Sidewalk: Democracy 2.0, participatory democracy

Last 2 weeks, India witnessed an unprecedented nonviolent & peaceful agitation to pursue government and parliament to enact an anti corruption law. It involved one man, a Gandhian, named “Anna Hazare” going on fast demanding immediate enactment of the law. Thousands across India supported & participated in the agitation. As the health of the fasting 74 year old Anna deteriorated government, parliament and representatives of the so called “civil society” worked together to resolve the impasse. While, the law has not yet been enacted, On Aug 27, 2011, 2 houses of the parliament passed a resolution unanimously to enact a strong anti corruption law. This has been now considered a historic day by many. While others, although in minority feel that the agitation and means adopted to pursue the government and parliamentarians were undemocratic. Those who have opposed and criticised the movement have not provided answers as to how people at large can be involved in democratic process going beyond voting in elections once in 5 years.

To my mind, the biggest ill with the largest democracy in the world is that it is not as participatory as it should be. Having said so, I have lot of questions. What is participatory democracy? Does participatory democracy mean voting once in 5 years alone? What are the elements or aspects of democracy in which people can participate? What are legitimate, constructive, and decentralized ways by which people at large can be involved in policy making making process? Will such a process be feasible,effective and efficient? Can Information Technology play a role to make participatory democracy a reality?

I never thought that political science could be so interesting. I am not a student of political science. But I must say that it is the right time to be a student of political science. If we feel that recent agitation involving scores of citizens across India was not democratic, then we must find & come up with ways & means by which citizens can be enabled to participate in democratic processes in democratic ways.

Interestingly, when I googled on participatory democracy, Google threw up a Wikipedia page on participatory democracy:

I also came across at least 3 initiatives where citizens are or are being involved in framing the consitution:

* Iceland crowdsources its next constitution

* Egypt’s Watiqah (Basic Document) for human rights principles to be enshrined in constitution

* Morocco’s crowdsourcing initiative for consitituional ammendments

While Democracy 2.0 is much beyond crowdsourcing, I feel it is time for Democracy 2.0.

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