Sir — S.L. Rao, in his article, “Work in progress” (Feb 18), arrives at the conclusion that the “Indian democracy will take decades to improve”. This is a bitter truth. The aam admi dwells on the hope that the country will soon start its journey on the path to progress, oblivious of the darkness that is all set to engulf India’s future.
Even after six decades of independence, the Indian democracy is in a nascent stage. On the one hand, very few citizens actually bother to follow the rules that have been formed to uphold the spirit of democracy. On the other, the guardians of law and order turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the common man. There is still no concrete law to prohibit a candidate with a criminal record from contesting the elections. There are loopholes in the law that can be easily misused by the rich and the powerful. Often, government officials, the police and even members of the armed forces become pawns in the hands of bigwig politicians. Whenever a scam is uncovered, these pawns are made into scapegoats.
The conclusion that Rao has arrived at is a frightening one. It implies that even the next generation may have to live in a condition no better than ours.
Alok Ganguly, Calcutta
Sir — In “Work in progress”, S.L. Rao has lamented that the Indian democracy’s “form and substance” will take decades to improve. But he seems to be optimistic about a possible reformation.
The truth is that elections cannot become an effective tool of democracy until and unless the voters can get to eat at least two square meals a day and are not deprived of the basic necessities of life. Elections are based on the counting of votes — naturally, politicians are worried only about numbers. Those elected as the people’s representatives have no idea of the conditions in which the voters actually live.
The game of politics is played with the card of poverty. And this is precisely why poverty can never be eradicated from the country. The gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen because political leaders will continue to utilize the poor to further their own interests. A few sporadic successes of the United Progressive Alliance government in implementing reforms cannot compensate for its huge failure to correct the economic imbalance and provide the underprivileged with proper education and healthcare.
The “unaccountable executive”, which Rao criticizes, is presided over by power-hungry politicians. The influence and dignity of the fourth estate have also been compromised by the corrupt practice of “paid news”. It is only the judiciary that has, till now, avoided becoming entirely corrupt and dishonest. But it faces a backlash from the executive whenever it tries to speak out against the crooked ways of lawmakers and administrators.
Still, India’s existing democratic form protects its citizens to a certain extent from anarchy and fanaticism. The crumbling of the democratic form has resulted in far worse situations in our neighbouring countries. Indians, at least, are positive enough to dream of progress.
Sir — In his article, “The offence calculator” (Feb 17), Ruchir Joshi has discussed the emergence of a new social malaise — in the form of fatwa and “hate speech” — which has the potential to rob the common people of their fundamental rights and freedoms. This virus germinates in intolerance, and can spread like wildfire. It has already caused immense damage to our social fabric. The vitality of the Indian society lies in its ability to assimilate diverse ideas.
A healthy society encourages debates and differing opinions. Unfortunately, liberal thinking is often being replaced now by impatience to alternative ideas. Diktats, not debates, are gaining ground in society. Stubborn and ridiculous demands are being made — for example, for imposing dress codes on women, restrictions on cultural events, bans on books, films, and even on certain writers and artists. It is distressing that such unwarranted interference with people’s rights are encouraged by some political leaders. Many of the leaders support such harmful demands in order to reap political dividends. Unless civil society rises against these destructive forces, the situation will only get worse.