10th December, 2020, Prime Minister Modi laid foundation stone of new parliament building, marking 75 years of independence of India from British Raj in presence of numerous religious leaders, businessmen and in absence of first citizen of the country. Mainstream media busy in portraying its design and architectural edge combining it with elements of modernity ranging from energy efficiency to state-of-the-art technique to be featured in upcoming structure without being in debate of timing and ambience of this foundation.
When hundreds of thousand farmers are protesting on roads to bring three of Modi’s agro-bill to nullification; the debates on television counts to significant business; unfortunately this massive protest doesn’t make sense to most of these media houses and remained devoted to anti-farmer propaganda propagated by ruling party and their arms along with corporates whose stakes in newsroom are higher than government itself.
Existing parliament building is 93 years old which will be replaced with upcoming 922 crore mega structure. It is a part of 20000 crore Central Vista revamp plan which include construction of New Prime Minister residence and ten other structures to accommodate offices of government services. Meanwhile, only parliament building caught eyes of media houses and rest of ten building disappeared from picture. They didn’t disappeared but deliberately made.
Parliament building can be a symbol of democracy and it ought to be but lavish PM residence cannot make sense of wisdom of democracy; particularly when country’s PM is Fakir [Saint]. A kings’ residence throughout the history of humanity remained symbol of oppression, discontent and disappointment; which one day has been disproved and ultimately destroyed. In the sheath of democratic institution, representatives lavishing their means throughout and throughways.
This expenditure is made when Indian economy is likely to shrink by 9.6 percent in 2020-21. Poverty has spread its arm and bread for two time a day has become a dream for millions. Job losses, vanishing wage, record unemployment and induced psychological trauma of working class is new normal which is still out of debate, forget government, not even made gossip sense to media houses.
Mainstream media furnished the crude information from twitter accounts of government officials and news agency in particular into a concrete setup by disseminating it as excellence in applied science and enhanced democracy with larger stretch. One may argue that government is planning to increase number of parliamentarians through provisions of next delimitation act to be appear in or after 2026.
But the question remains the same, can new parliament building do justice with the democracy or ongoing democratic movements in the country in particular or will it worsen to deeper bone of a wound? Modi government trying to impose all its bead in a roll through authoritarian means and determined to hold on it with frozen and firm fist. What does new agents of Governmentality mean for India’s future of democracy?
Mainstream Media has slaughtered collective consciousness of the Nation
There are two India within India. Rural India and Urban India per se. Political clout of rural India has shifted to urban one, which is evident from fact that farmers are unable to press central government for an inch for amendment in agricultural law. At same time anchors of mainstream channels found claiming themselves as agenda setter for the national politics. Indian democracy has not realized when its fourth pillar became agenda maker.
Information and misinformation propagated by urban political centers [satellite channels, PR agencies and print media altogether] reaches rural pockets in a manner that orchestrate psyche of illiterate, semi-literate or even literates particularly those who are not interested in fact checking or reading elaborated texts. Contemporary Indian culture is not of acquiring pramana [true knowledge through logical reasoning] but popular belief of shrutri [heard, remembered and transmitted without any rational debate] is prevailing. Shruti mode of transmission kills competency to analyze the consequence of the matter inheriting quadriplegia passed upon.
Fourth pillar of democracy in India, no wrong can be rightly blamed for manslaughter of the collective pramana consciousness of the nation through glamorous high pitch expression, clamor and pro-Modi engagement appearing like crusade on dissent voices, reminding of post-Weimer Germany.
Shared burden for undemocratizing the once living democracy
Government alone cannot be blamed for the present plight of political slantedness among expressive community. Opposition has to share the burden of corroding democratic environment. However structural lacking is undeniable. All democracies are divided on name of religion, ethnicity, class, gender, region and caste. These divisions can be compromised on certain fronts and remain divided on other. BJP has successfully brought many of the above divisions on compromising position which made it to dominate within democratic system. But there is question, how long this compromise can sustain? BJP has free hand to use undemocratic means to put these groups in compromising position so that whole system may appear like democratic. In present scenario, opposition either lacks capability to compromise or arrogant enough to compromise on some of the fronts.
It can be unassailably argued that citizen itself lost the sense of citizenship. Accountability in governance and administration itself dissipated from sensory of the masses. Only few you would find talking about citizen charter, fate of RTI Act, social securities etc. while rest of population is busy in pitty politics of religion and sectarian power struggle.
Technology is also among detrimental element inflicting burden on democracy, working as instrument of governmentality giving boost to authoritarian foundation within a democratic system. Small videos and small forwards are most desirable and transmittable data over internet. More than Ninety Nine percent of these forwards are unregulated and serves as sanctum mode of misinformation. It can be said that regulating transmission is act of arresting democracy but also not regulating misinformation is arresting democracy. Technology can advance to any extent but monopoly of governments to exercise its control over it cannot be established entirely. Cognizance of the fact remains only choice for citizens; either sustain democracy or trade it to political elites through hand of technology.
Choices for Indian citizen
What choice exactly do citizen have, should they stop voting particular party and can get rid of all structural problems? Answer is obviously no. answer lies in institutionalism. Citizen must choose institutions over government. Citizen must keep their eyes open to observe independence of institutions which is ultimate way to establish check and balance not only in policy formulation at same time it keeps representation healthy and organic.
One trend can be observed in Indian politics that whenever government changes, it start taking over institutions and shapes according to their ideological setup. For example Modi’s advent in Indian politics in 2014 saw drastic shift in naming and metamorphosing policy insight bodies. Planning commission was replaced with Niti Ayog in 2015 symbolizing greater shift in module of economic planning inspired from soviet model to American think thank model. NITI Ayog’s official refers Wikipedia in their report; observes the competency of newly organized institution.
Finance commission autonomy re-established, was principal argument by BJP but loss from this alteration was not been counted by opposition that India lost economic prospect and priority program agency. Even if they uttered, people were not ready to understand their language. This came because former governments never went to public with the name of the institution while BJP government has mastery over it.
Institutions has become ad-hoc bodies. Data from these institutions are altered and misinformed to the public. Public takes pride in lower fatality rate in COVID-19 Pandemic or relatively low morbidity in comparison to other country. Masses has not cared for their own health and wellness by not asking for right data and actual measures made to contain the disease. With such low consciousness of institutionalism and governmentality, India is likely to remain a representative democracy and not much more than of it.