Thursday, November 18, 2010

Democracy: reality or illusion

As India moved from the dark years of colonialism towards a bright future, the aspirations of millions rested on the practice of Democracy. A practice where the leaders will be chosen by the people, would be from the people and would work for the people. Judiciary, Executive and Legistlature were identified the pillars of this bridge called Democracy. Media was the self acclaimed fourth pillar or as some say the watchdog. 63 years down the line,an honest introspection would reveal that these pillars have failed to provide support to one of the best pieces of work ever, THE CONSTITUTION, drafted by Dr B.R Ambedkar. The backlog of cases that are there emphasise on the fact that the judiciary hasn’t been able to execute its duties properly. Timely justice has evaded many. The bereaucracy has been under the clutches of corruption and politicians. The legistlature which ought to be representaton of people has reduced to a mere family game. Policing which we inherited from colonial times has been in the same format and in same mode: authoritative. The biggest failure has been of media. Influenced big time by Political parties, corporates and money making, it has not been able to advocate the causes of the people to the level it should. So what went wrong. The constitution defines role for every working body be it Judiciary, Executive or Legistlature. The thing that has been missing over the years has been accountability. Any person holding a position of power seems to be accountable to none. So the question arises , is it the democracy that we once thought would be our vehicle towards freedom. Afraid not. It is not that changes haven’t been tried, they haven’t been executed. some vested interests, non-participation by people and more importantly a corrupt system that has always resisted against any positive change.
Take policing for example, the structure of police in india is something we inherited from the British. Police act 1861 enacted by the British gave police the authoritative powers with less or no accountability. Same has been the case till now. After the emergency in 1977, various commisions where set up in every sphere and in policing too National Police Commission was formulated which tabled its report in 8 stages. it talked about reforms and makeover in the structure of police as an organisation. No recommendation has been implemented so far. Police is a state subject in India, over the years various states have come up with some amendments in the Police Act 1861 but more or less it has been on the same authoritative lines without any significant changes.
Four years ago, Supreme Court of India ordered all the states to repair their policing structure and create a mechanism to free policing from clutches of political control. Hesitantly a few states have done some cosmetic work on the facade while others have evaded. Kerela police has taken some initiatives towards democratic policing, so has Himachal Pradesh. But there are others like Jammu and Kashmir police that on the name of counter insurgency has been evading so far. The recent failure of state police to tackle the protests in the Kashmir valley which has now resulted in death of over 100 people is a grave reminder that policing needs a change and that too swiftly. Human rights advocates have been crying over mishandling of the protestors by police while no action has been taken so far by the government. While handling a protest if the actions of police leads to the death of more than two persons then a judicial enquiry has to be set up to look into the case. Nothing of that sort has happened so far and no action against the culprits has been taken. Its high time for the state government to do something about the monster and win back people who elected them at first place by participating in elections.
Over the years we have seen the incompetence of police in dealing with the situations like riots. The riots in Delhi 84’ and Gujarat 01’ are instances where police worked hand-in-glove for the state politicians and failed to perform its role of implementing law and order. There have been allegations of police assisting the mob or being muted spectators. Many a times we have seen police not been able to handle the situation and army needs to be called in. What is it that the army has and police doesn’t needs to be analysed. A layman would say discipline and the internal structure of the organisation, but there is much more to it.
Broadly speaking the whole police set up needs a change. Right from selection procedure, training to tackle hostile situations, providing better infrastructure and working environment. The functioning of the police should be insulated from the influence of politicians. All these and many recommendations of National Police Commission need to be implemented. Media has to play the most important role , that of advocating for the causes so that the people get a voice and policy makers some influence.
For every citizen of this country to enjoy the rights given to him by constitution, democracy needs to flourish and for that restructing of many sectors need to be done. Police reforms can just be the start, Media a vehicle and RTI Act a catalyst but nothing can be achieved without people. That is what Democracy is all about, Participation. Lets change..