What Is Democracy And Features Of Democracy
- Democracy : A form of government which is chosen by the people to work for their welfare and can be voted out by them.
- Universal Adult Franchise : Any person who is above 18 years of age has the right to vote, irrespective of caste, colour, status, religion, etc.
- Constitutional monarchy : A government headed by a king or queen whose powers are limited by a constitution.
- Non- democratic Government : A form of government in which people do not elect their rulers and have no right in decision-making.
- Corruption : An inducement to do wrong by bribery or other unlawful means.
- Poverty : Condition where people’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter are not being met.
- Accountable government : The government elected by the people and therefore responsible to them.
- Dictatorship : Under dictatorship all the powers are vested in a single person or in a group of people.
- Minimal democracy : A system of government in which citizens give teams of political leaders the right to rule in periodic elections.
- Representative democracy : A type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy.
What Is Democracy And Features Of Democracy
- Democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people.
- Features of Democracy
- Major Decisions by Elected Leaders
- In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf led a military coup in October 1999. He overthrew a democratically-elected government and declared himself the ‘Chief Executive’ of the country. Later, he changed his designation to the President and in 2002 held a referendum in the country that granted him a five year extension.
- In August 2002, he issued a ‘Legal Framework Order’ that amended the Constitution of Pakistan. According to this Order, the President can dismiss the national and provincial assemblies.
- Though Pakistan has had elections – the elected representatives have some powers. But the final power vests with military officers and General Musharraf himself.
- Clearly, there are many reasons why Pakistan under General Musharraf should not be called a democracy. Among many reasons, the most significant is that the power to take final decision rests with army officials and with General Musharraf and none of them was elected by the people. But in a democracy, the final decision-making power must vest with those who are elected by the people.
- Free and Fair Electoral Competition
- In China, elections are regularly held after every five years for electing the country’s parliament, called Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui (National People’s Congress). The National People’s Congress has the power to appoint the President of the country.
- Only those, who are members of the Chinese Communist Party or eight smaller parties allied to it, were allowed to contest in the elections held in 2002-03. The government is always formed by the Communist Party.
- Since its independence in 1930, Mexico holds elections after every six years to elect its President. The country has never been under a military or dictator’s rule. Till 2000, every election was won by a party called PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party).
- The dirty tricks played by the PRI to win elections were :
- All those who were employed in government offices had to attend its party meetings.
- Teachers of the government schools used to force parents to vote for the PRI.
- Media largely ignored the activities of opposition political parties except to criticise them.
- Sometimes, the polling booths were shifted from one place to another in the last minute, which made it difficult for people to cast their votes.
- The PRI spent a large sum of money in the campaign for its candidates.
- One Person, One Vote, One Value
- Many instances of denial of equal right to vote in the world :
- In Saudi Arabia, women do not have the right to vote.
- Estonia has made its citizenship rules in such a way that people belonging to Russian minority find it difficult to get the right to vote.
- In Fiji, the electoral system is such that the vote of an indigenous Fiji has more value than that of an Indian Fijian.
- Democracy is based on a fundamental principle of political equality.
- In a democracy, each adult citizen must have one vote and each vote must have one value.
- Many instances of denial of equal right to vote in the world :
- Rule of Law and Respect for Rights
- Zimbabwe attained independence from White minority rule in 1980. Since then, the country has been ruled by ZANU-PF, the party that led the freedom struggle. Its leader, Robert Mugabe, has been ruling the country since independence.
- The example of Zimbabwe shows that popular approval of the rulers is necessary for a democracy, but it is not sufficient. Popular governments can be undemocratic. Popular leaders can be autocratic. If we wish to assess a democracy, it is important to look at the elections.
- Features of Democracy
- Rulers elected by the people take all the major decisions.
- Elections offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers.
- This choice and opportunity is available to all the people on an equal basis.
- The exercise of this choice leads to a government to be limited by basic rules of the constitution and citizens’ rights.
- Arguments against Democracy
- Leaders keep changing in a democracy. This leads to instability.
- Democracy is all about political competition and power play. There is no scope for morality.
- So many people have to be consulted in a democracy that it leads to delays.
- Elected leaders do not know the best interest of the people. It leads to bad decisions.
- Democracy leads to corruption as it is based on electoral competition.
- Ordinary people don’t know what is good for them; they should not decide anything.
- Arguments for Democracy
- A democratic government is a better government because it is a more accountable form of government.
- Democracy improves the quality of decision-making.
- Democracy provides a method to deal with differences and conflicts.
- Democracy enhances the dignity of citizens. Democracy is better than other forms of government because it allows us to correct its own mistakes.
Broader Meanings Of Democracy
- Broader Meaning of Democracy
- In the countries which we call as democracy, all the people do not rule. A majority is allowed to take decisions on behalf of all the people. Even the majority does not rule directly. The majority of people rule through their elected representatives.
- This becomes necessary because :
- Modern democracies involve such a large number of people that it is physically impossible for all of them to sit together and take a collective decision.
- Even if they could, all the citizens do not have the time, the desire or the skills to take part in all the decisions.
- It gives us a clear but minimal understanding of democracy and helps us to distinguish democracies from nondemocracies.
- A democratic decision involves consultation with and consent of all those who are affected by that decision.
- This can apply to a government or a family or any other organisation. Thus, democracy is also a principle that can be applied to any sphere of life.
- In a democracy every citizen must be able to play an equal role in decision making.
Question.1. News items like this appear very often in newspapers. Do they all use the word democracy in the same sense?
Answer. No. The headlines are being sarcastic, e.g., “Nepal king invents ‘democracy’” or “Why wait for a revolution”.
The headlines about Afghanistan clearly suggest that democracy is not accepted by the people.
Question.2. I have heard a different version. Democracy is off the people, far (from) the people and (where they) buy the people. Why don’t we accept that?
Answer. In some cases, the democracy is off the people far (from) the people and (where they) buy the people. It means where the democracy does not belong to the people it is not for them but far away from them and where the democracy is not by the people but the candidates buy the votes with money. It means ideal democracy is still distant from reality.
But we should not see these examples and be hopeless. These problems can be rectified with passage of time with proper usage of electronic media.
Question.3. This cartoon was drawn when elections were held in Iraq with the presence of US and other foreign powers. What do you think this cartoon is saying? Why is ‘democracy’ written the way it is?
Answer. Democracy — where fear and fair elections must be held — is being forced on Iraq by the US and its allies. There are no “free” and “fair” elections. The capital M suggests mockery of democratic norms.
Question.4. Syria is a small west Asian country. The ruling Baath Party and some of its small allies are the only parties allowed in that country. Do you think this cartoon could apply to China or Mexico? What does the crown of leaves on democracy signify?
Answer. Again the cartoon suggests that there is no true democracy in Syria. Yes, it would suit China and Mexico also where no opposition parties are allowed to contest election.
Crown of leaves — It is a symbol of victory. In Greece the reward to the winner was this crown. Here the crown suggests that ‘democracy’ has won and demands justice, but the one party rule is denying this right to the people of Syria.
Question.5. This cartoon was drawn in the context of Latin America. Do you think it applies to the Pakistani situation as well? Think of other countries where this could apply. Does this happen sometimes in our country as well?
Answer. Yes, it applies to Pakistan. Other countries are Myanmar, Iraq where people are forced to vote by the army.
No, it has not happened in our country.
Question.6. This cartoon was titled ‘Building democracy’ and was first published in a Latin American publication. What do moneybags signify here? Could this cartoon be applied to India?
Answer. This cartoon suggests that ‘democracy’ is in the hand of the rich. They control the country.
No, there are laws which see to it that the rich do not get the upper hand.
Question.7. This cartoon is about the Iraqi election held after Saddam Hussain’s regime was overthrown. He is shown behind the bars. What is the cartoonist saying here? Compare the message of this cartoon with the first cartoon in this chapter.
Answer. The cartoon shows the end of dictatorship in Iraq where Saddam ruled unchecked. People rejoice at elections being held. But the first cartoon shows that people do not have a real choice. They are forced to vote, by the powerful US and its allies.
Question.8. Chinese government blocked free flow of information on the Internet by placing restrictions on popular websites like ‘Google’ and ‘Yahoo’. The image of tanks and an unarmed student reminds the reader of another major event in recent Chinese history. Find out about that event.
Answer. Refers to the massacre that took place at Tianmen Square where hundreds of students were ruthlessly killed.
Question.9. This cartoon is from Brazil, a country that has long experience of dictatorship. It is entitled “The Hidden Side of Dictatorship”. Which hidden sides does this cartoon depict? Is it necessary for every dictatorship to have a hidden side? Find this out about the dictators discussed in the first chapter and if possible, about Abacha in Nigeria and Marcos in Philippines.
Answer. The hidden side of dictatorship is massacre or killing of innocent people. Anybody who opposes the policies of a dictator is killed. Since the dictators control the media, the public never comes to know the number of people killed.
Question.10. What would have happened if India was not a democracy? Could we have stayed together as a single nation?
Answer. We definitely would not have remained united. Differences of caste, language and religion would have raised their ugly head and divided our country. History would repeat itself and some foreign power would have enslaved us again, destroyed our pride, dignity and economy.
Question.11. Rajesh and Muzaffar read an article. It showed that no democracy has ever gone to war with another democracy. Wars take place only when one of the two governments is nondemocratic. The article said that this was a great merit of democracy. After reading the essay, Rajesh and Muzaffar had different reactions. Rajesh said that this was not a good argument for democracy. It was just a matter of chance. It is possible that in future democracies may have wars. Muzaffar said that it could not be a matter of chance. Democracies take decisions in such a way that it reduces the chances of war. Which of the two positions do you agree with and why?
Answer. I agree with Muzaffar. There is certainly a strong point in favour of democracies. Since decisions are taken after consultation, nobody rushes into war; sanity and reason rule every decision.
Question.12. This cartoon was published in Canada just before its parliamentary elections of 2005. Everyone, including the cartoonist, expected the Liberal Party to win once again. When the results came, the Liberal Party lost the elections. Is this cartoon an argument against democracy or for democracy?
Answer. This cartoon is definitely in favour of democracy. In an indirect way it is telling the public not to be fooled and exercise their voting rights wisely, which they did by ousting the Liberals in the elections.
Question.13. This famous cartoon by R.K. Laxman comments on the celebrations of the fifty years of the independence. How many images on the wall do you recognise? Do many common people feel the way the common man in this cartoon does?
Answer. The cartoon does reflect the opinion of the general public. For fifty years leaders have made promises, made tall claims of achievements — still basic facilities are still denied to the common man — poverty is not eradicated, there is shortage of water, power, shelter, schools, hospitals — the basic necessities of life. The common man is bored by promises which are never fulfilled, actions do not match the promises.
Question.14. In my village the Gram Sabha never meets. Is that democratic?
Answer. Definitely not.
Question.15. Find out the total number of eligible voters in your assembly constituency and your parliamentary constituency. Find out how many people can fit into the largest stadium in your area. Is it possible for all the voters in your parliamentary or assembly constituency to sit together and have a meaningful discussion?
- No of voters in my assembly constituency named Allagadda in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh state are 2,20,612. My Parliamentary constituency is Nandyala in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. No of voters here is 15,76,945.
- Largest stadium nearby me is osmanis college ground in kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh state. It’s strength is around 20,000 members.
- No, it is not possible. It is impossible for all the voters in my Parliamentary or Assembly Constituency to sit together and have a meaningful discussion. The large number of voters cannot sit together for taking a decision.
Question.16. I want to be in Lyngdoh Madam’s class! That sounds like a democratic classroom. Doesn’t it?
Answer. Yes, Lyngdoh Madam’s classroom sounds like a democratic classroom. Here everybody can speak his own mind. The students are giving their own arguments passionately. They can express their opinions freely in front of others. Here two way interaction is allowed unlike one way traffic.
Question.17. Why talk about Zimbabwe? I read similar reports from many parts of our own country. Why don’t we discuss that?
- The President of Zimbabwe is the head of the state of Zimbabwe. In 1987, Robert Mugabe becomes the president and he revises the Constitution to make himself Executive President. President Mugabe is popular but also uses unfair practices in elections. Opposition party workers are harassed, public protest and demonstration against the government are declared illegal, both print and electronic media are controlled by the government.
The government has pressurised judges to give verdict in favour of the government. The example of Zimbabwe shows that popular approval of the rulers is necessary in a democracy, but it is not sufficient. A democratic government cannot do whatever it likes, simply because it has won the election. This is the reason for which Zimbabwe is discussed here.
- Our country is democratic and elections are by and large free and fair. However, sometimes we hear reports about use of unfair means, violence and money power in elections. These tactics (methods) are adopted by some candidates with criminal connections or criminal background. However, such cases are decreasing day by day.
Question.18. All this is so remote for me. Is democracy all about rulers and governments? Can we talk about a democratic classroom? Or a democratic family?
- Democracy is not only about rulers and governments. Democracy is a principle that can be applied to any sphere of life. A democratic decision involves consultation with and consent of all those who are affected by that decision. Democracy can be applied to any institution other than government where decision of everyone in that institution is equally valued.
- We can have democratic classrooms where the students can ask questions without hesitation. The teachers have a democratic temperament, so that the interaction is not a one-way traffic but a healthy two-way interaction.
- Democracy can be seen in families also. We could have democratic families where the decisions are not taken by any one individual and imposed on rest of the family members. All the family members should sit down and arrive at a general concensus through peaceful discussions.
Question.19. Let us take Lyngdoh Madam seriously and try to write down the exact definition of some of the simple words that we use all the time: pen, rain and love. For example, is there a way of defining a pen that distinguishes it clearly from a pencil, a brush, a chalk or crayon.
- What have you learnt from this attempt?
- What does it teach us about understanding the meaning of democracy
- From this conversation, I have learnt that by our simple thinking we can understand about any matter ourselves. We have to think about its meaning and evolve a definition. Each and every thing has some specific characteristics on the basis of how we can define that thing.
- We need a definition only when we come across a difficulty in the use of a word. We need a clear definition of democracy because there are different kinds of governments which are known as Democracy. Abraham Lincoln said that Democracy is a rule of the people, for the people and by the people.
We must not accept the definition, just because everyone accepts it. We do not know if this is the best way of defining democracy, unless we think about it ourselves. After thinking about it we can say that democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people. This is a common basic feature of democracy.
Question.20. Ribiang went back home and collected some more famous quotations on democracy. This time she did not mention the names of the people who said or wrote these. She wants you to read these and comment on how good or useful these thoughts are:
- Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor.
- Democracy consists of choosing your dictators after they’ve told you what you think it is you want to hear.
- Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary
- Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.
- All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy.
- The first and second points are about those forms of government in which the people can elect their ruler without having options. It means they have to elect the candidates chose by the ruling party. In the third thought, it suggests that if man is following justice, then democracy is possible. But when the man follows injustice, then democracy is necessary there to give justice to others. In the fourth thought, it suggests that there must be a balance between the form of government and our need. The main purpose of democracy is what it gives to its citizens.
- Democracy recognises our needs and enhances our dignity. In the last thought, there is a chance for modifying the features and characteristics of democracy as per our needs. There is no guarantee that mistakes cannot be made in democracy. The advantage is that there is a scope for correction through amendments. Either the rulers have to change their decisions or the rulers can be changed. In this way, the disadvantages of democracy can be corrected.
|(i) King of Bhutan.......representative||Major decision by elected leaders|
|(ii) Many Tamil workers.....Sri Lanka||One person, one vote, one value|
|(iii) The King of Nepal.....Rallies||Respect for Rights|
|(iv) The Indian Supreme Court .......unconstitutional||Rule of Law|
|(v) Political parties.....time of elections||Free and fair electroal competition|
Question.1. Here is some information about four countries. Based on this information, how would you classify each of these countries. Write ‘democratic’, ‘undemocratic’ or ‘not sure’ against each of these.
(a) Country A : People who do not accept the country’s official religion do not have a right to vote.
(b) Country B : The same party has been winning elections for the last twenty years.
(c) Country C : Ruling party has lost in the last three elections.
(d) Country D : There is no independent election commission.
Answer. (a) Undemocratic
(b) Not sure
Question.2. Here is some information about four countries. Based on this information, how would you classify each of these countries? Write ‘democratic’, ‘undemocratic’ or ‘not sure’ against each of these.
(a) Country P : The parliament cannot pass a law about the army without the consent of the Chief of Army.
(b) Country Q : The parliament cannot pass a law reducing the powers of the judiciary.
(c) Country R : The country’s leaders cannot sign any treaty with another country without taking permission from its neighbouring country.
(d) Country S : All the major economic decisions about the country are taken by officials of the central bank which the ministers cannot change.
Answer. (a) Democratic
(c) Not Sure
Question.3. Which of these is not a good argument in favour of democracy? Why?
(a) People feel free and equal in a democracy.
(b) Democracies resolve conflict in a better way than others.
(c) Democratic government is more accountable to the people.
(d) Democracies are more prosperous than others.
Answer. (d) Prosperity is not a sign of democracy. Democracy does not affect the financial status of a country. India is a democracy, yet it is fighting a long battle against poverty. India is poor for various other reasons.
Question.4. Each of these statements contains a democratic and an undemocratic element. Write out the two separately for each statement.
(a) A minister said that some laws have to be passed by the parliament in order to conform to the regulations decided by the World Trade Organisation.
(b) The Election Commission ordered re-polling in a constituency where large scale rigging was reported.
(c) Women’s representation in the parliament has never reached 10 per cent. This led women’ organisations to demand one-third seats for women.
Answer. (a) The reference of the laws to the parliament show that democracy is practiced. The minister has not taken the decision himself. But the decision to conform to the regulations decided by World Trade Organisation is undemocratic. Why should a free country make laws to suit a foreign organisation!
(b) Democratic : Repolling is necessary whenever rigging takes place in a constituency during elections.
Undemocratic : Rigging itself is an undemocratic element. It should not happen in a democracy.
(c) One should have more women representatives in parliament — democratic.
To demand reservation is undemocratic. Women should come forward themselves and fight elections.
Question.5. Which of these is not a valid reason for arguing that there is a lesser possibility of famine in a democratic country?
(a) Opposition parties can draw attention to hunger and starvation.
(b) Free press can report suffering from famine in different parts of the country.
(c) Government fears its defeat in the next elections.
(d) People are free to believe in and practice any religion.
Answer. (d) It has nothing to do with famines.
Question.6. There are 40 villages in a district where the government has made no provision for drinking water. These villagers met and considered many methods of forcing the government to respond to their need. Which of these is not a democratic method?
(a) Filing a case in the courts claiming that water is part of right to life.
(b) Boycotting the next elections to give a message to all parties.
(c) Organising public meetings against the government’s policies.
(d) Paying money to government officials to get water.
Answer. (d) Paying money to government officials to get water.
Question.7. Write a response to the following arguments against democracy :
(a) Army is the most disciplined and corruption-free organisation in the country. Therefore, army should rule the country.
(b) Rule of the majority means the rule of ignorant people. What we need is the rule of the wise, even if they are in small numbers.
(c) If we want religious leaders to guide us in spiritual matters, why not invite them to guide us in politics as well. The country should be ruled by religious leaders.
Answer. (a) Army rule is not a rule of the people through their representatives. They may be disciplined but they become dictatorial and cut down the freedom of the people. We have seen this in the case of Pinochet’s rule in Chile, President’s Musharraf’s rule in Pakistan and the military rule in Myanmar.
(b) Wise men are not necessarily good administrators. It will become the rule of the minority, not of the majority of the people. People’s liberties are bound to be cut down.
(c) Religious leaders follow the letter of the religion they preach. They deny freedom of thought, expression and speech. We have seen this in the case of Afghanistan. Religious leaders deny freedom of religion to minorities and impose their ideas on them.
It is only democracy which gives maximum freedom to people, allows them to choose their own leaders and does not all dictators of any kind of seize power.
Question.8. Are the following statements in keeping with democracy as a value? Why?
(a) Father to daughter : I don’t want to hear your opinion about your marriage. In our family children marry where the parents tell them to.
(b) Teacher to student : Don’t disturb my concentration by asking me questions in the classroom.
(c) Employee to the officer : Our working hours must be reduced according to the law.
Answer. (a) No, the right of freedom to choose and express her opinion is denied by the father. He is behaving like a dictator.
(b) No, again the teacher is being autocratic. A student has the right to ask questions to clear his/her doubts.
(c) Yes, in this example the employee is making the right demand. He cannot be forced to work for extra hours.
Question.9. Consider the following facts about a country and decide if you would call it a democracy. Give reasons to support your decision.
(a) All the citizens of the country have right to vote. Elections are held regularly.
(b) The country took loan from international agencies. One of the conditions for giving loan was that the government would reduce its expenses on education and health.
(c) People speak more than seven languages but education is available only in one language, the language spoken by 52 per cent people of that country.
(d) Several organisations have given a call for peaceful demonstrations and nationwide strikes in the country to oppose these policies. Government has arrested these leaders.
(e) The government owns the radio and television in the country. All the newspapers have to get permission from the government to publish any news about government’s policies and protests.
Answer. No, the country is not a democratic country.
(a) It has allowed a foreign agency to interfere in its internal policies. It has denied to its own citizens better education and health.
(b) The minorities are denied equal status in matter of language. Their cultural rights are ignored.
(c) The total control of media shows that there is no freedom of speech and expression and right to speak against the government.
Question.10. In 2004 a report published in USA pointed to the increasing inequalities in that country. Inequalities in income reflected in the participation of people in democracy. It also shaped their abilities to influence the decisions taken by the government. The report highlighted that :
If an average Black family earns $ 100, then the income of an average White family is $ 162. A White family has twelve times more wealth than an average Black family.
In a President’s election nearly nine out of 10 individuals in families with income over $ 75,000 have voted. These people are the top 20% of the population in terms of their income. On the other hand, only 5 people out of 10 from families with income less than $ 15,000 have voted. They are the bottom 20% of the population in terms of their income.
About 95% contribution to the political parties comes from the rich. This gives them an opportunity to express their opinions and concerns, which is not available to most citizens.
As poor sections participate less in politics, the government does not listen to their concerns — coming out of poverty, getting job, education, health care and housing from them. Politicians hear most regularly about the concerns of business and the most rich.
Write an easy on ‘Democracy and Poverty’ using the information given in this report but using examples from India.
Answer. Democracy and Poverty:
- Most of the Asian and African countries which won independence from colonial rule have been fighting a battle against poverty. In India, poverty has been a major challenge before the Indian economy. According to a census (1999-2000), 27.09% of population in rural areas live below the poverty line. In urban areas the situation is a little better — 23.62% people live below poverty line. The overall average is 26.10%. It means that a quarter of the population in India is living below the poverty line. States like Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line.
- Since independence, the Indian democracy has worked tirelessly to remove poverty in India. All our economic planning is geared to alleviate poverty. The government has passed many laws and reforms. Abolition of Zamindari system, security of tenant farmers is one of them. It has tried to reduce the gap between the rich and poor by income redistribution measures. The rich have to pay more taxes than the poor. There have been many rural and urban ‘yojanas’ which provide employment to the poor. They are known as PAPs — Poverty Alleviation Programmes.
- So in India we cannot blame the government for not being concerned about the poor. The Government has done a lot for education, health care, housing and employment of the poor. All our ten five-programmes have been based on helping the poor.
- In India the poor are conscious of their voting rights and only the rich have not won all elections. To stop the rich from capturing all the seats, ceiling has been put on expenditure during elections, for candidates appearing for Parliamentary and Assembly elections, for example : Rs 2,50,000 for Parliamentary and Rs 10,00,000 for Assembly in most of the constituencies. Of course, rich industrialists and businessmen contribute to party funds but now law has been made, which asks the parties to declare their assets. Every person standing for election has to do so too.
- It is true that the rich are more and powerful but in a democracy the ordinary citizen has been given equal status. We see this in India where the poor now know their rights and are exercising them.