19. Challenges to Indian democracy

Indian democracy is a cultural heritage to India. The main reason for being a democracy and for establishing its own path through various adverse circumstances is that democracy traditions have become deep rooted in India. Tolerance in every sphere of life has got a respectful place. If this characteristic of Indian culture had vanished, democracy in India would not have succeeded. Slavery to thousands of years has attacked Indian society so seriously that its life vitality has finished. Social evils have hollowed the society fabric. Several ills have crept up. Tolerance has decreased and hatred has increased false prestige and self narrowed down. The vision of thinking, seeing and behaving have also changed and have become narrow.
Difference had crept into the society on the basis of religion, community, language, region and more importantly castes. It is because of this reason numerous social reformers in the 19th and 20th centuries had sacrificed their lives in consolidating Indian society. Even then they could not gain success in developing a harmonious society. The Britishers did not leave any stone unturned in making India economically poor. They looted India and carried its wealth to Britain and Indian people became pauper. Though independent India has progress a lot in economic sphere but wealth has been distributed in such a way that condition of the poor has become poorer. Common people of the country are as unhappy today as they were before independence.
In this way, despite old social and economic circumstances, Indian democracy has very strongly been consolidated and it has been constantly marching on the path of development. But still their are few social and economic disparities which have affected Indian democracy very adversely.
Socio-economic factors
The political system of a nation is governed by its social and economic factors. The political difference in countries are chiefly due to socio-economic distinctions. India and Pakistan got independence on the same day, but while democracy is still strong in India, it has failed in Pakistan. The reason is that the socio-economic conditions in Pakistan are not similar to those existing is India. No doubt democracy has taken roots in India and there are no chances of military dictatorship here, yet democracy has been facing challenges posed socio- economic conditions.
Socio-economic Inequality: Socio-economic inequality in India is a heritage of long history. Ours is the worlds most unequal society from time immemorial, it is split into the upper castes and lower backward castes. Economically there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor. The rich stand on one side as symbols of affluence while on the other side are nearly 40% of our people below poverty line, and who cannot afford two square meals a day.
Illiteracy : Wide-spread poverty in our country is further compounded with illiteracy. The masses are by and large poor and ignorant. About 50% people are illiterate. They can not understand the intricacies of administration nor can they make proper use of their right to vote. Such a situation is fatal for democracy.
Communalism : Indian democracy has plagued with communal feelings from its infancy. The country was dismembered for this very reason. But even in post independence period, this evil has not subsided.
Feudal Values : Feudalism was in existence in India even before the advent of Muslim. It did not die or change during the British rule. Free India adopted democratic system which grant equality to one and all. But old feudal nations have survived to this day in the rural areas and in the corridors of administration. These are causes of tension and riots. The privileged classes try to keep the lower classes deprived of the benefits granted by the state. This again goes against the spirit of democracy.
Violence : Ahimsa has always been cherished by the Hindus. India secured her political freedom by adopting non-violent means. But during the last few years crime has been thriving in Indian politics. Our late Prime Ministers Mrs Indra Gandhi in 1984 and Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 fell a victim to the cult of violence. The states of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir have been in flames. Politics has been criminalised. The youth are taking to bullets more easily than the books. This is threat to our democratic system.
Regional Imbalances : India is a vast country, but the level of economic growth is not uniform all over the land. This has created regional imbalances. One side are the most backward regions of Eastern U.P., Bihar and M.P. on the other are fairly developed regions of western U.P., Haryana and Punjab. This inequality breeds regional feeling which is not conducive to democracy.
Social Tensions : Cooperation and mutual goodwill are essential for the success of democracy. But the social tension built on grounds of language, region, community and caste, is throwing a challenge to democracy.
Poverty : India was once a land of plenty, today it is counted among the poor countries. About 30% of our population lives below poverty line. There is mass poverty. The number of the poor has rather increased after independence for the obvious reasons population boom and price rise. The problem of poverty is a result of income inequalities. It is the biggest challenge to economic development and our political democracy. By poverty line we mean an income level below which human beings cannot provide for their basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.
Unemployment : Another aliment of Indian society is mass unemployment of under employment. Over the years, the number of unemployment has increased. In 1980, the figure of educated unemployed in urban areas was as high as 35 lakhs. Unemployment among the educated youth is causing a lot of despair, frustration and resentment. They are losing faith in democratic values.
Poverty of the masses has weakened the base of the Indian democracy because poverty strikes at the roots of democracy and does not allow it to nurture its growth. The influence of poverty over Indian democracy is briefly described below:
Poverty is exploited for gains : The poor is bluffed with the slogan that there would be no poverty or everybody would be given shelter, clothes and foods, etc. the poor are exploited, cheated by these cheap slogans. After the election the party in power, completely forgets the poor people.
Poverty is responsible for the lack of confidence in democracy : The miseries due to poverty spoil the genius of the people. All his time and energy are wasted in the struggle for survival. Participation in social, political, culture and religious activities, etc. are quite impossible for a poor man. He cannot develop his personality. He is not encouraged by the slogan that he is the master of the wealth of the country. He goes to the pools in a passive mood. He realises that all the promises and slogan of the political leaders are pure bluffs. He loses all faith in leaders and the democracy that exist the country.
Tendency towards total-itarianism: Poverty makes the people completely disinterested in government. They lose even self-confidence. They become virtually lifeless beasts of burden. Dictator take this opportunity and concentrate all powers. As a result totalitarianism replace democracy and then the power is used as a source of exploitation.
Causes of Inequality
Feudalism : Feudalism has been in existence in Indian society since long and it has also brought inequality in social and economic spheres. Even after independence, feudalism has not disappeared in actual practice. People are influenced by feudist thinking, habits and traditions. In spite of many laws to the contrary, there are still big landlords who constitute about 10% of agriculturists, and own more than 55% of agricultural land. How could there be social and economic equality under such conditions.
Regional Imbalance : In India some regions are fertile and have credit of bringing green revolution, some regions are rich with minerals and have attracted installations of big industries. Some regions have a good climate befitting textile indsuty. But some regions are barren in all respects. This regional imbalance has created economic inequality which encourages social inequality.
Caste System : Rigid caste system has been the main cause of socio-economic inequality in our country. Caste system kept the society divided into water tight compartment. Some castes were considered of high status and privileged and many of low status, deprived of all opportunities and facilities of a better life. These down-trodden classes remained backward socially, educationally and economically. The caste system created and strengthened inequality.
British Rule in India : Britishers with the aim of maintaining their hold on Indian soil, followed the policy of divide and rule and thus encouraged inequality in Indian society on many grounds. They encouraged communalism by giving separate representation to Muslims. They encouraged feudalism by giving title of Rai Shahib, Rai Bahadur Khan Sahib etc. They also encouraged economit inequalities by promoting capatalistic system.
Disparity between Rural Income and Urban Income : In India there has been a disparity between the income of urban and rural people. People living in cities have always had a better living standard and better economic condition because in cities opportunities of employment and professions and industries are better than in villages. The disparity has also increased socio-economic inequality in India.
Main causes of poverty
Social Inequality : It is also an irony of Indian people that people have been provided unequal opportunities in the society. Hence a great number of people have been deprived of economic equality. Due to unequal opportunities, a harmonious society is far from being set up in India.
Increase in population : Population growth is disproportionate to growth of employment opportunities. Population is growing tremendously like an infetious disease.
Illiteracy : Illiteracy has also stabilised poverty. Illiterate person neither undergoes training nor can achieve proficiency in his work. Illiterate people generally put up with poverty. Not only this, due to their belief in superstitions, they spend money on social rituals more than their capacity and remain under debt perpetually.
Partial unemployment in villages: Very few people in villages are such who can live on agricultural income adequately. Most of village people have to work on others agricultural fields. Not only this, people working in agriculture, remain unemployed during the period when there is not farm activity. This results in partial unemployment among village people and economic conditions of the peasants in continually deteriorating. During this period agricultural labour begins to reach the verge of starvation. Thus poverty in India has been increasing continuously.
Unemployment in Urban areas : It is correct that in independent India industries have growth in urban areas and therefore, people from rural areas have migrated to urban areas in such a great number that in urban areas we come across unemployed ruralities in great numbers.
Secondly, number of educated unemployed people has been increasing day by day because our education system is still based on British legacy and is producing more and more unemployed people, with no professional skill in them.
Rising Prices : Since independence prices of every commodity has been rising constantly. During present times they have sky-rocketed. Even the commodities of daily use have become beyond the reach of the common man. Due to this common people are marching swifter to join the class belonging to below the poverty line.
Unequal distribution of Wealth : Constitution frames knew that the British had divided the Indian society into the rich and the poor and major portion of wealth had been concentrated in a few hands. Therefore, the constitution framers instructed the future state governments to frame such plans that would help in the equal distribution of wealth. But governments of independent India framed such plans that created more gulf between the rich and poor in place of reducing it. This resulted in the poverty of the people.
Social inequality
Social inequality in India is based on the following factors:
Social inequality is chiefly based on caste system. The society is divided into upper and lower castes on grounds of birth. The so-called low-born are looked down upon.
There is gross inequality of the sex. Women are denied the right of equality with men by the society.
A large section of our society is considered untouchable even though Indian constitution forbids it.
The upper castes seem to be unwilling to let the lower castes rise to their level.
Economic inequality
Economic inequality in society is clear from the following factors:
The benefits of economic development in the post independence period have not reached the poor.
The most shocking fact is that the poor have become poorer while the rich have become richer.
Unchecked price rise has created widespread unrest and inequality even among the middle class.
The society is sharply divided into two distinct classes of the rich and the poor. The rich constitute a small fraction of the total population, but they control all the national wealth. The poor are in big majority but they are weak economically.
Regionalism and Linguism
Historical Factors : Cultural systems have been the basis of unity and integrity in India in the past. Due to this cultural unity, India went on and on as an intense flow of astray. Despite numerous invasions made by the invaders, its unity and integrity could not get destroyed. Indian instinct remained intact even during the pre-independence conditions culminated not only in the end of foreign rule but also in making India a very powerful united country. On the other hand political unity of India never was accepted as the basis of its unity. Though Monarchal kingdoms were established but no political force at the centre that might rule the country, was ever set-up. The intelligentia is also aware of this. Therefore different kingdoms were established in different parts of the country and they tried to give impetus to the basic culture of the country and to develop it.
In the present times due to the diplomatic tricks of the British rulers during the pre-independence period and even after this their policies and programme have continually remained and this had led to loosening the threads of cultural. Unity and integrity of the country. Besides feeling of regionalism has been intensified due to the awakening of self-respect among the local population and due to the established Kingdoms during the past in various regions of the country. The establishment of the Occidental forms of democracy in India has led to the growth of factors of regionalism among the people. Language problem has played an important role in organising the people of various regions. Thus regional unity has been given encouragement of the face of national unity.
Language : Regionalism and linguism have helped each other. The region where a certain language has grown and developed has been successful in easily organising the people of the region into a lingual link. As long as Sanskrit continued to give strength to other regional languages of the country till then these languages strengthened the cause of Indian culture. But during the pre-independence period and present free India period, the difference shown to Sanskrit language has destroyed the national form of regional languages and these languages have become purely regional. Politics of votes has played a very important role in organising lingual groups against other groups. Thus these lingual groups have developed regionalism and the language or regionalism has succeed in arousing the lingual fanaticism.
Geographical Factors : India is vast country. Geographical aspects have divided the country into various regions where life of people is totally different from one another. Their socio-economic needs are also completely different. When on a step of history man begins to feel that his development and growth is not being looked into properly, it becomes easy to develop a feeling of regionalism in the hearts of heirs and successors. Hilly region of U.P. and the tribal region of M.P., Orissa and Bihar present good example of this feeling.
Social Factors : As a result of being under foreign rule, for centuries together, various social evil practices took birth in Indian society. It resulted in the non-growth people, socially and economically, in all the regions of the country. The British knowingly did not let certain regions to develop. They made the condition of the people living in the forest areas and mountainous regions pitiable. In free India various projects have been implemented for the growth and development of these people. But the political parties in order to get their votes collectively in their favour, did not let them come into the contact on the rest of the Indian society. Thus, gradually the feeling of regionalism and separatism began to grow in them. Today many such regions are threatening the unity and integrity of the country.
Caste Factors : Caste system in India has played an important role in saving the country from the cultural invasion of the foreign invaders and protected its continuity. In independent India, politics of vote has tried to use cast situation as vote banks and pitted a caste before another caste to exploit the situation. In those areas where a certain caste was already in majority it was easy for the vote bank politics to arouse the sentiment of regionalism in that region. Thus cast factors have also played an important role in promoting the feeling of regionalism among the people.
Religious Factors : During British rule and later on in Free India, policy of appeasement of certain communities has done a great harm to the unity and integrity of the nation. The policy of using religious feeling and political ambitions as vote-banks has led to the growth of regionalism and separatism. Where their is a religious community in majority, there a feeling has been generated among this community to get a separate established. In course of time this feeling culminates into separatism.
Regional Parties : Politics of vote and the ambitions of the local leaders to gain control of the region have played a very significant role in the growth of regionalism, linguism and separatism. These leaders present the problems of these regions in such a manner that it begin to seems that the people of other regions are their enemies or opponents. This feeling leads to regional worship and dedication and the national interests begin to suffer. The formation of regional parties provides political basis of the regional problems, which on one hand, help instigate the people of the regions and on the other hand, the regional leaders are successful in establishing their base and leadership.
Population Explosion in India
Problem of population explosion is the biggest and most serious problem faced by the Indian democracy. India’s population was 24 crore in 1901 and it was 36 crore in 1951. It crossed 100 crore in 2001. On the basis of latest figure of 2002, India’s population is above 102 crore. The population explosion has given a setback to all the progress and achievements of five years plans, industrialisation and modernisation and all projects of socio-economic development. If it is not checked effectively it will darken the future of the nation. The increased population will not be able to get foodgrains, housing and employment and other basic commodities of daily use.
Impact of population explosion : Population Explosion has made following impact on Indian Democracy.
Shortage of Foodgrains : Due to increasing population the people are facing shortage of foodstuff, things of daily use, in spite of the fact that their production has increased manifold during the last 50 years. The producing capacity of the land has reached its saturation point and the mineral resources are getting exhausted. We have to import foodgrains, sugar, oil and even vegetables.
Problem of Unemployment and Poverty : Over-population has also aggravated the problem of unemployment and poverty. The expansion of avenues of employment cannot meet the requirements of increased population. All schemes of industrialisation, development of agriculture and development of civic amenities appear to be failure due to increasing demands.
Increase in Social tension and Violence : Population explosion is also responsible for increase in the tension and violence in the society and the government is finding it difficult to maintain law and order, and protect the life and property of the people particularly in populated cities. Continuous rise in the problem of law and order is a serious threat to democracy.
Aggravates the Problem of Housing : In India, particularly urban area, the people feel acute shortage of housing accommodation. The people are living in multi-storeyed flats and all cities are over congested. It has also polluted the atmosphere, slums have appeared in all cities.
Fall in the Standard of Public Health and Standard of Living : Due to excess population public health can not be effectively maintained and developed by the government. The government can not provide adequate health facilities to a vast number of poor persons who can not afford medical expenses in private nursing homes.
Increase in Socio-economic Inequality : Population explosion is found mainly in the poor classes of the society and these people cannot afford education, good food and clothing of the children. It results in the continuous increase in the gap between the rich and the poor and this disparity is a threat to democracy.
Creates Problem of Illiteracy : Over-population is also responsible for illiteracy in the country. The government opens more and more schools and centres of non-formal education. But these efforts are outwitted by the increase in population. Thus a vast numbers of children remain uneducated and illiteracy is a big obstacle in the success of democracy.
Political Violence : Man is primarily a peaceful animal. Due to this, most people of the society want to lead a peaceful life. They want to solve their problems through peaceful means but some people of the society due to their nature and tendency or temperaments, want to get their problems solved not by peaceful means but through violent means i.e. quarrelling, disruption, firing, fighting and rioting. Thus it is natural that tension would get created. In such circumstances people try to collect arms and weapons for self-defence in order to confront crisis. Hence in general term violence means that behaviour of human being which he adopts, leaving peaceful means, in the form of looting, threats, terror, murder, rioting and bloody action.
Whenever any kind of violent method is adopted in order to acquire of influence political power, then that violence is termed as ‘Political Violence’.
Violence based on Castes : In the ancient time Hindu society was divided four major castes. For long this caste system provided strength to this society and paved the ways for every person to progress. In course of times this system developed ills in itself. Work based system turned into brith based system. Despite this all the people led a peaceful and harmonious life. In the early history their had been no caste conflicts.
Rules in order to brighten their supremacy divided castes into sub-castes and snapped their ties from other castes. These castes were used as vote banks, caste-hatred was given impetus, raised their selfish interest and caste conflicts started. Caste conflicts and caste violence are the gifts of political parties. Now as vote banks, ruling class has divided four castes into hundreds of castes. Caste conflicts and caste violence serve the selfish interests of politicians.
Agitational Violence : Agitation is the life of democracy. People adopt agitational approach to influence government policies. To adopt agitation approach in support of one’s demands is common. In democracy such agitations are peaceful, non-violent and amicable.
In present times it has been witnessed that in the intoxication of seeking power, the representatives become so ruthless and dictatorial that they overlook the very reasonable and just demands of the people. They use force to curb these peaceful agitation. Being forced by the pressure tactics of the government, people leave peaceful means and adopt violent means to oppose the government moves. In this process administration has to yield, and they accept the just and reasonable demands of the people.
If the administration is obstinate and dictorial, people are forced to think and feel that, government can not be moved by peaceful and non-violent agitation. The agitation becomes violent or the repressive activities of the government cause resentment and make the agitation violent. Now most of the agitations are violent and repressive in nature.
Violence based on Terrorism : People who follow terrorist activities are, these days, found the world over. Terrorist activities are present in every nation. These people are busy in creating fear, terror, looting, murders etc. They instigates local people and force them to adopt the path of violence. When failed in their pursuits they indulge in bloody activities and create an atmosphere of terror. They also prepare people to confront the government. In various states of India, such terrorists are presents who have been making lives of the people very hard.
Political Violence : There is no place for political violence in democracy because democracy is based on transfer of power through peaceful means and make rulers responsive to the aspirations of the people. Despite all this, selfish interest of politicians give birth to political violence in the society. This political violence is generally seen in limited areas only during elections. Anti-social elements are taken in for threatening voters, booth capturing, denying voting to weaker sections and creating dreadful and fearful atmosphere. These elements are assured to political protection. Such events occurs mainly in those states where politicians are in league with anti-social elements or where people of criminal background are seated on responsible posts in the government.
Communal Violence : India is a multi-religious country. Various communities live here. Hindus believe that truth is one but paths of its discovery are innumerable. On this basis various communities live here in harmony for thousands of years. With the arrival of Muslim and Christian into India this communal harmony had been disturbed. These Sematic thinking are the path shown by them and they preached that to get truth is the true path and therefore, other communities should convert themselves into their communities because their religion alone preaches the real truth. This inharmonious attitude had resulted in communal strife and conflicts. In this way communal violence has weakens the very foundation of our national fabric.

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