Our country India achieved independence on August 15, 1947. India officially established itself as a sovereign, democratic, and republican nation when the Constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950. On that significant day, Dr. Rajendra Prasad honored the birth of the Indian Republic by unfurling the Indian National Flag with a salute of 21 guns. Since then, January 26 has been celebrated as Republic Day of India. The Constitution granted the people of India the authority to elect their own government and paved the way for a democratic system. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India in the Durbar Hall of the Government House, followed by a ceremonial drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he hoisted the National Flag. India achieved independence on August 15, 1947, and it officially established itself as a sovereign, democratic, and republican nation when the Constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950.
Let’s dive into the details of the related concepts in this chapter on What is Democracy? Why Democracy? These short notes will help you in understanding and revising the chapter.
Key Points of Ch - 1: What is Democracy? Why Democracy?
- “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people”, quoted Abraham Lincoln.
- ‘Demokratia’. In Greek ‘demos’ means people and ‘kratia’ means rule. So democracy is a rule by the people.
FEATURES OF DEMOCRACY
- One simple factor common to all democracies is: the government is chosen by the people. We could thus start with a simple definition: democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by the people.
- In a democracy the final decision making power must rest with those elected by the people.
- Free and fair electoral competition - A democracy must be based on a free and fair election where those currently in power have a fair chance of losing.
- One Person, One Vote, One Value - Democracy is based on a fundamental principle of political equality. That gives us another feature of democracy: in a democracy, all adult citizens who are 18 years and above, must have one vote and each vote must have one value - Universal Adult Franchise.
- Rule of Law and Respect for Rights - A democratic government rules within limits set by constitutional law and citizens’ rights.
- Accordingly, democracy is a form of government in which:
- Rulers elected by the people take all the major decisions;
- Elections offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers;
- This choice and opportunity is available to all the people on an equal basis;
- The exercise of this choice leads to a government limited by basic rules of the constitution and citizens’ rights.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST DEMOCRACY
- There is instability in the system as the leaders keep changing.
- There is political competition and power play which leads to immorality in the system.
- There are delays in the system as so many people are to be consulted in the decision making process.
- The elected officials lack insight into the people's best interests, resulting in poor decision-making.
- Corruption can arise from democracy due to its reliance on electoral competition.
- Some argue that ordinary individuals may not always be equipped to make decisions in their best interest and, therefore, should not be the sole decision-makers.
ARGUMENTS FOR DEMOCRACY
- A democracy requires that the rulers have to attend to the needs of the people. A democratic government is a better government because it is a more accountable form of government.
- Democracy improves the quality of decision making as a number of people are involved in the decision making process.
- Democracy provides a method to deal with differences and conflicts.
- In democracy, no one is a permanent winner. No one is a permanent loser. Different groups can live with one another peacefully. In a diverse country like India, democracy keeps our country together. These three arguments
- Democracy enhances the dignity of citizens.
- Democracy is better than other forms of government because it allows us to correct its own mistakes. Either the rulers have to change their decisions, or the rulers can be changed. This cannot happen in a non-democratic government.
BROADER MEANINGS OF DEMOCRACY
- A democratic decision involves consultation with and consent of all those who are affected by that decision.
- Thus democracy is also a principle that can be applied to any sphere of life.
- Democracy can apply to many spheres of life and that democracy can take many forms.
- This is the strength and the weakness of democracy: the fate of the country depends not just on what the rulers do, but mainly on what we, as citizens, do.
CONCEPTS TO EXPLORE AND DISCUSS
1. GRAM SABHA
The Gram Sabha is a meeting of all adults who live in the area covered by a Panchayat. This could be only one village or a few villages. In some states, as in the example above, a village meeting is held for each village. Anyone who is 18 years old or more and who has the right to vote is a member of the Gram Sabha.
2. AUTOCRACY, MONARCHY, DICTATORSHIP
Autocracy, monarchy, and dictatorship are all forms of government where power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual or a small group. However, there are some key differences between them:
- Autocracy: Autocracy is a general term that encompasses any form of government where power is held by a single individual or a small group. It is a broad category that includes both monarchies and dictatorships. Autocracies can vary in their level of power and how they exercise it.
- Monarchy: Monarchy is a specific type of autocracy where power is vested in a hereditary monarch, usually a king or queen, who inherits the position from their family. The monarch serves as the head of state, often with a ceremonial role, while the actual governance is carried out by other branches or bodies of government. Monarchies can range from constitutional monarchies, where the monarch's powers are limited by a constitution and the government is run by elected officials, to absolute monarchies, where the monarch has significant control over the government.
- Dictatorship: Dictatorship is another type of autocracy where power is held by a single individual, known as a dictator. Dictators often come to power through force or manipulation and rule without the consent of the people. They exercise complete control over all aspects of governance and usually suppress opposition, curtail civil liberties, and disregard human rights. Unlike monarchies, dictatorships do not rely on hereditary succession.
In summary, autocracy is a broad term encompassing any form of government with concentrated power, while monarchy is a specific type of autocracy where power is inherited by a monarch, and dictatorship is a type of autocracy where power is held by a dictator who usually seizes control through force.
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There are about 18 countries mentioned in this chapter. These are Greece, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Estonia, Fiji, Zimbabwe, Poland, Nigeria, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Syria, Mexico, Iraq, Brazil, Philippines and Canada.
To know more about these countries, click on the link below.