Blockchain and Democracy 2.0 in India — Part 1

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

Background

As per the Preamble to the Constitution of India, India is a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, where the citizens are secured JUSTICE (economic, social, political), LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief and worship, EQUALITY of status and of opportunity, and amongst its citizens, promotion of FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual, and unity and integrity of the Nation.

Let us know what those terms mean briefly.

  1. SOVEREIGN- Sovereign means supreme power which is absolute and uncontrolled within its own sphere, acknowledging no superior. Simply, it means that India has full power to take her decisions herself without any permission of any authority whatsoever.
  2. SOCIALIST- India follows Democratic Socialism. In theory, India should regulate the ownership of land and industry to reduce socio-economic inequalities and see that the wealth is shared by all through distributive justice. Summarily, it means creation of system which is free from all forms of exploitation.
  3. SECULAR- All religions are equally respected and there is no state religion. All the citizens of India are free to profess, practice, and propagate any religion.
  4. DEMOCRATIC- People of India elect their governments. Every citizen of India, who is above the age of 18 and not debarred by law, is entitled to vote. We will discuss more on this later.
  5. REPUBLIC- It means that the head of the state and various positions in India (including the Student Union of colleges to the Prime Minister of India) are elected for fixed terms by the people who would be later on taking decisions on their behalf. Commonly, it is said theoretically, India has government of the people, for the people, by the people. India has a federal structure with 3-tier government: Central, State, and Panchayati (Village Level) Government.
  6. JUSTICE- Social Justice means the absence of socially privileged classes in the society and no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of caste, creed, colour, religion, sex or place of birth. Economic Justice means equal wages for all genders, equitable distribution of wealth, economic equality, decentralisation of economic resources, adequate opportunities to all for earning their living and dignity. Political Justice means equal, free, and fair opportunities to the people for participation in the political process. India has a liberal democracy in which all the people have the right and freedom to participate.
  7. LIBERTY- As long as your action does not compromise the freedom of another individual, you are free to do, think, and indulge in anything. It means liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. Indians have
  8. EQUALITY- No section of the society enjoys special privileges and all are provided with adequate opportunities without any discrimination. All are equal in front of law.
  9. FRATERNITY- It means the spirit of brotherhood. We all are Indians, children of the same soil, same motherland before anything else. This is important, because India is a very diverse country based on race, religions, languages, and cultures. This should leave no scope of communalism, regionalism, casteism etc. which might impact the unity and integrity of India.

Current Status of Democracy

Democracy, rule by people, is currently the most common form of government seen in the world and in India. De jure, only 6 countries admit officially being undemocratic as per 2018. There are three major forms of democracies seen today.

  1. Direct Democracy- All the members form the governing body, vote directly on each matter and have equal say in the organisation.
  2. Representative Democracy- Members select representatives from amongst themselves, who form the governing body, who then vote on the decisions on their behalf.
  3. Constitutional Democracy- It is Representative Democracy having the rule of the majority with the protection of the rights of the minorities.

Advantages of Direct Democracy

  1. Transparency
  2. Direct Responsibility
  3. Meaningful Involvement

Disadvantages of Direct Democracy

  1. Expensive
  2. Involvement of un-educated and un-interested people
  3. Very difficult to scale for large democracies

Advantages of Representative Democracy

  1. Easy to scale
  2. Well-informed body making decisions
  3. Fullfilled sense of Democracy

Disadvantages of Representative Democracy

  1. High Corruption and Inefficiency
  2. Under representation of minorities
  3. Distance from the voters

India has a Constitutional Democracy which is based on the technology of 15th Century and the institutions of the 19th Century “gifted” to us by the British. The Government of India Act 1935 had many provisions which are still true. In order to make the system obsolete, we need to understand what the system is and why is it in the present way.

Unless you live in a cave, or under a rock, where you hardly come across to what is happening in the nation currently, you will notice how the constitutional values are broken every day by people, political organisations, news agencies, societies etc. Every one of the 7 National Parties of India have broken one or more of the fundamental constitutional underpinnings of the Preamble to the Constitution of India. Who did it more, who did it less, I will leave that to you. Many organisations in India: political, social, economical, student unions, trade unions, workers unions, groups, societies, non-profits, for-profits, corporations are indulged in some or other form of discrimination, nepotism, casteism, regionalism, communalism etc. The two elections which were very close to me, literally and figuratively, were Delhi University Student Union Elections 2016 and Tata Institute of Social Sciences Student Union Elections 2018. I witnessed the power of money, favouritism, casteism, and censoring rampant in both the elections. (Personal Viewpoint)

Current Process of Elections in India

Elections are held periodically in organisations ( from governments to the student bodies in a college) to form the governing body. The governing body meets periodically, debates on issues, and makes decisions on the behalf of all the people who elected them. For example, India elects members to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) every 5 years.

There are some issues with this system.

  1. This system was created, because scaling was a major problem at that time. In today’s times, thanks to internet and smartphones, scaling is not an issue.
  2. It distances the voters from the issues. Voters relinquish their right of decision-making and their ability to govern themselves to another person who would be making decisions for them. Participants only come every 5 years and then they forget the people.
  3. The voting is organised by a third party using either EVMs or Paper Ballots. Both are insecure and can be censored in any-way. It is highly-centralised and can be hacked or manipulated in anyway. Only a couple of officials handle vote counting and hardly anyone can audit the system outside of the organisers.
  4. Non-registered Voters are those who do not have their names in the electoral rolls and thus cannot participate in the voting and thus decision-making process.
  5. If we disagree with the person we elected on any issue, we do not have any means to recall that person. We have to wait for next election cycle to remove or replace them.
  6. We are forced to choose representatives to represent us on all the issues without our say. For example, if you are an artist, who knows quite a bit about art, and you can take decision on your own, still, you have given your right of self-sovereignty to the Ministry of Arts and Culture who would be taking decisions as per their choice and understanding.

Liquid Democracy- Incorporating the best of both worlds

Liquid means something which can flow and Democracy means the rule by people. Combing these two words, Liquid Democracy means a fluid democracy which can behave like direct democracy and representative democracy depending upon the issue. A sovereign individual is free to choose to practice direct democracy, or delegate their vote a trusted party or individual to someone they trust to make representative democracy. This is the beauty of Liquid Democracy. Let us understand via a very simple example.

Suppose your college community needs to take a decision on whether to use funds for buying cricket bats or footballs. The students are asked to vote on this issue. There can be three types of people in this.

  1. People who would say that funds should be used for buying cricket bats.
  2. People who would say that funds should be used for buying footballs.
  3. People who do not have an idea of any game or any requirement and they do not know whether to buy football or bats.

The first type of people know FOR THEMSELVES that the college needs more cricket bats. The second type of people know FOR THEMSELVES that the college needs more footballs. The third people know FOR THEMSELVES that they do not know of the requirements. They delegate their vote to their friend whom they TRUST would take a good decision on their behalf on the issue of sports. This way the whole college decides on the issue and every individual is SOVEREIGN to decide FOR THEMSELVES. This is the beauty of real democracy. The Sports Captain will not take decision all my him/herself or with the help of his/her ‘experienced advisers’.

This system ensures that the collective intelligence of whole community is taken into account to make decisions. It doesn’t matter if you are Government of India, Political Party, Corporation, or Student Body of your college, decisions can be made this way.

Advantages of Liquid Democracy

  1. Truly Democratic: Voters can vote on issues they know about for themselves and can delegate their votes to someone they TRUST for the issues that they do not know about. Shalini can vote on issues related to sports and arts in her college herself, or ask her friend Rohit to vote on her behalf on issues related to languages and scholarship-reimbursement. She can revoke her vote if she feels like Rohit has not taken a good decision.
  2. Low Entry Barrier: You do not need to have a lot of money or power to win the trust of the people. Do your job well, gain trust of people with proof of your abilities, and then you can vote on their behalf. It is a bottom-to-top way of creating the true leaders.
  3. Creates Responsibility: One major reason why the young generation is away from the politics today is because they feel as if their voice is not heard and they are not responsible for anything good or bad that is happening with the society. Delegation is a sign of trust, thus one is to behave responsibly with the votes or lose credibility. This ensures that delegates are more likely to act ho nest.
  4. Scalable and leads to better decisions: It can be scaled and leads to better decisions for the whole community or the organisation. We cannot vote on every single issue that the organisation, community or the government faces, so through delegation, decision-making is in the hands of well-informed people who are ALWAYS accountable to you because they have your votes.

The next part of the article will explain in detail about Sovereign, a Blockchain-based, Open-Source, Peer-to-Peer, Censorship-Resistant Liquid Democracy Platform. (Work under development, feel free to contribute)

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Aayush Malik

Aayush Malik

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Growth and Strategy | Partnerships | Experience Design and Development | Customer Success | Digital Innovations | https://www.linkedin.com/in/aayushmalik/