From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

Around 1967, Warren Unna of The Washington Post asked Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray whether he read any books. He received a stunning reply: “I don’t want to mix my thinking with that of others”. The same arrogance, bred by insecurity, explains the order of March 14 made by the West Bengal government headed by Mamata Banerjee: “In public interest the government will not buy newspapers published or purported to be published by any political party, either national or regional, as a measure to develop free thinking among the readers”. The affinities between the two leaders are striking — populism and intolerance of dissent.

However, Mr. Thackeray’s preference concerned him alone. Mamata’s affects 2,463 government-aided libraries, 12 government libraries, 7 government sponsored ones and the State Central Library. All English language dailies were barred. Initially, a mere eight survived — Sangbad Pratidin, Sakalbela, Dainik Statesman, Ekdin, and Khabar 365 Din in Bengali; Sanmarg (Hindi) and Akhbar-e-Mashriq and Azad Hind (Urdu).

Two of the Bengali dailies are headed by two Trinamool Congress MPs of the Rajya Sabha. The Hindi and an Urdu daily are headed by Rajya Sabha MPs of the same party. Sangbad Pratidin, for example, is owned by Srinjoy Bose, a party MP. Its associate editor Kunal Ghosh was elected recently to the Rajya Sabha on the Trinamool ticket to give the owner company. After an uproar, five more papers were added on March 28; namely, Himalaya Darpan (Nepali), Sarsagar (Santhali periodical), The Times of India, and two others.

There is another aspect, besides. The right to select papers belongs to the management of each library depending on the demand among the readers in that particular area. A central edict is an insult to them. Ms Banerjee’s order also flagrantly violates the citizens’ right to know. It is not for any Minister to prescribe a select bibliography to the Indian citizen. An official acknowledged on March 28: “This is the first instance of such a circular. The management boards of libraries have so far been the final authority on deciding which newspapers and periodicals to offer, on the basis of readers’ demands”. Now the readers are asked to read what Kolkata deems fit for their minds; “in public interest”, of course.

Arbitrary orders are invariably defended by absurd and contradictory explanations. On March 29, Mamata Banerjee and her Sancho Panza, Abdul Karim, Mass Education and Library Services Minister, explained: “We will promote local and small newspapers”. Some dailies on her approval list will not be flattered by this decision apart from the impropriety of State funding of the press.

In reality, ads have been stopped to “small” papers which depended on them for sheer survival. On Fools’ Day, it was disclosed that the list of Banga Bibhushan awardees, whose prize value is Rs. 2 lakh each, included artistes, poets and writers who had campaigned for the Trinamool. Didi looks after her own, albeit at public expense. An Urdu saying casts her in a different light — “Halvai ki dukan par nanaji ki fateha (Prayers for the soul of grandpa at the sweet maker’s shop, at his cost).

Election: Real Selection or Deception?

They say the statistics reveal it all. So, let’s just have a look at the statistics of our last Lok Sabha election results. Election, as per our respected representatives, is the scale to measure and declare them to be “our representatives”, let’s just have a look at what kind of representation they have and what kind of democracy we are boasting of for last 64 years. All the data used here are from the website of Election Commission of India and are authentic. Here is the state-wise division of number of candidates and how many of them secured how much % of votes over the total electors in the constituency in the attached data.

This clearly shows a big chunk of people don’t even bother to vote. Have we ever thought about why don’t these people cast their votes? Why such a big percentage of voters don’t take part in election to use the only democratic right they have in our country? The answer is very simple: people are fed up with the very system of it. The amount of money and muscle power used in the election, criminal records of the candidates (as of now, more than 150 elected candidates have criminal charges against them) and the segmentation in the name of caste/religion/region during election propaganda don’t attract them. But do they have any option to show their displeasure? NO. Because we don’t have a “Reject” button in the voting machine. We don’t even have the right to reject the candidate political parties choose for us. We don’t even buy a dress without our choice, but when it comes to the most important thing, governance system of our country, there is no process to convey that I don’t like the candidate you have chosen for me!

Secondly, with such lower percentage of votes cast for them, do they really represent us? I am pretty sure most of us have never seen their MPs other than the time they come to beg for votes from us. And they know very little or nothing about those representatives. They are just selected by parties, elected by few and do whatever they want to do for the next 5 years. Why shouldn’t there be a proper rule to find the real representation? Why not introduce the preferential voting system and a cut-off limit for wining? In the current system, even less than 10% votes of the total voters also make a person “the representative” of the constituency, but is it a proper way to choose the representative? With a 50%+1 cut-off percentage, wouldn’t it be a better representation? Let’s take an example:

A constituency has two heavyweight candidates, A and B. Now there is another candidate C who is neither such a big shot, nor represents some big party. But people know C as an honest person and they have faith in him. Now if preferential voting is introduced, let’s take the result comes this way:
30%: 1st preference A, 2nd preference C
40%: 1st preference B, 2nd preference C
10%: 1st preference C, 2nd preference A
10%: 1st preference C, 2nd preference B
10%: Others
Now the total vote will come out like:
A: (30+10) = 40%
B: (40+10) =50%
C: (30+40+10+10) =90%
Even if we take 50% weightage for 2nd preference, it comes out to be:
A: (30+5) = 35%
B: (40+5) = 45%
C: (15+20+10+10) =55%
In any case, contestant C will be the winner. This way, system will be able to find out the real representative of people, also the chance of real leaders to come up without the backing of the big parties will improve. There will be a better chance of getting more able and honest leaders without the baggage of big parties where the entry level costs a lot of money thereby making the system automatically corrupt.

We need lot more improvements in electoral system. “Right to recall” is another option that needs to be thought about seriously. In current system, even if my representative is found to be involved in any kind of criminal activity (like our very own Kalmadi from Pune is already in Tihar jail, but he is still our representative), we should have the right to recall this representative. Why should we have to bear such representative for next five years, don’t we even have the right to choose a clean representative even if the current one is found out to be a criminal? What kind of democracy is this?

Yes, we need much more awareness and education if we implement such processes. The voters should be more conscious and aware of the consequences and value of his choice; it should not be like “My husband told to cast my vote for this symbol.” Or “I have been promised to get a lunch free if I vote for him.” I completely agree that we need to educate ourselves, but can’t we even start discussing about the betterment of the system? 64 years is not a small time, didn’t we become mature enough to even discuss about more matured way of choosing representatives after such a long time? Then the pride of being the biggest democracy in the world is a mockery of democracy itself. Evolving towards betterment is the only aim of humanity, if we don’t apply this even in the first step of forming good governance for us and choose to stay 64 years back, it’s certainly not anybody else we are fooling around, but it’s us and only us!

What’s going on?

What’s happening in India? A good question. My bro asked this a couple of days back. When the Middle East is fighting to get back democracy, are we actually up to destroying it? Or are we moving towards a communist India, or a Hindutva-dominated India? What is this Anna movement all about? People who are outside the country or even as a matter of fact, outside the movement, are naturally suspicious about the nature of it. And I think it’s my duty to describe it as I perceive it to be.

The movement is primarily a clear attempt to fill the gap created by the lack of moral authority in our political leadership. For a long time now, our political leadership was by and large corrupt, reckless and criminal in nature. And not to mention, it has been a family business: sons or daughters getting entry to the highest level without any other criteria other than their family name. This has created a strange situation: people with extreme power in hand carry no moral authority. The whole of political system works in a completely dishonest manner, there’s no balance of physical and moral power in current society. It can’t continue for a long time. Someday or the other, it will break down. And that’s what has happened exactly in this movement. Look at the nature of it: people trust Anna Hazare and his team members but they don’t trust their own elected representatives. Who is Anna Hazare and his team members, people with no apparent power but extreme moral authenticity, and who are the elected representatives? People with extreme power and no morale!

Now coming to those, who are telling it’s wrong to disrespect the Parliament, because it is the most sacred place in democracy. Now, simply keep on telling “Respect the parliament, it’s the temple of democracy”, will not help to make the current pattern of democracy survive. Look at the people, who are sitting inside it, they should have treated this as the temple of democracy with a stern moral authority. Because they have not done it for a long time, how much hard you believe or how much high you chant, the “temple of democracy” will neither remain temple nor the current form of democracy will survive in India. The current form of democracy is the worst that can happen to a country, it has no other attribute of democracy but to get your cast every five years, that too on the basis of caste/creed/religion/region in most of the areas and largely on money and muscle power. We don’t even have a right to reject the candidates political parties choose for us! It’s high time we ask ourselves “Is it democracy, really?”

Before we judge the aim of the movement, it’s always better to look at the root cause of it. That may help to solve the issue to a substantial extent. The problem is, the current system is not allowing honest leadership to come up and take charge. For an example I am an honest person with enough leadership skill, if I want to contest election, no renowned political party will give me tickets. And if I try to stand as independent, I’ll never get elected. So, the system prevents real leadership to come up and lead the nation. Now where will these people go? Nowhere, they remain within the system, with a tremendous urge to serve the nation, honesty and moral authority. And the country is led by corrupts, immoral people. There’s a pure gap in between. Sometimes or other, it was bound to topple the system to bring back the balance. This is what exactly what is happening and no outside force can stop it.

Movements don’t aim at what exactly society is searching for! The moment they get a path of what they were searching for, movements just happen. And that is what exactly has happened. Be rest assured it’s not aiming at revival of Hindutva brigade nor a communist uprising! It’s simply the filling-in the gaps in the morality of our leadership. And it will continue to be graver as more people gets education and a better way of life. The more they are exposed to better lifestyle, they’d feel the void of morale in their leadership. The moment system will start getting competent and honest leaders, the necessity of this movement will die down. Till then, happy movement days!

Several times of me

Till today, I chose not to write anything about Anna Hazare and his movement with which I got attached very closely. I chose not to tell anything about this movement because it’s really disgraceful on the part of anybody to beg to fight for his own rights. It’s disgraceful for a nation to see a 75-year old fight for its people’s right and keep mum.

But the time has come to face the truth: either we have to fight for a better and cleaner democracy or keep on continuing with this anarchical political system which works under the name of democracy. Time has come to face not only this bitter truth, but to face a system which is much more powerful than us as individuals.

16th August is the day I, along with some others are going to start this journey of truth with Anna. These others include 16year old schoolboy to 83-year old veterans, those who have chose to speak up against injustice. I’d not request you to support the cause and these people; I would request you to wish us luck. Because we are going to fight your battle; unarmed in front of batons and bullets, and non-violent in the claws of the powerful. Wish us, may be merely a couple of thousands, wish us to have power of all of you 121 crores of Indians. Wish each of us to become a several times more powerful. Wish that every slogan we shout, to echo the voice of thousands more, thousands of you. Wish us every food we deny, to be thousand times more, to become your food.

If you are reluctant to fight your battle, I’d fight it for you. If you don’t protest against corruption, I’d lodge a complaint on your behalf. And I don’t mind facing any consequences.

Just wish me that I become several times of me, to become you on this decisive day.
Vande Mataram!

Babagiri

World is a strange place! People forget those who actually work in the ground level and pay a price. When Baba Ramdev starts a “fast-unto-death” against corruption, he never bothers to talk about Manjunath or Satyendra Dubey, who laid their lives fighting corruption. All you need to be a leader is to have fan-following and unlimited money. A private jet and some “garma-garam’ word to instigate people. Is it how movements are to be carried out?

A Baba, who is surely having a good knowledge of yoga, becomes a self-proclaimed torch-bearer. Is it so easy to be a torch-bearer to the nation? I pity people like Gandhiji, who had to study a lot, work on ground level a lot and experiment a lot on the truthful way until he became a leader to the nation. Nowadays you don’t even need to have conventional knowledge of politics, history, economics or even ground reality to become a “leader of the nation”. Put some good money, earned in whichever way, make good arrangements in a big ground and give some hate-speech. Lo and behold, you are a leader!

I pity my India. Have we become so poor in leadership that we need such leaders to lead us? Yes, for a long time now, we have ceased to lead ourselves, but I was at least having faith that we have not become susceptible to false leadership. Yes, we do have bad guys in politics. But we all know they are not leaders of us. They are merely the people whom we choose in elections. Most of us don’t consider them to be our “leaders”. When the Anna Hazare and his team came to lead, I still believed in us, in our sensibilities. This man at least has some credibility to lead. We can’t expect a 100% honest and credible leader like Gandhiji and his era. But at least those who worked in the ground level, did some real good work still can inspire us. It’s a good sign that the nation is still awake and sensible enough to choose a leader for them.

But when this Baba took on the centre stage and people started talking about him as a leader, I lost hope. A yoga guru is better to remain a yoga-guru. If the country needs to be leaded by a yoga guru who doesn’t have any credibility in leadership, God save our nation! He speaks in some strange language, unscientific and baseless. He puts some demands which are not even economically viable! He supports criminals like khaps. He is supported by real communal forces like RSS. Is this the future leader of India? Pity on us, pity on our capability, pity on our sensibility.

And our useless government has made a martyr out of this useless Baba by tackling his drama in a most undemocratic and uncalled for way, by lathicharging and teargasing his unarmed disciples at midnight!

(Now that Baba has taken resort to plain and simple UPA bashing and his movement has turned out to be another anti-government one, I still hope Anna and team can formulate a strong JLP bill in coordination with govt. The civil society’s opinions on this Baba drama still are sane to some extent. And as a die-hard hopeful, I still believe that the black-money stashed in Swiss Bank will come to my country. And corruption will be ended. But not in the Baba way. There is democratic process of formulating laws and if government is not willing, there are peaceful ways of going into sane protest, sans hate-speech full of illogical facts!)