Democracy and Dictatorship and Indian Democracy
Democracy is a form of government by the representatives of the people. It believes in their ability to safeguard and further their interests. It is less prone to revolutionary changes and attaches supreme importance to the aspirations of the people. It is often said of Woodrow Wilson that he was very naive, in thinking that democracy was a universal panacea, the best political system for any and every society. He must have been naive, but it is a fact that democracy today is a panacea universally desired. Nearly every country in the world claims to be democratic or is on the way to becoming a democracy. Albert Einstein, the genius of the twentieth century, considered democracy superior to any other form of government. He said, “My political ideal is democracy. Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.”
Democracy lays stress on justice and equality. There is no discrimination on the basis of caste, religion or sex. Everyone has certain fundamental rights. The rights of the minorities are protected. There is an independent judiciary to safeguard the rights of the people.
Freedom of expression and thought is the very life-blood of democracy. The people and the Press can criticize the actions of the government. Such criticism helps to create public opinion and no democratic government can overlook the force of public opinion.
An educated and enlightened electorate is absolutely necessary for the successful working of democracy. “Democracy without education,” says Will Durant “is hypocrisy without limitation”. Voltaire preferred monarchy to democracy on the ground that in a monarchy it was necessary to educate one man, in a democracy millions have to be educated. Education develops the mental faculties of the people ‘and makes them aware of their duties and responsibilities. The widening of franchise indemocratic countries imposes a greater responsibility on the ordinary man of today. The people must be disciplined. If they destroy public property and indulge in frequent agitation, democracy may degenerate into `Ochlocracy’, the rule of the rabble. Democracy-cannot exist without discipline.
Democracy stresses secularism. In state affairs, religion does not interfere. A secular state regards religion as something concerned with the private life of the individual.
The representatives of the people must be sincere. They should dedicate themselves to the welfare of the masses. Money-making should not be their aim.
In a democracy the people must be industrious and patriotic. They must realise that the interests of the country are much more important than their personal interests.
A democratic government should aim at the welfare of all. Political freedom without economic freedom is meaningless. All have to be provided with the necessities of life so that they may lead a healthy and comfortable life.
An effective Opposition is also necessary for the proper working of a democratic government. The Opposition should try to correct the mistakes if any, made by the government in poWer. , Its criticism must be constructive.
According to Gandhiji, a disciplined and enlightened democracy is the finest. It must be non-violent and work from the village level. “A true democrat,” said Gandhiji, “is a born disciplinarian”. We agree with him.
Now let us examine the situation in a country where there is dictatorship. In a democracy, people control their government. It takes into account their desires and difficulties. But the dictator overlooks them. He does not give any freedom either to the Press or to the people. If a writer criticizes the government, his-life will be in peril. We are reminded of the fates of Pasternak and Alexander-Solzhenitsyn, Soviet writers who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Severe punishment is inflicted on the people who disobey the orders of the dictator. There is only one political party in a dictatorship and that party is in power. Very often, the dictator glorifies war. He does this mainly with a view to diverting the attention of the people from internal problems. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Dictators have a sudden rise. Before long they may collapse. They become cowards. “Dictators,” says Churchill, “ride to and -fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount.”
In India most of the conditions required for the successful working of democracy are conspicuous by their absence.
A large number of people are still illiterate. They are mainly concerned with their daily bread. They do not know much about the duties and responsibilities they have as citizens of a democratic country. Richard Livingstone says “democracy, more than any other form of government, needs good -citizenship”.
Corruption has become inveterate in our democracy.
Most of the politicians are interested-only in -feathering their nests. To make the country prosperous, we must have unselfish leaders.
There is no economic democracy. The majority of the people live in poverty. Soaring prices and acute unemployment stifle the masses. The rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. Our democracy has now become plutocracy.
Our people are not disciplined. Strikes and communal riots occur frequently. The people should give up violence and try to solve all problems peacefully.
In India there is no effective Opposition. The Opposition parties have not been able to remain united against the government in power.
For the progress and prosperity of the country, each and every Indian has to work hard. Swami Vivekananda’s clarion-call “Arise, Awake and stop not till the goal is reached” must be an incentive for everyone.