India: Huge ‘Democratic deficit’

09Apr07

Defination of democracy: Government of the people, by the people, for the people … ”  President Abraham Lincoln

Defination of democracy deficit ( Source:WIKI): A democratic deficit is considered to be occurring when ostensibly democratic organizations or institutions (particularly governments) are seen to be falling short of fulfilling the principles of the parliamentary democracy in their practices or operation where representative and linked parliamentary integrity becomes widely discussed: State-corporate crime: incorporated governance. The phrase was coined by UK Member of the European Parliament Bill Newton Dunn in a pamphlet in the 1980s.The United Nations, United States, European Union and United Kingdom have been accused of having democratic deficits.

More explanation(Source :democraticdeficit.uk.org): Michael Meacher MP who coined the term, summed it up:”So what is wrong with Indian politics today? The single biggest problem is the lack of accountability of power. There is little point in lobbying parliament or taking to the streets in protest at war in Iraq or Iran, or the replacement of Trident or a new round of nuclear power stations, or the marketisation of public services, if the government. The checks and balances have all but disappeared. “What is needed is a new framework of power that restores the authority of the House of Commons, secures effective ministerial control of the civil service and moves to a more constitutional type of premiership. Parliament, through strengthened select committees, chosen by a secret vote of the whole house in accordance with party numbers and not by the whips, should have statutory power to ratify cabinet appointments, summon ministers and require disclosure of all relevant documents, to appoint external committees of inquiry where the government may be reluctant to do so, and to table its own motions for debate on the floor of the house at least once a month, with a vote at the conclusion.”

Global situation of democracy deficit:IS GLOBAL GOVERNANCE –THE STRUCTURE OF INTERNATIONAL institutions – democratically legitimate or does it suffer from a ‘democratic deficit’? This is emerging as one of the central questions– perhaps the central question – in contemporary world politics.Whatever their underlying motivations, critics these days ranging from the extreme right to the extreme left, and at almost every point in between, couch criticisms of globalization in democratic rhetoric.There is a consensus answer to this question, among scholars and among commentators, politicians and the general public, namely that international organizations are normatively suspect. Those whoinvoke democratic ideals to assess international organizations consistently conclude that they suffer from a severe ‘democratic deficit’.One is hard-pressed to think of a single application of democratic to an international organization – whether the EuropeanUnion, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or even the United Nations – that does notconclude with a serious criticism of the organization. Most such judgements are so unequivocal that authors devote most of their timeto proposals for solutions.The reasons seem obvious. International organizations encompass large geographical domains. Robert Dahl maintains that international organizations are therefore inherently unable to support direct democratic deliberation and decision

Indian Democratic deficit mainly due to caste system (Source:Atrocitynews inputs) :Several democratic setups in the world are facing democracy deficit of this or that sort; ranging from Canada, US to European union and many more countries are failing short of achieving the democratic goals.  India has the biggest democracy-deficit due to its inability to convert after 55 years of its democracy into proper democracy at social level called social democracy by Dr Ambedkar. The biggest culprit is Caste system and related caste virus. Ministers and elected representatives with criminal antecedents squandering public funds and feel giving time to think over solutions on such problem is not their fort.  Ordinarily People hardly get to see their representatives between elections, and, leave alone being able to approach them for redressing their grievances. result is: Poor people like Dalits often are driven to resort to agitations, sometimes accompanied by violence, as the only method of getting a hearing from government functionaries.The human right violation against Dalits is order of the day. Everyday a dalit dies here in India. A dalit woman is raped and her is house burnt without any fear of law.

In long-standing democracies, such as in the West, where almost the entire population is literate and awareness of civic rights and responsibilities is widespread, the problem of making governments accountable to the people between elections is solved by a vigilant public and socially activist civil society keeping elected representatives on their toes. In the US, the members of the lower House, elected once in two years by small electorates of around three lakh per constituency, cannot simply afford to fall foul of their constituents. The provision of recall in some State Constitutions also helps.Devising measures to make India’s democracy genuine is a challenge which thinking citizens cannot evade any longer.

Developmental economist perspective (source:The Tribune):The logic of the free-market is assertted: The claim made is that each individual pursuing his or her own maximum utility results in optimum social well-being. The State’s role is merely to ensure the best environment within which this rationality can proceed. The consequence however is that the concepts of a particular economic language game have overwhelmed our ability to speak politically in any other credible way. Those who attempt to do so can be charged with being unreasonable, unrealistic, and even dangerous. The effect on public discourse of this ascendancy has been to close down the capacity of public representatives to speak credibly in any other categories. They have become caught in an intellectual box beyond which they cannot manoeuvre.
But, even more alarming, this box is not just a theoretical construction. The second factor degrading democratic responsiveness is that power has effectively shifted from visible, accountable persons and institutions to invisible, globally diffused sites and systems. The control exercised by global corporations and financial services over the increasingly inter-dependant national economies has resulted in power being based upon the ability to control financial resources. Capital flows, investment decisions, currency speculations, and other choices exercised by large corporations, directly affect employment levels and wealth levels in individual nation States. It is this power that keeps the box in place. But rather than resist this de facto ceding of domestic control, nation-States have accelerated this process through the creation of international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation, which legally binds States into the regime of free trade. The result is that irrespective of who is elected to de jure leadership positions within States, they effectively can do little substantive policy making, i.e. nothing outside the limits of the box and certainly nothing on the scale required by the ecological demands of this time.

Finally, elected representatives have presided over the dismantling of the State’s domain of concern in the last couple of decades, voluntarily so in the West, often compulsorily elsewhere as conditions of international loans or in consequence of military interventions. This has occurred in two directions. First has been the deregulation and privatisation of large areas of the economy that were formerly publicly owned – such as transport and electricity provision. Secondly, the State has increasingly devolved decision-making powers from democratic institutions to a variety of administrative bodies. Nowhere is this latter tendency more apparent than in the environmental policy-making area where questions of environmental impact have been determined by pollution control agencies, environmental impact assessment procedures and ‘scientifically’ grounded risk assessments. Environmental concerns have become shunted away from political forums and instead rendered into a series of technical problems to be processed by administrative bodies. The result in this case has been the reduction, de-politicisation and domestication of environmental issues.

This supply contraction has met with, and in large part has itself influenced, a corresponding decline in the demand for representation from electorates. This contraction is an understandable response to the realisation of the limits of representative effectiveness. The growing loss of belief in liberal democracy is summed up in commonly occurring phrases such as – ‘It makes no difference who you vote for’, ‘They are all the same’, ‘They are all puppets who can do nothing anyway’. This assessment by electorates is accentuated by revelations of political corruption, which have swept many Western States in recent years, our own included. As a result it has become apparent that the formal channel of exercising democratic power grounded on votes exercised by citizens has become outflanked by informal channels of influence, resting on financial power and political funding (licit and illicit), by the corporate few.

The consequence has been a further significant impetus to the de-politicisation of the public sphere, with the category of citizen being progressively replaced by that of consumer. The drama of politics has degenerated into a theatre of the absurd as largely powerless and homogeneous political representatives seek to cajole votes from disengaged, atomised individuals whose focus has become increasingly centred on the domain of their own personal autonomy. The electorates of the West now largely expect nothing from the political system, least of all the possibility of a vision of social transformation being translated into a politically realisable project. In the context of the grave environmental challenges facing us, this is a serious deficit indeed. This is because if we are to manage and regulate business and society in order to achieve social and ecological sustainability we will need highly democratised and effective policy instruments wielded by confidant and accountable States that can hold the trust of their citizens.
 



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