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Lessons in democracy, the NCERT way

The books compare democratic India with countries that followed dictatorship to put forth the point of view that democracy is better.

education Updated: Dec 22, 2008 12:53 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Many in India may be blaming democracy for our ills but the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is asking students to ponder over what is better — democracy or dictatorship. In a reply to a Right To Information (RTI) application on “corruption as a topic in school education” to an activist Manish Sisodia, the NCERT has provided copies of the chapters included in the Class IX to XII syllabi, providing interesting insights into teaching democracy, corruption and education.

The books compare democratic India with countries that followed dictatorship to put forth the point of view that democracy is better. The Class IX textbook on Political Science talks about how corruption was rampant during the rule of Chilean dictator Pinochet, who was ultimately ousted by people wanting democracy.

Even Communist rule in the Soviet Union has been derided saying, for 70 years, the government was not accountable to people and this is what led to rampant corruption. “Ordinary people were alienated by slow and stifling administration, rampant corruption and inability of the system to correct mistakes it had made,” says a chapter on the Contemporary World Politics in Class XII textbook on Political Science.

More than informing students about corruption, the NCERT has tried to make students discuss the evils in the society and look for answers. The Class XI Political Science textbook asks students to ponder on whether corruption has increased or come down while stating that a corrupt government is inefficient. “Corrupt government can also endanger our lives,” the chapter says, while stating that democracy makes elected representatives accountable to people.

The textbooks have some solutions to offer, one of them being electoral reforms. The Class X textbook on Political Science asks students what sort of reforms would they like to see — state funding of elections, compulsory audit of accounts of political parties or citizens being encouraged to donate to political parties to check corruption in political system. Political corruption at the Panchayati Raj level has been referred to in Class X textbook to show that people’s protest can put an end to various corrupt practices like providing liquor or bribe for votes. “Distribution of alcohol and gur (jaggery), and use of jeeps are frequently used to buy votes,” according to a chapter on Social Movements.

The textbooks also enumerate many examples from grass roots to national levels where people’s movement have helped in fighting corruption. A chapter on Social Change and Development in India in the Class X Political Science textbook cites an example of Dhorela village, wherein villagers decided to go in for less expensive elections for a ‘corruption-free’ polling process in which the poor could participate.

At the national level, a movement undertaken by civil rights groups for the Right to Information Act, 2005, has been illustrated as an example of people’s movement to check corruption. The system of Parliamentary Standing Committees has also been illustrated as a way to check corruption in the government.

What the book says:

The Class X textbook on Political Science states, “In our country, the differences among all the major political parties on the economic policies have reduced. Those who want really different policies have no option available to them. Sometimes people cannot even elect very different leaders either, because the same set of leaders keep shifting from one party to another”.

The same book defines Pinochet’s military rule in Chile not only as brutal but also as “very corrupt”.

Indian Electoral System: A mind-boggling insight has been provided in Class XI textbook on Political Science regarding electoral politics. The chapter asks students to ponder on whether the electoral process in India is too expensive, while stating that expenditure made by the government, parties and candidates was around Rs 3,000 crore or Rs 50 per voter.

A comparative picture is also presented to students on government expenditure on the national security and sports.