Columns | Game, Seth and Match
Democracy at Stake
Celebrate the spirit of the Constitution instead of swearing on it
02 Dec, 2022
THERE IS NO DOUBT that while we in India celebrate, with great gusto, 75 years of our independence and give it esoteric names, our democracy has gone awry. It was famously said with forms of government that let fools contest; that which is governed best is best. But we seriously need to ask ourselves if democracy is working for India. I am not in any way suggesting we junk democracy and replace it with an autocracy: all I am saying is that democracy, as we know it, doesn’t seem to work for us, and where it does, it is democracy in mere name.
Let’s start at the beginning: there is no doubt that caste has wreaked havoc in India and the beneficiaries, ironically, are the politicians and not those discriminated against. So, how can we say our Constitution has actually helped matters? In many ways, we have replaced meritocracy with guaranteed reservations based on birth, and nothing else. Today, we live in a country that guarantees employment because of who you are rather than what you’ve achieved. Sadly, there is reverse reservation: against those who may belong to a superior caste (if you can even call it that) rather than those who deserve those jobs. Politicians always seem to thrive in divisive societies. No matter what Narendra Modi may do, there is no question that India’s divisive quotient has not waned. More and more people hark back to who they were born as rather than what they’ve done with their lives. Even professions have been given unholy tags, be it a chowkidar or a chaiwallah. This level of gain has only harmed the fabric of our democracy, and I haven’t even come to religion yet.
For far too long, we in India have confused elections with democracy. We have believed that since we have a parliament, we must have a democracy. But then how often does parliament function, and whose interests do the MPs represent? It is a known fact that you can actually buy yourself a seat in India’s upper house and spend your way into the Lower House. Is that democracy?
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The two fundamental rights of every society, education and healthcare, are in our country coloured with biases which just don’t seem to go away. Every country has riches and poverty, but our poverty is crueller as it is the impoverishment of opportunities: for long, our politicians have revelled in creating an unequal India, and now, that inequality is coming to haunt us in a myriad of ways. And all we have as a riposte to this are democracy and elections. Our elections themselves are the children of deceit and corruption. Which political party ever adheres to expenditure codes? How many people with criminal records are handed out electoral tickets? How many corrupt folks suddenly become pious when they join a particular party? Look at religious appeasement, and you will be surprised that no one takes any suo moto action anymore.
For far too long, we in India have confused elections with democracy. We have believed that since we have a Parliament, we must have a democracy. But then how often does Parliament function, and whose interests do the MPs represent? It is a known fact that you can actually buy yourself a seat in India’s Upper House and spend your way into the Lower House. So, is that democracy? Or, just a convenient sham which makes us look good internationally?
It’s time we took a hard look at our Constitution and instead of swearing on it or celebrating its tenure, we began celebrating its spirit. Only then will we do justice to our Preamble— “We, the people…”
About The Author
Suhel Seth is Managing Partner of Counselage India and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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