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The word ‘Democracy’ is derived from the words’ Demos’ and ‘Kratos,’ these Greek words literally mean people and power, respectively. Therefore the literal meaning of democracy is the “power of the people.” It is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested general Public and exercised directly by them or the representatives elected by them under a free electoral system.
Forms of Democracy
Several forms of democracy are there. But there are mainly two basic forms. They are direct democracy and indirect democracy.
Direct Democracy: Direct democracy forms such a government where people decide on policy initiatives directly. In the past, this type of government was effective in the small city-states of Greece, where the entire population of the city could assemble. It is not suitable for large states. Though, this form of democracy might have been possible and even effective in small countries in the past where the population was less, and lifestyle was simple. But, this system is not feasible for today’s large modern countries.
The vastness of the modern states and their vast population will make it difficult for such a system to be effective and even impossible to implement. Within modern-day governments, specific tools like citizens’ initiatives, referendums, and recall elections are referred to as direct democracy forms. Direct democracy exists in the Seiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, the Bolivian city councils of FEJUVE, Kurdish cantons of Rojava, etc.
Indirect Democracy: Indirect democracy, or representative democracy, involves the election of government officials by the people being represented. The most common method requires the election of the candidate with a majority of votes. In an indirect democracy, the representatives elected by the people make laws, pass the budget, elect the executive, etc. In most modern states, democracies are in this form. Most western countries such as Great Britain, the USA, France, Australia, Canada, etc. have this form of democracy.
Characteristics of Democracy
Like any other form of government, democracy also has been plagued by different maladies. Some philosophers have suggested ways to cure these with actions such as reforming the electoral system, introducing the referendum, initiative, recall, and active cooperation of people in government affairs. All these may be possible if the following conditions are fulfilled:
Education: Education is an essential element to form a thriving democracy. One of the most significant problems in the working of democracy is that the mass in which the power is vested, are mostly uneducated, especially in third world countries with a large population. Without education and a sense of reasonableness, democracy is bound to degenerate into mob rule. This can only be cured by spreading proper education and circulation of knowledge.
Vigilance: The alertness of people is not only crucial for democracy; rather, it’s essential for the idea of a true democracy. Democracy demands the participation of ordinary people. Two of the biggest enemies of democracy are indolence and indifference on the part of the citizens. Constant vigilance ends up costing liberty and, in addition to that, democracy. Without proper political vigilance, the very spirit of democracy is likely to be tainted.
Elaborate system of local self-government: Another drawback in the working of democracy is that people do not have the proper knowledge of democratic institutions’ functioning. However, this can be removed, with the establishment of an elaborate system of self-governing institutes and providing training and science of government.
Civic sense: As democracy is built around its citizens, there is a corresponding responsibility on the citizens’ shoulders. The indifference in the attitude of the citizens may put an end to democracy. The citizens should hold a high degree of civic sense and take a keen interest in the country’s public matters. The absence of these virtues may result in misuse of power and can potentially put democracy at risk.
Spirit of tolerance: Democracy is a government formed with the spirit of sympathy and tolerance of constructive criticism and discussion. It implies a government of the majority. Therefore, it’s only expected for a successful democracy that the majority of sympathetic and tolerant towards the minority. Likewise, the minority should respect the decision of the majority and be willing to submit to them.
Freedom of speech: One of the most fundamental pillars of democracy is freedom of speech, association, and press. These freedoms allow in expanding the personality of the citizens. Democracy demands that all sections of people to be taken into account as far as practicable. The absence of individual liberty threatens the existence of democracy. These freedoms of expression include public speech, printed or any other form of media.
A written constitution: A written constitution is believed to be essential for a thriving democracy. A written Constitution gives confidence in the certainty of individual rights and keeps different parts of government within their respective areas of authority.
Removal of inequalities of wealth: Extremes of poverty and wealth greatly hamper the success of democracy. Many scholars concluded that political equality is not possible in the absence of economic equality. It has been observed that political powers tend to favor those who possess economic power, which is by far the greatest threat to the success of political democracy. Therefore, a re-adjustment of economic relations is needed in such a way that such difference in wealth distribution is reduced, and all citizens are provided with material means for a decent lifestyle.
Democracy holds much importance in India. India, without a doubt, is the largest democracy in the world. After suffering from British colonial rule for almost two centuries, India finally became a democratic nation. Therefore, it immensely values the spirit of justice, liberty, and quality.
The adult citizens hold power to elect their representatives in the ‘Lok Sabha’ through election after every five years. The ministers are chosen among the members. These ministers are answerable to the ‘Lok Sabha.’ India being a democracy, there are fundamental rights and courts of law; moreover, the Supreme Court of India, holds the highest power in safeguarding the laws and the fundamental rights of the citizens. Though, High Courts have wider jurisdiction than the Supreme Court with respect to the issuance of writs.
India’s democracy considers all of its citizens to be equal in the eyes of the law and encourages no discrimination based on gender, religion, caste, or language. The President of India is the commander-in-chief of the India Armed Forces, and also ceremonial head of the state of India.
According to India’s Constitution, the President has the ability to practice these powers directly or, by subordinate authorities, with few exceptions. Although in practice, all of these executive powers vested in the President, are exercised by the Prime Minister. The President is bound to act on the prime minister’s advice as long as it does not violate the constitution. India’s democracy also gives equal opportunity to all the citizens to stand as candidates for the post of the President or the Prime Minister without taking their economic or religious backgrounds into account.
India has pioneered the democratic movement in third-world countries and has inspired the Afro-Asian world to form its democratic government model.
Demerits of democracy
Even though democracy is better than any other form of government but it still has its own demerits such as-
Instability: As many political parties are allowed to criticize the ruling government, it sometimes leads to the fall of the ruling party and eventually re-election. It hinders the government’s progress and makes the government unstable.
Slow and inefficient: There are so many people involved in the decision-making process and lengthy debates. It makes the operation of the government extremely slow.
Incompetent candidates: Democracy gives equal rights to everyone; therefore, it’s very much possible for unqualified people to rise to power and misuse it in their own self-interest.
Role of finance: The whole process of election can cost a great deal of money. Election-related activities such as demonstrations, meetings, traveling, advertisements, etc. require a considerable sum of money. Therefore, the wealthy can potentially misuse their privileges to influence the elections for their benefits.
Therefore, it is quite clear that democracy is even though better than most forms of government; it can be misused, manipulated, and also used as a tool against the people that it was intended to benefit. Hence, people must put in sincere efforts to be appropriately informed regarding the government’s matters and be an active part of democracy. It is only through active cooperation of each and every citizen and by the practice of spreading awareness, knowledge, empathy, and tolerance towards fellow countrymen that a thriving democracy can be established.
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