Arvind kejriwal’s isn’t a story of someone who shot into the limelight out of nowhere. He’s one of those people who has dedicated his life to the cause of the nation. A man who, like many of us, was fed up with the menace of corruption and took it upon himself to rid India of it. Long before the much publicised Lokpal agitation, he was involved in pushing for another anti corruption tool. The right to information. He’s a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay award for emergent leadership for his contribution to the enactment of that law.
Along with Anna Hazare, he led one of India’s largest post-independence movements to get the Lokpal bill enacted. Two years hence, that bill is a theoretical reality. But like all laws, its success lies in its enforcement.
But that movement was the beginning of a meteoric rise to power. Armed with nothing but good intentions, Arvind broke away from Anna’s principle of staying outside the political system and took the plunge into the dirty world of Indian politics. It’s been anything but easy for the man, but he’s handled it all with grace. The people of Delhi loved his ideas. Who wouldn’t. Electricity at half price, 700 litres of free water, legalising illegal colonies and a corruption free reign. His Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats of the 70. A close second to the BJP with 31.
On being offered outside support by the congress party, Arvind in one of the most refreshing thoughts of recent times, went back to the voters to seek their opinion on whether he should accept that support and form the government. An overwhe
lming majority gave him the go ahead. Everybody wanted to live in the city of their dreams and he had promised them that.
Is there anything wrong in what Arvind kejriwal is doing? Can you find fault in any of his promises?
Is it wrong to promise free water and cheap electricity?
Is it wrong to promise safety for women and a house for the homeless?
No. Nothing wrong at all. But that’s the reason populism is hard to beat. The majority opinion isn’t always the right opinion.
A lot of people might find it ridiculous but the “The great Indian Middle class” is an unnecessarily pampered majority. True, we’re burdened by price rise, harassed by corruption and bogged down by poverty. Why would anyone call that pampering?
A precious minority really does anything for the poor. Everyone talks about the poor, no one actually helps them. Beggars are ignored, homeless girls are forced into prostitution. If society doesn’t care for the poor, who will?
Everyone is corrupt. You break the rule, you should face the consequences and not bribe your way past the law. It could be something as small as riding without a helmet or a much more serious crime. But that doesn’t actually mean anything in India, does it? Where you flash the cash and get away with anything. “I’m fed up with bribing government employees for every small thing. I can’t afford to spend so much on bribes”. THEN DON’T! We have 120 crore people in this country. Let’s say we have 20 crore government employes (an extremely exaggerated number. A 2001 census put the number at roughly 2 crore.) Say all 20 crore of those are corrupt. What in the world are the other 100 crore people doing?! Wake up India! Stop giving bribes! If the giving stops, the taking will too!
Nothing comes free in life. Someone needs to pay for the electricity you use. Either you or the government. The government gets its money from you. In the end, you’ll either pay more taxes or more electricity bills. But you’ll pay. Or it has to borrow money. And it puts the finances of the state through a shredder if those debts are too high.
We’ve all been taught our fundamental rights over and over again. When was the last time somebody reminded you of your fundamental duties? When have these been followed? Don’t spit on public property, don’t disfigure monuments and so on.
But the beauty of our constitution is, it enforces your fundament rights and makes sure you have them but doesn’t force you to perform your duties. That’s why we’re pampered. Nobody ever has the guts to tell the people of this nation what they are doing wrong.
Where does Arvind kejriwal feature in all of this?
He’s won an election on the back of extreme public anger against the political class by promising things that people want to hear. By promising to pamper people more. Not once in his campaign has he, or anyone else, reminded people of their role in this process of change. Until the people of this country change, excuse the cynicism, nothing will change.
This isn’t to say that he won’t fulfil his promises. He obviously has a plan that gets all that to work.
But this nation has pinned all its hope on this new brand of politics. Everyone is waiting for the Aam Aadmi party to change the nation. Everyone is watching. Praying.
But suppose he falls short, this nation must not lose hope. Its all we have.
What will change this country is its society. Is the people. Is us.
NOTA or None Of The Above has been made one of the options for a voter in an election. Basically, if you’re not happy with any of the candidates being presented to you, you can register your protest by voting for ” none of the above”. It’s a landmark judgement, no doubt. But does it deserve the kind of applause it is getting?
But first, let me give credit where it’s due. The option to register your protest isn’t something new. We’ve always had it but for three reasons it wasn’t very effective.
1) Not everyone knew about it.
2) To exercise it, you’d have to go to the presiding election officer and register your protest vote there. An unnecessarily tedious process and, more importantly, one that compromised your right to a secret ballot.
3) It had no effect on the outcome of the election whatsoever.
Now, what makes this verdict so important is that it solves the first two problems. By putting the NOTA option on the voting machine, people will automatically see it when they stand to vote. And since no one will know what button you pressed, secrecy is preserved.
But the real issue is, that it doesn’t solve the most important problem. The thought behind a vote of protest is that if a majority of the voters in a constituency feel that all the candidates presented to them are undeserving, the parties concerned must change the candidates and present new ones for a re-election.
Hence, giving people the option to reject incompetent candidates who hope to win by calculated, divisive political tricks.
As of now, even if 80% of the voters were to press the NOTA option, the election would be decided by the remaining 20%. That gives the candidates more reason to manipulate the gullible 20% by offering money, clothes, alcohol and other incentives. That also gives the cynical bunch who rarely vote the chance to say that they’d anyway vote NOTA and so it makes no difference whether or not they actually vote.
One of the major arguments doing the rounds praising the NOTA button in it’s present form, is that if the majority of a constituency were to “register their protest” against the list of candidates, the party hotshots will have some bollywood-esque guilt trip and that’ll “shake up” the political class.
Umm. Sure. Remember how we “shook up” the political class with the Anna movement when lakhs of people gathered on the streets and registered their collective protest? I wonder in which government office that lokpal bill is currently gathering dust.
These shake ups are utterly useless. The only way to improve our electoral process is to change it. Take NOTA to its logical conclusion. Make an election in which a majority rejects all candidates, null and void. Conduct a re-election in which a new set of candidates are presented.
People aren’t stupid. If they get a chance to reject a convicted criminal from standing for the election, they will do it. NOTA in its present form won’t let them do that. The other Supreme Court judgement that disqualifies an MP if he’s convicted will help. But a modified NOTA will make sure that such criminals don’t see the corridors of power in the first place.
No punishment in the history of mankind has ever deterred anyone from committing the same crime again.
The solution to corruption lies not in punishing the corrupt but in not allowing them to engage in it at all or to take it a step further and select people who won’t engage in it.
We have an imperfect , yet beautiful democracy . We elect our representatives who make laws for us and who run the country on a daily basis . We gave them certain privileges because running a country of 1.2 billion is not an easy task . They come back to us (atleast) every 5 years to seek our permission to carry on in office . We have the choice of giving them that permission or denying them that permisson .
We have a constitution . It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 450 articles in 24 parts, 12 schedules and 96 amendments, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version. Our constitution gave us ,among other things , the right to freedom of speech and expression and that to protest against something we don’t like . It gave us certain duties to perform for the betterment of the nation as a whole and consequently for our own welfare . These duties are mere moral obligations , not legally enforceable . Which means , even if you didn’t do any of them , no one can take you to court . That is the beauty of our constitution . It gives us all our rights and leaves it to you whether or not you want to do something in return for the country .
We have a system of parliamentary demcracy . We set up a loksabha and a rajya sabha . Our Loksabha and our Rajya sabha . Inside , our representatives debate laws , amend laws , make laws and basically run our country for us . Contrary to popular belief , chair hurling and abuse exchanging is not what happens inside parliament . The proceedings in parliament are telecast live on Loksabha TV so that people know what is happening inside the walls of parliament . Nowhere else in the world is such a facility available for citizens . The debates that happen are of high quality , of substance , of grit and determination to get the best possible solution to whatever the subject . The critics will call all debates politically motivated and biased, but , if out of that political motivation something good comes out , is it bad ?
There are corrupt politicians . True . But there are those who genuinely concerned for the nation and who are doing great work . How did the corrupt ones get there ? Somebody voted for them . Somebody gave them the numbers to get there . I hear SO much talk about money power winning elections . Ask yourselves one question . When these corrupt people bribe voters into voting for them , shouldn’t the voter reject the bribe and vote for the right person ? Isn’t that bribery ? If the voter took a bribe , shouldn’t he go to jail for it ? That voter is as guilty as the passport office clerk who wants money to clear your file . Infact more so because the passport clerk asking for a bribe is harrassing only one person , the voter’s vote on the other hand ,sends that candidate to parliament , where he will then decide the nation’s future .
Corruption is a menace . Think about it . If you were patient enough , better still if everyone was patient enough , can we get our work done in a government office without paying a bribe ? The reason you paid a bribe was because you felt , in your wisdom , that too much time was being taken to get a simple file passed . Say we were all patient enough . How long will they hold your file ? How long will they hold all our files ? If you showed up everyday at that office and waited patiently for your turn , eventually it will get done . If everyone did that , it would become the norm . Overtime , the waiting time will reduce once the clerk realises that no matter how long he made everyone wait , NO ONE will pay him a bribe . But those words are crucial . No one should pay a bribe . The Gandhian way of protest is not hiring a posh Mumbai ground for 7lakh rupees and making a 74 year old man fast for 3 days . The heart of the Gandhian way of protest was non-violence and patience . That virtue called patience is the most rarely found trait in people nowadays .
” Be the change you want to see in the world ” . It’s the most important message the father of our nation left us . Try getting some work done without paying a bribe . It’s not easy . It’s a struggle . But that is what our fight is against . The sense of satisfaction you get when you know that you did not pay a bribe is extraordinary !
The point of this post is simple . The current system is bad , probably rotten , destroyed ,mutilated . The easy way out is to run away from it and call for a “participatory democracy “and what not. But what we must do is to make the system work . Force it to work . Clean up the system . Years of corrosion has made the system the way it is today . No one ever said that this fight against corruption was going to be easy . It is going to be a struggle but if 1.2 billion join hands , nothing is impossible .
The lokpal bill will be a useful tool in this fight . But let us not make it our trump card . Lets us not overestimate the lokpal and understate our own roles in the process .
We must be thankful for the democracy we have , for the constitution we have ,for the rights we have, for the freedoms we enjoy .At the same time, we must be aware of the duties and the responsibilties that come with that . Let us not be naive and think of the lokpal as the game-changer or think of a group of 5 people to be the agents of change . 1,180,274,332 proud indians are the agents of change . 1,180,274,332 are the ones who will make a difference . That is our trump card . The power of the indian people . That inherently indian trait of a strong will power to make a change , that single-minded determination that brought the british empire to it’s knees . That is our trump card . That should be our trump card !