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Counter Strike: India’s Democracy Took A Beating In 2010

Posted on January 15, 2011 in YKA Editorials

By Abhirup Bhunia:

Indian democracy has gone through a crisis of severe dimensions in the past year. Essentials of a democracy include an honest executive, legislature and bureaucracy with the press acting as an upholder. Each of these citadels which support a thriving democracy have been knocked down to considerable extents. The politicians — the cabinet ministers included — have acted in a way that is unprecedented in India’s history. Not since Rajiv Gandhi’s Bofors episode did India witness corruptions so blatant and huge in scale. The combined money laundering by A. Raja, the ex-telecom minister, Ashok Chauhan, ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister, and Suresh Kalmadi, the Congress MP will be to the tune of billions of dollars.

So much of the taxpayers money has been gobbled up by greedy politicians by way of cash stashed away in tax havens abroad, or receiving kickbacks to indulge in nepotism, et al. The country is trapped in a whirlpool of sleaze. The bureaucrats or civil servants are supposed to be the lot who run the nation and take care of its pluralism. But it is this bureaucracy that has aided or has been directly involved in corrupt practices be it in the Adarsh scam or the 2G spectrum scam.

Accountability, fairness and honesty are missing traits in the high-GDP Indian state and society. The press has unearthed much of the swindle that we see and offer a glimpse of hope as far as sustaining democracy is concerned. However, the general suspicion of public has gone beyond the usual targets — politicians and bureaucrats — and now includes the press. The media itself are under the lens. The behavior of some journalists whom Indians held in their highest esteems have tainted the credibility of the fourth estate. This has been spelled out in the Niira Radia tapes. Indians now seem to be short of trustworthy people and institutions. Civil right is at the heart of democracy, so is the premise of free speech. But both have been sadly subverted in circumstances that don’t bode well for India’s future. Activists who have dared speak up against what they see as anomalies of the state, have been blacked out. This includes a group of people who have been labeled as ‘Maoist sympathizers’ and ‘anti-Indians’. Arundhati Roy and the treatment meted out to her exemplifies that India is on the brink of autocracy. The life sentence handed out to Binayak Sen, the globally acclaimed practitioner of free rural health, is perhaps the last nail on the coffin.

If Jagdish Tytler can roam free, A Raja can smile, and the CBI can buy time for them, but true pro-poor individuals are asked to be put in jails, then even the judiciary — the foundation of the rule of law that defines democracy — has become utterly warped and dysfunctional. In all probability, there are people who do not bother how things are shaping up on these fronts as far as the GDP growth rate, the cash inflows, the profits, the hot money, the investments and the trade is flourishing. But putting the genuine concerns on the backburner will presage the beginning of the end of proper democracy in India.

The writer is the Sub-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz. Know more about our team here.