Thursday, December 11, 2008

Collective irresponsibility

It is imperative to make voting compulsory for every Indian

In the midst of the ordeal that went on for nearly three and a half days in Mumbai, there was hardly any Indian who was not fomenting his (or her) detest for the utter disregard that the political class of this country have for the life of the common man. What happened in Mumbai would not have perhaps happened, or could have been avoided, if these political classes had had the intent to safeguard the interests of the common Indian. So when the common man – and especially the young Indian – felt like changing it all and held posters saluting the soldiers, and asking the politicians not to take any credit for the incredible feat of the NSG commandos, he was forgetting that he has quite a few mediums up his sleeves to change it all in the true sense of the word. And if the best option among them, i.e. to plunge directly into the field of policy making, seem a distant cry and too far-fetched, the easiest and perhaps the most effective option (on which the very paradigm of democracy exists), that is, to cast vote or practice the concept of adult franchise, is certainly not something that the youth of India should avoid with impunity.

Unfortunately, at a time when the need of the day is to have more of aware, conscious and passionate voters, young India stands largely disillusioned and is perhaps not doing much other than complaining, criticising, cribbing and lighting a few candles (as a mark of protest and anguish) after such recurrent mayhems. Sadly, he has not yet realised his responsibility and the power of casting a vote. With our democracy going through one of the toughest times, when it is becoming synonymous with being weak and impotent, it’s all the more important now than ever before to come out and vote for the right cause. At least, this is the least they can do. But sadly, the more educated one is in India today, the more is the tendency to avoid voting and take the poll day as a perfect holiday, after taking recourse to the perfect excuse that voting won’t change anything!

And it is evident from the past records. The last 13 general elections saw an average turnout rate of 59.63 per cent. No wonder that such irresponsibility – and the resultant abysmal turnout – has not only aided in breeding an equally irresponsible polity but also has pushed the citizens to a state of perpetual crisis! In the given scenario, why can’t we as a nation make voting compulsory for every citizen across the nation. Though this might not necessarily guarantee a competent and responsible leadership, but then the onus of the same would be shared by one and all.

Among the venerable democracies that have ‘compulsory voting’ system, countries like Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, Congo, Ecuador, Fiji, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, Uruguay, et al, are the front runners. These countries witness an average of 90 to 95 per cent voting and thus obtain a government that is truly a people’s representative. Most of the above mentioned countries that have this very system typically levy fines, while a few even deny services or benefits obtained through national identity card (voter ID cards, in case of India). And that has worked wonders for them. And it goes without saying that the threat of penalisation has always worked wonderfully in India. The real changes in India through the refinement of our democracy and governance can only happen when those who crib about change are forced to be a part of the change agent. Till the time that happens, real changes in India would continue to be elusive, and collective irresponsibility would persist!


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