Equality. Freedom. Justice. Secularity. Rights. Federalism. People’s government. That’s the general view of democracy we have in our minds. Democracy promises to incorporate all these values while administrating the institutions of society, economy and polity. To be specific, what democracy is to people is what a sickle is to a farmer- a tool to bring good days. But, despite all its merits, I am still sceptical of its utilization value in a country like ours.
My scepticism is born out of a simple fact- in a democracy, all or at-least majority of the citizens are assumed to be capable (qualified) enough by the age of eighteen to be able to elect their representative. Also, the candidates are believed to be qualified enough to govern the country, the state, or the district. Perhaps, it has to be assumed. Otherwise, the whole idea would have no existential value. In reality, what we’re dealing with is completely the opposite of it, especially in a country like India. The only thing that makes us capable of a proper governance in majority of the cases is education. Despite having a functional education system, the dysfunctional attitude of it is immense. Firstly, we’re still trapped in the race of producing clerical, obedient minds as prescribed by the imperial rule. The system doesn’t allow creativity, and questioning. And, if in a democracy questions are not welcomed, it makes the entire framework dull. Second, the majority of the population of India is still rural, and suffers from high illiteracy rate, keeping in mind the colossal population. The economics of rural areas have considerably low monetary evaluation and does increase the dependency on public institutions. The lack of infrastructure and human resource to accommodate and educate the people in public institutions have been widely reported throughout the years. Third, post liberalisation, with the opening up of education as a market and the introduction of private institutions, the public institutions are nothing but a curse of poverty for those who can’t afford private education. No-one opts for public education out of choice. And, millions of people still live below the poverty line.
So, clearly, the assumed premise is false in case of India. It is democracy that is keeping the people uneducated. If we structurally see, what we’re dealing in India now, is not merely democracy. It is democratic capitalism. And, capitalism believes in doing nothing until and unless there is a profit added to it. The ministers, and policy makers are also a product of the capitalist society. Why would they educate you if their vote bank is intact, and doesn’t pose tough questions to them? If they have done nothing for the people, and still have won the election? If all that the people wants to vote for you is a few gifts prior to election, and sometimes, money and alcohol, who would educate them to call for critical mind-set? We all know how innocence is a bliss. How can this be changed? Simple. Put an educational qualification that is needed in order to vote. What will this do? The politicians in order to win an election will have to build their vote bank as their old, illiterate vote bank would go out of work, and for that, they need to educate the people. With education will come a sense of critical thinking, and constructive formulation of decisions.
The quality of the representative in terms of intelligentsia will automatically increase as the literacy of the voting class is directly proportional to that of the representative (in most of the cases). Kerala is a striking example of what I am saying. Literate people will value education, and knowledge more than mere claims, and exaggerated alliterations of nationalism, or religious jingoism.Only in this way we can stop the populist choice from beingunconscious to the materialistic social obstacles, and their scientific solutions, to being conscious of them. And, thus bringing the common India in sync with the laal-battiIndia.
Another aspect of democracy which shows the harsh capitalistic approach of it is the consideration of people as votes. People are not just votes. They are more than just numbers. When a politicians counts people in numbers or votes, the first mistake he does is ignoring real lives in the illusion of the mathematics. For a politician, losing 100 votes might mean very less, but the sufferings of 100 people is a democratic disaster. To be honest, when everything is about numbers, no-one cares about the humanly emotions and pain of the people- somehow which is the capitalistic way of doing things. In order to win over votes, politicians allow the evils of caste, class, religion, linguistic divisions seep in. They count the profit and loss of riots and massacres in votes, and thus, actually turning a blind eye to the solution of the problem.
So, in order to make the democracy work, we must question the authoritarian policies of education imposed on us as a society, and its economic, social and structural limitations. If ever democracy has to stand out as a futuristic and progressive approach for India, it must ethically work to diminish illiteracy, and thus, continuously bridging the gap between the populist and the elite.
Sutputra Radheye is someone among you who writes poetry, and prose to express himself. “Worshipping Bodies” is his latest poetry book. He believes in art with a purpose, an art that revolts against the commodity fetishism of the present society.)