India is the largest democracy in the world. There are many countries in the world that have democratic systems.We have been witnessing elections being held in the country at different levels for over six decades. Municipal and Panchayat elections also do take place. But, can a country be called a democracy only on the basis of the fact that elections are organized regularly? Think over it, because we know that there are some countries where elections do take place, but those are not democracies in true sense. Then the question is what does democracy actually mean? What are the factors which makes a country democratic?. We are confronting a number of challenges. There are many critical problems that need to be solved, so that India marches ahead as a progressive democratic country. The present lesson discusses all these issues and focuses especially on the challenges that our country has been facing.
Objectives Identify major challenges to Indian democracy and appreciate those as potential opportunities to make it successful; recognise the corrective measures for improving the Indian democratic system and assess the efforts; and identify the roles of citizens in a democracy based on experiences of life. UNDERSTANDING DEMOCRACY
Let us begin with understanding the meaning of democracy and the conditions that are essential for its successful functioning. This will help us in appreciating the challenges to Indian democracy. Meaning of Democracy
When we are asked to define democracy, we generally quote a very popular definition: “Democracy is a government of the people, for the people, by the people.”Whenever we define democracy, we begin by quoting its meaning in ancient Greece.We state that the term ‘democracy’ comes from the Greek word demokratia which means “rule of the people”. It was coined from two words: demos that means “people” and Kratos which means “power”. That is, in a democracy the power rests with the people. This meaning is based on the experiences of the governments that existed in some of the Greek city-states, notably Athens. Challenges to Indian Democracy Let us discuss the following major challenges and appreciate as potential opportunities for improving the functioning of democracy. Illiteracy among people was a matter of grave concern for successful functioning of democracy in India on the eve of independence and it still continues to be a major challenge. The level of education of citizens is key to both the successful functioning of democracy and socio-economic development of the country The literacy rate in 1951 was mere 18.33 per cent and female literacy was negligible, 8.9 percent. It was, therefore, feared by many that the citizens will not be able to play their roles effectively and exercise meaningfully their right to vote which is an individual’s expression of the power of the people. This apprehension, however, has been proved wrong by the Indian electorate over the years. In spite of a substantial number of them being illiterates, in the society. Universal literacy is therefore a must for the successful functioning of Indian democracy. Although according to 2011 Census, the literacy rate has risento 74.04 per cent, the female literacy rate is still 65.46 per cent. This means that over one fourth of the country’s population is still illiterate while among women nearly one out of three is still illiterate . Poverty
It is the state of denial of opportunities to people to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Of course, India inherited poverty from the long exploitative British colonial rule, but it continues to be one of the gravest problem. Even now a considerable proportion of Indian population lives below poverty line. The poverty line means an income level below which human beings cannot provide for their basic necessities of food,much less for clothes and...