On constitution day: Democracy and education

As I watch only local vernacular TV channels, last couple weeks have been tough on my ears. The high decibel shouting matches optimistically referred to as debates are now taken to the streets, and the only thing that I have been able to understand from them is that we are in a dire need to do something quickly if we desire to retain semblance of a system-driven nation.

If we strain to listen through the din, most of the debates have public screaming about clogged gutters or “I-called-the-MLA-but-garbage-was-not-removed”. Even though the election is of a legislative assembly that is expected to make laws, and not engage in, or rather interfere in local body governance; both, the politicians and public, show no awareness regarding separating the two. And I find poetic justice, though deeply tragic, in this.

I distinctly remember that just after village panchayat elections, both major parties came out chest-thumping to claim victory. For me, who admires Gandhiji’s idea of local governance free from any form of party-politics, these claims by both sides were completely sacrilegious. But, now I don’t grudge leaders of political parties to have not bothered to read Gandhiji on gram-swarajya or listen to wonderfully articulated speeches in the early days of the nation by the likes of H. V. Kamath that hoped for a politicising-free local governance by the people, as their own sins are catching up with them.

Democracy, at its simplest level is a majority-opinion driven flat system suitable only for small groups. As it gets scaled up, role of executive empowered to take decisions on behalf of the group emerges, along with an even more critical need of a pre-decided set of rules such as constitution and enacted laws aligned with the same to prevent him/her from going overboard.

Constitution-driven democracy with legislative assembly and empowered ministers is a working solution that tries to retain essence of majority opinion through a layered structure, and hence, at each level there is a grave danger of dilution, more so when expected to work for 120 crore not too educated Indians, if systemic sanctity is not strongly maintained.

Unfortunately, within barely 70 years from installing the system, today India has compromised sanctity at every level, where in the pretext of vicarious liability, we have allowed interference across levels and reduced our governance to politics.

The reality is, local governance should have nothing to do with politics as it is all about controlling administration to deliver for public. Left alone, it can easily function based on local needs and feedback, while receiving only regulatory and policy support from legislature.

There is no real need for the local MLA to discuss the issue of why garbage in not picked up from the street, as it is the job of a completely different set of people who are held accountable through local elections. With public failing to see this distinction, political parties are having a field day of escaping local governance issues by highlighting larger issues. The net outcome is, local governance that actually is far more critical for day-to-day life of the citizens has taken backseat to national politics and India has become an administrative chaos.

What we badly need is to educate people about the system they are expected to be in control of. Our education system has to introduce a dedicated subject in school curriculum that bring forth the essence of democracy instead of mere mugging of names of ex-presidents.

We are incredibly lucky to have a wonderful constitution in place, but without understanding the intent behind the nation we have inherited, we are going to lose the greatest gift, a constitution-driven republic federation, that our ancestors have formed by shedding their blood.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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