Rajya Sabha TV In Depth Age of Democracy
(TOPIC COVERED: GENERAL STUDIES II – GOVERNANCE, CONSTITUTION, POLITY)
Democracy is a form of government in which power ultimately comes from the people who are governed, either through direct voting or through elected representatives. To protect the ideas of democracy worldwide and promote its principles, the International Day of Democracy is observed on 15th September every year. India is today the largest functioning democracy in the world.
FORMS OF GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY
- Forms of government on the basis of power source are:
- DEMOCRACY: Rule of the people
- OLIGARCHY: Rule of the few (People are distinguished by nobility, wealth, religious, military control etc)
- AUTOCRACY: Supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person/ polity.
- The word “Democracy” is derived from the Greek word “Demokratia”.
Demokratia = Demos (people) + Kratos (power) = “The people hold power”
- Basic forms of democracy are:
- DIRECT DEMOCRACY: Citizens participate in the decision-making personally. Example- Switzerland.
- REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: Elected officials represent a group of people. It is an element of both parliamentary and presidential systems of government. Examples – United Kingdom, India, USA, etc.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY
- The International Day of Democracy is celebrated by United Nations since 2007. Its preamble says that “democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full representation in all aspects of life.”
- The International Day of Democracy is important to see the limitations of achieving democracy and how it can be improvised Demands of localising democracy (local self-government) have been there. Movements in the recent years like Occupy Wall Street (United States), Arab Spring, Crisis of Brexit suggest that representation in democracy needs to be improved effectively.
- Essential elements of Democracy are:
- Respect for human rights
- Holding periodic, genuine elections by universal suffrage.
- Theme for International Day of Democracy, 2018 – Democracy under strain: Solutions for a Changing World. It aims at:
- Looking ways to invigorate democracy
- Tackling economic and political inequalities
- Making democracy more inclusive
- Making democracies more innovative and responsive to emerging challenges (like migration and climate change).
DEMOCRACY IN INDIA
- Ancient India had democratic republic even before 6th century BCE and India has seen democratic rule through ages. Vaishali (in present day Bihar) is considered one of the first republics around 6th century BCE. Republics at that time were called ‘Mahajanpadas’ and Sabhas and Samitis (assemblies) existed. Panchayat systems were also used in some of these republics.
- Anti-colonial movements in India brought democracy in picture during British rule in India. Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar, etc helped in bringing universal adult franchise, at a time when literacy rate was very low in the nation.
- Government of India Act, 1935 laid foundation of democratic rule in India.
- India became independent from British rule in 1947.
- Although Gandhi wanted village republic as a basic unit, India went for Westminster (United Kingdoms) type of political model. But India granted Universal Adult Franchise under Article 326 of its Constitution effective since 1950 giving a strong base for democracy.
- Indian democracy has stood the test of time that witnessed events like partition of India and Pakistan, massive exchange of population with Pakistan, integration of over 500 princely states and some of the wars in later years with Pakistan and China.
- It has evolved from a single majority party after independence to a multi-party system.
- Indian Republic at present has a parliamentary system of democracy and a federal structure in which leaders are elected by citizens of various castes, classes, religions, etc.
Democracy is important because it gives representation to a larger section of society in the Government. But the world still witnesses full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and even authoritarian regimes. Efforts from institutions like United Nations and nations world over are needed so that representation by citizens of various nations of the world may be met and their voices be heard. At the same time, democracy also needs to have various internal checks like independence of judiciary so that its real goals are achieved.