Positive Participation in Societal Matters


Though democracy means self-governance by direct participation of the citizens, we have had to adopt a representative system since we are in large numbers and that all of us cannot participate all the time. Especially at that time. The Representatives are expected to transmit and to translate the will and wishes of the people into rules, regulations and laws as an indirect way of self-governance. Though they are never to be the rulers like the Sultans and Maharajahs, many common people are expecting them to behave like the previous princes and kings. Since we have been a society that admires and adores human and super-human heroes and since we have a cultural propensity towards political obedience to those who come to Power, be it foreign or local invaders, for generations, many of us, particularly from the rural areas still would like to be ruled by generous and favourable leaders.

 Thereupon, a political culture has emerged in our country in which the leaders are expected to promise many free things and to perform miracles to the voters. This is in addition to the gifts, money and liquor distributed at the time of the elections as a kind of quid pro quo. However, since there is competition in it, the people, in their sovereign discretion, often keep changing the disappointing leaders, in favour of candidates who make better promises. In order to continue and sustain these ‘election melas’ and to occupy the coveted some five thousand posts of MLAs, MLCs and MPs in the country, a new class of aspiring politicians has emerged in the society. They are recruited, trained and launched by the political parties, which were deliberately ignored in our Constitution. 

In spite of it, happily, our democracy is still sustained by the fact that some good traditions are being upheld by some exceptionally right people, here and there, who have a concern for long term development and general welfare of the entire country. On the whole, we have become a consenting democracy, where the voters choose among the nominees and symbols proposed by the political parties, which have no internal democracy. The personal worth, merit and the services rendered by the candidate became secondary and hence, independent local candidates are disappearing from the polls. The reins of Power are monopolised by the winning party machinery. Such a trend in China resulted in not only the Party capturing the state machinery but also trying to infiltrate the society. Overnight, a chief minister can be replaced and new one can be parachuted. The established media with institutional interest has been busily occupied in reporting the politics of these ‘powerful’ people.

What can we the Concerned Citizens do under these political conditions?

The main mission of governance is to establish better relations among the human beings living together. How can we promote more emotional integration of our diversified society that is being divided more and more by politics? Day by day, we find more and more people who hate each other rather than those who love each other. We are still a country where Human Development Indicators are very low, and we would remain so, so long as we are obsessed with political power as the sole means for peace and development. While there is no single remedy to this political malady, the immediate approach to be adopted is that the concerned citizens should interfere in all matters of political governance. Hence, we need more civil society leaders who can inspire joy of living through values of freedom, tolerance, persuasion, camaraderie, solidarity, fraternity, equality and cooperation for building humane and harmonious human relations in a globalised society. Further, we need many other soft powers and many other heroes in economic, social, scientific and cultural spheres, where people interact with each other directly in order to transform our society. People should be encouraged to become self-reliant and take their leaders as their 'leading companions’ or ‘team leaders’ rather than as benefactors. Our way of living, both while learning and earning as well as after retirement should involve positive participation in societal matters. This can be achieved by forming and joining any number of civil society organisations and professional associations in the neighbourhood. But, not of castes, religions and regions! In short, ‘Let Us Participate, Since We Can’ as several means of information and communication technologies are in our hands, as never before. Among other things, adopt Social Media.

Some Proposals that Should Reach the Decision Makers

Suggestions from Subash Chandra Agarwal RTI Activist 

1. Supreme Court should intervene to stop the lust for turning government-bungalows into memorials. It continues even after the Supreme Court verdict followed by a cabinet-note in 2000. Media reports that a bust of late Ram Vilas Paswan has been installed at government-bungalow 12 Janpath in New Delhi by family-members of the deceased political leader, as the extended date for vacating the bungalow comes nearer. The Directorate of Estate (GoI) should immediately remove the statue before it becomes a political liability for GoI to bow to demand to retain the bungalow for life-time by family-members of the deceased politicians. There were earlier efforts of late Ajit Singh to turn 12 Tuglaq Rd. in ND as Choudhary Charan Singh memorial. Likewise, there is a demand to turn 3 South Avenue in ND as memorial for former PM Chandrashekhar. Since political compulsions may not allow Central government to take harsh steps, the Supreme Court should be made to intervene.

2. Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) should direct putting complete notings on selection of Public-Interest-Directors (PIDs) of all companies on their respective websites apart from putting them on SEBI website. Such notings are  already provided in case of Central Information Commissioners. It is claimed under the provisions of Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act that  it is personal in nature. On the contrary, as there are ‘Public-Interest-Directors’, it is in the larger public interest to put all details on website. Since the Supreme Court allowed making inspection-reports of banks public under RTI Act, the Companies also should do the same, since huge amounts of public-money is invested in them.

3. Liquor and Petrolium products should have common and uniform rate throughout  the country to prevent inter-state smuggling and to promote national integration.

4. Arbitrators appointed by the Courts should be regulated.  It is said that retired judges of higher courts are appointed as arbitrators by courts, thereby giving them much more income than they were earning while being judges. Even if all the concerned parties mutually agree, arbitrators still insist on giving adjournments. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 should be amended to make the procedures more simple. Complete details of arbitration should be put on websites of the courts. Reasonable amounts should be recommended for a case and also the maximum time-limit for withholding arbitration-award after completion of hearing, say, less than one year.

5. Announcement of freebies like free water, free electricity, etc. are ultimately a burden on honest middle-income tax-payers and must not be allowed by Supreme Court and Election Commission. It refers to pre-poll announcement about free electricity, cancellation of all pending electricity bills and free electricity for agriculture in U.P., Delhi and in some other states by the ruling political parties. The Election Commission should take all such pre-poll announcements as unfair practices to lure voters. Since GoI may not be able to stop such freebies by state governments for political reasons, it is for Supreme Court to stop such freebies.

6. All MLAs on the floor of House rather than the partyhigh-commands that should elect the Chief Ministers. The latest example is the infighting in Punjab Congress leading to humiliating resignation of Captain Amrinder Singh. It has become a usual practice in almost all states where dissidence within the ruling party is more crucial than threat posed by the opposition party for the governments. Hence, the Chief Minister along with Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be elected simultaneously through secret and compulsory vote of all MLAs.

7. Change the British legacy. Make the Calendar Year as Financial Year. Expert-Committee chaired by LK Jha had suggested systematic calendar-year of January-December to replace current system of April-March.

8. The Wisdom of the Dept. of Coin and Currency in Union Finance Ministry is indeed questionable when they introduced yet another new two-rupee coin approximately of the present one-rupee coin size. Now there are two-rupee coins in three sizes in circulation.

9. Dept. of Consumer Affairs should make it compulsory to pack all commodities in true metric-spirit in units of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 gms or mltrs or ltrs or kgs or units only, so that consumer may judge comparative prices of a commodity marketed by different companies. The metric-system of packaging may be applicable on medicines also. Many drug-manufacturers have started packing medicine in strips of 15 rather than 10 simply to shoot up sale.

10. RTI fees and other government-fee requiring to be paid through postal-orders should be revised to Rs. 50/- to prevent heavy loss in handling postal-orders. It was only after revelation through RTI application that the Dept. of Posts  has discontinued postal-orders in outdated denominations like rupees 1, 2, 5 and 7 which were sold in extremely small quantities at high handling cost. Separate RTI stamps can be printed as recommended by the Central Information Commission.

11. Outdated Income Tax Act 1961 with so many amendments should be replaced by an altogether new and simplified Act as repeatedly promised by the Union Finance Ministry. The Income Tax Dept. should minimise tax-exemptions and exemptions to exemptions, such as, those given to contributions made to or received by political parties, which are rich enough to spend heavily on all types of ethical and unethical political purposes which regrettably include costly super-luxury stay of MLAs kept like hostages or bonded persons in costly five-starred resorts and hotels.  

12. The Chief Justice of India advocates 50-perecent women-reservation in judiciary. But it may not be practically possible till reservation for women is started at root level in the legislature. Many political parties cry for reservation on man-made aspects like religion and caste evidently for vote-bank politics, but oppose reservation to women. At a time when women-quota in panchayats and local bodies is being increased to 50-percent from earlier 33-percent, it is meaningless to resist 33-percent reservation to women in legislature. The present members of Parliament are responsible for this anomaly.

Subhash Chandra Agrawal, (Guinness Record Holder & RTI Consultant), 1775 Kucha Lattushah, Dariba, Chandni Chowk Delhi-110006. Mobile 9810033711email: subhashchandraagrawal@gmail.com

13. Though secrecy of voting is one of the principles of the Election  Commission, unfortunately in practice every political party has the opportunity to identify which area, which caste and which religious groups have voted to which party and so on. Hence the Election Commission should ensure a mechanism where political parties cannot identify the voting pattern, area wise or booth wise.

14. The Election Commission should facilitate online voting so that all the sections of the society can exercise their franchise without any hesitation and reservation. The present day’s technologies have all the possibilities to ensure full proof mechanism of online voting. With the adoption of online voting facility additionally, the voting percentage can go beyond 90-95%. With this facilitation, the political parties exploiting the vulnerable sections will have a lesser impact on the electoral results and the educated and well informed communities could have more impact on governance policies.

    From Sri. P.Sathyanarayana Reddy, #280, Ramakrishna Extension, Srinivasapura 563135, Kolar District, Karnataka. 9448136790.email:info@rors.in

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