It's early days!

It is difficult not to raise voice against this seemingly undemocratic move, the recent return of monarchy in Nepal, yet if King Gyanendra's motive of curbing the Maoist showdown holds any truth, I would invest my support for such a move. When the elected representatives are capable to do little, it is futile to justify a weak democratic setup. What scares me is thatsmall nations like Nepal could be completely engulfed with such insurgency in no time. In our own country, we have seen frail political will almost ruin the state of Kashmir.

Interestingly, many analysts interpret this as a clever move of the Himalayan nation to put India and China in a tug of war, for example analystRaja Mohan says,

Gyanendra has also sought to play the China card. After all no one can ignore the reality that Nepal is the geopolitical fulcrum of the Himalayas. Being the bridge between China's Tibet and India's Gangetic plains, Nepal has often sought to play India and China against each other.

Indeed it is difficult to rule outKing Gyanendra doing a MusharaffI still believe that it's early days to predict Nepal's future. As long as the monarch promises basic civic rights and stays on his agenda, I see no problem in the nation retreating to a democratic regime in a year's time, hopefully the Maoist nuisance that was wrecking the country would be gone by then.

Debar whom?

These are election times in Maharashtra and a reader of TOI wrote in his letter to the editor that he supports a petitioner who demanded that the pavement encroachers be debarred from voting. This, they think, apart from saving the city would prevent politicians from cashing on their vote bank. There are lacs and lacs of encroachers in most of the major cities, especially in Metros who occupy pavements and public dwellings but debarring them from voting would be one of the stupidest way one can think of to tackle a problem of such magnitude.

Indian politics has had a long history of dependency on one kind of vote bank or other. The game remains the same as the theme changes every election. Supporting such petitions, whom do we debar from voting next then, the SC/STs, the Minorities, Women?

Encroachments are the illegitimate bye-products of unplanned development, lack of infrastructure and petty politics. First their goons would enact the encroachments, hand in gloves with the local civic administration. Then they provide them with ration cards, let them feel at home and provide then all kind of amenities they can expect, voila they have a vote-flow ready on their investments. We all know this, yet we allow these buggers to contest elections year after year. If we should debar anyone, they are these gangsters and frauds turned politicians, debar them from contesting any election, if they ever promise anything to such “banks” in their manifesto or speeches. Set some example and you would see the results. But who's going to bell the cat?

Are you for compulsory voting?

VotingManohar puri made an interesting point in his article*. Should voting be made compulsory? Though I don’t entirely agree with his view that one should snatch away the rights of an individual to criticize government policies and performance if he has not voted, right for expression being one of the foundation stones on which our democracy stands, that should not dilute the fatc that “duties” should be given equal weightage.

Making the “right to vote” a “duty to vote” might be beneficial in several ways. An increase in voting percentage can at least assure of, if not guarantee, a clear mandate. Who knows, it might provide a respite from these coalition-jokes arising out of hung-parliaments and hazy mandates. But the fact remains that applying such a rule in a nation- where civic sense is extinct – wouldn’t be easy, unless you accompany it with some kind of punishment on defiance, lest it goes the “Pulse-polio” way. Who can pursue me to vote mandatorily unless my employer tells me categorically that I would lose my days’ salary if I don’t. Another good suggestion that Puri made here is that the electoral officer might provide some kind of a receipt or a certificate to an individual to declare that he has indeed voted.

And why stop at compulsory primary education and voting, I am for compulsory rights and duties in the following areas too:

  • Right to get a universally acceptable identity card (akin to the Social Security number concept of the US) that replaces all other forms of identification documents such as Ration cards, Voter ID and so on.
  • Duty to get a compulsory Aids Test

Easier said than done, eh.

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* Not a permalink.
[ Hindi version of this post is available here.]