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When the masses rise in protest, India can and will see change
India continues to be a distracted nation, courtesy of its various governments and politicians. The never-ending debate is about which is the best political party to ‘rule’ India. No-one, it seems, stands back to think about what’s the best way to ‘run’ the nation, to make it more liveable for its own citizens.
Elected governments, once in power, must prioritise the welfare and upliftment of all citizens. Their policymaking and governance must be transparent, fair and accountable. That is what constitutes good governance. Governments chosen by the people, work for the people.
The Indian way, however, is a bit different. Once in power, governments throw in a truckload of distractions, dumb down any debates (better still, avoid them all together), shun accountability; they shift the agenda from good public policy to bickering, back-stabbing and mud-slinging within the political ranks.
This way serves the politicians well. The national agenda (and the spotlight) is conveniently shifted from their performance and that of their governments. Caught up in outrageously sickening banter among the various political parties, the public is robbed of any meaningful attempt to enhance their living standards by their governments. The grassroots of India continue to remain vulnerable, disadvantaged, and unaware of their basic rights and entitlements.
And herein lies what should be the bigger “national agenda”. The debt-ridden farmers, the down-trodden, the minorities at risk, the toils and challenges of the massive Indian middle class, sustainable infrastructure, environment, affordable and adequate healthcare, jobs and trades. These are the matters that must be debated, discussed and resolved. In earnest. They should not be given mere lip-service to keep the vote banks interested.
The governments, and sadly most of the media, tend to sensationalise these much important matters.
The media, for a few days, grab a headline and spin it into a “top-story”. Panel after panel, they front up scholars, analysts and politicians alike, to dissect the misery of ordinary citizens. Verdicts are speculated, history is quoted, and opinions lashed out. Makes great prime time viewing for news channels that have to operate 24 hours a day. And then, the stories cease to “trend”. So they move on, in search of a new “top story”, another one that will “trend”.
The governments on the other hand, do much of the same. The tales of misfortune and hardship of Indian citizens are often raised in legislatures across the country. A passionate debate erupts between the ‘honourable’ members of these parliaments. And before you know it, our elected political representatives are embroiled in rowdy shouting matches. A real monkey contest to score political points. Unadulterated political opportunism comes at the cost of the welfare and wellbeing of the very people who elected them to be in Parliament.
And amidst all this high profile noise and conundrum, the status quo amongst the ordinary citizens remains the same. India continues to run at the mercy of these callous and self-indulgent “leave-it-all-to-us” politicians and media outlets.
So, how shall this landscape change for better?
Well, to bring about a change, the ordinary citizens must take ownership of their challenges and problems. They must refrain from outsourcing their “rights” to a handful of people, who when elected, are beyond approach anyway.
India needs a mindset change. Almost a revolution, of sorts. Right through to its grassroots.
Citizens, each and every one of them, should be made aware of their fundamental rights under the constitution. Governments run on “tax-payer” monies contributed by each working individual of the nation. So every Indian must be empowered to seek an explanation of how their money is being spent. And people mustn’t rely on news channels to ask these questions. They should demand platforms at local levels for their representatives to front up and answer all such queries. Underperformers must be held to task. Once again, not by media, but by the citizens.
Communal and religious segregations hold India back as well. Rioting and lynching only further disadvantage the citizens. The politicians, on the contrary, flourish on the back of such divisions. Somehow, India needs to wake up to some form of concerted harmony, break these primitive shackles of “intolerance”, and march ahead. Unified and united.
It’s a tough ask. But it’s not impossible. As clichéd as it may sound, there is merit in the statement that “one must demand the change that one seeks”.
Governments may change every five years, but changing the mindset of the biggest democracy in the world will take its time. The turnstiles of change have to be set into motion though. Pronto. One step at a time. There will be setbacks. There will be backlash. There will be resistance. But if Indians get serious about such change, the change will occur. Perhaps, this is the New Year’s resolution that India needs to make for 2016.
And for anybody who doubts this, remember that Indians have managed such change in the past as well. It started in 1857 and took a bloody long time, but the change and the freedom were attained.
The only difference this time around is that, unfortunately, the oppression is ‘self-inflicted’ by a handful of fellow Indians.