08th January 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Note – Today’s article of the Hindu titled ‘Retrieving ideas of democracy and nation’ raises bigger questions about nation, nationality, democracy, forms of government and so on.
- It is important to understand these concepts individually because though they carry different meanings, we often tend to use them interchangeably.
What is a nation?
- A nation is a cultural term. It refers to a group of people with a common ethnicity, language, religion, history, mythology or any other of a variety of factors that cause them to identify as one people or tribe.
- For example, A nation is officially observed as a group of people who share the same cultural identity. They share the same language, culture and lineages. Kurdish people consider themselves a nation of Kurdistan, though Kurdistan is not officially recognised by either its neighbours, or Western countries. Establishing a national identity often helps people living in the same country feel united.
How is it different from a State?
- While a state is a political term; it refers to the area under the jurisdiction of a particular government. A state can be sovereign, in that it’s government is not beholden to any higher power, or it can be non-sovereign, meaning it has a government and administers a certain area, but is beholden to a higher government.
Now, we know India is a democracy. But what is democracy? And what do we mean by forms of government?
- Democracy as we know is a ‘form of government’. By form of government what we mean is what is the source of power of the government and what is the power structure of the place. The former determines the latter.
- For example, if the source of power is the will of the people, then the power structure is of democracy. Similarly if the source of power is heredity then the structure of power is monarchy.
Democracy in details:
- Democracy allows people to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.
- A democratic government contrasts to forms of government where power is either held by one, as in a monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy or aristocracy.
- Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which people vote on policy initiatives directly. This is different from a representative democracy, in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives.
- Representative democracy is a variety of democracy founded on the principle of elected people representing a group of people. For example, three countries which use representative democracy are the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Poland.
- The concept of representative democracy arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, and the American and French Revolutions.
- Governments with democratic attributes are most common in the Western world and in some countries of the east. In democracies, all of the people in a country can vote during elections for representatives or political parties that they prefer. The people in democracies can elect representatives who will sit on legislatures such as the Parliament or Congress. Political parties are organizations of people with similar ideas about how a country or region should be governed. Different political parties have different ideas about how the government should handle different problems. Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Various other forms of government are:
- Governments with Aristarchy attributes are traditionally ruled by the “best” people. Aristocracy refers to the rule by elite citizens; a system of governance in which a person who rules in an aristocracy is an aristocrat. It has come to mean rule by “the aristocracy” who are people of noble birth.
- A meritocracy refers to rule by the meritorious; a system of governance where groups are selected on the basis of people’s ability, knowledge in a given area, and contributions to society. Finally, a technocracy refers to rule by the educated; a system of governance where people who are skilled or proficient govern in their respective areas of expertise in technology would be in control of all decision making. Doctors, engineers, scientists, professionals and technologists who have knowledge, expertise, or skills, would compose the governing body, instead of politicians, businessmen, and economists.
- Governments with autocratic attributes are ruled by one person who has all the power over the people in a country. The Roman Republic made Dictators to lead during times of war. In modern times, an Autocrat’s rule is not stopped by any rules of law, constitutions, or other social and political institutions. After World War II, many governments in Latin America, Asia, and Africa were ruled by autocratic governments.
- Governments with monarchic attributes are ruled by a king or a queen who inherits their position from their family, which is often called the “royal family. ” There are at two opposing types of monarchies: absolute monarchies and constitutional monarchies. In an absolute monarchy, the ruler has no limits on their wishes or powers. In a constitutional monarchy a ruler’s powers are limited by a document called a constitution.
- Governments with oligarchic attributes are ruled by a small group of powerful and/or influential people. These people may spread power equally or not equally. An oligarchy is different from a true democracy because very few people are given the chance to change things. An oligarchy does not have to be hereditary or monarchic. An oligarchy does not have one clear ruler, but several powerful people. Some historical examples of oligarchy are the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Apartheid in South Africa. Fictional oligarchic examples include the dystopian society of Oceania displayed in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the stratocracy government of Starship Troopers, and the kritarchic “Street Judges” of Judge Dredd.
India and democracy:
- There were complex questions that had to be explored in the wake of Independence, and particularly following Partition. One was if India is a nation, what kind of a nation is it? If democracy is the mode of political association of this nation, what kind of democracy is conducive to it?
- The conclusion that was arrived at was that India would be a democracy with periodic elections based on universal adult franchise.
- There would be a ‘delicate balance’ between ‘forces of centralization and decentralization’ and ‘the interests of the powerful’ have been pursued ‘without fully excluding the weaker groups’.
- Consociationalists such as Arend Lijphart thought that the Indian case demonstrated that democracy is viable (i.e. possible in a diverse country like India with multiple ethnic, religious and cultural groups) — in spite of diversity and inequality — if it accommodates them (i.e. if all these groups are given a place in the political structure where they can place their opinions, raise their concerns) in the governing institutions of a polity.
India and the idea of nation:
- The idea of a nation is different from a state can be best understood by the protests in the northeast against CAA.
- In the Northeast, there is a widespread feeling that the CAA has watered down the autonomy that they sought for their culture, language, and land rights and very forcefully voiced before the Bordoloi Committee of the Constituent Assembly.
- Though we use these terms interchangeably, they bear different meanings and these must be kept in mind.
- Also amidst the ongoing protests against CAA, understanding of the notions of citizenship and nation becomes important to get a grip of the broader picture and the broader questions that arise.
Question – What is the proposed post of Chief of Defense Staff? Is it a new idea?
Context – Prime Minister has announced the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who will be above the three Service Chiefs.
- This is one of the country’s biggest higher level military reform to bring in jointness and tri-service integration.
Who is Chief of Defense Staff?
- The CDS is meant to be a single-point military advisor to the government, and to coordinate long-term planning, procurement, training and logistics of the three services. As future wars become short, swift and network-centric, coordination among the three services is crucial. Also as the stress on resources increases and defence budgets remain flat, the way forward is optimisation of resources by joint planning and training.
- The CDS, being above the three Service Chiefs, is expected to play this role by optimising procurement, avoiding duplication among the services and streamlining the process. India being a nuclear weapons state, the CDS will also act as the military advisor to the Prime Minister on nuclear issues.
Is this proposal new?
- The proposal for a CDS has been there for two decades. It was first made by the K. Subrahmanyam committee appointed after the Kargil conflict of 1999 to recommend higher military reforms. However, lack of consensus and apprehensions among services meant it never moved forward.
- In 2012, the Naresh Chandra committee recommended the appointment of a Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) as a midway to allay apprehensions over the CDS.
- The CDS is also one of the 99 recommendations made by the Lt General D.B. Shekatkar (retd) Committee which submitted its report in December 2016 which had 34 recommendations pertaining to the tri-services.
The current status:
- In the absence of a CDS, the senior most of the three Chiefs functions as the Chairman COSC. But it is an additional role and the tenures have been very short. For instance Air Chief Marshal (ACM) B.S. Dhanoa took over as the Chairman COSC on May 31 from outgoing Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba.
- However, ACM Dhanoa will be in the role for only a few months as he is set to retire on September 30 after which the baton will pass to Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat who will then be the seniormost. Gen Rawat too is set to retire on December 31 after three years in office.
- All major countries, especially the nuclear weapon states, have a CDS. The U.K. from which the Indian armed forces and the Defence Ministry are modelled on has a Permanent Secretary, equivalent to the Defence Secretary, and also a CDS.
- The U.K. Government guidelines state that the CDS is the professional head of the British armed forces and, as military strategic commander, is responsible for how operations are carried out. He is also the most senior military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister.
- The Permanent Secretary is the government’s principal civilian adviser on Defence, has primary responsibility for policy, finance and planning, and is also the Departmental Accounting Officer.
- This is an initial step towards reforms in the military. More reforms must be brought in where required.