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Indian democracy, Media, and (public participation): Does public opinion matters in policy making

According to Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government of “By the people, To the people, and For the people”. In India, democracy is based on the doctrine of popular sovereignty, that is, possession of supreme power by the people. By vesting supreme power in public, Indian democracy has upheld its people’s participation in governance and government matters. This made India as republican democratic country.

In Indian democracy, social democracy plays an important role in achieving political democracy. Social democracy is a way of life which recognises Liberty, equality and fraternity. Liberty, equality and fraternity are inseparable. Liberty and Equality plays an important role in achieving public participation in governance and government matters. Here media comes into play to “express one’s opinion” and to gather “every section of societal views” on certain public platforms to upheld the soul of democracy, i.e, public participation in governance and government matters. So media is playing one of the most important role in public sphere of life.

From the above, it is clear that importance is given to public participation(opinions, involvements, etc,.) in Indian polity by the constitution. As every coin has two sides, public participation also has two sides. Such as in Nagaland Urban local bodies case, public opinion is against women political rights and In case of triple talaq, majority opinion is against the women’s social rights. So many experts had raised the question

“ Does public opinion matters in the public policy making?”

There are many reasons for supporting why public opinion matters in policy making. They are :

1) To prevent dictatorial ruling in policy formulations and biased view in policy formulation. This will contain growth discourse against the government and it governance.
Example: Beef ban policy is framed without taking public opinion which affect lakhs of public livelihood and economic activities. This has lead to growth of discourse against governance.

2) According to the Global Gender Gap Index, India ranks 113th , 139th ,and 142nd in education attainment, economic empowerment and health services respectively. To improve India’s ranking, and to upheld some of the constitutional provisions such as article 16, 15, 21, & 21A, public participation in grass root level policy making is important.
Example: In Kerala, Public participation in Kudumbashree recognised effective strategies for successful outcomes. This helped women to fight against disempowerment.

3) According to the Global Wage Report, there is 30% wage inequality between women and men in India. To attain Right to Equal pay and Political participation, public participation is important in policy making. This

will eliminate male chauvinism and conservational attitudes by gathering public opinion and putting
pressure on government to frame law according to the changing cultural laws.

4) To prevent the exploitation and mass displacement, local people’s participation in policy making is important to protect the traditional rights on forest areas. This will upheld the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) to which India is signatory. This will also reduce the conflicts arising out of Bilateral Investment Agreement Treaties in WTO forum.

5) Clear understanding on problems of poverty, hunger, and sanitation needed because different regions have different causes due to diversity of India. To achieve this, public participation is important in policy planning to formulate according to indigenous requirements and suitability. This will help to achieve United Nation Sustainable Development Goals.

6) According to the corruption perception index released by transparency international, India ranks 79th out of 176 countries and this report says 7 out of 10 had paid bribe to get public services. So,Public participation in policy formulations leads to citizen centric policies which will reduce leakages, bring transparency and accountability.

7)To bring quality in policy formulations, public participation will help bring expert domains and specialists. This will bring sharing of knowledge and experience which increases the effectiveness of policy making.

By recognising these advantages of the public participation in policy making, government have taken many steps to to promote public participation such as establishing NITI AAYOG which follows BOTTOM to TOP approach, have initiated many public platforms such as MyGov, e-Pragati, etc,. Government has realised the power of media such as social media, to reach out to its citizens for their opinions and also launched “Digital India.”
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