Wednesday, 2 February 2011

My take on democracy

The protestors in Egypt have been shouting for freedom! They want their country to regain the lost glory, want democracy. The movement there is being looked upon with great interest by the whole world, as the revolution seems to be a by product of modern technology and communication and is in danger of replicating itself elsewhere in the non democratic Arab world.

Meanwhile the Western world is realizing its folly over numerous things like supporting corrupt allies amidst hollow cries for democracy. Today on Sky news, one commentator said- Democracy is ok for the developed world but places like Egypt, are they ready for it? It left me outraged.

So let me guess, he means- democracy is ok for the people in England who won't take to the streets even when the bankers, British Petroleum bosses and the like, liase with politicians to make public policy such, as to fill their pockets and empty ours. Democracy is fine for the developed world of broken society and frayed families, where alcoholism on the streets is threatening to derail the NHS budget, where parts of the country exist where three generations have never gone to work and live off benefits. So these people can handle democracy while Egypt can't, a vibrant populous country of people who have to work to ensure they get a meal for themselves and their families, even as they combat widespread corruption and decay in the public system.

The so called International Community has always had double standards and till date they consider themselves a league above the rest. Slowly they will prove to the world that they can't digest democracy with all its claws and open markets just means open enough to benefit them. Soon they will admit that human rights and humanitarian aid, civil liberties and self determination all have different purposes, different definitions and different paths to what is percieved by the rest of the world.

The Crown Prince of Bahrain had once said when the popular parliamentary candidates all seemed to be from fundamental Islamist factions- "We have to have the strength to accept the verdict of the people." True, you can't go back on democracy.  If people want Shariat, that is what you asked for, Mr Obama.

I remember what my friend's mum said in the 1990s, while having a go at my friend for postponing pregnancy. "Why should you have a baby? You won't have a baby, you wont go and vote...because you are too posh to have a baby or babies for that matter and too educated and busy to go and cast your vote. Hence we have ministers like Laloo Yadav, who have 9 children, amass votes from backward castes,  minorities and the like, get huge audiences in rallies for saying roads can't be like Hema Malini's cheeks....while you crib about the state of affairs in the country in your drawing room."

We had to agree and hang our heads in shame.

Democracy is a double edged sword. If most of the population in the villages gets money to spend it on alcohol and gambling, through corrupt National Rural Employment Guarantee Act schemes, the number of votes cast in favour will be large....The party which raises most funds through industrialist's monetary support will manage to get the most votes, to come to power.... to ensure large scale fertile land take over for Special Economic Zones. These are some of the various ways in which democracy works.

Yet the other pillars of democracy need to function too. Do people have to take to the streets to ensure that the Government rids itself of rampant corruption at every step, to ensure that media is unbiased and that the courts do their job?

I remember the Department of Health, Chhattisgarh gearing up for Vidhan Sabha questions. It used to be a hectic time as each question's answer was prepared by looking up various statistics and each day the minister (a dismissed Govt doctor, who decided to stand for elections and won to become the dismissing health secretary's boss) had training sessions in what to say and how.

According to some intellectuals this was the face of democracy when the whole department was on its toes making sure they did not manage to incur the oppositions's wrath. Right to information act, likewise has in many instances been an empowering tool in recent times. Laws against domestic violence against women have ensured that women keep their peace in the house by threatening a trip to the "thana".  So democracy is always better than no democracy......but it is not a cure for all ills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good point.