Day 3: Hope

It’s been a while since I wrote on political happenings. But then it has been a while since something so envigorating has happened.

Yes,I am talking about the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP). They have done what was seemingly impossible – brought in a fresh wave of honesty and accountability into Indian politics. Despite all the nay-sayers, they managed to get such a huge number of seats. For a first time party, I think it was stupendous. The icing on the cake is, of course, the fact that they have done all the right things as soon as they started governance. And for a change, it does seem that we are talking about the ‘governing party’, as opposed to the ‘ruling party’ that we had been talking about.

Are all their policies right? Well, they seem to be alright to me, but then I am no expert. However, what I do think is that they do have their heart in the right place. If their policies are not effective enough, I do think that they would be open to changes/criticism to ensure that they do what they set out to do. So far, not only have they done what they promised about the water and electricity charges, they have also tackled huge issues of night shelters in Delhi, things which previous governements did little about. News like the manner in which the young minister, Rakhi Birla has already set about her job, is so heartening to read. For once, we can see the will to do things rather than politicians waxing eloquent about stuff and not doing a thing that actually matters( à la Rahul Gandhi, for instance). Are they perfect? Of course not. But they are pretty much as perfect as it gets at this point in time.

It feels like the dawn of a new era. Which is probably why the old time politicians have suddenly started to get edgy, uncomfortable. I find it funny that parties like the Congress which have had so many years to do all this, are now trying to ensure that AAP does what it promises to do, in 2 days. And BJP seeing how AAP could cut into their vote share, is all jittery and will do anything to discredit AAP(not that they are succeeding, they just sound childish and silly).

While I can understand the politicians reacting this way, I find it hard to understand people like you and me being cynical about AAP. I wonder how our expectations are so low from the other parties and yet, we are so demanding from this fledging party, which is trying its best to stem the rot that has been part of the system for so many years. At the very least, I would say AAP is forcing the other parties to adopt austerity measures and talking of things that so far was never even discussed. While I do understand that there have always been upright, non-corrupt, austere people across parties, the true difference in AAP is the fact that it is the party line. It is their way of life, while in other parties they are more the exception than the norm.

Also, AAP has forced the debate on the things that actually matter. We are now talking about the basic needs that our governments of the past have not bothered to address, and seeing the way AAP is taking action, it is clear that things can be done when there is political will. And my hope is that having had a taste of governance, the people of India will refuse to let good governance and accountability be a dormant option going forward. Hate them or love them, there is no doubt that AAP has changed the way people viewed politics.

Of course, not everybody sees them with the rosy glasses I have on, but I can only speak for myself and I have to say that AAP makes me hopeful. AAP gives me that hope that politics will not remain the refuge of the scoundrel. People like you and me could join and work for the country, if we so wished to. Hope, for a better future for our country, that is what AAP stands for, for me. And for that, I am grateful.

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Just some thoughts…

Very few amongst us would have been unaffected by the Delhi Gangrape, and eventually the death of the brave young woman, who tried so hard to stay alive.

Some like Hitchy, have written posts, straight from their hearts, and make me feel so hopeful, that things can’t possibly not improve when people think like this. It gives me so much hope.

The last couple of weeks, I have been travelling, and interestingly, came across so many subtle indicators of how the society thinks. Things which, at an earlier point in time, I would have just not noticed or would have ignored. This time, I reacted slightly differently to some of them.

– People who try to walk a little too close to you in an effort to get to touch. I was lucky it was in an airport, not in a shady road, so I just stood still and stared right back until he was forced to move away.

– People who refuse to reply to a question asked by a woman, would instead reply to her husband. Almost as if they could not stand the fact that a woman dared to talk when her husband was with her. I could actually feel their antagonism towards me.

– People who still believed that women had no business being outside their homes after dark.

– People who believe that without a man in their lives, women are totally, completely helpless.

The one thing that I did notice that most people did shy away from openly blaming the victim. I guess the massive outrage has, in some ways, if not completely changed the way people think, has made them rethink, just a wee bit. Of course, we will still have our share of painted-dented and India-Bharat quotes, but then, not everything can change in a jiffy, can it? Then again, had women been a vote bank for our politicians, I can’t help feel that things would indeed, change in a jiffy. Of course, a lot of the measures might just have been token measures but still, they might be slightly more sensitive.

India has a strange way of making one feel optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. And in a lot of ways, it feels like we are part of a massive change which will make history – fingers crossed.

The Right to Education

Some thing most of us take for granted, but is out of reach for so many of our fellow Indians.

Every since the Supreme Court ruling judgement upholding the applicability of the Right to Education Act (RTE) even to unaided schools, has come out, I have been reading up articles, opinions, blogs related to it. I have an added interest because we are moving back  to India this year, and I wanted to understand how it would affect us.

Let me clarify, that I have managed to secure admission in one school in Bangalore – not the school that I wanted – but the only school which had vacancies for Grade1, which indicates that most schools are completely full. I am happy to go with what we have got, with the hope that daughter will be fine, and where ever the school lacks, we will be able to pitch in and support her. My choices were further reduced because I did not want to opt for schools that ask for donations – as far as I could.

Now, going on to this RTE debate. I am not entirely sure where I sit on whether the 25% quota is a good thing or a bad thing. Clearly education is a fundamental right, and it is sad that so many of our children go without education. And something definitely needs to be done about it, I am just not completely sure if just reserving 25% seats in private schools is right or even enough.

In order to understand the statistics better, I was trying to look up information. According to Wikipedia(not always the most accurate, so if you have more reliable sources, please can you let me know? Would be really grateful), 80% of all schools in India are Government Schools. That makes the government the largest provider of education. But here is the interesting part, despite 80% of schools being government schools, 27% of the children in India, are being educated in private schools. Which begs the question, are the existing government schools being utilized to their full extent? Are they being monitored? Are there parameters set to figure out how the schools are performing.

My daughter goes to a state school in the UK here. We pay nothing for her education – not a penny. We could easily afford private education for her, but chose not to,mainly because good state schools are comparable to private education – at least in the primary years. Of course, all state schools might not be great, just as not all private schools are really good, but we’ve been fine, thankfully. Here, only about 7% of the children attend private schools. Since then, I have also heard of the ‘snob factor’ that is there in private schools, and it makes me happy that my daughter is not in an environment like that. I am happy for her to be in a more inclusive environment rather than a super-privileged environment. Of course, there have been times, when I wonder if I were too idealistic in my beliefs, but so far have been convinced that the school she is in, is great for her.

There are all sorts of state schools, and one thing I have noticed here is the accountability of the teachers, the staff. The fact that there are independent agencies like the Ofsted(click on the link, and you will be able to see how they work), which review and rate schools. Schools that are not performing to the expected standards are evaluated and the govt takes measures to ensure better performance. If I wanted to find out how the school works, I can find full reports with all the information I might need. Some schools still don’t perform as well as others due to other factors that affect it, but at least we don’t feel as cynical as we do about the Indian govt.

I would have been delighted if I could send my daughter to a state school in India as well, but clearly, that would be out of question for a variety of reasons.

If the real reason children do not have access to education is the lack of seats in government schools, then I would entirely agree that private schools need to do their share of giving back to the society. For some reason, it feels to me that the government is shirking its responsibility of providing education to every Indian. I would have been more impressed if it came up with a methodology to bring up the existing state schools to a level where every parent would be happy to send their child, rather than make it a refuge for parents who can’t afford better. After all, not all government schools are bad, why can’t we try to get all our schools to an acceptable level?  I do believe that some states have better govt schools than others. What stops us from replicating their success? Political will, I suppose. The RTE act itself has a lot of good guidelines in regulating the school conditions, but why have no measures been chalked out yet, that the government would undertake to ensure that schools run at the minimum acceptable standards.  If along with improvement schemes to the existing state schools, the government also included the 25% quota, I, as a parent, would have been very happy. In the current scheme of things, I can’t help feeling that this is more of a quick-fix measure, which might not really make a huge difference in the years to come. A law can only do so much. Law enforcement is as important as drafting a sensible law, in my opinion.

As for the  ‘class divide’ question which a lot of parents feel concerned about. I feel that the class divide needs to go. It might not go in a hurry, but things might change if our children grow up without the class divide in their minds(and if we try not to put these things into their minds). If they learn to accept that their friends come from different backgrounds, and just having more money or a more plush lifestyle does not make a better or worse person. I think it would do our children, a world of good, to be able to the person, rather than the packaging.

So what do you think about all this?

PS: I’ve mentioned again and again how wonderful daughter’s teachers are! And when I see adverts like this, I feel like teaching! Along with RTE, I wish we had a campaign to encourage people to go into teaching. After all, most of us will have at least one teacher, who left a lasting mark on our minds..

Edited to add: Check out this campaign by HT.
http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dv7rPAa0gKqw&v=v7rPAa0gKqw&gl=GB

It’s a wordy wednesday for a change..

It’s been a while since I posted. It is funny how there are times, when I get loads of time to post, and no ideas, and other times when I have my head brimming with posts but not a minute to spare.

It had been one of those weeks, where nothing went as per plan. I think it started last Saturday. We had a fun Saturday planned out. We had some shopping to get done, and then the plan was to catch the 5:30 show of Despicable Me. We started from home later than planned and decided to catch a quick sandwich lunch on the way. Lunch out of the way, we drove to an outlet village some miles away from town. It was when we reached the village, that I realized that I did not have my handbag with me. Now, I am a person who needs to carry something. I have, till date, never forgotten or lost my handbag anywhere. It had my purse with around 50 odd pounds as well as all my credit, debit, store cards, loyalty cards, library cards.. The thought of calling up all these organisations to cancel and request for a new card itself was mind boggling.

The only logical place, I could have forgotten my handbag was the sandwich place. I remember having it with me. So we started to search for the phone number of the place( thank god for smart phones). We were hoping that we could call them and check if somebody had found it. Finally after a lot of tries, we got through to them and I can only say that it was such a relief that they had indeed found my handbag and had kept it away safe! Seriously, I can’t tell how you much of  a relief it was. And they were kind enough to hold on to it, until we got back from our shopping 🙂

Yes, we did watch the movie(although the 7:30 show, and Poohi was all sleepy at the end of it 😦 ) , and loved it.

Come Sunday and Poohi comes down with a slight temperature. All she was worried about was about going to school the next day. They have been busy with their Christmas concert practice, and the thought of missing it was the worst thing ever. Well, she has missed a few days now, is she goes to bed every night, praying to be alright the next day.

Have so much to post – book reviews to be done, and no time at all! Having the child at home is a very time consuming activity!

In other unrelated stuff – the Bihar Elections Results are wonderful, don’t you think? For a change, the focus of Bihar elections was not on caste/religion/identity politics but on the developmental plank. Now if only that could be done on the national level as well.

And we have snow(albeit light snow showers) predicted for this afternoon! We are so excited! As I was telling somebody else,  I wait for snow, until it actually snows 🙂

Bhopal Gas Tragedy, 26 years on.

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The Bhopal Gas tragedy is considered the world’s worst, industrial catastrophe, and 26 years on,the nightmare still continues for its victims and survivors. 26 years on, they  are still asking the same question they asked then –  Will they will ever get justice?

The night of December 2-3, 1984, continues to evoke very strong emotions across the country as well as abroad, for its far-reaching impact as well as the delayed justice for its victims and survivors. In the early hours of December the 3rd, methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of the Union Carbide India Limited plant in Bhopal. Union Carbide India Limited was the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation. For a tragedy of its scale, the details seem very fuzzy. The Madhya Pradesh government puts the death toll at 3787, while other sources go up to 12,000 deaths. This is in addition to the thousands impacted in various other ways by inhaling the gas. The long-term side effects of the gas inhalation is still evident after a quarter of a century past the tragedy. Children are still being born, showing the effects of the gas.
There was a huge international outcry after the disaster, for relief for the effected and to punish those involved. Union Carbide has been found liable for th disaster, but has denied responsibility even claiming the possibility of sabotage. The much awaited verdict on the court case on th Bhopal gas tragedy finally came on the of June 2010. A mere two years of imprisonment for those involved with no word on Warren Anderson, the then Chairman and CEO of Union Carbide.
Warren Anderson, the one that got away.

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy seems just as mired in controversy as it was when it happened. Here are some highlights the events that followed the tragedy.

3rd December 1984 , the gas leak occurs. Upto to 500,000 people said to be affected, the death toll still speculative, is said to be around 12,000.

4th December 1984,  a case is registered against Union Carbide. Chairman and CEO of Union Carbide is arrested and then released on bail and allowed to leave the country. This is something that will come back to haunt everybody involved down the years. Who authorised this, how did they come to the conclusion that Warren Anderson should be allowed to go, is mired in controversy even today.

14th December 1984, Warren Anderson testifies in front of the Congress. He stresses UCC commitment to safety and promises to take actions to ensure that a similar incident “cannot happen again.” No testimony of this sort happened in India.

February 1985, an interim relief fund is set up by Union Carbide, that collects more that $120,000.

March 1985 The Govt of India, enacts the Bhopal Gas Leak Act , which allows the govt to act as the legal representative of the victims of the disaster. This turned out to be a controversial decision as individual victims cannot sue Union Carbide for compensation. Lots of activists are demanding that this be repealed, at least now, after 26 years.

1985 Government of India claims $3.3 Billion as compensation for the victims from Union Carbide in an American Court.

1987 Litigation against Union Carbide is transferred to Indian Courts.

1988 The Supreme court asks the Govt of India and Union Carbide to reach a settlement.

1989 5 years after the tragedy occurred, a settlement of $470 million is agreed upon, to be paid by 31st March, 1989. Within 10 days, Union Carbide made the full payment to the Government of India.

1990 Hearings are held to overturn the settlement. The Government tries to put together the list of people who have the affected.

1991 Supreme court hold the settlement as it is as well as comes out with additional pointers for what needs to be done.

1992 Part of the settlement is disbursed and Warren Anderson is declared a fugitive.

1994 Union Carbide completes the sale of 50.9 percent interest to McLeod Russell (India) Ltd of Calcutta.

2004 Fifteen years after the tragedy, the Supreme Court orders releasing the remaining settlement amount to the victims. Reports claim that along with the interest accumulated, there is approximately $ 327 million in the fund.

2005 The Supreme Court extends the deadline to 30th August 2006, for the release of the remaining settlement funds.

2010 Almost 26 years after the tragedy, the verdict is out. All the eight accused are guilty but all the convicts have been granted bail.



Controversies surrounding the Bhopal Gas Tragedy
The verdict on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, has at the very least ensured that the media attention is focussed back on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and people are asking questions that should have been asked 25 years ago.

  • How did Warren Anderson get away. What was the role of the then state and Union Government in allowing a safe passage for Warren Anderson. Parallels have been drawn in the manner the BP oil spill is being handled by the US currently, and the way our Government handled the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Why were the tough questions not asked of Union Carbide? Was there more than meets the eye? What made the government act soft on Union Carbide.
  • The settlement amount that the Government of India agreed to, was based on an underestimated number of victims. With the number of victims being far higher, the compensation which was doled out was a pittance. Several groups have been campaigning about the conditions of the victims and the further injustice that has been meted out to them in the form of a pittance of a compensation.
  • There was never a proper analysis and count of the actual number of people impacted. There have been instances of people who did not even live in Bhopal at that time getting compensation, while people who were killed, or badly affected went without compensation.
  • There are claims that the $470 million settlement has still not been completely disbursed. Claims are that nearly two-thirds of the compensation amount has still not been disbursed.
  • Dow Chemicals which took over Union Carbide, in 1999, claims that it has no legal responsibility in connection to the Bhopal gas tragedy. Apparently the Indian government in 1989, gave a clean chit to Dow as the $ 470 million settlement absolved Union Carbide of any further responsibility. There is a lot of controversy on the basis on which the Indian government gave such an undertaking.
Conditions of the victims of the Tragedy

The picture that became the defining image of the tragedy

Amidst all the political footballing that is happening, the group of people who are most outraged are the actual victims. Most of the victims of the gas tragedy belonged to an under-privileged area of Bhopal. Thousands died in their sleep. For the victims, it has been a long struggle for compensation, medical attention and rehabilitation apart from dealing with personal loss. Children are still being born with defects and disabilities that doctors feel can be traced back to the gas tragedy.

Various citizen groups talk of how there was never a process set up to help the victims. No line of treatment was worked out, ad-hoc cures and quacks have been abounding because of the lack of information. Some of these ‘cures’ have resulted in further complications for the victims rather than any relief. For years women suffered multiple miscarriages which were linked to the gas leak. The incidence of miscarriages were reported to be around 24% higher than for normal women. The full effects of the gas leak, is still not entirely analysed and documented.

A lot of the impoverished victims have been further victimized by their lack of education and abject poverty. They have been asked to provide proof that they are victims and they have not been able to, resulting in no compensation at all. Seeta Devi, whose, new-born son died of complications right after the tragedy and has had 2 children with disabilities since, says that she is helpless. She does not know how to get ‘proof’ and has not got any compensation so far. Some of Bhopal’s most needy victims have gone without compensation because they have no way of proving that they were there. ‘What can I do, this is my fate’, she says, resigned to it and not expecting anymore. ‘People like us cannot expect anything’, she says, sadly. Doctors turn them away, despite the fact that their conditions are quite clearly the result of the gas leak. Only money and the right ‘connections’ count.

Aslam(name changed) claims that his neighbors who were not even in Bhopal at that time have managed to get compensation by getting the documents right.

Another issue that the people around the area are living with is the contaminated site of the plant. Inspections have  found 44,000 kg of tarry residues and 25,000 kg of alpha naphthol lying in the open since 1984. Studies have suggested that the soil, underground water, vegetables are all contaminated with the toxic chemicals. Other studies have found traces of the chemicals even in breast milk. There is no piped water supply in the area, so the victims are being victimized on a continuous basis, by the intake of toxic chemicals in various forms.

The site clean up needs to be done on an urgent basis. The clean up has been another issue which has been politicized and no real solution has been agreed to yet. The activists representing the victims have implored the newly set up GoM( Group of Ministers) looking into the issue, to take this up as the highest priority to make up for the neglect and negligence of successive state and union governments.

Where do we go from here?

There has been a lot of demand to get Warren Anderson extradited. Will the extradition of Warren Anderson after 26 years make any difference today? The government of India has far more answers to give, than Warren Anderson. If Warren Anderson got away then, it was because our elected government allowed him to. Sources from everywhere speak of how he was flown out as a VIP, rather than a fugitive, escaping justice . What did Anderson know that the union government wanted him out-of-the-way? Or was it just an old-fashioned matter of some money exchanging hands?

Forget about Warren Anderson, can we hold our government accountable, at the very least? The actions of the Indian government in the years after the tragedy almost looks like it wanted to hush matters quickly rather than investigate properly and get justice for its citizens.

Even today, our ministers are still insisting that the government has done everything possible and the judiciary is responsible for the delay in justice. Speaking to reporters, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily insists that , ‘“Government did its job, judiciary should be blamed for the delay.”

Should our successive governments have sat and waited through the delay? Wasn’t there any other way to ensure that the victims got their justice sooner? Or was it hoping that the tragedy fades away from public memory?

Another important question that activists have been raising is the whether India is in a better situation to handle disasters like this, if it should happen again. Where are the lessons learnt? Have put together an plan of action, a process to handle such a disaster. Have we learnt anything at all from the disaster? Are we in a position to react differently(better) in case something like this happens again in India.

Finally, now, the government has set up a Group of Ministers to look into the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the underlying issues that have been almost buried. The GoM has come out with a better compensation structure for the victims, clean up strategy of the site. It waits to be seen if the implementation of all these will be better or if it would follow the footsteps of the previous compensation strategy. Victims are still sceptical on many counts. 55-year-old Ajmal Mohammed who has been suffering from several respiratory ailments as a result of the gas leak,wonders, ‘ Will I get anything now? Or will it go to minister’s relatives?’  Can we hold our governments accountable ever?

While GoM does recommend some relevant measures, it still raises the question, is it too little, too late?

*Pictures courtesy Google image search*


To read the Super 4 entries of the rest of the team hop over to at Shilpa’s, Lazy Pineapple’s, Kshitij’s , Pujitha’s, Hitesh’s , Parth’s and Tavish’s.

Playing favourites..

The other day, before the Rail budget was announced, we were watching NDTV and the news anchor was telling us how West Bengal is looking forward to the Railway Budget, because ‘traditionally’ , the state from which the rail minister hails, gets a lot of benefits.. new trains, station improvements and all..

Both husband and I were quite surprised to hear about that ‘expectation’. That, it is perfectly acceptable for a Railway Minister to favour the states that they hail from! Why? I mean, it just does not make sense to me. Firstly, why should that expectation be there   and secondly,  why should it be accepted as normal!

Would we be just as happy if the Prime Minister announced some ‘extra’ schemes for the region that he came from? Or if a CEO of a company said that he would hire 50% of his employees from a particular region? Or if a project manager in a company decides to staff his team with people from his area? Won’t we all be appalled and disgusted at that? Then, why is it so acceptable for a Union Railway Minister to favour his/her state?

Isn’t it at odds with the ideas of democracy where every body is equal.. Shouldn’t Union ministers be thinking of the whole of India rather than making sure that their constituencies/states get some benefits from their stint at the centre? If they did want to do some good for their constituencies – surely, there are other ways of going about it.. When in positions  in the Union Government, should the focus not be entire India instead of their home states?

Redefining the heights of narcissism

UP Chief Minister Mayawati has been slammed by Union Home Minister P CHidambaram for spending Rs 1000 crore on statues of herself and other dalit leaders.

Rs 1000 crore in a country like India where millions are still under the poverty line. Apparently the cost of maintenance is estimated at around 10% of the construction cost – annually! It stumps me to think that leaders like Mayawati think that installing statues of dalit leaders and herself(?) will help improve Dalit pride – that is apparently the justification that is given! What I just cannot understand is how, she can build her own statues! Isn’t that the heights of narcissism?

Yes, we may not have the basic amenities like food, clean water or housing, but we are extremely proud because we can see umpteen statues of our ‘leaders’!!!! And this coming from one of India’s most backward states – backward in every possible form! Backward in development, education, women’s safety, but yes, I am sure that Dalits must be extremely proud of Mayawati’s statues! Wouldn’t any community prefer that their leaders spend money on developmental activities instead of statues of themselves?

Dr B R Ambedkar , on whose name, she wants to piggyback into fame, must be cursing his fate to be clubbed along with Mayawati! I am sure, had he been alive, he would have condemned this mindless statue building spree!

PS : I have been out of the blogosphere for the last 3 days. Will respond to all the comments on my previous posts and read all your posts as well – in the next few days.

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!

Election Results!

Just wanted to record how delighted I am at the results! After all the dire predictions of a split verdict and the possibility of cobbled-together, opportunistic, coalitions – the decisive victory for the UPA is a delight to see!!!

It is a delight to just know that all that heavy bargaining that was predicted is not going to happen.. and that all the predictions and exit polls are actually far from what the Indian voter wants.. Is this an indication of the growing maturity of the Indian voter? I, sure hope so!

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…