Chapter 7 Outcomes of Democracy
How does democracy produce an accountable, responsive and legitimate government ?
Democracy produces an accountable, responsive and legitimate government in the ways as mentioned below :
(1) Accountability : In a democracy, decision-making process is based on norms and procedures. A citizen may know about the procedure process followed in the decision-making. It is known as transparency. Thus the government is accountable to the people. The government can develop mechanisms for citizens to hold the government accountable to the people. In India Right to Information is an example of this process. In non-democratic government there is no such accountability. However over all democratic governments do not have a very good record .when it comes to sharing information with citizens. But whatever be the case it can be said that the democratic governments are better than non-democratic regimes.
(2) Responsive government : Generally it is expected from a democratic government that it is attentive to the needs and demands of the people and is largely free of corruption. But in practice it is not so. Democracies often frustrate the needs of the people and often ignore the demands of a majority of its population. So it is not fully responsive. There are cases of corruption in democratic countries. At the same time, there is nothing to show that non- democratic government are less corrupt or more sensitive to the people.
(3) Legitimate government : In this respect democracy is better than other non-democratic governments. It is people’s own government. People wish to be ruled by representatives elected by them. They also believe that democracy is suitable for their country.
Thus there is an overwhelming support for the idea of democracy all over the world. In addition to this democracy’s ability to generate its own support is itself an outcome that cannot he ignored.
What are the conditions under which democracies accommodate social diversities ?
Democracies accommodate social diversities in the ways as mentioned below :
- Democracies usually develop a procedure to conduct their competition. The Belgian leaders recognised the existence of regional differences and cultural diversities. For example, the constitution prescribes the number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers shall be equal in the central government as well as Brussel’s government.
- Differences must be respected and there should be mechanism to negotiate differences. Democracy is best suited to reduce this outcome. Ability to handle social differences, divisions and conflicts is possible only in democracies. But for this democracy must fulfill two conditions as mentioned below :
- The majority always needs to work with the minority so that governments function to represent the general view.
- Rule by majority should not become rule by majority community in terms of religion, or race or linguistic group. Democracy remains democracy only as long as every citizen has a chance of being in majority at some point of time.
Give arguments to support or oppose the following assertions :
(a) Industrialised countries can afford democracy but the poor need dictatorship to become rich.
(b) Democracy can’t reduce inequality of incomes between different citizens.
(c) Government in poor countries should spend less on poverty reduction, health, education and spend more on industries and infrastructure.
(d) In democracy, all citizens have one vote, which means that there is absence of any domination and conflict.
(a) It is not correct.
- No doubt, a lot of expenditure is incurred on elections in a democracy but regular, fair and free elections make democracy a popular form of government.
- Again to say that poor need dictatorship to become rich is not correct. For example, in African countries, where military dictatorships have been established, the poor have not become rich.
- In Pakistan and Bangladesh too, the condition of the poor is far from satisfactory.
- A poor country can be a democratic country such as India where democracy has been successful since its independence.
(b) It is correct to state that democracy cannot reduce inequality of incomes between different citizens. Democracy provides political equality e., right to vote and other rights but ultra-rich people enjoy a highly disproportionate share of wealth and incomes. Not only this their share in the total income of the country has been increasing. On the other hand poor are becoming poorer and they find it difficult to meet their basic needs of life i.e., food, clothing and shelter etc.
Thus in actual life the democracies have not been successful in reducing economic inequalities. For example in India, the poor constitute a large population of our voters and no party will like to lose their votes. Yet democratically elected governments do not address the question of poverty satisfactorily. The result is that in some countries the situation is very bad. For example in Bangladesh, more than half of its population lives in poverty. People in several poor countries are now dependent on the rich countries even for food supplies.
(c) I do not agree with the view that the government in poor countries should spend less on poverty reduction, health, education and spend more on industries and infrastructure. The governments should spend more on poverty reduction, health and education due to the reasons as mentioned below :
- The poverty eradication programmes help the poor directly. For example poverty alleviation programmes such as NREGA help them directly.
- The opening of health centers will enable the poor to get health facilities in their localities. A healthy person can earn more and thus, in turn, will improve their standard of living.
- Education too will improve the condition of the poor. An educated person i.e., engineer, doctor, lawyer, IT professional not only can earn more but also help in improving the economy of the country.
- On the other hand if more money is spent on industries and infrastructure, it may help the industrialists more than the poor.
(d) It is correct to say that in democracy, all citizens have one vote, which means that there is absence of any domination and conflict. In democracy under universal adult franchise all citizens have right to vote without any discrimination on account of caste, creed and religion. In elections number is important. A candidate who secures maximum votes, gets elected. Rich or poor who ever has voted for him does not matter. Thus, there is no domination of upper class voters over the lower class voters.
Identify the challenges to democracy in the following descriptions. Also suggest policy/institutional mechanism to deepen democracy in the given situations :
(a) Following a High Court directive a temple in Orissa that had separate entry doors for dalits and non-dalits allowed entry for all from the same door.
(b) A large number of farmers are committing suicide in different states of India.
(c) Following allegation of killing of three civilians in Gandwara in a fake encounter by Jammu and Kashmir police, an enquiry has been ordered.
(a) Generally, we find in a democracy various social divisions based on caste which lead to tensions. The present challenge relates to social diversity. The High Court has ordered entry for all from the same door instead of having separate doors for dalits and non-dalits earlier. To deepen democracy there should be law banning discrimination on account of caste, religion or other factors.
(b) There is a challenge of poverty. A large number of farmers are committing suicide in different states of India due to the following factors :
- Unable to pay loan that has been taken by them due to bad harvest due to lack of rain or irrigation facilities.
- Non-availability of government help at the time of necessity.
In such situation, the government should set up an organisation to look after the interests of the farmers. They should be given financial help or loans at nominal rate of interest. Irrigation and other facilities should be provided to them.
(c) Dignity and freedom of the citizens has been challenged in the present case. Generally, cases of fake encounters are reported in the newspapers. In a democracy such incidents should not take place because the passion for respect and freedom are the basis of a democracy. All individuals are equal.
To avoid such fake encounters there should be transparency in the working of the government departments including police department. The culprits should be punished even if they occupy a higher post in any government department.
In the context of democracies, which of the following ideas is correct – democracies have successfully eliminated :
A. conflicts among people.
B. economic inequalities among people.
C. differences of opinion about how marginalised sections are to be treated
D. the idea of political inequality
(D) the idea of political inequality.
In the context of assessing democracy which among the following is odd one out. Democracies need to ensure :
A. free and fair elections.
B. dignity of the individual,
C. majority rule.
D. equal treatment before law.
(D) equal treatment before law.
Studies on political and social inequalities in democracy show that
A. democracy and development go together.
B. inequalities exist in democracies.
C. inequalities do not exist under dictatorship.
D. dictatorship is better than democracy.
(B) inequalities exist in democracies.
Read the passage below :
Nannu is a daily wage earner. He lives in Welcome Mazdoor Colony, a slum habitation in East Delhi. He lost his ration card and applied for a duplicate one in January 2004. He made several rounds to the local Food and Civil Supplies office for the next three months. But the clerks and officials would not even look at him, leave alone do his job or bother to tell him the status of his application. Ultimately, he filed an application under the Right to Information Act asking for the daily progress made on his application, names of the officials, who were supposed to act on his application and what action would be taken against these officials for their inaction. Within a week of filing application under the Right to Information Act, he was visited by an inspector from the Food Department, who informed him that the card had been made and he could collect it from the office. When Nannu went to collect his card next day, he was given a very warm treatment by the Food and Supply Officer (FSO), who is the head of a Circle. The FSO offered him tea and requested him to withdraw his application under the Right to Information, since his work had already been done.
What does Nannu’s example show ? What impact did Nannu’s action have on officials ? Ask your parents their experiences when they approach government officials to attend to their problems.
(a) Nannu’s example shows that ordinary people should be aware of their rights. They should exercise those rights without any fear as has been done by Nannu.
(b) Nannu’s action has a significant effect on the officials who not only made his ration card but also offered him a cup of tea at the office of the Food and Supply Officer. He was given proper respect. However, the Food and Supply Officer requested him to withdraw his application because his ration card had been prepared.
(c) Generally, the government officials do not bother about the requests of the poor and disadvantaged people. Such people as Nannu go on visiting government offices without any success. Their problems are not solved. But now with the introduction of Right to Information, things would change. There will be more efficiency and transparency in the functioning of the government departments.