Democracy in India – Various Challenges


During the last one and half decades, we have been very much proud about the fact that our economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Slowly, moving from being a predominantly agrarian economy to industries and service sector, which playing an important role in our economy. The Hindu rate of growth (2 to 3%) for more than four decades has been story now, and today it is all about shining India, with its growing middle class which has seen as huge market by domestic and international companies. But there is also a fact that the economic growth have not trickled to the most disadvantaged people, who are living in both rural and urban areas. According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data based on the 66th consumption expenditure survey shows that the pace of reduction in poverty has been the slowest in the bottom (15%) of the population. Also, in rural areas the ratio of per capita income between the top (15%) and bottom (15%) of the population has risen from 3.9 in 2004-05 to 5.8 in 2009-10. Same way in urban areas, ratio has gone up from 6.4 to 7.8.

But, the percentage of population below poverty line (BPL) in the country has declined from (45.3%) in 1993-94 to (37.2%) in 2004-05 and (29.8%) in 2009-10. In rural areas, the decline in poverty ratio is from (50.1%) in 1993-94 to (41.8%) in 2004-05 and (33.8%) in 2009-10, that is decline of 16.3 percentage points from 1993-94 to 2009-10. For urban areas, the decline in poverty ratio is from (31.8%) in 1993- 94 to (25.7%) in 2004-05 and (20.9%) in 2009- 10, that is decline of 10.9 percentage points only from 1993-94 to 2009-10. Thus, the decline in poverty ratio is more in rural areas than in urban areas, which is also a cause of concern. As the urban population is increasing and today it is near about 31.16% of our population according to 2011 census, and it projected that by 2050, two third of India’s population will be called urban population and the poverty issue will be the main issue as more people will be migrating to urban areas for various reasons. However, overall we should not be very happy by seeing this data related to decline in poverty line, as many people are still caught in poverty trap.

One thing has to be remembered that the poverty data which has been discussed for 2009-10 is based on Tendulkar Committee Methodology which came under criticism for lowering the poverty line too low at Rupees 28 a day for urban areas and Rupees 22 a day for rural areas. In simple words, it says a person who got Rupees 28 in urban areas and 22 in rural areas to spend daily is not poor, and is above poverty line. Also per capita income per month for urban areas is Rupees 860 and in rural areas it is Rupees 673 fixed. By following Tendulkars methodology, many poor people living in different states will be automatically out of BPL category that is the reason why many people have voiced their opposition against it and a panel formed under the Chairmanship of C. Rangarajan which has been asked to review the poverty line, still its recommendation is pending. Also, so far socio­economic and caste census are not completed.

Social Challenges to Indian Democracy

One segment of the society, which is suffering the most and for the past more than one decade many of them laid down their lives is Indian farmers. The issue of farmer’s suicide is a disturbing phenomenon in our society, because still majority of our population especially in rural areas depends upon agriculture for their livelihood. The main reason for farmer’s suicide is their indebtedness because of rising input cost and is not getting remunerative prices for their produce. The farmer’s suicide under the male category, the top five states are Maharashtra with 44,837 farmer’s suicide; Karnataka 28,739; Andhra Pradesh 25,462; Madhya Pradesh 21,038; and West Bengal 15,470. Interestingly, the four southern states. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu accounts for 83,070 farmer’s suicide in the country. In female category, Karnataka state leads the table with 6314 farmer’s suicide, the state of Madhya Pradesh comes second with 5684; Andhra Pradesh third with 5658; Maharashtra fourth with 5644 and West Bengal fifth with 3861 farmer’s suicide. If we combine together both male and female farmer’s suicide in the country, the state of Maharashtra will be at the top with 50,481 farmer’s suicide; followed by Karnataka 35,053; Andhra Pradesh 31,120; Madhya Pradesh 26,722 and West Bengal 19,331.

Recently, some new data has been published related to Indian farmers by applying the new farm population totals of census 2011 to farm suicide numbers of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). According to it, in the country, the Farmer’s Suicide Rate (FSR) is 16.3 per 100,000 farmers in 2011, which is slightly higher than that of FSR of 15.8 per 100, 000 farmers in 2001. For rest of the population, it is 10.2 per 100, 000 members in 2001, which increased to 11.1 in 2011. The suicide rates among Indian farmers in general are 47% higher than they are for the rest of the population in the year 2011 and also in 16 major states of the country the farmer’s suicide rate is higher than the suicide rate among the rest of the population.

Political Challenges to Indian Democracy

The women in India who constitute nearly half of our population are still deprived of economic, social, political rights in many spheres. Especially, in the field of political sphere they are inadequately represented, because of gender- based structural inequalities. In the constitution of India, Article 325 and 326 guarantee political equality-equal right to participation in political activities and right to vote respectively. While the right to vote has been exercised by them very well and it can be seen in the increase in percentage of voting by women but it is not the case with participation and representation in law making (equal political participation), especially in Parliament and State Legislatures which is still a distant dream.

Although, women participation at the grassroots level Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Urban Local Government) is quite satisfactory with participation increasing in decision making. The credit for this should go to 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment act. Also, till now 15 states have brought in law (50%) reservation for women in all three tiers of the PRIs, because of which more than 3 million women are representing the PRIs. But the question of bringing (33%) reservation for women in the Parliament is still hanging. Here, the question of reservation or representation of women in politics should be closely looked at, as some people supporting the reservation say, if reservation for women is made it law then women can be represented very effectively and no political parties can ignore it. While other people against the reservation say that instead of reservation for women, rather increase their representation by the political parties through giving them seats in the election and also important position in the party voluntarily. However, nothing has happened on both the fronts and ultimately women are the sufferers.

The women participation in different Lok Sabha elections especially since 10th (1991- 96) Lok Sabha election has seen some rise in numbers. The total number of women contested elections except the 11th lok sabha election, where a record number of 599 women candidate contested so far in the Indian history) has seen the rise in number, same way the number of women elected has just increase from 39 in 10th Lok Sabha election to 59 in 15th lok sabha election. Interestingly, the important point to note here is that the percentage of women elected among total women population is very good, compared to with that of percentage of men elected among total men population, throughout the lok sabha elections from first to fifteenth.

Future of Indian Democracy

To conclude, the vision of inclusive democracy in our country should be not only, just participation in elections through voting by the people. But it should be inclusiveness in economic, social and political spheres for all the sections of the society, with particular focus on the disadvantaged and marginalized groups. The basic needs of the people like food, shelter, healthcare, education facilities should be provided to the people, as still many are deprived it. Thus, without inclusion taking place in above mentioned three spheres, inclusive democracy will not be possible in true sense.