Cassandra Nazareth

Democracy is our living right, and a freedom to determine the kind of society we would like to live in.

However, just like the “slip between cup and lip”, Democracy remains a much talked about Distant Dream for many people in India, though they are living in one of the largest  Democratic countries

The world over, the democracies that have been in exsistence the longest are amongst the more powerful and well developed nations today. India has the potential of being one of them.

However, today, even after 67 years of being a free Democracy, India is still struggling to make her mark. Her largeness of population , poverty, centuries old caste system & general voting apathy of the middle class has contributed to the state of affairs the country is in today. These are also responsible for India not being amongst the Democratic Elite countries.  The lack of unselfish visionaries & leaders ,at the helm of the country has also been a contributing factor.

“India Shining”  & “Shanghai Cities” are but best left to the glossy posters & still glossier speeches. The ground reality is something else altogether.

It is a given fact that only once a person’s basic needs of food, clothing, shelter are taken care of, that people have the luxury of  time to indulge in expressing their democratic rights. Is it any wonder then , that schemes like free saris, TV’s, appliances, Wines, food grains etc, to lure people out to cast their  vote, are announced with great fanfare and are highly popular? It is sad that citizen’s have not challenged the ethics of such schemes.

The  middle class & elite of India, who are part of  the  voting population, have a major responsibility . It is they who can shape India’s  democracy and determine her place in the democracies of the world.

There is no point blaming the state the country is in today on the “ corrupt

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politicians” . they  have been voted into power by us!  Those of us who have abstained from voting have allowed these very same politicians to control our democracy. It is our responsibility to make it a point to be well informed  and  upto                                                                                                    

date on the political scene in our country. Keeping abreast of the ongoing political

scenario  and debates including demanding  changes in the laws of our country  is the responsibility of every citizen .

Our country is in a state of flux. Citizen’s have come to realize the Great Power of their rights and also the Great Responsibility they have by virtue of living in a Democratic country.

It is because of the persistence of  a small section of citizens ,that today,  the country has an Information Commissioner. The Right To Information Act reinforces  the fundamental right to speech and expression that is guaranteed by our Constitution. It is this Act that is slowly bringing about accountability and  a certain amount of much needed transparency in public life. The Government’s recent attempt to curtail this Right to Information Act was met with stiff resistance by  citizens. Citizen’s are also demanding that political parties be brought under the perview of this Act, the debate is still continuing.

Recent outbursts of  citizens coming together to protest  the Nirbhaya rape  has forced the  elected representatives & Judiciary into reviewing some of the archaic laws being followed in our country. The impact of this has been nationwide and is being especially felt in the smaller villages. More and more instances of rape in the remote interiors  are  now being registered, previously these went unreported. More power to the  Citizens in the far flung villages of India!

Youngsters working together in the same office, coming together  and  taking up the issue of Rickshaws fleecing commuters and demanding that the authorities do something about it , quickly snowballed into a movement and has ensured  the introduction of electronic meters in Mumbai . This movement  has awoken the average urban citizen from their deep apathetic slumber and has made them realize the power of their rights. Having seen firsthand the power of the rights bestowed upon them by a democracy and the responsibility of ensuring that they are not

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taken for granted, citizen’s  have become more outspoken.

It is heartening to see citizen’s, of all ages,  using  social media platforms like facebook  to comment on the various policies mooted by the government.  This brings the debate out in the open . Internet @ Rs 1/- schemes ensure this platform reaches a much wider range of people that  newspapers don’t. The ripples are felt right in the remote villages of India, ensuring a heightened awareness of what one                                                                                               

as a Citizen can demand as a right and how one can take on the responsibility of  safeguarding this right.

“Citizen Journalists”, a creation of our times is another instance of citizen’s  strongly exercising  their democratic right to expression. The wildfire spread of cheap affordable electronics has ensured its penetration into the deep remote areas of India. A cellphone  with camera is no longer  a luxury. It has become a tool that has transformed life as we knew it.

The Mohalla Committees mooted by a previous police commissioner to ensure communal peace was recently scrapped by the Police authorities. They were reinstated  after a public outcry.

Public criticism  of  the policies of the Khap and their brand of  justice  is another instance of the new challenging the old. The governments directive to Corporate India  to include at least one female member on the board of directors is another instance of recognizing the rights of women in our democracy.

The younger generation is questioning some of the laws by which our society is governed and this in turn has put pressure on the legislature and Judiciary to tweak the laws and make them keep up with the times.

We are increasingly seeing a heightened awareness of what is expected from the average citizen in India.  Citizen’s are slowly waking up to the fact that they are holding their destinies in their hands and to the  awareness that they have the power to effect a change and determine the kind of society they would like to live in, both urban & rural.

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Elections are  round the corner once more, 2014 to be precise. The nation is holding its breath and watching  the  various political parties announce their Kings who will be in the running for Prime Minister.

The nation is  waking up each morning to newspaper reports of corrupt leaders being put behind bars

It is now up to the Citizens of India to wake up to their right and  vote responsibly.