India is a republic. The term ‘republic’ indicates that a country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of its rulers. There are no rulers in a republic. There are elected representatives, meaning people in “power” have been elected by the people. These representatives are accountable to the people who have elected them. But here is the problem. Lately, India has been following the trend of abandoning the principle of being a republic and has been more inclined towards the more authoritarian forms of government.
In the last few years, especially after the NDA government led by Narendra Modi has come to power, people have entrusted the government to such an extent that the government has now taken this trust for granted. They no longer feel they’re accountable. This can be illustrated by various cases; government’s inability to explain the aims of demonetisation, even after it evidently failed to accomplish its main objectives; inability to explain the rationale behind the exclusion of Muslims from the list of oppressed minorities under CAA; reasons for not shutting down the air services until March 2020, even though the first cases of COVID-19 were detected as early as in January. They didn’t bother to explain the historic blunder that was the infamous 4-hour prior notice for the first lockdown, which eventually led to the biggest migrant exodus after partition, when streets and highways of this country were flooded with people on foot. The government’s failure to ensure adequate oxygen supply during the second wave of COVID-19 this year, which resulted in such high casualties, has also went unchecked.
People often complain about the media, alleging that it is biased, but has the civil society ever introspected itself? When was the last time people were seen on the streets, demanding their rights and holding the “leaders” responsible for all the mess that they have created? People have actively been crushed due to financial hardships, but the finance ministry seems to be unanswerable to any questions asked. One might think how can they dodge such important questions? Well, you have your answer, don’t you? When no one seeks accountability, why would the government bother to answer to its people on its own?
While it is true that most of the mainstream media is now in the government’s pocket and doesn’t question them, it is important to ask why do people still watch it even after knowing this open secret? Number of hits on sensational news topics in contrast to on topics that matter, be it healthcare or economy, makes it quite clear about what is widely consumed by people.
While the opposition, the media, and the democratic institutions are responsible for upholding constitutional rights of the people and showing a mirror to the government, the onus lies on the public as well, especially when they are aware that things have went south. It would be quite naïve to say that the government and its puppet media has altogether stopped taking public opinion into consideration.
One should remember the horrific rape case at Hathras, where it was only after enormous public outrage that opposition leaders were forced to visit the village and media was obliged to cover the story in an unbiased manner. It was the outrage of the republic that forced the Uttar Pradesh government to hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. It was the outrage of the people which brought down the UPA government in 2014 and shattered the arrogance of its ministers, to such an extent that the Congress party still struggles to hold itself together.
Might of the republic is very well known to those in power. It is only the people who have to (re)realise the power in their unity. The people must, at all costs, hold the government accountable.
Aditya Jha is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Umar Farooque Shaikh