A social democracy – and why it takes more than a Modi to change India’s future

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“To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Since May 16th the results of an arduous election period in India have been finally released. If being honest, no one was actually surprised about the result, it was more the intensity of it – Narendra Modi and the BJP won 284 of this year’s 548 parliamentary seats, while the previous leading party, the Indian National Congress, could only obtain 44. During the election phases Mr. Modi has become a personification of a prospective economic boom in India. That was not only prompted by nationals but even globally, corporates and individuals predict in Modi a bright future for the subcontinent. Tomorrow, on Monday, May 26th he will officially become India’s new Prime Minister – but his burden is heavy and the expectations are high.

Politics of the masses, not for the masses

The elections had heated up a whole nation; people showed desire, aspirations, hope, faith and active participation in the election process. But the one thing people around the world need to understand is, that politics is not done at the moment an individual made its cross on a piece of paper and decided who he thinks should govern the country. Politics go way beyond that stage and in a country as diverse as India this is crucial. Understanding what that means will be the only successful recipe for a brighter future of the country. So, what does it mean to go beyond politics?

Mr. Modi can introduce new high-speed trains to India, he can foster FDI, expand the industrial sector etc., and all this will hopefully increase the income of all households, regardless the caste and level in society. But the Prime Minister cannot change a country into a better place, for that it needs the active participation of the citizens, because the duty of a people in a democratic society is not over with the participation in elections – the people need to practice democracy and they need to be ready to execute their democratic duties. The overwhelming poll rates in this year’s elections were the first step in the right direction.

Democratic duties

“Immorality, no less than morality, has at all times found support in religion.” – Sigmund Freud

1. Religion

No later than 1883, Syed Ahmad Khan emphasized already the importance of a peaceful gathering of Hindus and Muslims. Hence he once beautifully phrased: “… Thus India is the home of both of us. We both breathe the air of India and take the water of the holy Ganges and the Jamuna. We both consume the products of the Indian soil. We are living and dying together. By living so long in India, the blood of both have changed. The color of both have become similar. The Muslims have acquired hundreds of customs from the Hindus and the Hindus have also learned hundreds of things from the Mussulmans. We mixed with each other so much that we produced a new language – Urdu- which was neither our language nor theirs. Thus if we ignore that aspect of ours which we owe to God, both of us, on the basis of common inhabitants of India, actually constitute one nation; and the progress of this country and that of both of us is possible through mutual cooperation, sympathy and love.”

These wise words leave us with the first democratic duty, the Indian citizens need to hold on to in order to set a milestone for a better future. Historic and present religious hostilities prove that never ever have religious dissensions brought any economic improvement to a country, but threw it years back in development. What the people of India imposingly expressed in this election was the desire to bring upon change, to make India a better place. But a government can only set a foundation and pass ground rules, in order to really make that desire happen all people of India need to pull the string together and stop wasting their energies for discussions about which supporters of what religion are welcome to this country and which ones are not. Because as history shows, Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus are like twins – not even a partition can actually drag them apart. And the moment the people will recognize this fact, they will understand how beautiful it is that two such diverse societies can peacefully share the same soil under their feet.

2. Patriotism

Now continuing with diversity. The sentence “India is so diverse.” is probably the most popular excuse in Indian politics and indeed, this immense diversity between East, West, North, South and Central India makes it almost impossible for a centralized government to satisfy the needs and desires of all groups of the society. Hence every state, constituency and even religious and individual groups have their own parties which represent the political aspirations of their supporters. This is particularly advantageous in order to form various allies, so that the central government has access to all parts of the country and therefore can serve to all the people’s needs. That’s the theory. It only becomes problematic when the regional parties lose the national focus in their party philosophy, they only govern for their region, regardless what will happen with the nation itself. This trend in Indian democracy was vividly demonstrated in the Bollywood movie “Chak de!”, when the coach asked each fellow where they came from and everyone of them named their regional state instead of India as their country. Patriotism has always been a negatively noted word, but executed in a non-radical and appropriate manner, it is the beating heart of a country.

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Diversity can separate a country because of the different customs and even languages, but if India as a whole should strive a more promising future, the people need to unite. What does it help if only Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala is rich? 3 states out of 28 won’t lift the country’s GDP so dramatically that poverty will be gone nor will it narrow the gap between rich and poor. Rich cities attract people seeking jobs, which means the unemployment and poverty rate of the city increases in case there are not enough vacancies. And once more we see the vicious cycle, that even the state might be rich, major problems are still not solved. For individuals (voters!) and regional politicians, it is important to understand that India as a whole needs to transform and for that regional politics need to keep the big picture in mind and actively support the regions that are doing worse. The support for economically poor-performing regions need to be proportional to the regional GDP, the money cannot come from the state itself, because regionally biased financial support will cause discrepancy among the states.

Once again, the government can only set the foundation to make India more equal, it is on the citizens to promote being an Indian, not a Maharashtrian or Guju or Bengali. One can wear a lot of hats, the Indian people have to make sure, that the hat of being an Indian succeeds the one of the regional state, because only unity and a conjoint effort can make this diverse country grasp for more.

3. Education

Since the 18th century already, liberal thinkers have pledged themselves to improve the poor state of education and begged, earlier the British and now the Indian government, to initiate ground-breaking rules to enable education for all and to lift the level of education so as to make sure Indian students are internationally compatible. Education is not only a tool to teach science and literature, but also to teach morals and social empathy. In 2009, finally, the government led by Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh, passed the Right for Education Act and in fact, in primary schools the enrollment rate rose to almost 100%. But it drops dramatically in secondary school. Reasons for that are the half-hearted efforts to supervise and control teachers, the absence of school equipment, such as tables and books, but also the resistance of the people.What will all the governmental laws change, if parents refuse to send their children to school?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

For sure, one can claim, that once the farmers will get more subsidies from the government so that they won’t have to worry about their daily survival, they won’t have to employ their own children but they could rather send them to school. The point is, that the mindset won’t change. What is necessary is that sensitive citizens of this country get together, start social initiatives and go out to educate the parents. There are a lot of NGO’s out there which committed themselves to change this current state of education, because before there is no major breakthrough in the mindset of the people, all governmental efforts won’t be fruitful. It is necessary to address the families directly and sensibilize them regarding the importance of academic and social education, because education outreaches the obvious, such as schooling and physical education; it also forms one’s morality and causes awareness about the individual’s social responsibility.

And finally social responsibility rounds up the argument, why not Modi will be the changemaker of a new India, but the citizens themselves. The social responsibility of a people is to maintain peace among the various groups of the society, it also includes the expression of empathy regarding the ones who are doing worse; social responsibility means to show conjoint efforts to make all citizens of the country equal, for example through education, and with socially responsible citizens harassment and violence will reduce and vanish.

In the end it always comes down to the people. It is your time to make India a better place – united and equal.

Women in Nepal.

Check out The Asian Network

(Photo Credits: en.trend.az, www.voicerr.comborgenproject.org)

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