The fall of Ben ali form the high pedestals of power in tunisia following a public uprising marked the beginning of a series of public protests across the middle east north africa region. The historic tahrir square protests brought to an end , the rule of an iron handed dictator. This showed the world, the power of public opinion. Soon the fellow authoritarian rulers faced similar protests and are trying to suppress them.
The african continent for long had remained under developed despite it being endowed with rich natural resources. The colonial powers like england, france colonised vast areas of africa to exploit the human and natural resources. Following the nd of world war II, the colonia powers withdrew leaving behind a brokn and battered continent divided into dozens of countries by unnatural borders. This resulted in formation of nations with tribes, groups with conflicting interest. This lead to internal conflicts and hence no sense of nationalism existed among the people . this lack of unity was exploited by dictators to build their autocratic regimes. Globalisation brought riches to the elites as the world started extracting resources from africa to fuel its growth. However there was no attempt to develop the regions by the authoritarian rulers. The dictators resorted to grave human right vi0olations to suppress political opposition to them. The 2008 economic crisis and food price inflation further heightened the discontentment among the people . The self immolation of a youth in tunisia owing to torture by state authorities in 2011 sparked off protests against the autocratic regime which soon spread across the region.
The root cause for these revolts was not merely autocratic regimes because if that was the case revolts were expected in all autocratic regimes. It was the lack of responsiveness of governments to demand and greivances of people that formed core for discontent. Hence there is a need for all nations across world to introspect on whether they are responding to public needs and demands.
People of 21st century are more empowered and assertive of their rights than ever before. With advent of technologies like internet, there is a globalisation of ideas. People across the world are now more aware of their rights. Hence there is bound to be increased expectations and demands on governments. Governments need to take measures to improve governance. This includes even democracies. The recent london riots have proved that it is a fallacy to presume public protests won’t occur in democracies. In this context there is a need to analyse the capacity of world’s largest democracy to repsond to needs of its citizens
India is nation comprising diverse beliefs, ideologies and culture. Its general election is considered among the largest organised man made event in world. India emerged as an independent nation following an independence struggle which largely comprised of peaceful non violent protests , known as satyagraha. Hence public uprising is not alient to India. Everyday it witnesses protests of various scales on diverse issues. It has a multiparty dmeocracy, stable and strong institutions and a vibrant civil society. Any public uprising in a democracy is due to a deficit in governance. There is a need to analyse the reasons for possible discontent among public.
The discontent among indian public has been rising on various issues. The cocktail of corruption, nepotism and redtapism has made bureaucracy inefficient. Globalisation has widened the rich poor divide. The ineffective redistribution policy is a major area of concern. Despite being the largest democracy, its parliament is only the 13th largest in world with countries like nepal, rwanda boasting of a larger parllament. This shows that people to representative ratio is large, indicating that citizens have lesser opportunities to put across their greivances and demands. The slow progress in devolution of powers despite two decades since the historic 72nd and 73rd amendment has left the public politically disempowered to a large extent.
The constitution guarantees to its citizens a set of fundamental rights which are available to citizens to exercise anytime. Yet the government resorts to use of archaic draconian laws like sedition act, section 144 to suppress legitimate protest of people .
Democracy in India is increasingly viewed as right to vote. But in reality , debate and deliberation are as much important as vote. Today, with a growing middle class and more politically aware rural mass, the demand for their voices to be heard during policy making process is on a rise. The government has taken half hearted steps like putting certain bills out for public consulation, public hearings etc. but still a lot is left to be done.
In context of these problems, what measures need to be taken to make democracies more responsive to peoples demands? It is clear from current trend that peoples demand s and expectation will continue to increase. The state needs to provide a platform for citizens to put across their demands and interact with state. This requries an effective public greivance redressal emchanisms. Technology tools like facebook, twitter may be put to use to enable two way communication between government and citizen. Measures need to be taken to replace the elite, exclusionist political culture with an inclusive participative political culture. In this context there is a need to strengthen gram sabha and replicate such models in urban areas as well. People should be viewed as stakeholders rather than mere benificiaries of development.
The strength of parliament needs to be increased to an appropriate extent such that a MP gets adequate opportunity to interact with his/her constituencies and address their demands and greivances. Internal party structures need to be democratised to bring to an end dynastic politics. Democracies need to evolve with time and yield space for public to put across their views.
International organisations need to focus on human resource development rather than on natural resources. It is only though efficient human resources that one can exploit natural resources effectively.People anywhere across the world demand only for a SMART governance ie a government that is Simple Moral Accountable Resposnible and Transparent. If governments are able to deliver there 5 basic aspects of governance, there would be little scope for public discontent and uprisings would become a thing of the past