If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dismantling democracy

It takes years or decades to create something, but just days, if not hours to dismantle it. It is true for buildings and bridges. And it is true for democracies.
Indian democracy has been built by people who led the freedom struggle, and while we are rightly unhappy with many aspects of how our country functions, the greatness of the Indian democracy becomes clear when we compare ourselves with the other countries that achieved freedom after the Second World War. Look at our neighbours: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka … every one of them has gone through tremendous civil strife and seen mass killings and instability from time to time. It is true for Nepal too, to a lesser extent. And of these countries, Pakistan and Burma aren’t democracies by any stretch of imagination. We would shudder to think of living in either of them. Comparatively, we have had a stable democracy, barring a two-year aberration during the hated Emergency regime of 1975-77.
Any government with commitment to liberal democracy should try to protect and strengthen the institutions of democracy. The much maligned UPA regime (2004-14) – despite the thieves and thugs in their ranks – did exactly that when they introduced the Right to Information Act or the RTI Act in 2005.
It offers every citizen the right to seek and obtain information on government activities. Naturally, the Act has been a deterrent against corruption. A politician or bureaucrat trying to bend rules for personal benefits stand to be exposed in the future, thanks to this Act.
Many people have tried to catch politicians and babus for their wrongdoings, but it hasn’t been easy. There have been 400 physical attacks against RTI activists and as many as 65 of them have been murdered in the last 11 years. Maharashtra tops the list with 19 murders. The latest victim too is from the state. Suhas Haldankar was the latest RTI activist to be killed on 9 April by hitting him repeatedly with concrete blocks.
A protest against Suhas Haldankar’s killing in Kharalwadi area of Pune. (Express Photo by Rajesh Stephan)
It is essential that laws are strengthened to protect people like Suhas Haldankar. However, Narendra Modi led BJP government is doing exactly the opposite. Let me explain.
The government is trying to modify Rule 12 of the Act to “permit the Central Information Commission to allow appeals to abate on the death of the appellant or for their withdrawal.” The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a human rights group, demands that the Rule 12, instead of being diluted, “must be dropped without any delay.”
To put it simply, the changes that the government is trying to introduce is this: If an RTI activist is killed, people who might be affected by the information the former was trying to discover, may appeal to close the chapter.
Therefore, if the change happens, a corrupt politician or bureaucrat will have a strong incentive to murder the activist who is trying to unearth the former’s wrongdoings.
How wonderful of the government! While a civilized system should demand that whistle-blowers (people who are trying to fight corruption) be given protection, our present government is doing exactly the opposite.
“This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man who gave his life for us. But the bigger question is: How many of us realise that the Indian Democracy is being dismantled bit by bit by the present ruling dispensation?
You can read the entire story here. But let me warn you: In my opinion, it is a rather badly written article. In fact, that is the reason I tried to make rewrite it and make it shorter.

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