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Indian Democracy : Challenges and Response

Indian Democracy : Challenges and Response

India is a proud country with one of the highest populations and a successful democracy, India became independent on 15th August 1947 and right from the independence, we adopted the democratic pattern of government. This has been incorporated in the Preamble of our Constitution and was our country was declared a Democratic Republic. As a result of the long relationship with western countries, we adopted freedom of person, representative government and rule of law. Because of association with Britain and experience of British Administrative system, we have adopted the Parliamentary Democratic pattern of government. Indian democracy has faced several challenges. Some of the challenges faced by us since independence have been historically inherited.

One of the major challenges to Indian democracy is social- economic inequality. How can a democracy grow in a place where there are extensive inequalities ? Similarly, illiteracy is also a challenge to democracy. Regional imbalance- the inequality between different regions is dangerous for democracy and national unity. Problems like regionalism and linguistic chauvinism arise from this. Besides, communalism, casteism, separatism, political violence, Naxalite movement and terrorism are also challenges to Indian democracy.

We have initiated efforts to face these challenges in a democratic way. We have succeeded sometimes and failed at other times in these efforts. The framers of the Indian Constitution adopted democracy not just as a desired system based on the principal of people’s participation but also as a system to achieve the principle of social and economic justice. Thus, democracy ensures equality of right for all irrespective of caste, race, gender and place of birth.

Challenges to Indian Democracy

Social-economic inequality is clearly visible in India. We all know that Indian society is based on caste system and the roots of inequality lie in the caste system. Along with social inequality, economic inequality is also seen at large scale in the society. Monopoly over the means of production by a particular group, poverty and problems like unemployment are also creating other problems. Another dimension of inequality is the inequality between rural and urban sector.

Social Inequality

Indian society is traditionally based on caste system. In the caste system, the upper caste is at the top of the social system while at the bottom lower caste is placed. The Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes are considered as backward. Caste-based prejudice, economic inequality and educational backwardness are the main reasons for their backwardness. The caste system in India is basically defined by their occupation. But with passage of time, changes in this belief can be seen today. The relationship between caste and occupation can not be denied.

(a) Scheduled Castes

In India a person is known by his caste. The members of scheduled caste are at the lowest rank in the term of social status. There are also ascending and descending castes within them. These communities are not given any status in our traditional classification of caste system, which is why they are also known as “Awarna” or “Pancham” varna. Because of inhuman behaviour with this backward and most backward community, their condition was pitiable. The scheduled caste people were allowed to live only outside the town limits. Even today also many from these communities live outside of town. They are not allowed to use public well, pond or other such public places. They are deprived of entry to the religious places and denied participation in social life. They are living a life of various types of deprivation. They have received civil equality only after independence due to the constitutional provisions. In Indian constitution, they are included as Scheduled Caste and such provisions have been made to provide them justice. The “Scheduled Caste” is a constitutional category.

(b) Scheduled Tribes

Scheduled Tribes are generally referred to as “Aadivasi”. Generally, they live in areas away from the plain- in the forest, interior regions and mountainous areas. They have been isolated from the rest of the society. It was during British rule, that they were delineated for the first time and were given a special identification. These communities live in various part of India. Their population is concentrated mainly in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, North-East states, Rajasthan, Gujarat, hilly areas of Andaman and Nicobar.

Their traditional way of life is disturbed by mines, dams, industrialization, etc. The main sources of their livelihood like forest, forest products, agricultural land, etc. are being wrested from them. A challenge has arisen against their distinctive identity, social system, values and traditional culture. To bring them into main stream of India, various provisions have been made in our Constitution.

Constitutional Remedies for removal of Social Inequalities

All the citizens of India are given fundamental rights and all the citizens are equal before law and entitled to equal legal protection. It has been classified in the constitution, that state will not discriminate between citizens on the basis of caste, religion, sex, race, place of birth or any such basis. No discrimination will be practiced for the use of wells, roads, lake, etc. The practice of untouchability has been declared unconstitutional and made punishable offence under the law. Though Constitution has abolished untouchability, a lot remains to be done in this direction. Untouchability is still being practiced in several parts of country. Even today, the members of Scheduled Caste have to slog for their livelihood. A big proportion of the scheduled caste consists of landless agricultural labourers. They have little control over means of production like land, water and forest. We have made law for ownership of land, but the desired result has not been received.

Even today, ill treatment of these communities happens. The incident of atrocities and violence against the members of Scheduled Caste are being reported in daily newspaper and other media. One reasons for this is the increasing awareness of the member of this community about their rights. The Scheduled Castes have opportunities to decide their own fate and lives without support from others, but due to the traditional prejudices and mentality, their development is thwarted. Thus continuously facing struggles in their lives.

As stated in Constitution, if the state makes special provisions for the weaker section like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the socially and educationally backward classes, this cannot be considered a violation of the rights of equality. Reservation has been provided to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Parliament and Legislative Assembly and in the Institute of Local Self Government. In the Local Self Government, a reservation has been made for women also. In Gujarat, this reservation has been increased up to fifty percent (50%) from the year 2015. Besides, reservation has been provided to them in educational institutions and government jobs. Because of this the rate of literacy has gone high in this community and we find a number of people from these sections in various government jobs.

The Directive Principles of State Policy also call upon the state to take special steps to advance the social and economic interest of the weaker sections of the society. Various policies, schemes and programmes have been formulated and implemented for the welfare and advancement of these communities.

Consequently, some change has certainly occurred in the condition of the Scheduled Caste. Some of them have got an opportunity to rise in the social, cultural and political sphere. However, the benefits of these constitutional provisions have not reached to those who are on the margins of the society. Very few scheduled caste and scheduled tribes have been benefited by the reservation policy and achieve their due position in society due to change in social and economic change.

In term of literacy too, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are much behind the other castes. The rate of enrolment in school for students of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is much below than that of other categories. Even the drop-out rate is also higher among them. Especially girls of the Scheduled Caste sections leave their schools for various reasons.

The social and economic inequality among this community is a major challenge for the Indian Democracy. Though efforts have been made to remove such backwardness and inequality but enough progress has not been achieved. A lot is required to be done in this direction.
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