Our Democracy

Tue, Mar 1, 2011

Social Issues

INDIA: A democratic country. But is it truly democratic? What exactly is truly democratic?  These are difficult questions for us, as Indians. There are numerous comparisons between the various democracies of the world especially between India & US. One school of thought favours India & the other favours US. Some argue that in India, we have a pseudo-democracy since we have hosted a dynastic rule for more than 50 years out of the 63 years of independence.  The counter argument for the same is that there have been ‘equal opportunities for everyone’. Everyone might not agree with this phrase but then there is no denying the fact that there have been people with no political background who have come to power. In this article, I will attempt to throw some light on the constituents & their present status in the phenomenon called Indian democracy.

PEOPLE

We have learnt that a democratic government is a government of the people, for the people & by the people. This brings us to focus on the ‘People’. Who are these ‘People’? There can be interesting answers to this question. However, here, I will not focus on the answer but I will explore whether the answer to this question has changed over the course of time.  Here it is pertinent to define the time interval or the two ways with which we have been ruled.

The first one refers to the period about 300-400 years ago when we were ruled by kings & their kingdoms, where the transfer of power was through inheritance, blood-shed, force, conspiracy or benevolence. Here, we can identify two categories of the people those who are ruling & those who are being ruled. The distinction was clear.

The second one refers to the present time. Has the answer to that question changed now? My take will be YES! One is the ruler,referred subsequently as ruling class, other one is the ruled, referred subsequently as common class. Then what is the new category which has emerged now? The new class may be referred as ‘Powerful Commons.’ Now the question is, who these ‘Powerful Commons’ are? Why has this new class emerged?  More importantly, why did the ruling class, allowed it to emerge& sustain?

POWERFUL COMMONS

The powerful commons we refer here are the corporate czars like the Ambanis, the Tatas, the Birlas etc. who have gained stature over the course of time. Whether there stature is because of the large amount of money they possess? And why is it that only a selected few from the common class have attained that stature?  Emergence of this powerful commons can be attributed to the inefficient transfer of power in the ruling class. This inefficiency led to a burgeoning rift between the ruling & the common class. Then there were those in the ruling class, who in their pursuit of power, were willing to share it with some of the commons to gain an edge. Hence it was the need (or greed) for more power that led to the emergence of powerful commons.

One of the after-effects of globalisation is the shattering of the perceived boundaries amongst the various societies.  The growing aspirations of the ruling class to have its influence on the societies outside their domain & further pursuit of power could have been satisfied only with this powerful commons, which itself depended heavily on the ruling class for its sustenance. Hence, here it becomes pertinent to point out that exchange of bribes and favours between ruling class and powerful commons is the general rule, and not an exception.

Hence, an environment has been created where both co-exist independently & work in tandem to maintain the status quo. This answers our earlier question of who are these people & why there is a shift in the number of categories of people in a democracy.

The allocation of 2G spectrum, Nira Radia saga & misappropriation in the allocation of contracts for natural resources should be viewed as transactions between the ruling class & the powerful commons. These are amongst the few which have come to light because of its scale. It definitely is just the tip of the iceberg.

COMMON CLASS

Now let’s shift our focus on the common class. How is it affected by the transactions between the two classes & what role does it play in it.

The Common Class consists of those who are being ruled; ruled by both the ruling class & the powerful commons. It is that segment of our society for whom the ruling class & powerful commons take the decisions, they are the ones who discuss those decisions & later abide by them, they are the ones for whom the policies are made, they are the ones who pay the price of every error which the other two classes commit, they are the ones who are burnt alive with every shift in the power, they are the only ones who are affected by any calamity, they are the ones on whom the power is exercised. They also constitute those who broker the interactions of the ruling class & the powerful commons.

Again, it is not that both the classes can act in any way they perceive as right. Both the classes want to keep the common class happy because it is the commons who make them what they are. Many times they are also questioned about their actions; however, the irony is their liability ends just after giving an answer. Barring a few exceptions, the common class has not been able to undo any action/decision taken by these classes. The ruling class and the powerful commons ensure that the bare minimum level of resources is available so that the common class doesn’t become extinct.

And where does our common class stand in this era of daily doses of scams, sting operations, corruption charges & bureaucratic hurdles? The answer is nowhere. Because nothing will come out for him in the end & nothing will change. After couple of months of any scam, it will be business as usual. Even more chilling is the fact that he cannot do anything about it. He is just too busy earning his daily bread, aspiring for a house, car (most pursue an MBA for that matter), planning for his future & then his kids future.

The most a common man can do is to file a RTI/application in various government departments which will not provide him anything more than the copy of the final judgement about the case (or stating that the case is still in under consideration) . The impotent rage which surrounds him will eventually die out. He can find solace only by thinking that some amount of the killings made by the powerful commons (& to some extent by the ruling class) might be passed on to him so that he can remain afloat.

I agree that the issues raised in this article are highly contentious. But we must also appreciate that summing up the plight of Indian democracy in just 1000 words is also unjustified. I welcome comments from the readers and I’ll try to address them in my next article.

Prashant Jain

MBA batch of 2012,

IIT Kanpur


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