STRATEGIES FOR STRENGTHENING PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN INDIA

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This article was written by Sparsh Mehra, a student of WBNUJS.

“India is a vibrant nation whose strength lies in its commitment to equal rights and to speech, religious and economic freedoms that enrich the lives of all citizens. India is not only the world’s largest democracy; it is also a secular, pluralistic society committed to inclusive growth.”[2]

                                                                                                                            -Henry Paulson

Introduction

Democracy is the government which is formed by the people. In this all the people have the right to choose their own representatives by voting them. The representatives who are elected take the decisions after consulting their constituencies. After consulting with the constituencies they try to focus on the goals which are decided as they democracy in short is for the people, to the people and by the people

Meaning of Democracy in India

India is one of the greatest and largest democratic countries in the world. In India, democracy simply means “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”[3] In this the people remains in the sovereign and determine their destiny. It shows that in democracy the source of power are in the hands of people. India has a huge population and it is not possible for all the people to participate in the government and this is the reason why they form government.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy.”

Micheal Moore

 “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over lousy fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to Complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.”[4]

The focus of participatory democracy is on the citizen’s participation. Due to this there is strong system of local self governance. In participatory democracy the constituents are broadly participated in the direction and for the operation of political systems. The most initiatives are successful because of the ownership in the projects which are through direct involvement in the key decisions that affect people most directly.

Although it can be difficult, complicated, time-consuming and sometimes impossible to promote citizens’ participation in decision making, when consensus-based decisions are made the results are often more legitimate and more widely accepted than decisions made by elected officials acting independently.[5]

This is known as the ‘slow–fast’ method of decision making, because consensus-building can be laboriously slow in the initial stages but once there is a broad agreement policy implementation can be fast and more effective. Many scholars are now a day’s focusing on the miss-management between stresses the value of separation civil society.[6]

History of Participatory Democracy

The power structure of the villages and the towns which were very small began to be distributed informally as a result the small towns and villages merched into cities. This all happened between 8th and 9th century.[7] It was a Rousseauian concept that started emerging in 1960’s. The focus of participatory democracy was on “democratization of industry”[8].

Advantages of Participatory Democracy in India

Because of Participatory Democracy more citizens participate as compared to traditional type of democracy.[9] Participatory Democracy also helps in maintain media’s policy. Earlier the participatory democracy was lacking in media policy but now a days it is gaining the democracy. “This is in part because media industry players have worked themselves into the vantage position of setting the terms of the discourse.

The voices of civil society and in particular, of those who stand to gain the most from a broadening of democratic spaces, have remained unheard”.[10] These days the people want to participate in the decisions that would affect their lives. Participatory democracy is not a utopian ideal at odds with human nature, but an expression of attainable values that a society could choose to pursue.

It seems that rapid industrialization and then the sudden emergence of technologies for mass communications threw the American democratic experiment off balance for a century or more. Enormous wealth and power became tantalizingly available, and fueled “dominator” cultural patterns at the expense of the partnership vision that inspired early American democracy. But since the rebellions of the 1960s, it appears that we have begun to recognize what we have lost, and millions of citizens are working to reclaim that vision.[11]

The people these days want to add creativity in their lives. People have been excluded from elections because of their age, race, class, gender, nationality, religion, homelessness, illiteracy, majority rule. Democracy offers little protection to marginalised government abuses, bureaucracy, etc[12]. As said by Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”[13]

 In Participatory democracy the constituents are emphasized broadly. The aim of participatory democracy is the involvement of more and more citizens than traditional representative democracy. Participatory democracy has created an opportunity for all members so that less effort could be used in making decisions and seeks to broaden the range of people who can access these opportunities.[14]

Framework

In this the authority and power is transferred from the central government to state and local governments. Instead of political and economic power being concentrated at the national level, power is dispersed to lower level sub-national entities. Participatory and deliberative democracy are not same, however their goals are almost same.[15] “Ideal speech situation”[16] must be realized[17] in India. Moreover the informal discussions would also include in the political theory. The relation between cross-cutting exposure and votes in the presidential power must be strength.

The problem in India is that political engagement is affected through political participation. There must be cross-sector partnerships. Political Options and Limits should be intrigue for a variety of reasons. There must be self management. “Municipalities must be guaranteed the right to regulate all local affairs on their own responsibility”.[18]

There must be legally mandated duties. There must be urban development plans. Sustainable development must be there as it would advance the point of being a well-accepted key objective of most current democracies.

The participatory democracy must provide effectiveness as well as legitimacy.  There are two further criteria for evaluating participatory governance: through the work of Putnam, the outstanding importance of social capital to the healthy functioning of administration, politics and economy must gain publicity.

The Participatory governance might be valuable if it builds up social capital. During the formulation of policies, the incorporation of citizens with their local knowledge would lead to innovative and locally appropriate problem solving. In the decision-making phase, participatory governance would go along with sustainable policies in the community, because, as proponents argue, citizens would be interested in the long-term health of the environment for themselves and for their children.

Problems in India

The problems are well known in India. In India almost half of the citizens no longer bother to vote. There are many social as well as economic issues which are faced in the elections. The leadership is almost being lost.[19] The wealth and power are mostly concentrated in case of upper class.

Strengthen the Participatory Democracy

In India, the participatory is being democratized the workplace for its own sake, but to emerge in case of working it must achieve egalitarian redistribution of power which may help in leading the greater democratization of power. India must use some effective strategy. There must be there. The basic focus of participatory democracy is equality of power.[20] Equality is the strength and plays an important role. There were many debates on participatory democracy at the Calcutta Club and Jantar Mantar regarding the campaign for the “Jan Lokpal bill[21]. Moreover the “citizens’ ombudsman bill” was also promoted by the Anna Hazare’s movement. This bill was focused on the corruption in India. Its aim was to remove corruption in India.[22] Hazare’s have criticized the political structure of representative democracy. According to him the current status of democracy in India is no longer of the People, by the People, for the People. It now a day’s is controlled by the people who are in power. According to him there are now a day’s there are only limited people who are participating in the affairs of government as well as politicians.

The participatory democracy in India is an evolutionary goal of representative democracy for higher and more effective citizen’s participation in government decisions. Paramount among them is revoking elections, but the power to reject candidates in an election would also be important.[23] Hazare has confused direct democracy with the participatory democracy. Real participatory democracy is a political system in which there are representatives, but they are bound to make decisions strictly following the mandate of the people.[24] Citizens can vote on the important issues and override the politicians, among other options.

The politicians must be elected on the basis of experience, knowledge and negotiation.  Popular participation should thus be limited to monitoring their performance, revoking their mandate, punishing their corruption, and/or overriding their worse decisions.[25] The ombudsman role as “protector of the people” is a needed tool for this kind of popular participation to be more effective. There must be improvement of skills. Political support is an essential part in the democratic system.[26]

The participatory governance must not enhance input-legitimacy. There must be majority of the population who must take part in participatory governance, participation of marginalised groups would not be achieved and groups with strong resources and organisational power would take advantage.[27]

They have the time, money and know-how to participate and to ensure that their preferences are taken into consideration. Participatory governance is more likely to lead to a loss of input-legitimacy as well as political support and to the creation of an ‘interest group democracy.[28] The knowledge must be enhanced and civic skills must be built. People would not change their interests because of community issues or respect for future generations. The academic standards must be satisfied. There must be some empirical information relevant to the conceptual framework. Sustainable Development must also do and kept as a goal. A fundamental paradigm shift in community politics towards sustainability should occurred. In participatory democracy, generally two categories of citizens participate[29].

  1. One who are either affected by a local problem or they were, as was far more often the case, representatives of citizens’ associations.
  2. One who lack socially inclusive Social Capital.

 Participatory governance leads to the erosion of social capital, especially between political-administrative actors and citizens.[30]  There must be success was moderate at best.

Forms of participatory democracy

Ø  Direct Democracy is also known as “pure democracy”.[31] In this a form of government, people make decisions for themselves. In this Democracy the people don’t have political affairs which are decided by representatives.

Ø  Deliberative Democracy, in this form of democracy public deliberation is central to legitimate law making.

Ø  Consensus Democracy is the application of consensus decision-making to the process of legislation. It is characterised by a decision-making structure which involves and takes into account as broad a range of opinions as possible, as opposed to systems where minority opinions can potentially be ignored by vote-winning majorities.[32]

Ø  Sociocracy in this the decisions are using consent-based decision making among equivalent individuals and an organizational structure based on cybernetic principles.\

Ø  Holacracy – is a system of governance in which a group or organization governs itself as a whole. It is a decentralized system that makes good use of the self-organizing capabilities of complex and adaptive systems.

Conclusion

The people now days are not participating in the elections as they think it a waste of time. According to them all the politicians are corrupted. There is no proper framework. For strengthening the democracy people must enhanced the knowledge and build civic skill. People must not change their interests because of community issues or respect for future generations. The academic standards must be satisfied. There must be some empirical information relevant to the conceptual framework. Sustainable Development must also be kept as a goal. A fundamental paradigm shift in community politics towards sustainability should occurred. In participatory democracy, generally two categories of citizens participate. Judiciary must be also given preference as there are many pending cases.

[1] 4th B.A./LL.B. (Hons.) students at The West Bengal National University of Juridical Science

[2] Henry Paulson.

[3] Dr. Ravindra Kuma & Dr. Kiran Lata Dangwal, Gandhi : Democracy and Fundamental Rights, Democracy and Fundamental Rights, http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/democracy.htm (last visited Aug 12, 2016).

[4]  Alexander Fraser Tyler, Cycle of Democracy.

[5] Ankita Mitra, Democracy in India, http://www.importantindia.com/10586/essay-on-democracy-in-india/ (last visited Aug 12, 2016).

[6] Puja Mondal, Democracy: Meaning, Types and Problems of Democracy Speech on Democracy: Meaning, Types and Problems of Democracy, http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/speech/speech-on-democracy-meaning-types-and-problems-of-democracy/31367/ (last visited Aug 12, 2016).

[7] Jack Knight & James Johnson, The Priority of Democracy: Political Consequences of Pragmatism

[8] Joel Westheimer & Joseph Kahne, Education for action: Preparing youth for participatory democracy (1998), , http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/citations;jsessionid=e9b7a813b5673ae2504fad0fb1e1747c?doi=10.1.1.622.8807 (last visited Aug 14, 2016).

[9] Enriqueta Aragone` s & Santiago Sa´nchez-Page´ s, A theory of participatory democracy based on the real case of Porto Alegre, (2008), http://www.iae.csic.es/investigatorsmaterial/a12231123057archivopdf88451.pdf (last visited Aug 15, 2016).

[10] G. Palanithurai, PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN INDIAN POLITICAL SYSTEM, 68 (2007), https://www.jstor.org/stable/41858816?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents (last visited Aug 15, 2016).

[11] Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. New York: HarperCollins, 1987, and Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.

[12] Participatory local democracy , https://localdemocracy.net/countries/asia-pacific/india/.

[13]  Winston Churchill:

[14] Mukesh Kumar Mishra, Re-Thinking Governance: Decentralization and Participatory Democracy in India, (2013), http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2229113 (last visited Aug 20, 2016).

[15] Supra note 14.

[16] People Focal Point in Participatory Democracy, ‘People Focal Point in Participatory Democracy (2014), http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/people-focal-point-in-participatory-democracy/2014/01/20/article2009553.ece (last visited Aug 21, 2016).

[17]  Gutmann & Thompson (1996).

[18] Supra note 16.

[19] Supra note 14.

[20] Pattrik Heller, Democracy, Participatory Politics and Development: Some Comparative Lessons from Brazil, India and South Africa, 44 (2012), http://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/pol.2012.19.

[21] The Jan Lokpal Bill, also referred to as the Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill, is an anti-corruption bill drafted and drawn up by civil society activists in India seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body to investigate corruption cases

[22] What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it’s important, What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, why it’s important, http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/what-is-the-jan-lokpal-bill-why-its-important-452223 (last visited Aug 21, 2016

[23]  Deepak Lai, a James S. Coleman Professor of International Development Studies, University of California Los Angeles

[24] Supra note 14.

[25]  Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (1991).

[26]  Scharpf, 1999

[27]  Albany, Free Schools, Free People: Education and Democracy After the 1960s, 2002.

[28]  Papadopoulos, 2004

[29] Supra note 14.

[30] Geissel & Kern, 2000.

[31] Bidyut Chakrabarty, PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE IN INDIA, THE FIELD EXPERIENCE .

[32] Supra note 31.

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