As the country prepares for the Lok Sabha elections, it feels apt to review its past and survey the present to evaluate the scope of Future India. I have never been much interested in politics, indeed, it hardly ever held my mind. However, as I neared adulthood and became eligible to participate in my country’s elections, I forced myself to read up on current issues and scenarios, not only in my country of residence but all across the world, as well.
I often say that I learn more from Twitter than from the local newspaper. It’s true; Twitter is a great source to know what’s engaging the bulk of India’s net-savvy, twitter-addicted population. I would stay updated with the latest news, be it the Presidential Candidacy Race, the Higgs Boson Theory, the new stringent immigration laws of the UK, or the struggle to get the Lokpal Bill passed, all thanks to my Twitter Feed.
Probably, this fuelled my desire to try reading non-fiction. So I ordered a book online. It was called Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. The fact that a foreigner had written a book on a slum in Bombay city interested me a great deal. Not just any foreigner, let me tell you. One that had won a Pulitzer Prize! This tiny detail was enough for me to dive into the book, bright-eyed and expectant, wondering what a Non-Indian perceives India as.
Now I won’t say that the book was so engrossing that I surfaced only after I had finished it whole. It is engrossing but it makes for a very heavy read, especially for someone like me, whose previous reading materials included light-hearted “chicklits” (for lack of a better word) by Meg Cabot, and so it took me about a week or 10 days to finish it. But when I did, I was left with my head buzzing with thoughts about all the people I had read about, their stories, wondering how they were coping right now, and for one silly moment, if I could go and visit them. Usually, when I’m done reading a book, I feel happy and satisfied (they all have happy endings; I can’t bear to read a book with a sad or unhappy ending) and then I move on to my next reading conquest. But not this time. Sure, it ends on quite a positive note but after the momentary feeling of happiness has passed, you can’t help but think about Abdul, Manju, the poor girl Meera, who ended her life, and the others. Unlike the characters in other books that I have read, these characters were real, they had gone through a lot in reality and the story was not a figment of an author’s imagination. It was this realisation that struck me hard. But my mind didn’t stop here. I thought back to each and every significant event that had taken place in the Annawadi slums of Bombay and the reality was quite an eye-opener. I knew the problems our country was facing, apathy of the officials, unemployment, the recent economic breakdown, with corruption at the peak of it all. But the magnitude of each and the way it affected the downright poor was something I wasn’t much aware, or even cared, about.
Another event that drove home the point was the launch of Satyamev Jayate. I have always been an admirer of Aamir Khan but my respect for him has grown, thanks to his novel initiative. I salute his noteworthy attempt at resolving social issues by targeting the crux of every issue – ignorance. How many of us were indeed aware of the social pressures revolving around an Indian wedding, or the ways by which garbage is wasting away the wealth of our nation, or the continuing stigmas associated with being a girl child, an untouchable or a disabled?
Coming back to the nearing general elections, I believe that we are better informed this time. We all know how many criminal politicians are present in each political party. We know that each politician is as corrupt as the rest. At such a time, we have 2 options before us:
- The Easy Way – Don’t vote.
- The Popular Opinion – Vote for the least corrupt.
But is there a least corrupt politician?? I really wonder. The only reason a politician would not be found guilty of corruption is if he would’ve destroyed all the evidence against him. This is my opinion and I strongly believe it. So what do we do? Who do we vote for? What about the third option – None Of The Above? Even after the Supreme Court’s judgement on the inclusion of this new choice, the Election Commission has discredited it by announcing that even when a majority vote for NOTA, the next candidate to receive the highest number of votes would be considered the winner. What is the point of this option then? How is India a democracy when people do not have the right to reject all candidates? You can’t give a person the right to vote and call it a democracy when that right is incomplete.
At the risk of sounding banal, the power of the people does not lie in their hands at all. We are in reality, fulfilling the definition of democracy as described by Oscar Wilde:
“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”