Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Editorial

Cracks in democracy

Liberal democracy not only allows but also guarantees and protects all citizens the right to political beliefs, affiliations, associations, etc., albeit with some restrictions for government employees. However, it is ultimately the citizens’ integrity that will determine strength of democracies. In India because most government services are so politicized that it is no longer scandal to find government employees covertly ~ and quite often overtly ~ aligning with and supporting political parties, especially the ruling ones. This is substantiated by a lot of them, especially of the upper echelons of government services, appointed as Governors, Lieutenant Governors of States and Union Territories, Chairpersons of government-owned Corporations, Commission, Advisors to Ministries, Departments, Interlocutors, etc., and numerous other government-appointed posts after retirement. In the early decades of Independence, Governments would justify such appointments on grounds of “expertise”, “subject specialists”, etc., but over the decades no Government has bothered even put up a smokescreen of transparency ~ probably because such “expertise”, “subject specialists” are rare. Therefore, while it is the sole prerogative of any government to hire/appoint any individual to crucial posts, the complicity of government employees in matters political stands exposed. If a kind of survey is done on the aforesaid government-appointed posts, besides a handful of party loyalists, in the past few decades, a good number of them are former bureaucrats, army and police officers and former employees of several other government services. It is an open secret that such appointments have become routine and are said to be “rewards” for what can be only assumed to be “service(s) rendered”. So, the question arises: how many of such appointees have actually served the nation and how many have served the political parties in power while in service. In any case, it is also an open secret that postings and transfers are determined by government employees’ “closeness” to political parties in power therefore, apparently some government employees are “more equal”, so to speak. This brings to the fore the whole issue of the quality of governance in the country because the nexus between government employees and political parties in power ~ or even out of power ~ underscores the integrity of those entrusted with the constitutional responsibility of governance. And it is integrity alone that determines the contents, character, strength of liberal democracy and the future of the country. This nexus also underlines the cracks that exist in liberal democracies that enables and emboldens the distortion and the corruption of the spirit and the letter of the ideals enshrined in the Constitution, as also erects numerous impediments towards the realization of citizens’ full potentials. India today is unstoppably racing towards attaining the status of the world’s third largest economy but millions of our citizens are falling through these cracks in our democracy therefore poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, deprivation of education and health, as also deprivation of social, legal, economic and political justice continue to blight us. Leonard Cohen sang: it is the cracks in the walls that lets the light in; but these cracks in democracy don’t allow any light in therefore citizens fall deep into the darkness of calamites and are doomed to a vicious cycle of unfulfilled and incomplete human existence because these cracks in democracy have obstructed the full force of sustaining, enduring and just development that is the right of every citizen. It is ironic that in countries that have no pretensions to being democracies ~ in fact, even in countries with such pretensions ~ any crack that has potentials to lead to genuine democracy is immediately sealed but in some liberal democracies, such cracks are consciously and deliberately made, allowed to widen and create distance away from democracy. So, this brings to the fore the integrity of our political parties, leaders and other centres of power that vouch for democracy and development. This then also brings to the fore the whole issue of the deliberate decreasing space for democracy and development, which ironically all our political parties and leaders claim to so want to gift to citizens.

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