By Tinky Ningombam
A samosa and a plastic cup of tea was all I was eyeing at on that evening. I didn’t see the people trying to scuffle for a seat or hear the loud noise from the overhead speakers. All I remember of the last and only election campaign that I was even slightly part of in Imphal. I must have been about 10.16 years hence and I have a pretty vague idea about politics in Manipur. I am told by everyone that it’s not good, it is corrupt, it has not thought about the people…yada yada. For some dimwits, it has become like a fashion statement. Denounce everything around you. Be against everything and make yourself look cool.
In school, somewhere in my Civics Lessons, I had learnt about the Voter’s rights. It kind of went like this: Voter’s right is a constitutional right in which we as a citizen have the right to know, inquire and ensure the particulars of the candidate who is to represent us in the Parliament. Within this right, every adult citizen of India, who is above 18 years of age has the right to cast votes for election.
I wrote something like that in my school test. I scored decent. As an adult now, I am not proud of the fact that I didn’t vote ever since I turned 18. I thought of my convenience, I cannot fly out and come back to cast my vote. I thought I was revolting the system. It was cool to “not care”. Why should I be part of a system which is not making it convenient for me to elect the people who I like to elect or even know the names of the people who I liked to elect? It didn’t matter who I liked because I would not be there. Why should I be part of a system who doesn’t talk to us, random nomads scuttling across cities?
So we remain as we are singing our indie songs, talking about fighting organized systems, booing fascism. And we blame it to the people who didn’t answer our childish questions, who told us “You are young, just read your books, why are you so interested in politics?” But we also didn’t bother after that I guess. It is fun pointing fingers at someone else, like when we used to do something bad then you point your finger at your little brother and say “he did it, not me”. I agree with a lot of things that a lot of people are saying about the current day politics. I think, besides all the differences, it is time to think how to bring people together and change what is not right. If we think money or influence is the first thing to run after for the power to lead, then we have to change that foundation.
In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.
There are complexities no doubt. But nothing is impossible, implausible, maybe, but not impossible. To quote an instance, just a couple of years back, I was working for a social work group and we were running for some fund-raising and campaigning. As part of the entire exercise, we had to volunteer at the India Social Forum Meet and we saw this gathering of activists and groups for whole gamut of social problems in the country. This was like a conglomeration of issues that is happening in each corner of the country, while we had the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists in one part of the huge ground, we had activists for tribal rights, groups for eco-friendly products, groups against corruption, poverty, food scarcity, you name it. It was truly an eye-opener for us to find so many problems, in so many different ways and of so many people. So at some point, we were then going around beating the drum, literally, so that we will get enough attention from the visitors who had come to see the so called gathering of activists and volunteers, each trying to get attention to our “issue”.
Let’s face it; we live in a society where there are more problems than people, and when worse comes to worse, the first things you care for is food, money and a home. With so many socio-political and economic problems in the state already, you just get more and more drawn beneath the quick sand. But we have to realize that this problem started in the first place because no-one was given the responsibility. You keep hearing people say “Give Him responsibilities, get him married, he will mend his wild lifestyle.”
It’s the same thing; we need civic responsibilities to mend our wild ways.
I think the need now is first of all, for the ruling bodies in any public system to call for help. Asking for help should not be seen as weakness here, rather, this will enable transparency and participation. If you are not fit to work for more than 3 hours a day, then hand it over to the young lot who can work for 12 hours 24/7. Stop giving bribes, stop yourself from wanting bribes. Anti-corruption drives should be intensified. Young adults should be inducted into the society. They should be taught how to exercise their rights, primarily their right to vote or their right to compete in public office. Outstation voters can be educated through online registration processes, enabling them to know who is going to head their offices. We can follow Gujarat’s footsteps for online voting or set up polls in outstation embassies or bhawans or post-offices. The RTI system should be more popularized. The Global brand United Colors of Benetton has come out with a very good campaign for the unemployed youth, they say that “in history, the under 30s have contributed more than any other generation to human, artistic, scientific, political and economic development” I am really kicked about the young set of IAS candidates, the civil service officers and the new lot of people doing something different in the state. I have nothing against the old folks; it is just good to start listening to a different set of people, isn’t it?
(The columnist is getting curiouser and curiouser about Null Voting and feels she should try it once she starts voting. Null Voting : According to The Indian constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section “49-O” a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his/her identity, get his/her finger marked and convey to the presiding election officer that he/she doesn’t want to vote anyone. )