Seven Reforms A Must for India’s Democracy

direct democracy

There is increasing need for at least seven important reforms in India’s democracy. First and foremost, there is urgent need for the government to be more protective towards minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, who have been feeling less secure in recent times. The government has a constitutional duty to ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of faith and that people of all faiths and religions feel equally secure and confidant in their living and occupational places or while travelling. The government also has an important duty to promote inter-faith harmony in various ways. All this is very important in itself, but in addition will also help to raise the international stature of India and provide it the much needed moral and ethical strength in its role as peacemaker at international level.

Secondly, the government should order a comprehensive review of all pending controversial cases against social and human rights activists, civil society organizations, media persons and academics in which several persons, many of whom with a record of dedicated service, have been implicated even though they are widely believed to be innocent. It is disheartening indeed to find women working for inter-faith harmony being accused of inciting riots, and people who spent their life protecting the rights of poor people being themselves denied justice. Glaring loopholes in several of these cases have already come to light from time to time, and it is time now for the government to take some solid corrective actions very soon.

India had achieved well-deserved acclaim internationally for its admirable Right to Information (RTI) legislation and some other related initiatives concerning transparency. There is widespread concern that these have not been receiving the same support lately and the government needs to reaffirm its commitment to RTI and transparency strongly.

Among many developing countries India has a long and admirable record of using elections to bring change of government as per the wishes of people as reflected in their voting patterns. However several aspects including those relating to role of money power in changing election results, toppling of elected governments by engineering defections and appointments in and functioning of the Election Commission have raised troubling questions and apprehensions. The government must attend to these.

Fifth, the ruling parties and opposition parties should not drift apart from each other to such an extent that they cannot cooperate even on urgent issues of national interest. Of course the most important role of the opposition may be to highlight the policy and implementation flaws of the government, but this does not mean that they cannot work together when the interests of the nation and its people demand. In the past, as was best seen in times of Jawaharlal Nehru but continued even later, cordial relations were maintained despite all the differences, and this should continue. The BJP as the most powerful party should take a lead in this at the national level, followed by other efforts at the level of various states.

In particular a strong effort should be made to create a consensus on certain crucial policy issues such as India’s relations with China and the USA as well as the Ukraine war. Recent foreign policy initiatives of the Modi-Jaishankar team, particularly in the context of Ukraine policy, have served well India’s interests, have been appreciated by several developing countries, and have positioned India as a peacemaker. This is precisely the kind of issue on which the opposition parties should be supportive of the government and strive to create a consensus. Rahul Gandhi (after all the goodwill he gained from the Bharat Jodo Yatra) has recently made some highly unfortunate and immature statements in this context, comparing India with Ukraine and China with Russia, painting Russia as the villain of the Ukraine conflict and completely ignoring the role of the USA and its allies in the proxy war, thereby violating the concept of non-alignment and even the legacy of his grandmother and great grandfather. The Congress President Mr. Kharge should hasten to distance the Congress Party from these remarks (which would be evidence of inner-party democracy) so that Congress at least remains committed to its own legacy. On the highly sensitive issue of India-China relations also there is much need for consensus building efforts instead of the Congress just rushing to criticize the government whenever the issue is in news.

Last but not the least, there is much need for the union government to improve relations with those state governments where opposition parties are in power. Governors should stick to their constitutional roles only.

These seven democracy reforms are urgently needed in India and should not be delayed any further, with the government as well as the opposition parties contributing to this.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, When the Two Streams Met (freedom movement) and Man over Machine ( Gandhian legacy).


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