Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Indian Electorate Does not Really Have A Choice

“Politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage”
- Ambrose Bierce
The General Election 2009 is going to be remembered as the most complex event in history. The confusion began with the ruling United Progressive Alliance being reduced to a mere post poll alliance. The Congress Party refuses to go into alliance with most of its supporters in the alliance. The Left Front musters up another confusing and strange creature called the Third Front. This newly formed alliance of parties with absolutely nothing in common except one; the desire to usurp power from the National Parties namely the Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party. Matters are further knotted by the breaking away of old allies such as the the Biju Janata Dal from the BJP led alliance and the formation of yet another front with of Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan. All three of whom were prime supporters of the ruling UPA and two of whom were Cabinet Ministers. Parties like the Nationalist Congress Party led by Sharad Pawar and the AIADMK led J. Jayalalitha have kept everyone guessing. All in all, there is one thing common amongst them all, they all want to be part of the next government.

Indian politics especially in the age of coalitions and fractured mandates is more to do with political expediency than ideology.

Firstly the Left Front led by the CPI (M) supported a Congress led coalition in 2004 without being a part of the Government. So in a sense the UPA Government was always a minority government. The Left has been ideologically opposed to the every policy of the UPA from the word go. It has been on the streets of this nation protesting against a regime which owes its existence to the Left itself. The Congress is the principal opposition for the Left in its bastion states of Kerala and West Bengal. Therefore this was a marriage of convenience which was always meant to end in a bitter divorce. The Prime Minister and Rahul Gandhi in the course of their respective campaigns have called the Left’s ideology regressive. But it baffles me when in the same press conference they send overtures to the Left for their support in the 15th Lok Sabha.

The ‘real’ issues (pun intended) in this election are secularism and national security. On one hand you have the Bhartiya Janata Party which is accused of instigating riots that led to the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat. If I may remind this is also the party whose top leadership stands as accused in the Babri Masjid Demolition Case. On the other hand you have the Congress which is accused of not only instigating but also executing the 1984 Anti Sikh Riots in Delhi. Even when the demolition of the Babri Masjid took place the Congress was in Government at the Centre with P.V Narsimha Rao as Prime Minister yet the demolition took place. Therefore, I have concluded that every political party is as communal and as secular as the other. This ‘holier than thou’ sort of attitude in the Indian polity is unfortunate and has caused a great deal of anguish.

As far as the issue of terrorism is concerned, both parties are accused and guilty of not doing enough for National Security. Attacks on India took place during the reign of both. The Congress is accused of going slow on the execution of Afzal Guru, a convict in the Parliament attack case. The BJP is accused buckling under pressure and releasing dreaded terrorists such as Maulana Masood Azhar who are responsible for uniting Jehadist forces against India. The fact of the matter is real solutions to the problem of security such as police reform and development of an extensive security and intelligence infrastructure in the country have been pushed out of the realm of discussion.

For far too long the Indian electorate has been stuck choosing the better of the worst. We as a nation must strive to convert this into the choice of the best, through participation as candidates and as voters.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Political Expediency and The Presidency

Mulayam Singh Yadav has been credited to have said that his party would support any formation at the centre that would remove a democratically elected Chief Minister. This article is in light of alleged political deals being made on the dismissal of the Mayawati Government in UP.

In the words of Richard Armour
“Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.”

The Indian Presidency for long has been cast under the shadow of political malice. The election of the President every five years brings to my mind only one thought that is of irresponsible political polemicisim.

The party politics we are talking about today is a represents the fragmentation of the Indian people. The Indian people today do not bother to vote; even if they do the wrong people are being elected. From representatives and the servants of the people politicians have become tyrannical monarchs. We are responsible for the creation of this breed of rulers. Here I would like to quote Edmund Burke “For evil to flourish; the good have to nothing and evil shall flourish”.

The President is not merely a Chancellor sitting at convocations, but an important constitutional functionary. The President is required to act independently and his actions require constitutional knowledge as well political wisdom .Many Presidents from Rajendra Prasad to A P J Abdul Kalam have done just that - acted with political wisdom - while others - like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Zail Singh - have been accused of meekly towing the line of the central leadership. No wonder you today call the presidency a stamp. The frequent use of Article 356 of the Constitution is an instance of the Presidency being marred by party politics. The Janta Party Government made N. Sanjiva Reddy dismiss 9 state governments as they thought the Congress had no moral reason to be in government since they were put out of power in the centre. As soon as Mrs. Gandhi was back in power the same state governments were again dismissed by the same president.

A President is with out doubt a ceremonial Head of State. The Constitution of India empowers the President to be the conscience of the state. The President of India has to be a person who inspires the people to achieve enormous success- Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam perhaps personifies that. It is also vital that the Presidency should command the trust and respect from the people which would actually mean belief in the Government.

In the words of Ernest Benn
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009

They’re Over!

Twenty Seventh Day of March in our Lord’s year 2008. You may be wondering why I am expressing myself as if I am writing history. Well, for only one reason it was a historic day for my fellow crusaders of the tenth standard who bid adieu to turmoil and embraced a new phase in their lives. The board exam is an excruciating yet significant event which comes with god’s grace twice in a student’s life. In the course of this article I will attempt to make you think again about our education set up and the board exams.

Recent reports compiled by a Washington based think tank said that Indian students are among the brightest in the world but the education system has terribly failed to harness this potential and convert it into economic gains. As the industrial era draws to a close a new world order has set in with knowledge at the helm of its economy. Education and knowledge will replace high production as a pre requisite for economic prosperity.

It is more relevant today than ever before to demand for the latest in education. Let me bolster my argument by giving an example- if you apply for a job with Infosys Technologies and if you’re lucky enough to get it you need to undergo another year of training before you can join the company. So this means what you learnt at engineering school is not enough. This implies that education institutes are not teaching what one needs when one enters industry. It is high time we demand a revamp of the education system in this country.

The only grudge I have against the Central Board of Secondary Education is that it thinks examination is the only method of evaluation. It’s almost suicidal to believe that examination is evaluation rather than examinations being a component of evaluation. The world over, educationists are moving away from examination centric systems. New procedures for holistic evaluation are being devised in practically every country. We have almost frozen in time as far as education in India is concerned. I am unwilling to believe that we do not posses the capability to innovate new methods of evaluation. The present system according to me should be locked up in a museum for the future generations to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.

The buzz word these days as the case is every year when the Board exams are on is ‘stress’. I implore you to see the present scenario. On the basis of the three hours a student is given to manifest his or her abilities on paper, his or her whole life is decided. From the job he gets, the salary he shall receive to his standing in society is decided by just two examinations. And an examiner needs to spend just 14 minutes to pass an unchallengeable judgment on your intellectual capabilities.

Taking the average human life at 65 years one will spend 569400 hours on earth. Interestingly, 569370 hours of your life depends on the 30 hours you spend giving board exams. So 0.0052% of your life determines the nature of your entire life. Now, if you don’t get stressed in these circumstances then I think you will be revered in temples across the nation.

The Central Board of Secondary Education can give the CIA a run for its money when it comes to secrecy. There is no transparency in the manner in which answer sheets are evaluated. Whenever questioned over transparency the Board conveniently says that it is not practical for it to provide the transparency the victims of the horrors of the board demand. The Tamil Nadu education board provides photocopies of a candidate’s answer scripts on demand and on the payment of postal costs. After which a student can raise his or her grievances with the Board. This defeats the very excuse the CBSE is trying to give all of us over the issue of transparency.

In conclusion I would say the Board Examination is the largest form state sanctioned terrorism in the world even larger than what the al- Qaeda had unleashed with 9/11. The CBSE must be tried for Crimes Against Humanities in The Hague. Last but not the least we need to come together in order to arm twist our dear elected representatives to initiate change in this sphere.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction

We have fast cars and mobile phones. We have designer clothes and luxurious houses but broken homes.

All of us live in an age of transition. Every one of us is running in a race. In this race to the future we have abandoned our treasures of the past.

Drugs and alcohol have become a part of every urban Indian household. A number of people take refuge in these vices without understanding the consequences. The law enforcement agencies in this country have failed terribly to control the spread of narcotic substances. The kind of access and the influence that the drug mafia exercises over all our cities is a very worrying. I know that all of you understand the threat posed by drugs. Therefore let me begin with the causes.

We are witnessing historic changes in the social fabric of the country. Globalization has led to what I call aping the west. We have not only adopted the good of the west but we have also adopted the ghastly. One may argue that this problem existed even before the process of globalization started. My answer to that is the number of victims has risen astronomically only in the past five or ten years.

Another challenge that we face in the battle against drugs is that there is a lack of awareness. The unrelenting yet tentative curiosity of a teenager leads him to discussions in the peer group. Now, in the peer group the person who asks a question is as ignorant as the person who answers it. So these bands of teenagers end up believing in notions that are inherently distorted and a far cry from reality. The monstrous ramification? We have successfully created drug eating zombies.

Society generally condemns addiction to drugs. Drug addicts need sympathy and help rather than apathy and social exclusions. Addiction to drugs and alcohol needs to be treated as a disease rather than an illicit habit. At the school level there needs to be a separate and specific legal and frame work under which drug addicts can be rehabilitated and peddlers severely punished. The law needs to make clear distinctions between the predator and the prey.

Indian culture is more dynamic than most of us think. Our most valued treasure- family traditions are being forgotten in the race for money and fame. In the age of cultural assimilation we are bound to be effected by influences from the west. Therefore it is more relevant today than ever before for us sit up and take notice of the blind acceptance of western lifestyles. . History is witness: India has accepted many foreign cultural influences yet even today retains a distinct identity.

Let us not commit the same mistakes as the west. Let us make our own mistakes I am sure we’ll have plenty of them.

I rest my case at that.