November Activity – Time Travel with Indian Democracy – Information Handout for the Students

Indian Democracy

In the ancient Indian village republics, all citizens assembled and decided issues of governance. People exercised their power directly in matters of the state. This kind of polity is called ‘Direct Popular Democracy.’ In this case, both legal and political sovereignty was vested in the people. With a gradual increase in the size of the population, it became difficult to have direct democracy. 

Presently, direct democracy is visible only at the Gram level in India. All decisions at the village level are taken by all the villagers together. Gram Sabha is headed by elected members. However, decisions on the development projects are taken openly by villagers. 

There are three essential elements of democracy:

  1. Freedom to citizens
  2. Respect for human rights
  3. Holding free, fair and regular elections
  4. Protection and effective realisation of human rights

15th September is celebrated as the International Democracy Day!

To understand how democracy works at the national and international levels, we should understand how it works at the local level. Therefore, we will now read how democracy works at the village level.

At the time of independence, the promise of democracy was, in part, the promise of the life that it would produce. A system of self-government held the potential to generate conditions where freedom could be realised. [page 42]

Barely a month after India acquired independence, the All-India Congress Committee refused to stop only on the achievements of political freedom and declared that “the establishment of real democracy... can only be realised when democracy extends from the political to the social and economic sphere.” [page 52]

In a 1943 speech on nineteenth-century Congress party leader and social activist Mahadev Govind Ranade, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar observed that the “formal framework of democracy is of no value and would indeed be a misfit if there was no social democracy". As Dr. Ambedkar noted on another occasion in the same year, the reason for democracy’s collapse in Italy, Germany, and Russia and its survival in England and America was “a greater degree of economic and social democracy in the latter countries than it existed in the former.” [page 55]

Video 1: Age of Democracy by Rajya Sabha TV [22 minutes]

Video 2: Democracy [5 minutes] 

Video 3: Democratic Principles [3 minutes]

Recommended Movies: Satyagraha (2013)

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