Explained: How Electoral Bonds Raw Data Can Hampers Indian Democracy?

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Overall, while access to information is a cornerstone of democracy, managing the flood of information effectively is essential to ensure that democratic principles such as transparency, accountability, and informed decision-making are upheld.

New Delhi (ABC Live):  On March 14, 2024, the Election Commission of India (ECI) uploaded electoral bond data onto its website, as mandated by a Supreme Court order.

This data, received from the State Bank of India (SBI), was published in two PDF files comprising 746 pages. Shortly after the ECI's release, certain sections of the Indian media hastily started to republish selected data, generating various tabulations according to their editorial policies.

ABC Research, tasked with investigating this electoral bond data, highlights the drawbacks of information overload. First the raw data provided by SBI lacked crucial details, such as the identification of bond purchasers, containing only incomplete or correspondent names. An analysis within a short timeframe with above mentioned raw data is practically impossible. Consequently, the influx of incomplete information has left the public disillusioned, hindering efforts to unveil the truth behind the opaque funding of Indian politics.

ABC Research outlines the flood of information can pose several disadvantages to Indian democracy:

Manipulation of Public Opinion: In a democracy, an informed public is essential for making informed decisions during elections and policy-making. However, an overwhelming amount of information, particularly when combined with misinformation and disinformation campaigns, can manipulate public opinion. Individuals may struggle to discern fact from fiction, leading to misguided decisions and potentially undermining the democratic process.

Erosion of Trust in Institutions: When misinformation spreads unchecked, it can erode trust in democratic institutions such as government agencies, the media, and electoral bodies. This erosion of trust can weaken the foundation of democracy, as citizens become disillusioned with the system's ability to serve their interests fairly and transparently.

Polarization and Division: The flood of information, especially when coupled with echo chambers and filter bubbles on social media, can exacerbate societal polarization. People may be exposed only to information that aligns with their existing beliefs, leading to reinforcement of biases and deepening divisions within society. This polarization can hinder constructive dialogue and compromise necessary for democratic governance.

Undermining Democratic Participation: Information overload can overwhelm citizens and discourage active participation in democratic processes such as voting, engaging in civic activities, or staying informed about important issues. When individuals feel inundated with information, they may disengage from the political process altogether, leading to apathy and a decline in democratic participation.

Unequal Access to Information: In democratic societies, equal access to information is crucial for ensuring fair and transparent governance. However, information overload can exacerbate existing inequalities in access to information. Those with greater resources, such as wealth or education, may be better equipped to navigate and filter through the flood of information, while marginalized communities may struggle to access accurate and reliable information, further widening the gap between the empowered and the disenfranchised.

Manipulation by Special Interests: In democratic systems where transparency in political funding and lobbying is essential, the flood of information can be manipulated by special interests to obscure their influence. Complex financial disclosures or overwhelming amounts of data may make it difficult for the public to discern the true sources of political funding or to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.

Threats to Freedom of Speech and Expression: In some cases, the flood of information may lead to censorship or suppression of dissenting voices. Governments or powerful entities may attempt to control the flow of information to manipulate public opinion or suppress criticism, thereby undermining the principles of freedom of speech and expression, which are fundamental to democracy.

Overall, while access to information is a cornerstone of democracy, managing the flood of information effectively is essential to ensure that democratic principles such as transparency, accountability, and informed decision-making are upheld.


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