[Editorial Analysis] Democracy in question

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Zero hour
Mains level: Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries

Context:

• Citizens of many countries have expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which their governments have dealt with the pandemic.

Challenges around the world:

• The US might be the first to register the discontent in the presidential election in November. What appeared to be easy sailing for the incumbent has already turned into a difficult climb to retain the White House.

• India is unusual in having suffered the near worst, with more uncertainty ahead, and yet not complained. Instead, we joined to beat kitchen vessels and applauded IAF aircraft flying in formation across the sky.

• The acknowledgement and gratitude towards medical professionals and other service providers was due and was expressed fairly. But sensitivity and humanity cannot bypass the need for robust preparedness and intelligent response to the challenge posed by COVID-19.

Features of democracy:

• Democracy is judged by the debate it encourages and sustains.

• The government in a democracy performs to honour its manifesto and the Opposition questions to underscore its own.

• The people judge, not just at election time but at all times. That makes democracy a participatory one. The questions are asked from civil society platforms, the mass media, community gatherings and ultimately within the highest temple of democracy, the legislature itself.

• The hustle bustle of the marketplace of ideas is deserted because of COVID-19 though the conversations have moved to the digital platforms. Important institutions like the high courts and the Supreme Court have been conducting proceedings on digital platforms and have, after four months, begun to take furtive steps to return to physical hearings.

• Heavens have not come down. There is no reason to believe that they are waiting for Parliament to meet in order to unleash their fury.

Significance of having Zero Hour and Question Hour:

• One can imagine innumerable ways in which proceedings in Parliament could be modified to reduce the necessity to touch surfaces and to maintain social distance. But the mind is puzzled to think that curtailing the Zero Hour or cancelling the Question Hour has anything to do with containment of COVID-19.

• The pressing need is for us to re-configure how we conduct ourselves (the namaste or aadaab instead of the handshake) rather than what we say or how much we say.

• It is no one’s case that the Zero Hour is an example of etiquette and best behaviour, but the decibels, particularly when projected on the screen, bring out the passion of strongly felt opinions.

• Similarly, the Question Hour is the heartbeat of democratic accountability. If ever there was a need for questions to be asked and answers to be given, it is now and here.

• Interestingly, as is the practice of the government, it opts to let people guess why something is done or left undone. If they have taken an unprecedented decision there must be some reasoning behind it.

• Sharing that reasoning might not convince the Opposition, but it will at least show some dialogue that follows when questions are asked.

Conclusion:

• Asking questions is the essence of democracy.

• National parliaments do not dispense with questions even at the time of war. If questions are disallowed in Parliament, many more will be asked outside it.

• If the questions can lead to greater unity of national purpose, the government will do itself and the nation a great injustice by attempting to stifle them.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to The State of Young Child in India’ report, consider the following statements:

1. The report has been prepared by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.

2. Based on ranking and values on the Young Child Outcome Index (YCOI), the report named Kerala, Goa, Tripura and Tamil Nadu to be among the top performers.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What do you mean by the democracy? Describe it’s features and principles. What is the rationale behind curtail the Question Hour and Zero hour?

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