“Let us not forget that the government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” This thought was voiced out by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States of America.
India has been a democratic country since 1950. This system of governance has been ideal for a country like India. Before we delve into the advantages of a democracy, or rather a democratic republic, let us understand what a democracy is first.
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What is Democracy?
To quote Abraham Lincoln, “Democracy is a form of government of the people, for the people, by the people.”
The term ‘democracy’ originated from the Greek term ‘dēmokratía’, which means “rule of the people”. There are two types of democracies in the world.
One is direct democracy, in which the eligible citizens directly and actively participate in the political decision-making. Second is indirect democracy, in which the sovereign power remains with the eligible citizens while the elected representatives exercise the political power; this type of democracy is also known as a democratic republic or the representative democracy.
India is a democratic republic where citizens vote for representatives who then decide and vote upon the actual laws. This is an indirect democracy as the citizens do not directly vote on the issues.
India as a Democratic Republic
India is the largest democracy in the world. It was declared secular and democratic when its Constitution came into force on 26 January 1950. The process of democratization began as a counter reaction to the British colonial rule, under which the Indians were tortured, oppressed and exploited.
The traditional Indian society had been arranged hierarchically on the basis of caste and gender. To bring equality in the society, giving equal social, political and economic rights to all the people of Indian not considering their religion or gender, was a must.
Considering the diversity of India in terms of culture and geography, only a democratic set up could ensure that interests of all sections of society are represented. To answer the question of whether there is success of democracy in India, one can say that although there are a number of things to be improved such as socio-political empowerment of downtrodden sections, improving the political narrative, eliminating the corruption in governments, etc. the Indian democracy has deepened its roots over the last seven decades and it is a successful project overall.
The democratic India believes in the principles of equality, liberty, brotherhood, justice and fraternity – all the modern ideals required for patriotism. All people from any and every caste, creed, sex, religion, or region have an equal right to vote and choose their representatives. The parliamentary form of government in India is based on the pattern of the United Kingdoms.
In India, there is a federal form of government which means there is a government at the centre and at the state. The government at the centre is responsible to the parliament, and the state governments are responsible towards their respective legislative assemblies.
The term federal implies that both the Union and State government are supreme in their respective administrative spheres. The State government is not an agent of the Central government, nor does it seeks its power from it.
The government at the centre and the state are democratically elected and are supervised by and follow the directions of the two houses of the Parliament – the Lok Sabha (the House of the People) and Rajya Sabha (the Council of the States).
In the International Arena and on a global scale, India shows to all other country to what extent a country with great diversity can stand together and progress.
What have we gained from a democratic set-up?
Democracy has been nothing but a success in India. Here are some of the advantages that India has benefited from due to her being a democratic republic.
- End of monarchy
The democratization brought along the end of kingship and autocratic rule. We are now free of bowing down to a single man. Although our country is divided into states, we are still standing together as a single united India.
This is unlike several countries even now and also unlike the older days during the Mughal era or so, when India was divided into multiple kingdoms, and there was no nationalism.
- Equality before Law
There is no discrimination with respect to caste, creed, religion, gender etc. Every person is considered with equality in all aspects. This is also known as legal egalitarianism. In fact, there is a single set of civil and criminal laws throughout India.
- India as a secular state
We, as Indians, welcome and respect all the religions in our country as per our Constitution. We have the freedom of practice and propagation of all the religions. There are 19 major religious groups in India, and several other minor ones.
Another speciality of our nation is that we possess the right to minority quotas for minorities to further gain seats in educational institutions as well as in governments and also provide the reservations to give them a helping hand to raise them. We have also established the right to conserve culture. Hence, India has ensured Social Justice through the Reservation system.
- Development and Urbanization
Democratization has led to better living conditions, better sanitation facilities, well-constructed households, etc. This seems to be an additional return gift of our freedom.
These well utilised opportunity turns our life into a paradise. Urbanization has also offered a new lease of life to the people inhabiting rural areas and under-developed villages, who can now experience the city life and earn a higher living too.
However, it has had a negative side too. Over exploitation of resources has resulted in excessive pressure in the urban areas concerning both living conditions and environmental conditions.
On the plus side, development has helped people to understand the importance of literacy and has also promoted universal and free education, adult education etc.
- Changes in social and religious spheres
The superstitious beliefs prevailing under the name of traditions like Sati, child marriage, untouchability, dowry system, female infanticide, etc. have been successfully abolished by some great reformers in our society such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and many others before and after him.
There have not been many changes in the religious sphere, accept that people are more accepting towards the concept that different religions can exist, and it is one’s personal choice to follow any of them.
- Other Miscellaneous Benefits
India has enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act so as to protect the oppressed people from undesired suppression. She has also provided opportunity to develop society towards scientific temper. Last, but not the least, India has made efforts to protect the natural resources through various laws and provided a place of habitation for all living things.
The democratic system of governance has improved and benefited India in multiple ways. Voting has provided an opportunity for people to choose and have a hand in the political future of our country.
This is known as a Safety value concept. It is admirable how elections are held peacefully and how the ministry changes gracefully every five years, in comparison to how some countries forcefully take away the power held by the government.
I would like to conclude with a short excerpt from a heart-rending speech given by none other than Charlie Chaplin.
“You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”