By Vidyut Desai
Chicago: I read T.S. Khanna’s article — Democracy is no panacea to all social ills —published in India Tribune dated February 20, with great interest. As an adult, I have experienced both India and the US as democracies. I believe Democracy in the US is more mature and transparent than India, but by no means perfect. Democracy is developed over many years, and it needs the right environment. An ideal democracy is a system where people are truly equal citizens, politically engaged with an equal voice and where their representatives are held accountable. The debate on the effectiveness of democracy is centuries old.
The main problems with Indian democracy are credentials of politicians, criminalization of politics, corruption, family dynasty in political parties, growing influence of an axis of evil of religion and politics, and voter’s ignorance of the real issues. Most of India’s political parties are personal autocracies, in which leadership is not earned but rather inherited. The Congress party is a good example of a family dynasty disguising as a political party.
Voters, who elect criminals and murderers have no right to expect good governance. This is indeed scary and it must stop. We need tougher laws preventing such criminals from contesting elections. Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. Voters should be given a right to reject all candidates. In India, voting has become a trade and votes a highly tradable commodity.
India’s democratic system requires a simple majority of votes in the house, in order to attain power, which is proven to be seriously flawed. When no single party manages to get a majority on its own, then the desperate game to gather enough numbers begins. Independents as well as members of rival parties are literally purchased like cattle. As a result, most corrupt, incompetent, and in some cases criminals end up as ministers. The citizens have been disenfranchised and replaced by sociopath machines with malicious intent.
Why is the Government of India still waiting to hang terrorist Afzal Guru to death? Simply because the ruling party is afraid that the minority may not like it and it may lose their votes in next election. Why after 60 years of independence, we still have reservation system intact? No political party wants to lose their votes. Unfortunately, Dalits and minorities have become a vote bank. So long as the representatives of the people are not held accountable in the most immediate and severe of manners there is no reason to trust them.
What is the solution? In the national interest, if all parties meet and take a collective decision and make a joint statement then only such burning issues can be resolved. It is my wishful thinking which may not happen in my lifetime.
The good news is that recently Indian media has been playing a major role forcing politicians to take actions against their criminal party members and friends. Media is a catalyst behind some movements for Justice, such as the Jessica Lal murder case, the Pankaj Trivedi murder case and recent suicide case of the Ruchika. Without the media’s pressure, criminals, powerful politicians and officers will still be roaming free. The highest courts in India also offer some hope. I believe The Supreme Court is the most functional branch of our government.
For more effective and functional democracy, we need; (1) Minimum educational re-quirement, term limit and retirement age for some high level positions and also for Members of Parliament; (2) Suspension of voting rights for few years when a voter does not vote for three elections in a row; (3) Ballot papers with only names of candidates and no picture of party’s symbol; (4) Imprisonment for booth capturing, voting irregularities and bribery to voters; (5) Participation in government based on percentage of votes each party gets; (6) A separate anti-corruption cell only for politicians working independently and not under direct control of the Government of India; (7) Life time ban on a politician and his immediate family members with a Swiss bank account; (8) Life time ban on a candidate from running for an office who is charged for murder and theft and felony; (9) No benefits to anyone based on their religion, such as subsidy for pilgrimage.
An ideal Democracy by default is supposed to produce greater accountability but India’s democracy has failed to respond to the needs of its people. For last 60 years, our elections have failed to produce the government that serves the greatest needs of the people.