What is Democracy? Why Democracy?
Ques 1: Here is some information about four countries. Based on this information, how would you classify each of these countries? Write ‘democratic’, ‘undemocratic’ or ‘not sure’ against each of these.
(a) Country A: People who do not accept the country’s official religion do not have a right to vote
(b) Country B: The same party has been winning elections for the last twenty years.
(c) Country C: the Ruling party has lost in the last three elections
(d) Country D: There is no independent election commission
(b) not sure
Political control and equality
Ques 2: Here is some information about four countries. Based on this information, how would you classify each of these countries? Write ‘democratic’, ‘undemocratic’ or ‘not sure’ against each of these.
(a)Country P: The parliament cannot pass a law about the army without the consent of the Chief of Army
(b) Country Q: The parliament cannot pass a law reducing the powers of the judiciary
(c) Country R: The country’s leaders cannot sign any treaty with another country without taking permission from its neighbouring country.
(d) Country S: All the major economic decisions about the country are taken by officials of the central bank which the ministers cannot change.
Ques 3: Which of these is not a good argument in favour of democracy? Why?
(a) People feel free and equal in a democracy
(b) Democracies resolve conflict in a better way than others
(c) Democratic government is more accountable to the people
(d) Democracies are more prosperous than others
Ans: The argument ‘d’, which states that “Democracies are more prosperous than others”, is not a good argument in favour of democracy. This is because some democracies like India are still developing economically, while monarchies like the states of UAE are economically strong.
Ques 4: Each of these statements contains a democratic and undemocratic element. Write out the two separately for each statement.
(a) A minister said that some laws have to be passed by the parliament in order to conform to the regulations decided by the World Trade Organisation.
(b) The Election Commission ordered re-polling in a constituency where large scale rigging was reported.
(c) Women’s representation in parliament has never reached 10 per cent. This led women’s organizations to demand one-third seats for women.
(a) Democratic element − some laws have to be passed by the parliament
Undemocratic element − conform to the regulations decided by the World Trade Organisation
(b) Democratic element − the Election Commission ordered re-polling
Undemocratic element − large scale rigging was reported
(c) Democratic element − this led to women’s organizations to demand one-third seats for women
Undemocratic element − women’s representation in the parliament has never reached 10 per cent.
Ques 5: Which of these is not a valid reason for arguing that there is a lesser possibility of famine in a democratic country?
(a) Opposition parties can draw attention to hunger and starvation.
(b) A free press can report suffering from famine in different parts of the country.
(c) The government fears its defeat in the next elections.
(d) People are free to believe in and practice any religion.
Ans: Option ‘d’ is not a valid reason for arguing that there is a lesser possibility of famine in a democratic country. This is because practising religion has nothing to do with preventing famine.
Ques 6: There are 40 villages in a district where the government has made no provision for drinking water. These villagers met and considered many methods of forcing the government to respond to their need. Which of these is not a democratic method?
(a) Filing a case in the courts claiming that water is part of right to life.
(b) Boycotting the next elections to give a message to all parties.
(c) Organising public meetings against government’s policies.
(d) Paying money to government officials to get water.
Ans: Option ‘d’, which advocates paying the government officials money, is an undemocratic method.
Ques 7: Write a response to the following arguments against democracy.
(a) Army is the most disciplined and corruption-free organisation in the country. Therefore army should rule the country.
(b) Rule of the majority means the rule of ignorant people. What we need is the rule of the wise, even if they are in small numbers.
(c) If we want religious leaders to guide us in spiritual matters, why not invite them to guide us in politics as well. The country should be ruled by religious leaders.
(a) If army is allowed to rule the country, it will lead to concentration of all powers in the army. Power should be divided among the three organs of the government i.e., legislature, executive and judiciary. Concentration of all powers with the army will lead to dictatorship e.g. Pinochet’s rule in Chile.
(b) Democracy is a form of government where all the adults have the right to vote. Restricting people to rule and govern only from minority having 'wise people' would harm representational democracy.
(c) Politics and religion are two different fields. Religion takes us towards spirituality by teaching us what is good or bad. Combination of religion and politics leads to communalism or communal politics which is very dangerous.
Ques 8: Are the following statements in keeping with democracy as a value? Why?
(a) Father to daughter: I don’t want to hear your opinion about your marriage. In our family children marry where the parents tell them to.
(b) Teacher to student: Don’t disturb my concentration by asking me questions in the classroom.
(c) Employee to the officer: Our working hours must be reduced according to the law.
Ans: (a) Undemocratic: The daughter has been denied permission to express her views/' opinion on her marriage.
(b) Undemocratic: The student is not being allowed to ask questions in the class.
(c) Democratic: As the employee is asking working hours to be reduced according to the law.
Ques 9: Consider the following facts about a country and decide if you would call it a democracy. Give reasons to support your decision.
(a) All the citizens of the country have the right to vote Elections are held regularly.
(b) The country took a loan from international agencies. One of the conditions for the given loan was that the government would reduce its expenses on education and health.
(c) People speak more than seven languages but education is available only in one language, the language spoken by 52 per cent people of the country.
(d) Several organisations have given a call for peaceful demonstrations and nation wide strikes in the country to oppose these policies. Government has arrested these leaders.
(e) The government owns the radio and television in the country. All the newspapers have to get permission from the government to publish any news about the government’s policies and protests.
Ans: The country is not a democracy. The people have the right to vote but they do not have the right to free speech and demonstrations. The country is also under economic sanctions, which means that people cannot take their own economic decisions. The government’s censorship of the media prevents the public from voicing its opinion.
Q 10. In 2004 a report published in USA pointed to the increasing inequalities in that country. Inequalities in income reflected in the participation of people in democracy. It also shaped their abilities to influence the decisions taken by the government. The report
Write an essay on ‘Democracy and Poverty’ using the information given in this report but using examples from India.
Ans: Poverty and Democracy highlights an important complicated relationship between the two. It points out how fundamental rights of democracy are given to the elite section but the poor are still being deprived of.
The pitfalls like chronic capitalism, unequal opportunities have widened the gap between the poor and rich. Rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. The rich are influencing the government policies. The social power among the citizens is unbalanced which violate the fundamental principles of democracy.
Poverty has become a powerful threat. Political parties are run by the money of the riches. That’s why these parties show apathy towards the needs of the poor. Artificial glitters of the modern industry, skyscrapers cannot hide the prevailing unhygienic dwellings of the poor.
Democracy is based on the principle of political equality on recognizing that the poorest and the least educated have the same status as the rich and the educated. Under such biased and pro-rich conditions, a nation can’t be democratic for a long time. Sooner or later it will lead to conflicts for the betterment of democracy.