Last week my American friends the world over celebrated their Independence Day . Next month we Indians would be celebrating ours. I , however, wonder how meaningful such celebrations are being !
Democracy is supposed to be the rule of the majority in the interest of the whole population in a given territory . It guarantees to all citizens their values of life, liberty , equality and justice . The American Declaration of Independence reads : "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The Constitution of India guarantees justice, liberty, equality and fraternity . Regrettably, such values are still missing even in our democratic part of the contemporary world.
The pattern of governance in most of the officially declared democracies is hardly pro-people . In the United States , the so-called leader of the democratic world, the life of citizens is increasingly under threat with growing acts of violence related to intolerance, racialism, terrorism and anti-Semitism across the country. According to authentic studies, poverty is on the rise in the country . in 2013 there were 45.3 million people living in poverty . Since 1996 a new group within the poor has emerged. In these families the income is $2 or less per person per day .
The U.S. official poverty line for a family of three equates to roughly $17 per person per day. The new group of poor is described as one in “deep poverty”—incomes at less than half the poverty line ( $8.50 per person per day ). Money is increasingly playing a criminal role in elections for all high offices in the country.
In India, the world's much- talked largest democracy , the whole scenario is far worse. Our status quo forces, highly pro-establishment officials and intellectuals in particular, may manage to get, from time to time, some Western politicians and pundits praise the functioning of Indian democracy . But the ground realities tell an entirely different story.
Even after 68 years of our Independence the evils of poverty, illiteracy , malnutrition, gender discrimination, terrorism, communalism and casteism continue to torment us . The successive dispensations have not been able to protect our territorial integrity . We have lost lakhs of lives on account of terrorism and communalism since Independence . Terrorism from 1980 to 2008 alone cost more than one lakh lives. In the current clashes in Kashmir after the killing of a militant Islamist terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen commander over 16 people have reportedly been killed and 200 injured so far .
The successive governments in New Delhi and state capitals have had their favourite officials and analysts to script great success stories about our economy . The latest from our current government at the Centre is Indian economy has expanded by 7.9 per cent . In its recent national executive meeting resolution (Allahabad, June 12-13, 2016 ), the ruling Bharatiya Janata party has projected India as the “ world’s fastest growing economy.” But the truth is only the few privileged have ever benefited from such officially projected economic growth . A majority of our population —particularly, the dalits, the adivasis, farmers and unorganized sector workers—continue to languish on something like one-thirds of an American dollar a day. Farmers have continued their suicides across the country . Nearly 3000 farmers are officially reported to have committed distress suicides in 2015 alone .
Will things improve ? I see little hope in the present situation. Ours is a parliamentary democracy. This is supposed to be led by highly enlightened leaders in all political parties to take the Nation forward to a just, pro-people state. The scenario is grim on this front . The political leaderships in almost all parties seem to be increasingly influenced by capitalist, communal, and casteist forces at the Centre and in the States. The values of the previous generations of Indian leaderships are history . Now in their place are the values of mostly their self-styled official ideological descendants to whom politics is just a means to grab political power and amass wealth in no time .
The dominance of the culture of such unworthy politicians in our system has led to a fast decline of our Parliament. Many elements with allegedly criminal background have occupied space in this most sacred temple of our democracy. There was a time when eminent personalities like Dr B R Ambedkar adorned our Upper House . After his defeat in Lok Sabha elections at the hands of those whom he had raised, some noble Members of Parliament supported Ambedkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha . Now it would perhaps be better not to talk about the elements that get preferred for the House by those who matter in the system !
Shall we , the citizens of India , think afresh to make our system meaningful and pro- people ? Shall we, the master in a democracy , see to it that our system’s operational behavior conforms to the spirit of our Constitution ?