It has been five months since I am working with an organization working in the grassroots through a fellowship program. When I sit back and wonder what really triggered me to join the social sector after pursuing a degree in engineering, numerous reasons come into picture. But one of the primary reasons was because I believed that India didn’t deserve to be the nation with maximum number of poor in the world. I wanted to understand whether my vision of a developed India is a myth or a reality. According to the revised World Bank methodology of 2014, India has 179.6 million people below the new poverty line and the world has 872.3 million. India, in other words, while having 17.5% of total world’s population, has 20.6% share of world’s poor. The reasons for such a large number of poor in the country even after 67 years of independence are many. Social inequality, illiteracy, corruption, and a huge population might be considered the major ones.
I always blamed the Government and administration for the miserable condition of the poor in India. But the recent elections at gram panchayat level in the state of Uttar Pradesh changed my perception about the whole crisis. The common men are not less responsible than the politicians for the current state. I have been working from quite some time now in the village Chinpari of block Naujheel in Mathura. And the result of gram panchayat election which was announced last week here was shocking for me. In fact the whole election campaign raised questions in my mind – but the result actually compelled me to see the situation in a completely new way.
There were 21 candidates standing for a post of Pradhan in the village with just 1700 voters. I had heard before that candidates distribute alcohol, cigarettes and gifts among the villagers in order to attract votes but I actually witnessed each one of it myself during my stay in the village during campaign. The development of the village was hardly talked about in the campaign. The candidate who won had distributed few lakh rupees among the poorest of the village a night before the voting day. If there was some hope left after caste politics, buying voters with money killed every expectation from politics and the whole electoral process. I really doubt now when Indians boast that we are the largest democracy in the world with more than 800 million voters. Though the numbers are correct but the whole idea of having democracy even at the basic gram level to increase people’s participation in government is failed at that very basic level.
There is no proper road, education system, electricity and employment opportunities in the village and the surrounding area. The budget of a gram panchayat for the period of 5 years run in crores but every time the Pradhan does nothing. First they keep the money spent in the election campaign in their pocket from the government budget and then the rest amount is used to fulfill bigger family aspirations.
The poor give their votes to the one who gives them money and the rich and powerful give to the candidate who can be easily dominated. The best fit for the both gets to win in the end. Both of the reasons to make a candidate win in any election process are dangerous. First one pushes the winning candidate to keep a major crunch of budget in his or her pocket without any guilt and the second one motivates the hooligans to keep exploiting the weaker section of the society.
I can’t generalize the result of just 1 gram panchayat election to all 250,000 in the country. But the fact that most of the villages are highly underdeveloped even after six and a half decades of independence force me to accept that the situation of the Panchayati Raj system is not very different in other parts of the country. The dream of Mahatma Gandhi of local self-governance at the village level actually got fulfilled after 45 years of independence in 1992. But even after 23 years of implementation of the most important constitutional amendment, the whole idea of an Adarsh gram is still far from reality. It is not going to change until people think to prosper together as a community and leave individual interests while voting in any election of the country.
There are actually ways to combat (though of course not completely eliminate) ‘bad voter behavior’. We may be a democracy, but there’s many ways to be a democracy. And there are many different kinds of voting systems. One I’m quite fond of and wish to see implemented in general and local elections is this one – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting Give it read and let me know what you think. There’s also many other kinds of voting systems, which I’m sure the links in that article will lead you to. Maybe you’ll find another system you like better. Whichever it is, I’m hopeful that the right changes to our voting system can substantially reduce the problems that ail it. Keep pressing on with your dream. Don’t give up so soon. 🙂
I know there might be better electoral process but now when we have one, it could be made better by changing voter mindset. It can come by more awareness and education. Thanks for your insight 🙂
I’ve never really been fond of awareness campaigns myself, to be honest. I’ve even blogged about the subject here – //22.214.171.124/~indiafel/blog/2014/07/16/interlude-awareness/
Hello, I share the same thoughts, willing to shift from engineering to social field. But until we the educated youth give right values to the younger generation, nothing will change. Now you are working towards it, it is great
But its a hard task to do 😀