Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is India Well Nigh an Oligarchy?


A friend recently mentioned that India is turning into a nation of the elite, where politicians the brokers of power and money allow only their sons and daughters to succeed them, business barons would only be satisfied when their sons/daughters have taken over their business, actors would like to see their sons/daughters settled in the acting business, and so on.

That led me to the definition of Oligarchy in the dictionary. This is what I found on the Wikipedia. It defines Oligarchy as:

“Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, military control, or religious hegemony.”

The friend is right. The fabric of our society rests on the individual’s ability to suck up to his/her political master. There are too many examples of this, I need not point to specificities. The movie Rajneeti, which I saw, underlines this when the woman politician is willing to switch her loyalty to get a seat in the legislature. Our political-executive system is run along Oligarchic lines, which is not novel to us. According to Robert Michael’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” political systems degenerate into Oligarchies if democratic traditions are not strong enough.

This break down of democratic systems maybe what is happening now.

Behind every deal, behind every permission for a college or university is a dealing of power and money by close relatives of the politician in power. This powerplay has often led to dangerous consequences in the case of politicians who have been killed by their own kin. The cost of these deals percolate down to us, as we are the ones who pay the taxes, the fees, the atrocious amounts we shell out for a roof above our heads.

But in the middle class there’s an immense ability to bear all this without a grumble. The 200 million middle class is an effective sponge that bears the burden of the Oligarchy without a murmur. They pay taxes, pay the fees, pay the bills and keep quiet. They don’t ask questions if the roads are bad, the public facilities are next to absent and education is getting more expensive.

Thanks to the Right to Information Act, a lot of questions are being asked. Let’s hope they keep the spirit of democracy alive in this great country of ours.

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