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India: Polity

Democracy losing its shine

 

People are gradually losing faith in democracy. Why?
SAYAN GHOSH | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : Democracy | SDSA | CSDS | Scams |
 

India has been an inspiration for many developing and third world countries for its ability to sustain democracy. Successive governments have often touted India's democratic credentials, taking pride in the country's appellation as being ‘the largest democracy on the earth’ and projecting this badge of honour to brandish its image abroad. Sadly though, its own people are increasingly losing faith in democracy as an institution, as per the data obtained from the State of Democracy in South Asia (SDSA) report released early this year.

The Indian survey conducted by CSDS (Center for the Study of Developing Societies) reveals that India’s electorates are getting disillusioned by the prospects of democracy in the country. Their confidence in the system has plummeted from 55 per cent in 2005 to 47 per cent today. The figure is particularly worrisome in so much as the majority community's faith in the institution hovers around 43 per cent compared to 51 per cent for the minority. The minorities' commitment for democracy is understandable as most atrocities against the weaker communities, according to worldwide historical evidence, has been committed by autocratic regimes (from Hitler’s genocide against Jews to apartheid in South Africa against racial non-whites, especially blacks). Quite understandably then, democracy remains the safest bet for the minorities. However, it's the abdication of the majority's faith in democracy that serves as a premonition for the health of our existing structure.

The daily expose of scams in Indian public life, apart from the worsening law and order situation, and the policy paralysis afflicting major economic sectors, seem to be making Indians wary of the democratic system. The fact that a number of non-democratic countries seem to enjoy greater economic prosperity and political cohesiveness, as against our own, are also helping plant doubts about the efficacy of the democratic institution. Even in our neighbourhood, countries with non-democratic institutions such as China, apart from a number of East Asian nations like Singapore and Malaysia are much better off on all social and economic parameters than India.

It is clear from the survey that India’s democracy is letting down its people and people are becoming increasingly disillusioned. However, despite the imperfections of the system – the path forward is to let it mature instead of taking regressive steps that would further enfeeble the democratic edifice. Frittering away the gift of democracy would be like shooting oneself in the foot. The way to restoring people's faith in democracy lies in strengthening our institutions and plugging the loopholes of our political structure with proper checks and balances.  
 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017