Too Much Democracy: Amitabh Kant On Democracy, Truth Or Freudian Slip?

Too Much Democracy: Farmers are still on the street as protests intensify against the new farm laws countrywide. The BJP-led NDA government has demonstrated political woe to carry out tough reforms. Yesterday, NITI Aayog CEO ignited controversy and war of words across social-media with his latest statement while addressing an online event conducted by Swarajya magazine.

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Kant said that India is too much of a democracy and that so much so is such a democracy in access that we can not even go ahead with difficult reforms. He went on to add that it is difficult to compete against China without hard reforms and that states now must carry the baton and carry out the next wave of reforms.

Referring to measures taken by the centre concerning mining, coal, labour, agriculture. Kant added that if 10-12 states grow at a higher rate than there is no reason why India would not grow at a higher rate. “We have asked Union Territories to privatise discoms. Discoms must become far more competitive and provide more shield power. Tough reforms are very difficult in the Indian context. We have too much democracy that we need a political vote to carry out these reforms, and many more reforms still need to be done” news agency PTI quoted Kant.

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Too Much Democracy: Kant later tried clarifying the damage done by saying that he had contextualized his statement in a completely different context.
Kant tweeted to say that he was misquoted on the phrase he used(Too Much Democracy). “I was speaking about the MEIS scheme & resources being spread thin & need for creating global champions in the manufacturing sector.”

However, the question remains that even if we contextualize it in his context, does the context take away from the statement that has been made on India’s democracy? Are we a democracy in excess?

The correct way to define democracy itself carries the essence of collective decision making power and self-governance of the people, implicitly in a social and political sense. While talking of that, Freedom of Speech comes into picture from which dissent flows but talking about it in context of farmers’ protest; the farmers were never even consulted, let alone participate in formulating the reforms made for them.

But when Kant says we have too much democracy, it raises brows because you either have democracy or you do not have it; there is no grey area. And even if there is, it should be called something else like regulated democracy, dictatorship but democracy. The government in the past has made statements saying that the citizens do not know what is best for them, ergo, they come forward as stepping stone to guide citizens on the path of development and self-sufficiency; highlighting the government’s patronizing attitude.

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The fact remains that if we have institutions like the judiciary, civil authorities, bureaucracy and so forth to redress citizens grievances and once they start collapsing one after another then people will take to the streets to make their voices heard. It also brings in the question of whether people should trust those onto whom they give the most amount of power? Fact is that democracy is an act of collective self-governance amongst social equals, and unfortunately, we are not a democracy because we are still plagued by huge levels of social equality, not to mention economic equality, etcetera.

The institutions in our society have to be regulated, and as Baba Ambedkar said while ratifying the constitution that “this political revolution is not enough until we have a social revolution in this country.” The vibrance of democracy will only come out when we as citizens come to protect the pillars of the democracy that protect our fundamental rights. Democracy is not good unto itself and becomes a meaningless act if we do not have different voices and opportunity to express dissent and opinions.

Saying that people should not block roads and when there is no space for a conversation is what exactly people will do to show the government its place because the government gets elected by the people and should be for the people at all times. The protest by farmers have its root in human rights. They are marching for their livelihood, mere survival and to save themselves from exploitation at the hands of corporates. The whole nation ought to stand in solidarity with them.

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During the virtual session, the CEO also responded to questions about the ongoing farmers’ agitation. He reiterated the center’s stance that MSP and APMC will remain, adding that the new farm laws will give farmers a choice to sell their products to whomever they want. As many as one champion sectors have been identified by the government and will receive production incentives. He went on to say that this was a step to strengthen the center’s Atmanirbhar Bharat narrative. Adding that these sectors will contribute to making India a manufacturing hub by providing economies of scale.

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