THIS is apropos of Razeshta Sethna’s article ‘Our sleeping avengers’ (Jan 14).

The civic action leading to societal transformation requires existence of inclusive institutions with the capacity and will to uphold democratic values and behaviour.

Our nation has miserably failed to develop and nurture such institutions over half a century primarily for three reasons: first, patriarchal and feudal mindset that continuously strives to maintain a status quo supporting absolutism, and nips in the bud any endeavour to create space for pluralism.

The policies, procedures and laws to a large extent justify allocation of resources and distribution of benefits in favour of those who wield power.

Growth, even if it occurs, is not accompanied by social cohesion. Rather, it leads to widening gaps and lags among the ‘included’ and ‘excluded’ segments of society. A majority of people in such a scenario perceive that they have no stakes in society.

This perception can be critical when risks of social unrest from youth unemployment and conflict are high.

We need to understand that the Arab Spring was not merely about employment. But disappointment, especially among youths, about the lack of job opportunities and frustration with the allocations of jobs based on connections rather than merit echoed across countries.

Second, the structures entrusted to implement democratic project have not pursued the measures that support the inclusion of the weak and vulnerable, extend access to voice and right, and improve transparency and accountability.

As a result, a palpable sense of trust deficit is growing between state and citizens. Policy responses to prevent and mitigate the impact of this deficit are insignificant and non-tangible. This state of affairs leads to a general perception that entails very little differentiation between dictatorship and democracy.

Third, despite its remarkable growth, the middle-class has not succeeded in getting poor people along, while having interface with power-centres.

At present there is no institutional mechanism in place that can ensure the participation of the poor in collective decision-making, managing tensions between diverse groups and avoiding and resolving conflicts.

The majority of the poor does not trust beyond their own group and lacks civic engagement.

The only way to engage these downtrodden people is to build an agency or associations that respects their freedom, dignity, security and rights. Can the middle class venture to take over this responsibility?


Updated Jan 20, 2013 12:06am

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