Vinish Garg

Technical Writer. Published Author.


with 2 comments

It was only last year that we proudly celebrated India’s 60th Independence Day. Many historians, writers, bureaucrats and, even media painted it as a historic day. And barely 10 days after the historic days, a bomb blast in Hyderabad had rocked the country. Many such attacks have followed – the most recently in Jaipur.

For once, we see the headlines as a few people have been killed and injured, and everybody gets back to one’s work in a few days. Well, as Navjot Singh Sidhu says – ‘Statistics are like bikinis; they reveal less but conceal what is vital’. Whether a blast kills 4 persons, or 14 or 40, the fact is that it is violence, and it is direct attack on one’s most fundamental right on earth – the right to live. Nothing less and nothing more.

I have been watching The Big Fight on NDTV 24X7 and many times, I wonder how the times have changed. People talk about Terrorism, Education System, Pepsi and Cola, Dowry, AIDS, Fashion, Religion and Homosexuality, with exemplary energies and emotions, so much so that it feels as if they (and we all) are directly affected by the issue being discussed. Quite astonishingly, majority of the crowd includes young people – students, young entrepreneurs and executives. This is an awakened urban middle class of India, who is glitzier and happier with healthier and richer life style, has better access to information and entertainment, is more aware of almost every aspect of life and society, and is more ready to speak on any issue, than ever before.

And suddenly the headlines at the bottom of TV screen tells about the bomb blast, as if the lives of 40 people too scrolled from right to left, in a flash. It is shattering for everybody, me, you and the country that turned 60 a few days back. Dead bodies of people lying all over the place made me wonder that times haven’t changed. Some sections of our society are using the same energy and emotions for entirely different purposes – to spread terror, violence, anger, panic, desperation, hence vitiating the atmosphere. These are the people whose minds have gone rotten and souls have degraded, psychologically, and I guess biologically as well.

Picture one – India’s economy has grown (sometimes amazingly) in the last few years. We have seen improved GDP, relative boom in IT and even in Real Estate; our strides in Technology (Space, Telecom and Bio), Cinema, Fashion and Sports. Picture two – there has been marked increase in the frequency of terrorist attacks and their targets have moved out of Punjab or Kashmir to Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. As the world’s largest democracy, how do we set up our image – a country which is a political example to other developing nations who confront internal politics, racial divisions, illiteracy, corruption and poverty, to maintain the phenomenal growth that we have achieved? Or a country that boasts of world’s fourth best army with a sound defense systems, but has witnessed nearly 40, 000 killings in Kashmir alone, thousands in Punjab earlier, and who has almost been a mute witness to terrorist attacks for nearly sixty years?

The progress that we are proud of today has only benefited a small privileged section, or to an extent, some percentage of popular middle class. You can not evaluate governance on a few specific and urban success stories, a ‘cyber city’ in Hyderabad or Bangalore. In fact, it has marginalized the poor, as the rising incidents of farmers’ suicide and growing disparity between rural and urban people are a testimony to it.

How does it impact our lives? And how do these terrorist attacks affect our lives? After every major terrorist attack, our leaders condemn the attack. Earlier it was for Punjab, then for Kashmir and now for anywhere in the country. Some statements are soft, and sometimes they are strong, but the benefits are nil. Why so? Because, principally, the political will is not there, and wherever it is, it is not consistent.

Barring a few sections, the mindset of every common man is same today. Everybody is upset either when the price of petrol is hiked by 2 rupees or when pizza gets costlier by 20 rupees; either when an encroachment is demolished from a store, or when the same shopkeeper is caught while selling adulterated food; either when a man is asked to deposit rupees sixty thousand as donation to get his kid admitted to a reputed school, or when the same man demands rupees ten thousand to pass a drawing for a house. The fears and insecurities are same, only the scale is different, and which doesn’t matter.

The urban middle class of India, who glued to TV sets on 11 July or 8 September or on 25 August last year, or on 13 May last month, including me, feels concerned but don’t know what it can do. We have grown in our standard of living, are more aware of issues that bother us, are more able to stand and be counted than our previous generations, but we lack political empowerment. Our political system has lost its credibility, so much so that we do not caste our vote, our very fundamental right to elect the leaders that we want ourselves to be ruled by. Our faith has been windswept by the sullied value system of our politicians. By political empowerment, I don’t mean that we should hold protest meetings, or take candle march in streets, or raise slogans. It begins with being aware of our rights. Our power. Our strength. Our right to vote.

As the world’s largest democracy, we, the people of India can make a difference, by using the very basic right that we have – our right to vote. Our educated and economically prosperous middle class is India’s biggest asset, but our resistance (call laziness) and our lack of interest to cast our vote is the biggest obstacle. And the root cause of many other critical issues is same – our political system. It is said that – an inefficient government is not caused by people who vote to wrong people, but by those who do not vote. As a result, our leaders are elected to a position where first they asked us for a vote, and when elected – they laugh at us and they use us, and in the end they are laughed at and are used by those who take advantage of our sleeping will and politician’s cult will.

The foundation of democracy is right to vote, and right to get elected; but when the former is not being exercised properly, the use of later is abused, as we have seen. And voting the current political system out of the country’s political setup is the one and only step to proceed. It is essential to evolve a new dynamic political ideology, not for those who run our country, but for we, the people of India, to deal with those who run us, and then to deal with those, who run the people who run us. But how do we do that. It requires a common pledge, a desire and a certain degree of political empowerment to take such a decision. One of the options is that we start voting with interest, and with awareness, to people with credibility, or if we do not find anybody good enough to be voted, none of us should vote – not a single vote. When the votes will be counted in hundreds or thousands instead of thousands or lakhs, our leaders and those who had been leading our leaders will realize that we have awaken, and changes will happen.

It is time to reengineer democracy. Reengineering? A few weeks back, a came across a few lines on reengineering democracy. These are penned down by Efraín María Martresa as:

Let’s Vote for Issues, Not for People!
We are used to believe that democracy is to elect
our leaders, by means of our votes.
And according to the candidate’s platform and programs,
we decide what we want.
What if we train, prepare, our civil leaders
and just vote to decide important issues?
Of the many advantages, we can cite (and not limited to):
Government doesn’t stop in pre-election periods
Lobbyists and special interest groups shouldn’t be that powerful
Use new technologies to cast our votes, whenever needed
Avoid new governments to learn as they go

We don’t have any formula here, we are trying to start a discussion so we, the people, can decide what we want and how we want it implemented.

To start, and maybe, we may model it likewise the training we give to the military, with ranks and different courses and specializations, like economics, government, environment, education, health, etc after graduating, and just giving a preliminary idea, they can start a career in government and according their experience, we give them more training to prepare them for more important tasks.
Beside having special institutions to do this training, we can admit professionals already trained, like
attorneys, economists, physicians, etc. and have them trained in specifics of government.
Again, this is just an input, every country should decide a final system which, of course, will take years to implement and adjust as we advance.

The author suggests that we should vote for issues and not for people. I believe that in a country as diverse and vast as India is, voting for people should be continued… but along with voting for issues to be resolved and within voting for time frames, based on certain factors.

Is it too utopian? May be. Or perhaps not.

Written by Vinish Garg

June 13, 2008 at 6:42 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Vinish!

    Nice to see your article commenting my (very poor) website.

    I have been thinking about this for well over 15 years, and the more I see the more convinced I am of a needed change.
    I live in the United States and here we have had a real show with the next presidential election, in which the country will spend a great sum of money to let the people elect the president. THE president, we will elect ONE person, just a single person that will bring some many others behind, none of them elected by us. And some others that may be part of interested groups that cooperated with the campaign funds and maybe more. Who will be elected president? In most of the cases, the person that knew how to handle the campaign in a proper manner. Shouldn’t we have the best person in charge, or even better, the best group of people in charge? Handling a campaign does not prove that you will handle the country as well or appropriately, those are different functions, different skills. Can you tell me where else we elect a person to do a job? Did your parents voted for your teachers? Well, you can say that yes by means of choosing the right school, but then that “right school” hired the best professional teachers they could or at least that is what we -and your parents- assume. Does your country vote directly for the generals or any high rank military? Or the chief of police? Actually, it may even sound stupid, and in my opinion it does and it is.

    I trust our young people and I truly believe we can properly train them, and also that we can rightly control them and that we have to pay them well. An elite? Yes! Why not? As we demand from them is that how we pay them. They will dedicate their life to serve the country and they will know that if they do well they don’t have to fear who will be elected next in order to continue with their career.

    Then, we vote for the issues at question, whenever necessary, and where our vote is worth as much as we know of the issue to be decided.

    Reengineering means a radical change and usually people reacts in a negative attitude towards drastic changes where our comfort zone is threatened. But with most of the world under democracies today we can agree that it is not that perfect after all, and why not a change for the better? Surely enough, this is something that will take decades to implement, but after the wait I strongly expect that we will be able to leave a better world to our kids and grandkids, not to mention the rest of the animals.

    Again, thanks Vinish!

    Efraín María Martresa

    July 17, 2008 at 2:47 am

  2. Hmmm, you are very right. Infact I read about your views and suggestions a few years back, and its nice to reconnect back.

    Your thoughts are spot on but they would have more sense a few decades back. That time, we had policitcal will and empowerment which is at its lowest now.

    I wish more people, particularly beaurocrats and those who run the state machinery could also think on same lines. Anyway, we, as individuals, if can’t do anything comprehensive by our own; we can always try to leave a better place for our kids to live in.

    Kudos to your thoughts.


    July 17, 2008 at 12:02 pm

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