Selective Freedom?

In the heart of our democracy, the parliament, MPs have objected to people  using English to reply to questions ‘despite being fluent in’ Hindi.

This is something that really irritates me. Does a person not have the right to speak in any language that he is comfortable in? Surely there are translators in the Lok Sabha. Why create an issue over language? Is it really democratic to behave this way?

Not just this, talking in Hindi is considered ‘patriotic’ and in English or any other Indian Language is considered ‘unpatriotic’ by many. Why? Is our Indianness so narrow that we define it by one single language? If somebody is comfortable speaking in English(or any other language) and the other person has the means to understand it – what is the issue? I understand if the MP was addressing public who understands only Hindi and he happened to speak in English. But in the parliament? So are we free to talk any language – as far as it is Hindi?

To me, this is as bad as the show of chauvinism by some states in rejecting Hindi totally. Why can’t we just accept the differences we have and learn to live with it.. accept that people may speak different tongues, different dialects, follow different religions.. and still remain as Indian as one can be? Why make such a huge issue of language, when we have so many, many more important and pressing issues to be debated upon?

Edited to add : For more information on the languages that can be used in the Lok Sabha –

Edited to add : This link, thanks to Indyeah, It makes a lot of things clear..

Opposition Politics

The new Government is being put together. As a pleasant surprise, we have had a decisive verdict in the polls and now its time for the government and the opposition to get back to work.

The government of course, has it’s work cut out. This time, hopefully, they will be able to focus on development and on actual governance as opposed to policies just to keep their coalition partners happy. At this time, I think it is important for the opposition to introspect and work on their issues. And also, concentrate on the more important bit  – on performing the role of a constructive opposition.

We have always seen in India, how the opposition believes in ‘opposing’ – everything and anything that the govt comes up with. I do wish our opposition comes to understand that just because they are in the ‘opposition’, it does not mean that they have to literally ‘oppose’ everything. A good opposition should act as a check when it comes to harmful policies and as a support in the times that the Govt needs support. Unfortunately, none of our political parties behave that way.. They are normally just too happy to score brownie points – not realizing that their conduct just lowers their respect in the electorate’s eyes.  I would have loved to see BJP support the government on the  nuclear issue.. The way they behaved just made it look like they were opposing it – just for the sake of it.. Had they been in power, they would have done the exact same thing that the UPA govt did. Instead of standing together for the good of the nation, it just tried to play opportunistic politics.. Having said that, I am sure even the UPA had the roles been reversed – would have behaved just the way BJP did..

I do wish we had the concept of Shadow Cabinet , like they have in Britain. I wonder why, when we took everything else from the British , did we leave this out?  It is such a great concept. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s responsibility to pass criticism on the current government and its respective legislation, as well as offering alternative policies. Every cabinet portfolio, will have a shadow portfolio as well. So you have a Cabinet minister responsible for health, for instance and a shadow minster responsible for the same.. I think it helps improve the working knowledge of the opposition and also gives the electorate an idea of how the opposition can be expected to perform, if they were to come to power.. I personally feel that it also improves the accountability of the opposition.

 A good opposition checks and balances out a government. I do so hope that the parties in the opposition, particularly the BJP as it is the largest opposition party, if it wants to have a better showing next time round, needs to gear up and play the role of a constructive, effective opposition and not one of a disruptive opposition. A government with weak or no opposition can turn out to be even more dangerous than a cobbled together coalition government. Lets hope that both the government and the opposition work together for a better India.


PS: Does anyone know why we did not adopt the Shadow Cabinet? Was there any specific reason for it? I was not able to figure out.. I would love to know!

Dance of Democracy

Masood’s post on Indian Democracy brought about this post.. It just reminded me of all the ways in which we take our democracy so much for granted..

I have heard comments, as long back as I remember, about how India needs a dictator to make things right.. How one dose of dictatorship will set right all our problems! Have we started taking our democracy for granted? Have we stopped valuing our democracy? Today, as we are in the process of voring in our 15th Lok Sabha, a brand new government, I really wanted to pen down, how I view the democratic process..

From what I have read, from the time India , as we know it today,came into existence, there have been dark and pessimistic predictions of how quickly the ‘democratic setup’ will dissolve and India will slip into total chaos. Initially it was the West which were predicting its decline and then we ourselves picked up the chanting, but miraculously, despite all the problems, all the flaws, and the short foray into dictatorship during the emergency, India has continued to function as a democracy.

Yes, we have our problems, but why do we forget that we are just 60+ years old.. That is surely very young, if you compare,for instance with England.  Despite being a monarchy – they had a parliamentary system in place as far back as 1295 . That is a lot of  years to iron out the issues and fine tune their system.. Add to that, the fact that India’s cultural diversity adds another element which brings a different take in our parliamentary system..  According to the wikipedia – ‘At least once every five years, India’s Election Commission of India conducts one of the largest, most complex elections of the world. India’s elections in the 2004 involved about 581 million voters who travel to nearly 800,000 polling stations to choose from some 11,680 candidates representing roughly 221 parties. The elections reveal much about Indian society.’

We talk so much about regionalism in politics and it’s harmful effects. But can we totally do without regionalism? Will that ever work? The way I look at it – in the UK, such a tiny country, especially in comparison to India, still has 2 countries within it – Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.  They have their own sports teams and there is a very intense rivalry between these ‘countries’ and yet they remain a country. So in a ountry like India, these regional feelings are quite normal and expected.. What probably, needs to be done is that any sense of alienation, needs to be tackled by governments in a positive and encourahing manner  – as opposed to a patronising or ‘votebank’ style as is being practised today..

Yes, our democracy has criminals representing us – but isn’t that because of our own apathy?

Yes, our democracy has the caste card and religion based votebank politics being played – but isn’t that a reflection of our society, where which caste and religion you belong to, seems to matter ?

Yes, our media might be biased, but atleast we have the freedom to speak our mind. Google does not need to modify/alter searches for our country – we are free to look up what we want in our country.

Yes, we do compare with China quite badly, but really, do we want the government to take our personal decisions for us? And the truth is that we do not even know the whole truth behind China.. If some reports are to be believed, the villages are in as bad shape.. In India, we can, at the very least, question, our

Yes, our secularism has its flaws – but do we really want to be a Pakistan?

Yes, we have people like Narendra Modi and Madani in politcs, but we also have the right to question them.. If found guilty, Modi will not be able to contest elections. Yes, we have a slow judicial process – but isn’t it better than no judicial process? Or a judiciary which is totally controlled by the government?

Yes, a lot of us do not vote – but we have the option and the option to not use it.

I have heard of people dismissing news channels and freedom of press saying – oh they just debate the same things’! But at least, we can discuss, debate and question our leaders.. Today, even though there are criminals in politics, I do think that parties are aware that they will be questioned about it.. And even if it is a slow process, it will take effect.

Yes, we have a lot of problems, but are we not part of it? Are we all doing what we can do.. I especially feel this whenever I read some of Manju’s posts.. There is so much we can do, we can express ourselves, we can disagree with our political leaders, we can even complain that we have a democratic system which does not work – because we have a working democracy – however flawed it might be…