What is the difference between man and animal? A man is able to distinguish among circumstances on the basis of his inherent ability to dissociate right from wrong. An animal is not endowed with this acumen. A dog, for instance, if tamed by a human being, would do anything for his “master” because, firstly, the fidelity is ingrained and inveterate, and secondly, the dog knows that he will be given “food” thereafter, if he obeys. The biggest democratic exercise in the world, the parliamentary elections in India, offer a similar picture in which an illiterate and impecunious voter is analogous to the dog in the observation made above. Confused? Let me explain.
We talk about reform in the political system – about how the “young” Indian is finally waking up and adhering to his call of duty by participating in the universal adult franchise, that is, by voting. Yes, it is indeed a special feeling to see the youth of the country breaking free from the shackles of lethargy and finally showing some concern for the social issues at hand. But we conveniently forget about the millions of voters living in abject poverty, who vote not because they feel a “sense of duty” towards someone, who do not really give a thought to the “social issues” around them. Those voters are driven by their “master”, the demagogue, who preaches religion, promises development and deludes the naïve voter into believing that “change” awaits him – a chimera, in all probability. Try placing yourself in their position, try envisaging a scenario where all that concerns you is where the next meal will be procured from. Ergo, you do not have any concern for what happens around the world, how “developed” a facade India has to show to the “powers that be”, and consequently you would vote for the one you feel related to. And who would that be? Why not someone who promises to safeguard your religious rights, who promises freebies like rice and pulses and talks about development of your own village? Evidently, the choice would not be a difficult one.
It is not hard to guess that the untenable state of the illiterate is a boon for the politicians who have soiled the very image of “politics” in India. They use religion as a weapon to stay in power and expropriate, during their fling with power, whatever wealth they can for themselves and their kin, which is evident from the brimming coffers of each and every politician stashed away in “safe” havens far away from public scrutiny.
We cannot blame the naif voter for his inability to see through the spurious covenants of the political leaders for he is not literate, he cannot discern right from wrong. And he forms a preponderance of the total number of voters involved in a general election. So if the political system needs to be refurbished, its only at the grass-roots level that we can begin.
The focus here needs to be on basic education, because from it stems the hunger for awareness of one’s own rights. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill promises a lot. If correctly implemented, it would make it mandatory for the government to provide elementary schooling (till class VIII) for all children between six and fourteen years of age. It also seeks to address the mental and physical trauma of the child by making it illegal to detain or expel a student in a class till class VIII. We do not yet know of the efficacy of the bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday (4th August) as the lacunae are still under the process of being addressed. But we can only hope that reforms such as these work out well because a lot depends on them – the future of every indigent child who cannot afford for his education, and in turn, the future of the nation.
Who am I?
- Pranay Gupta
- I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.