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Insights into Editorial: Dialogues for democracy, lessons from Rajasthan

 

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Introduction:

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.

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.

Context:

Nearing to its two months and counting since lakhs of farmers have gathered in Delhi protesting against the farm laws.

Leaving aside the merits and demerits of the laws, many are aggrieved about the process of promulgation of the laws as it lacked any consultation with those that the laws are purportedly meant to serve.

Very often, policy makers ignore the need for dialogue and deliberation with beneficiaries.

Consultations are needed during the initial stages of law making of a government programme as much as a continuous dialogic exercise must be the norm for effective programme implementation.

Even when policies are anchored in good principles, their implementation is often messy and requires iterations based on people’s concerns. In particular, redistributive, people-facing welfare policies need constant feedback.

Democracy model of Development:

  1. In a democracy, it is an essential prerequisite to have an ideal model of development.
  2. The formulation and implementation of policies greatly depend on the model of development adopted for this purpose.
  3. Several debates took place in the Indian political and business circles, about the time of Independence and Constitution making in India, on the future course of development of India.
  4. In fact, the very concern of India’s survival as a single entity was
    foremost in the minds of its founders.
  5. The purpose of evolving an ideal pattern was not only to safeguard the democratic principles but also create necessary social and political conditions to ensure an overall development.
  6. The debates on the issues of development were complex and diverse ranging from land policies to the industrial development and planning.

Case study from Rajasthan MGNREGA:

  1. We illustrate this through an example of the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Rajasthan.
  2. Rajasthan has a healthy tradition of consulting with worker groups and civil society organisations not only in the initial stage of policy formulation but also to take continuous feedback from the field and carry out periodic midway course corrections.
  3. In the case of MGNREGA, engagement with civil society organisations had been institutionalised in the MGNREGA samvads; some of which were attended by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
  4. MGNREGA wages are now directly credited from the central government to a worker’s bank account. While there is a case to be made for direct transfers, this system is not without its pitfalls.
  5. An overreliance on the technical architecture of MGNREGA has subverted workers’ rights.
  6. The troubles are compounded when things go wrong as workers run from pillar to post knocking on the doors of various government officials, banks, payment disbursement agencies, panchayat officials, etc.

Best way to ensure that economic development: Dependent development:

  1. Democracy as the possibility of the people making collective decisions for their common good is something that cannot be taught or imposed from the outside.
  2. The enormous popularity of the Cuban revolution in the face of outside interference and economic isolation suggests that the vanguard movement with a non-partisan people power electoral system may be the best way to ensure that economic development in the Third World will benefit all the people more or less equally, rather than exacerbating class, power and other social differences.
  3. It promotes social justice, national cohesion and local cooperation rather than class stratification and dissension.
  4. Small island nations do not exist in a vacuum, rather they depend economically on what happens elsewhere.
  5. Where poverty, health, housing, illiteracy, class and outside interference are the major problems, pursuit of only self interest minimizes rather than maximizes the common good, especially where foreign owned enterprises acquire not only the major benefit of economic production but also control over the domestic politics.
  6. In such situation, collectivism over individualism can sometimes be the intelligent choice for the people, so long as it involves true participation or representation.
  7. In a society such as Cuba’s where the large-scale economic production property is part of the common wealth (not just state-owned but more and more in medium and small cooperatives) the people naturally become more involved and concerned with their common interest because it, rather than individual accumulation, is what serves their self interest.
  8. Overall, the dependent, neo-liberal capitalist road to development has not been a resounding success for most people in the Third World (also for many in the so-called developed nations).
  9. In the 43 years since the Alliance for Progress, many Latin Americans have been wondering when the progress will come.
  10. In Cuba the people are making their own progress, and will continue to if allowed to without outside interference.

Conclusion:

The American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said, ‘Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.’

Federalism and good governance require constant constructive engagement between people and officials.

If a government is committed to constitutional principles, then paying attention to multiple points of view and listening to the voices of the marginalised is a prerequisite.

“Democracy, if it means anything, means equality; not merely the equality of possessing a vote but economic and social equality.”