Stress points of democracy (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: CBI
Mains level: Federal structure across the world
- These are difficult, as also unsettling, times. It is not the
complexity of issues that confront the world as much as the steady
undermining of institutional and knowledge structures that are posing a
threat to the world.
- Across the world, democracy is in obvious retreat, with
authoritarian tendencies on the ascendant. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s
Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan are constantly projected as the
faces of authoritarianism, but many democratic leaders reveal a similar
authoritarian streak, which adds to democracy’s woes.
- It may be too early to predict the demise of democracy, but the
reality is that it is not a good time for democratic institutions, or for
those who see democracy as the answer to the world’s problems.
- Several examples exist worldwide on how decisions today are handed
down, rather than being the outcome of discussion and debate.
- Hallowed international institutions such as the World Bank are
facing the heat today for not conforming to the prescriptions of certain
- At the same time, there are enough examples of democracy going
awry. Brexit, and the Brexit debate, in the U.K. and Europe is a good
- The U.S., which prides itself as a leading democracy, is setting a
bad example today. Under President Donald Trump, arbitrary decision-making
has replaced informed debate. His diatribe against what he calls a
“ridiculous partisan” investigation against him is an indication.
- Another is his determination to build a wall to keep out Mexican
immigrants, even risking an extended shutdown of the U.S. government.
- The decision of the U.S. to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range
Nuclear Forces Treaty a key pact signed in 1987, and hailed as the
centrepiece of European security since the Cold War without a detailed
internal discussion appears to be setting the stage for Cold War 2.0.
- This damages the fabric of democracy. Centre-State relations are
already under strain, and face the threat of still greater disruption.
- Selective interpretation of information is a fallout of such
- Those in authority deem all information not acceptable to them as
nothing but disinformation.
- Those opposed to the government, on the other hand, insist that
the government suffers from a lack of probity.
- The current sulphurous exchanges between the ruling dispensation
and the Opposition over the purchase of Rafale aircraft are an example. The
casualty is truth, and the veracity of official facts and statistics.
- The Central government has effectively rejected a report by the
well-regarded National Sample Survey Office which showed that unemployment
in 2017-18 was at a 45-year high without giving any valid reason for doing
- The government’s only reasoning for rejecting the report is that
it is a ‘draft’, which has only added to existing doubts about its real
- Similarly, doubts are being raised about the validity of the
government’s revised GDP estimates.
- Alongside the decline in democratic conventions, another cause for
concern is the virtual collapse of key institutions such as the Central
Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- Touted as India’s premier investigation agency, its reputation has
of late suffered a near mortal blow, mainly on account of internecine
quarrels, as also external interference in its internal affairs.
- Created out of the Delhi Special Police Establishment in 1963, a
brainchild of then-Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, the agency was earlier
headed by persons with impeccable integrity and ability.
- It had also adhered previously to the salutary principle of not
carrying out arrests, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.
- Over time, the quality of the CBI leadership and the tribe of
proven investigators has witnessed a decline, which has impacted the image
of the organisation.
A changing work culture
- What is worse is that while earlier the CBI used to carry out
arrests of so-called accused persons only as a measure of last resort, today
it is overturning this on its head.
- As its investigating officers’ skills have declined, it is
increasingly resorting to peremptory arrests, often on very slender
evidence, in anticipation of securing approvers to build, or strengthen, a
- The law generally disapproves of approver evidence, but this has
become the stock in trade of the CBI. The CBI has also been resorting to
pressure tactics while questioning individuals, even when they are not
accused persons, setting aside legal niceties and requirements.
- In a few instances recently, the CBI has even resorted to
intimidatory tactics, taking recourse to a battery of investigators to
question a witness, let alone an accused, in the hope of securing useful
- The recent incident where a posse of CBI personnel went to
question the Kolkata Police Commissioner at his residence late in the
evening, though he was only a witness, reflects the changing mores of the
CBI. This should be a matter of concern for one and all.
Q.1) Consider the following statements regarding Darwaza Band campaign:
1. Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation is the nodal ministry of the
2. Its main focus is to provide clean water to rural households.
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
Q.1) In this election year in India, we need to keep a sharper eye on the
weakening of institutions. Comment.