Insights into Editorial: Stress points of democracy
- February 16, 2019
- Posted by: InsightsIAS
- Category: EDITORIALS
Insights into Editorial: Stress points of democracy
According to M.K.Narayanan (former National Security Advisor and a former Governor of West Bengal), Across the world, democracy is in obvious retreat, with authoritarian tendencies on the rising in power and the influence.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan are constantly projected as the faces of authoritarianism, but many democratic leaders reveal a similar authoritarian streak, which adds to democracy’s woes.
It may be too early to predict the demise of democracy, but the reality is that it is not a good time for democratic institutions, or for those who see democracy as the answer to the world’s problems.
Instances showing the rise of authoritarian streak:
Several examples exist worldwide on how decisions today are handed down, rather than being the outcome of discussion and debate.
- At the same time, there are enough examples of democracy going away from the usual and expected course. Brexit, and the Brexit debate, in the U.K. and Europe is a good example.
- Hallowed international institutions such as the World Bank are facing the heat today for not conforming to the prescriptions of certain powerful members.
The U.S., which prides itself as a leading democracy, is setting a bad example today.
- Under President Donald Trump, arbitrary decision-making has replaced informed debate. His diatribe against what he calls a “ridiculous partisan” investigation against him is an indication.
- Another is his determination to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, even risking an extended shutdown of the U.S. government.
- The decision of the S. to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key pact signed in 1987, and hailed as the centrepiece of European security since the Cold War without a detailed internal discussion appears to be setting the stage for Cold War 2.0.
About Authoritative societies:
Two centuries ago almost all major national societies were authoritarian in this sense, ruled wholly by monarchies or dynasties of one type or another.
Today we have Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman, are among the few remaining examples of such authoritarian regimes and societies.
Then there are authoritative societies. These are societies that are structured traditionally, according to customary rules and laws.
They are spiritually rather than sensory oriented and define truth more in terms of core books and the sayings of great men rather than empirical knowledge.
Critical Review of Author about present ongoing Issues:
Federal Fallout in India: Issues between Centre and States:
Currently, we are witnessing of characterized by verbal abuse exchanges between the Prime Minister and some Chief Ministers which involve accusations such as fomenting riots and running extortion rackets. This damage the fabric of democracy.
Centre-State relations are already under strain, and face the threat of still greater disruption.
Selective interpretation of information is a fallout of such situations. Those in authority deem all information not acceptable to them as nothing but disinformation.
Those opposed to the government, on the other hand, insist that the government suffers from a lack of probity.
Current debate on jobs and unemployment and the Central government has effectively rejected a report by the well-regarded National Sample Survey Office which showed that unemployment in 2017-18 was at a 45-year high without giving any valid reason for doing so.
The government’s only reasoning for rejecting the report is that it is a ‘draft’, which has only added to existing doubts about its real intentions.
Similarly, doubts are being raised about the validity of the government’s revised GDP estimates.
Breaches of democratic conventions is an Authoritative symbol:
Adherence to democratic norms has for long been perceived as crucial to maintaining the independence of institutions and processes.
An impression exists today that attempts are being made to effect changes in the existing system.
Instances during the past year when the government breached long-held conventions have raised questions about the intentions of those in authority.
- One was the brouhaha concerning the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and a perceived attempt to reduce its functional independence, to compel it to fall in line with the views of the government.
- The second instance relates to the Interim Budget in an election year. The Interim Budget announced on the eve of the 2019 general election clearly breaches certain long-settled conventions, by including many substantial measures that ordinarily would form part of a regular Budget.
The intention is plain, build more support for the ruling dispensation in an election year.
Key Institutions are Lifeline for Democracy as well:
Some Critical reviews about degradation of Democratic and Independent Institutions:
- Alongside the decline in democratic conventions, another cause for concern is the virtual collapse of key institutions such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- Touted as India’s premier investigation agency, its reputation has of late suffered a near mortal blow, mainly on account of internal quarrels, as also external interference in its internal affairs.
- Created out of the Delhi Special Police Establishment in 1963, a brainchild of then-Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, the agency was earlier headed by persons with impeccable integrity and ability.
- It had also adhered previously to the salutary principle of not carrying out arrests, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.
- Over time, the quality of the CBI leadership and the tribe of proven investigators has witnessed a decline, which has impacted the image of the organisation.
- An agency of the government, part of the Ministry of Personnel functioning under the Prime Minister, supervised at one step removed by the Central Vigilance Commission, and constantly under the watch of the Supreme Court, the CBI serves many masters.
- The choice of CBI Director, following the Vineet Narain case, by a committee headed by the Prime Minister, with the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition as the other members, has hardly helped the CBI maintain a reputation for independence. The recent unsavoury trauma, reflects the lack of institutional culture in the organisation.
- Compounding the situation arising from the lack of trained and competent investigators is the fact that supervisory officers, who come and go, are most often not in a position to provide proper guidance to investigating officers.
It is, however, the ignoring of democratic conventions nearer home that are cause for greater concern.
In a pluralistic, multi-party federal system, disdain for democratic conventions and the violation of well-entrenched behavioural patterns are causing irreversible damage to the polity.
Democracy was inspired by the lofty ideals of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. These ideals led many countries to challenge the absolutist monarchies of the past.
In Europe, democratic ideals and values grew in response to the oppressive rule of absolutist monarchs. In India, the idea of democracy came with colonial rule but conferred subjecthood without citizenship on the Indian people.
Colonial rule kindled the aspiration of Indians to become a nation of free and equal citizens and led to the formation of the mass movements and agitations to get complete freedom.
We have seen that democracies not only do not make war on each other, but the more democratic two nations the less likely they will commit violence against each other.