In defence of India’s noisy democracy (The Hindu, Polity, GS-2)

Context:- On one hand, India’s developmental record has been much more mixed, but on the other China’s developmental pathway over the last century has been spectacular. None country ever in history has grown faster and more dynamically. In China not only have hundreds of millions been lifted out of poverty at the same time social indicators have improved dramatically. Since the 1990s LPG reforms, the Indian economy has grown impressively but it remained far behind China in its global competitiveness. 

Let’s take a debate on Development versus Democracy:-

  • The Most fundamental question remains i.e. Can development and democracy go hand in hand?
  • Development prospect belongs to type of leadership?
  • How can we improve the backslide in our democracy with a pace of development?

What is development?:-

  • It is a process that helps to create growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components.  The purpose of development is a rise in the quantity and quality of life of the population, and the creation or expansion of local regional income and employment opportunities, without damaging the resources of the environment.  Development is visible and useful, must include an aspect of quality change and the creation of conditions for a continuation of that change this may or may not necessarily immediately.

What authoritarian government has done in developmental perspective:-

  • Let us take the example of China:-

      • China has uplifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and at the same time social indicators have improved dramatically.
      • China is the 1st in the rank of economy in the world in terms of PPP.
      • China is the forerunner in manufacturing and a leader in space.
      • China started from poverty and now reached Zenith by eliminating absolute poverty according to the World Bank.
      • Somewhat or the other, China has also reduced inequality.
  • What are the other examples:-

    • In Africa and West Asia there are authoritarian governments of every stripe that have dominated, and remain world economic laggards.
    • Same is true to Latin American military dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s who had a terrible economic and social record. After the tyrannic regime was over, with the return of democracy and the “pink wave” of Left populist parties that prosperity and social progress were ushered in.
    •  Taiwan and South Korea are also instructive in the same sense. These economies’ economic takeoffs happened under military regimes and relied on labour repression.

The Issue in Chinese developmental theories:-

  • China’s development successes which can be consider as the milestone by some but there is no way to discount the human cost china had:-
    • The Great Famine that took some 35 million lives of Chinese people due to the ruler’s egoism.
    • A cultural revolution that made enemies out of neighbors such as India and somewhat Magnolia and others.
    • A one child policy that devastated families and erased a generation in china.
    • The violent systematic repression of the Uyghur Muslim and Tibetan minorities which can be considered as the most worst form of discriminations, These are not unfortunate excesses or the inevitable costs of development.

What is democracy?:-

  • Democracy is good because it facilitates free human choice and it furthers the good of political participation.
  • Democracy is no less a good thing. Democracy is good, both intrinsically and instrumentally. On one hand Intrinsically it is a necessary component of the ability of individuals to live freely and autonomously but on the other hand Instrumentally, it is an institutional guarantee that the policies and laws created by a government will have a reasonable fit with the fundamental interests of the people. Thus, we can say democracy is a central point of the quality of life, and a central element in the ability of men and women to live freely and autonomously as human beings.

Let’s take a look at the democratic regimes:-

  • India in itself is a perfect example of how development and democracy can thrive together. Let us understand in whole.
    • Kerala and Tamil Nadu have done more to improve the lives of all their citizens across castes and classes, because of their model which is based on human development, than any other States in India.
    • In Gujarat for example, The growth has been solid but accompanied by increased social exclusion and stagnation in educational achievement and poverty reduction.
    • In India there seems to be a balance between democracy and development, we can also say democracies are better at promoting inclusive growth.

Why is democracy good?

  • Elected representatives have to win re-election, there by power, which means answering to a broad swath of the electorate. So democracy will always take a stand which is good for the people.
  • On a broader spectrum of interests and identities, we can say that democracy not only protects against catastrophic decisions, but actually allows for forms of negotiation and compromise that can bridge across interests and even balance otherwise conflicting imperatives for growth, justice, sustainability and social inclusion.
  • Democracy can master even the most complex policy goals. 
  • Many political and social scientists said that common good cannot and should not be determined by science, profits, technocrats or autocratic fiat.
  • Indian democracy promotes equality by endowing all citizens with the same civic, political and social rights (As enshrined in our constitution). Indian democracy also protects and nurtures individuality and difference at the same time.

Why, India has not been able to achieve what china as done or issues in democracy:-

  • India is too democratic, because taking tough decisions always takes a back seat. Unlike China, which is good in making and implementing key decisions about public investment and various reforms is impossible in the din of multiple and contradictory democratic voices.
  • Debate of Right Vs Left many times just hovers around democracy and which kills the development potential.
  • Some of the authors maintained that democratic regimes are in general less capable of managing economic development than authoritarian regimes.
  • Democratic governments dependent on electoral support in the next election will typically tend to avoid choices that impose hardship on significant numbers of voters. 
  • Generally, democracies of the developing world, in general and India in particular, the economic elites often manage to retain disproportionate influence within a democratic electoral system.
  • Elites have privileged access to the sector of political influence along with education, literacy, campaign finance.

Way Forward:-

  • In Authoritarian government development depends on leadership, if leadership is visionary then development will reach to zenith as was the case of China but if leadership is rotten then economies can be laggard as seen in many cases.
  • In Authoritarian government, the whims and fancies of the ruler take the central stage rather than development.
  • Democracy gives room for improvement as always i.e. change in the leadership.
  • A balanced approach, where a visionary leader is the prerequisite for a twinkle, at the same time peoples say and their control on the government has equal weightage.

Download Plutus IAS Daily Current Affairs of 10th July 2021