it happened at all.
So, what can be a solution of this vicious circle, how can be transform it into a virtuous one? Well, a step wise solution calls for first mobilising the public to enforce what has been granted to them by the law, leave alone, what they actually deserve for further action. For breaking this collusion across the system, people need to understand that the minority is strong enough for every individual member of the majority, but not the majority itself. They need to understand that the active minority is not allowing it to organise and making it remain as a passive recipient of governance, rather than a partner and contributor to it. But, this organisation should be around governance issues and not around other loyalities like one’s birthplace, caste, kin, etc. as these are the very loyalities which have disintegrated us.
But the beginning of this virtuous cycle requires active intervention by citizens who can make people taste the fruits of joining for themselves to force the state to provide them with their due. Albeit, this is easy said than done, but yes, this seems to be the way out of the present situation where majority of our people don’t have even bare minimum to survive, leave alone, live. But once the power of mobilisation and unity around the “real issue” is demonstrated to our people, we can trust our citizenary that this can move forward as a force to reckon with , as was validated by Gandhi ji, who himself believed in public’s ability to protest and getting to knees a mighty imperial force, what to say of the present case, which is atleast more favourable than the former one.
** Author is an alumnus of IIT Delhi **