UnionAID Fact Sheet 2 Supporting real change: India
Democracy in India: Power to the people When poor people themselves are asked what poverty means to them, they say that, as well as not having enough money, being poor makes them feel powerless, vulnerable and ashamed. For them, poverty also means they are not able to take part in making decisions about important things that affect their lives. Amartya Sen is a famous Indian economist who argues that the true measure of wealth should be freedom. For him freedom from poverty means not just having a reasonable income, though A fighter for Dalit rights this is important, but it is also about democracy and being able to take part in community and political life, and to feel Bhim Rao Ambedkar (1891-1956) self‐respect. He thinks people must be able to choose who was born into an untouchable family. will govern them, by voting, and also be free to be critical of When he started school, he had to those in power and make sure they keep their word. Sen says sit outside the class like the other that when a country is democratic, life is better for ordinary untouchables. If he was thirsty somebody from a higher caste had people. For example, he argues that there has never been a to pour water so Ambedkar did not serious famine in the history of the world in any country touch the cup. However, Ambedkar where there is a proper working democracy. This is because was one of the first untouchables when leaders have to win elections by the popular vote, to get a high school education. He governments will try to stop such disasters. In a democracy then studied in America and London and went on to become a lawyer. He they are more likely to focus on the needs of their people. returned to India and became actively involved in politics, working
But to be active and participate in a democracy, people also to get rid of the caste system. He need to be healthy and able to read and write. This means and Mahatma Gandhi did not agree they must have enough to eat, free health care and on the best way to get equality for education. For Dalits. His message to his followers us in NZ, was “Educate! Organise! Agitate!’” taking part in community life may also mean we need a car, TV, and for children to be able to Tamil Nadu women signing a petition for electricity with a thumbprint
go on school trips.