Monday, May 18, 2009

In response to "Aazadi.."

I had thought of putting this up as a comment on my colleague Pratish's post but then I thought it was too long to be be a comment and hence it became a quick post.
{Further somehow my comment didn't get registered! Some technical snag.}

5 points in response:

1. Your data about the financial aspect of the Indian elections and the GDP hike are probably taken from here.

Thanks to Vipul for pointing out this link to me.

2. The Indian Constitution is definitely a magnificently precise document and aptly called the "Lawyer's Paradise". A research paper like precision was the need to keep such a diverse and complex country together and it was the genius of Dr.Ambedkar to forsee this.

But then again its immense complexity also gives rise to a million loop holes which have time again been abused.

Further the Indian Constitution has not been able to produce an Uniform Civil Code and most sorrowfully the marriage acts of India are still religion based. This a cause for utmost shame for India.

Indian Constitution definitely needs a thorough revision and updating.

3. The fact that Indian electorate this time was 741 million is a big blotch on the image of India. It only shows how terribly we have failed to do population control and how miserably the education system has failed.

India will one day pay heavily for this stark neglect of primary education and politicization of higher education.Link
4. I strongly oppose your view that democracy is in the Indian psyche. Far from it.

It has been only 62 years India has been a democracy and never ever before that in its 3000 year old history has it ever been a democracy. I think 62 years is too short a time for the common man to internalize and understand the tremendously abstract and subtle idea of democracy. Comparatively US has been having elections for about the last 200 years.

Ever so often Indian masses indulge in idolatry and someone gets hailed as the "king" or the "queen" and ever so often some politician gets termed as the "kingmaker". We are still to come out of thinking in terms of "malik" (owner) and "naukar" (servant) and these terms get used in India for every form of hierarchy whereas in reality NO hierarchy should be termed so. And so often so employees in an office call their boss as "saheb" (a term which originates from the address to British officers!)

India has a long long way to go to attain true democratic status. Success of democracy goes hand in hand with the penetration of education in the society and the status of the later in India is dismal to say the least.

But yes definitely this year the Indian Electorate has shown considerable maturity and intelligence by virtually killing so many corrupt people and parties working along divisive lines of caste and religion and regional issues and opportunists.

But the fact that some such elements have still made it through says that we as a nation still have a long way to go.

5. If in the last 3000 years of Indian history there is one thing that has time and again defined India is its scientific creativity and research potential. 2000 years ago when civilizations were being born elsewhere India had produced the mathematics of calculus and theory of infinite series and predictive astronomy and plastic surgery (including even the science of doing amputations without causing infections!) and amazing level of phenomenological medical knowledge.

And not to mention the terrific rise of architectural brilliance in the 18th century. India had then been an exceptional engineering heaven.

Sorrowfully this essential identity of India gets strongly deprioritized by the Indian democracy and the election choices. There are just so few people in the parliament from the scientific fields and almost never does science education and research gets mentioned as the prime concern of the government. If India has to become the major world player in this century it has to ensure exponential growth in its scientific and academic efforts.

Indian elections are yet to mature to reflect this reality.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Came by this interesting story while reading the newspaper a few days ago - A small village girl was waiting by the side of the dusty road for her poor, illiterate father. "Aapke pocket mai kya hai, abba?", she asked curiously looking at his decrepit face. The father put his hand in the pocket and removed a voter ID card. "Yeh hai meri Aazadi", he smiled.

When an illiterate man can understand the power that that a voter ID card has, why can't the so-called educated class? Or are we so pompous that we should not care? Are we so above 'mediocrity' that we should be obtuse to matters relevant to development of our own motherland? More than 60 years after India gained Independence, if there is one thing that holds this diverse country together, it's this loktantra. The democracy philosophy is etched deeply in the Indian psyche, and no matter what skeptics say, there is nothing that can beat it. With a registered voter base of over 714 million Indians [something which some continents don't even have as net population], this election in India can surely be called as the biggest democratic exercise on the planet. I read somewhere that this time, about $3 billion were spent by parties and candidates on advertising, transportation, endorsements and, you guessed right, bribing. It is expected to give an almost 0.5% stimulus to India's GDP for 2 quarters this year, according to Kotak Securities. The number of polling officials employed by the Election Commission was a staggering 46 lakh. This is just mind-boggling. No wonder foreign countries are simply in awe of this mammoth event. I read in the newspaper few days ago that some countries sent their representatives and Election Commission officials to learn a lesson or two from the Indian Election Commission. Democracy is the best gift that our founding fathers bestowed upon us. We may criticize Pandit Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar, Sardar Patel and others every now-and-then, but it was due to their extreme love for the country that we lead a stable life today. It is because of their cautiousness and thoughtfulness that an event as large, complex and sensitive as this can pass smoothly with minimal hiccups. They rightly have been called visionaries, great men who put the country before their individual egos. Maybe, 150 years of British rule taught us the right lessons at the right time to stay united. India truly was blessed with able leaders at that time. Else, with a diversity much more complex than our own neighbor, we would not have even survived like a fragile nation that Pakistan is now. Sometime back, me and my brother [who too, is interested in politics and matters alike] were comparing some data about the Indian Constitution that he had. We compared our Constitution with the that of countries like France, USA and Argentina. That was one occasion when I really felt proud about my country. But I felt a little ashamed too. I realized how much efforts our past leaders had made in making a near flawless rule-book in the hope that this great nation will never have to face internal or external threats and how conveniently indifferent we have been all along. Even a non-expert like me could easily distinguish and appreciate the level of sophistication invested in the making of our Constitution. It made me realize the base on which our country is founded is so firm and strong.

But why then do we face so much ambiguity when it comes to forming a Government now at the Centre? Why, for the past 20 years has there not been even one single party Government? Why do the major parties have to dance to the whims and fancies of minor, regional parties every single time? This is the real, valid internal threat to India's democracy. And it seems the voter community shrewdly realized this and punished the regional netas [like Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Smt. Mayawati] to some extent this time. More than 300 parties contested this national election, 7 of whom were deemed national parties [both numbers are just hilarious]. In the event of a fractured mandate, the following things are likely to happen -
1] Immense behind-the-stage bribing and horse-trading [which is evident in some ways already].
2] No matter how accommodating everybody is, it will remain a fragile formation with a constant threat of Government collapse. One partner gone and it could be Game Over.
3] Instead of being a National Government taking decisions of national consensus, every time some regional player will try to extract his 'pound of flesh' by hijacking national policy meetings with petty regional issues. This inevitably will drag down development and correctly indicate that the Government is like a directionless boat.

It took 150 years for this country to realize the virtues of staying united. Do we want to tread down that same nasty road? Do we want history to repeat itself? It's high time we valued the Aazadi that we have been bestowed upon before our country breaks down again into tiny fiefdoms. As I said before, based on this election's mandate, the people of India seem to have been alerted to this possibility, but not in entirety. It is the voter's responsibility to finish off this threat forever.

PS : On a personal note, I did NOT vote this time. I was staying in a random place [in the constituency of Chennai] of which I really know nothing. Had I been in Pune, I definitely would have voted, for I know what matters and what's going on. So, it was rather disappointing when I found out that only 40% of the people in Pune voted. Next time, if I'm in a well-acquainted place, I will note lose my chance; because, as they say, "no vote, no opinion."

Note : This article has also been posted on my other personal blog : this