Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Let us think and Act with an open mind
to Develop a Vibrant DemocracyArticle 22

Articles 1 to 20 of this series have described thirty obstacles which resulted in a distorted and ineffective democracy. These articles also gave some skeleton suggestions to overcome these. Article 21 reiterated some important aspects in earlier articles to reemphasize the back ground for formulating necessary changes in democracy.

It is crystal clear that tinkering with individual aspects of present system, with naïve and unrealistic expectations, is thoroughly inadequate because of following reasons:

1.  There were too many faults in implementing it (30 have been identified in these articles – there may be more).
2.  It had some fundamental mistakes (highlighted in some of these articles.)
3.  There is a need to replace current restricted democracy with a comprehensive democracy to meet needs and aspirations of people (Artivcle 18  
4.  The new cannot be built correctly without discarding the old
5.  To tackle basic issues bravely it is essential to think out of the box, starting with a fresh approach to concept of democracy.

Concept of democracy: As explained in Article 18, a fundamental mistake in present concept of democracy is to consider that democracy is needed only for good governance. Many more aspects e.g., religion, culture, entertainment, recreation etc., have influence on quality of life – may be even more than governance. To live happily with good quality of life and dignity under peaceful environment all these aspects require careful attention and proper direction, which are lacking at present. Present day democracy ignores the fact that conflicts in some of these activities have been responsible for many unhappy situations and disturbance of peace and harmony.  For example, all religions have laudable principles which if channeled properly, without interfering with their freedom, can lead to peace and harmony. If not, it can lead to disharmony and even fights, riots and wars as had happened number of times in the past all over the world. Evidently, a more comprehensive concept of democracy which takes into account all aspects, which have influence on living happily with good quality of life and dignity under peaceful environment, is essential.

Keeping this in view the following aim and definition of comprehensive democracy are suggested:

Aim of comprehensive democracy: Ensure that people can live happily with good quality of life and dignity under peaceful environment.

Definition of comprehensive democracy: A system which ensures that people can live happily with good quality of life and dignity under peaceful environment.

The above aim and definition does not specifically mention about need for governance , health, education, employment or enterprise, prosperity, dignity etc. because these are essential to live happily with good quality of life and dignity.

Government cannot and should not be involved in all aspects mentioned earlier. To ensure proper use of economic, social, religious, cultural and entertainment activities to serve the aim of democracy, it is important to establish some more authorities under the system, in addition to governance authority (government). Details of setting up these authorities and allocation of responsibilities between them have to be formulated by expert groups and debated to arrive at a consensus. This consensus should not be rigid and should be reviewed at suitable intervals to adapt to changes in socio-economic, religious, cultural and entertainment environment.

As pointed out in a number of earlier articles, highest priority should be given to various professional activities which are essential for welfare of people. For this, each Authority should be managed only by professionally qualified and experienced staff and should be allowed to function without any hindrance from non-professionals and with full accountability. To ensure that these independent authorities continue to perform properly, a system of checks and balances should be created.

Democracy should continuously ascertain needs and aspirations of people and carry out activities to fulfill these as best as possible. Mechanisms should also be created to (a) involve people in planning and implementation of all types of activities, (b) get their assessment of performance (e.g., through the six-monthly meetings suggested in Article 18) and (c) ensure proper functioning of all checks and balances. We (the people) also have responsibility to ensure happy and peaceful surroundings which are not subjected to jealousy, hatred, vengeance and fear. This is the way to have a true, vibrant and comprehensive democracy.

We have not visualized some important aspects which ought to form the back bone of a true, vibrant and comprehensive democracy which aims at dignity, happiness, peace and good quality of life under peaceful surroundings for people. For example, because ensuring the noble idea of equality is impractical, democracy can and should set limits for inequalities in income and expenditure, ownership of land etc.

These important aspects are discussed further in a later article.

Some realities:

Mahatma Gandhi, who had fought for freedom, dignity and swaraj (democracy) throughout his life, would be most unhappy if he were alive today. But how many present leaders, who religiously pay tributes to him on his birth and death anniversaries, really care to reach the goals set by him? For reaching these goals, utmost care has to be taken to avoid discontinuities in purposeful activities.

Government has been sitting for more than eight years on poll reforms suggested by Election Commission. Therefore, it is naïve to depend on government to develop the new type of comprehensive democracy, despite many advantages.

According to Howard Zinn the real problem is silent obedience of people to the dictates of their leaders who are running the country:

“Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.

Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty.

Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.

That’s our problem.”

To overcome these we have to break our silence and take meaningful actions in a peaceful manner.

This series of articles clearly show that development, sustenance and growth of democracy are the responsibility of all citizens, organized groups and statutory institutions, besides government. All of them have to wake up and act peacefully if they sincerely want a true, vibrant and comprehensive democracy.  

Most democracies are predominantly influenced by the rich and the powerful and have become pseudo democracies. According to Henry Montzberg, celebrated academician, author and faculty of McCall University, Canada “governments all over the world have reached a point where they can do nothing at all for the society” (Deccan Chronicle dated 06-02-13, page 6). 

The fundamental mistake that democracy is needed only for good governance, which is a global phenomenon, seems to be the main culprit besides the rich and the powerful who are hoodwinking people.

Because absence of comprehensive democracy is a global reality we have to act without looking for guidance or models from other countries. Moreover, when we develop the new type of comprehensive democracy people from many more countries may follow suit.

Some questions:  

It is high time we ask ourselves:

Are we happy with the present distorted and ineffective democracy which is more like a subtle invisible dictatorship?

Is the present pseudo democracy not against the spirit of our Constitution?

Why do we spent lakhs of crores of public money to maintain  Parliament (and assemblies) whose members have become enemies of democracy and are lacking in  accountability and an ethics of care for aam admi?
Why should we have a distorted Parliament with majority of crorepati members who favour the rich?

Why have a Parliament with members who became enemies of democracy? (Articles 15, 19 and 20)

Why should we not abolish Parliament which has been spinelessly tolerating breaking of promises by government thousands of times, without the dignity expected from the august supreme body in stead of exercising its responsibility of having a check on functioning of government?

Why should we continue to have politicians who are not qualified in the art or science of governance, have some disqualifications and have become enemies of democracy? (Article 19)

Why should we not get rid of political party system which is more a hindrance than help to democracy? (Article 20)  

Is the need for a through change of the present system not obvious? Why should we not strive for a comprehensive democracy

Can we depend on government and political parties to really take interest in bringing in reforms which are suicidal to the greedy and selfish interests of some influential political leaders and powerful individuals or groups?

How can we motivate society to develop the will for a thorough change, which is absolutely necessary to create a true, vibrant and comprehensive democracy, without looking for guidance or models from other countries?

Should we not wake up and act in a peaceful manner to usher in true, vibrant and comprehensive democracy?

Many more crucial questions can be added.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning” - Albert Einstein

I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
                                                                       - Robert F Kennedy 

(Please keep these articles within easy reach for referring back till the series is completed.)


You can help to replace our sinking democracy with a truly vibrant comprehensive democracy by making as many people as possible aware of the definition of comprehensive democracy, some general observations, questions and suggestions given above through personal group discussions, newspaper articles, e-mail and social media like face book and twitter so that we can have healthy debates and arrive at some innovative ideas to save our sinking democracy.

Comments (especially those which point out errors or deficiencies, if any, in this article and thereby help to improve it) are welcome. Please send these to I shall make use of all befitting suggestions to modify the outline of the revised system of democracy (Article 24).

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