India as the mother of democracy

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    • Recently, the External Affairs Minister stated that India has initiated activities through its cultural centres abroad to emphasise the message that India is the mother of democracy.

    About a democracy

    • Meaning:
      • In a democratic country, people themselves select and elect a representative as their leader. 
      • As Abraham Lincoln famously expressed, democracy is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. 
      • It is a political system where people are supreme and freedom of choice is its core.
    • Origin:
      • The term ‘democracy’ originated from the Greek term ‘d?mokratía’ which means “rule of the people”. 
    • There are two types of democracies in the world:
      • Direct democracy:
        • Direct democracy is the one in which the eligible citizens directly and actively participate in the political decision-making. 
      • Indirect democracy: 
        • Indirect democracy is the one in which the sovereign power remains with the eligible citizens and the elected representatives exercise the political power; this type of democracy is also known as democratic republic or the representative democracy.

    What makes India ‘the mother of democracy’?

    • Democracy of Ancient India:
      • Sabhas and Samitis:
        • One of the ancient civilizations was in India. The existence of Sabhas and Samitis throughout the Vedic Period is where India’s history of democracy begins.
      • Ganarajya:
        • Republican States in ancient India was called Ganarajya
          • The word Gana also means numbers and Ganarajya will therefore mean the rule of numbers or the rule of many.
      • Non-monarchical clans of Jatakas:
        • The Buddhist texts (Jatakas) also refers to the existence of many autonomous clan with a non-monarchical form of government in sixth century B.C. Notable among them were Shakyas of Kapilavastu, Lichchhavis of Vaishali, the Videhas of Mithila, etc. 
      • The Prime Minister recently cited an example of a Tamil Nadu village. 
        • “There is a small but famous village in Tamil Nadu, called Uthiramerur. An inscription on a rock here, some 1,100 or 1,200 years old, amazes the world. This rock inscription is like a mini-Constitution. It explains in detail how the gram sabha should be conducted and what should be the process of selection of its members,”.
      • He added, there is another example of democratic values in our history. 
        • The 12th-century Anubhav Mandapam of Bhagwan Basaveshwara. Here, free debate and discussion was encouraged.
    • Democracy of Modern India:
      • Today, India is the largest democracy in the world. 
        • The democratic India believes in the principles of equality, liberty, justice and fraternity
      • Pluralism & indiscrimination: 
        • India has a pluralistic and consultative tradition that very few societies, if anybody at all, can match. 
        • The people from any caste, creed, sex, religion, and region have an equal right to vote and choose their representatives. 
      • Progressiveness:
        • Since its inception, India has taken a progressive stance. 
        • Indians have granted women the right to vote, protected every citizen’s fundamental rights, and incorporated the principle of the separation of powers. 
      • Secularism:
        • Indians have also incorporated principles like secularism, which are still not widely practiced in other democracies, into the Indian Constitution from the beginning. 

    Features of Indian democracy

    • Parliamentary form of government:
      • India has a parliamentary form of government based on a universal adult franchise. 
      • The executive authority is responsible to the elected representatives of the people. Parliament for all its decisions and actions. Sovereignty rests ultimately with the people.
    • Collective accountability:
      • The legislature, which is made up of the elected government, is collectively accountable to the elected government. 
      • In an Indian democracy, the Council of Ministers, both in the states and the centre, is collectively responsible for their respective ministers. 
    • Independent Judiciary: 
      • The judiciary is independent of the executive. It is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. 
      • At the apex of the entire judicial system exists the Supreme Court of India. Each State has its own High Court. 
      • A code of civil and criminal laws applies to the whole country.
    • Supremacy of the Constitution:
      • In India, neither the parliament nor the judiciary have any precedence over the Constitution. 
    • Written constitution:
      • In contrast to many other nations, India has a written constitution which clearly defines the roles, powers, and obligations of the several departments of government and sets down the limitations within which they must operate.
    • The Fundamental Rights:
      • The Fundamental Rights of every Indian citizen include the freedom of speech, expression, belief, assembly and association, migration, and choice of occupation or trade. 
      • These rights also protect every Indian from discrimination on grounds of race, religion, creed or sex, and are enforceable in courts of law.

    Challenges faced by Indian Democracy

    • Heterogeneous society:
      • The major challenge faced by democracy is the heterogeneous composition of the country as Indian society is divided on the basis of caste, religion, etc. 
      • People in India still vote in favour of caste, community or religion. 
    • Criminalisation of politics:
      • Criminalisation of politics and political violence also create hindrance in the smooth functioning of democracy.
      • Manipulation of people’s verdicts by the political parties is still practised.
    • Other factors:
      • Factors such as corruption, women’s issues, caste issues, political strategies etc. affect politics at the national and the state level in the country. 
      • Illiteracy is a major factor which can affect the smooth functioning of democracy in the country.
      • Poverty too affects the successful running of democracy. 
      • Political and communal violence has gained serious proportions in the country. 

    Way ahead

    • The role of the citizens of India is most important for its democracy. 
    • For a successful working of democracy, it is the right as well as the duty of every Indian to choose and elect the appropriate representative for the country.
    • Civil society has to go beyond the nation-state to renew the idea of the Earth as an imagination. 
    • India needs a new rethink around peace. It has to go beyond the official text of security and borders.

     

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What makes India “A mother of democracy”? Analyse the significance of democracy within political parties for the smooth functioning of democracy in India.