There is debate raging, or perhaps more than debate -a revolution -seething in India that could redefine the relationship between a People and it’s democratically elected Parliament and Government.
Does Power once given to the elected Government and Parliament for it’s term ( in India 5 years) effectively take all Power away from the Citizens of India over governance for that period ? The movement led by Anna Hazare who is on a hunger strike right now to institute his version of a long standing bill in Parliament that will put a Civil Society watchdog over the workings of the Parliament has caught the imagination, and huge support amongst the aspirational and educated class in India. A class that has so far been content to be part of the great hope of better standards of living through economic growth. A class that is often accused of not even voting, is now coming out in droves on the streets to be heard. (and since I wrote this 15 hours ago, massive sections of India’s population from all classes have joined the movements on the streets)
To be heard against what they see as the greatest cancer that exists in India. One that is not only unfair, unjust, illegal, but patently immoral. The cancer of corruption. While the Government and the economists tout growth rates in the economy as a show of success, the people feel that those in the Political Class and others with access to the political class have unfairly usurped a far far larger share of the potential growth in India. Not only that, they have, under the watch and encouragement of the Political Classes, stolen huge wealth in terms of mineral resources and public money from India for themselves. A large share of which goes back to the Political Classes and so the cycle continues.
The Government has been caught off guard. Not used to being challenged like this by the people who it thought politically uncommitted. Already facing an armed insurrection by the so called rural ‘maoists’ in rural and tribal areas. The so called ‘Middle Class’ is considered in any democracy the biggest supporters of stability. Ones who will not shut shop to take to the streets. Simply because they have too much to loose through disruptions.
Well, they have. And a Government is floundering.
While the Opposition has chosen to actively support the movement, it seems just a ploy to flog the current Government. It remains to be seen what teeth the Civil Society bill called the Jan LokPal Bill the opposition will finally vote for too. Are they willing to curtail themselves if they form the Government ?
Ask any Indian what the greatest problem they have faced all their lives, and will continue to fact all their lives, and they will say that one word ‘Corruption”. It touches us all on a day to day, sometimes hour to hour basis. We have learnt to live with, and more dangerously, accept it as part of our culture. We have learnt to condone it and many see it as their only way to economic success.
But very high profile cases within the Government in power, assuming mind boggling numbers in a Nation where half of the population lives below the poverty lines staggered the nation and caused huge outcry. Not only because of the scale of corruption. But because the sheer arrogance with which the Political Classes in collusion with their associates have been looting the country.
Has the Political class in India become so arrogant in its assumption of Power that it sees itself as unquestionable and above the law ? Have the assumed checks and balances within a Parliamentary broken down ? Is the Political class as a whole corrupt ? Why is the greatest (and public) defence of the Government in Power against charges of corruption from the Opposition ” YOU DID IT TOO !”
There is a serious loss of faith in the Political System amongst the people. That is very very dangerous. Not just from the dispossessed, but from the educated, not just the jobless but from those that have taken leave from their jobs to join the mass protest.
Is this the begininngs of the break down of the Democratic System as many suggest ?
I would argue that it is not. I would argue that this is an evolution in Democracy.
The Indian Democratic System was adapted from it’s former colonial masters, into a brilliant but adaptive Constitution. But the system installed to support the fundamentals of the Constitution were designed for India’s population at time of Independence. A mere 350 million. For a demographic far far older than we are now. No one at that time could have dreamt of a nation of 1.2 Billion people with 60 % of the population below 25. Soon India will hold 15% of the world’s teenage population. India’s Political, Social, Judicial systems could not have predicted a a young, aspirational, entrepreneurial, technologically adept population we have today. They could not have predicted that at the end of each 5 year political term, the world would be barely recognizable.
India’s endemic corruption is not a cultural imperative. It is the result of a slow, unresponsive, antiquated system that is at odds with challenges of Modernity. A system protected by those that are personally benefiting from it at the cost of the aspirations of the People of India. Forgetting that the first words of the Indian Constitution are not ‘WE THE GOVERNMENT’ or ‘WE THE PARLIAMENT’, but :
‘WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’
I support Anna Hazare and a strong version of the Jan Lokpal Bill provided that in its execution it does not become as squeaky as a massive old door that consistently need to be oiled and pushed to make it budge as many of the rest of Indian systems.
The Principles of Democracy are not changeable. But the systems supporting them must be willing to change and adapt.