The fires have been doused - at the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House .. and unfortunately, also at a few homes of those who lost their lives. The city seems to be back to its daily grind. The Police, Fire Brigade and ATS are taking a (temporary?) breather. Walking down the streets, it may appear that the city has (limped?) back to normalcy.
The non-stop media coverage is gone, the 'burning' issues have been raised and chewed by all senior journos, the politico-bashing has had its pound of flesh, bloggers have had their share too (present company included!), the masses have lit their candles and vent their spleens, 49-O of the 'Constitution' has been highlighted, facebook/yahoo/orkut have had new Groups sprung up in great fervour, media has started their own awareness 'groups', prayer meetings have been held...
But ... (as the Ad goes) ... 'Next is What'??
Why do I still get the feeling that we haven't even BEGUN to THINK (leave alone ACT) in the right direction?
While people have compiled a list of questions on the holes in the explanations given by the authorities - so many that it would put Swiss Cheese to shame - I feel that going forward, our approach needs to be different ... very, very different.
Tell me .. truly ... What good did the Gateway march really do? Okay, so now I'm going to be VERY unpopular for saying this! But, I request your indulgence for some time before you click on the 'x' to close this window.
Here's what I feel ...
1. We need to get down to EDUCATING the common masses.
2. We need to VOTE in someone, or vote OUT someone.
3. We need to use the RTI to keep the bureaucrats in check.
And here are my reasons for feeling like this.
1. No matter what we say, we (the 'educated' class) still comprise only a minority in India. The literacy rate hovers around 35%. I've even forgotten what is the official definition of 'literate' - which is probably far removed from being 'educated'.
We need to get people to understand that politicians (well, most of them) are nothing but servile, self-serving, opportunists. And this will continue till we do not have people (read: voting public) who do not bring in the right people (leaders?) to run the administration.
We will continuously be held ransom to the types of the goonda-raj, or the dynastic-raj or just Raj (sorry, couldn't help taking a dig at him here).
We will always be 'ruled' - what a sic word - by people who really put their own, and their groups', interests above good governance. And all of us 'good' people - will continue to stay away from politics, since it is such a 'dirty manipulating game'.
2. We MUST Vote - whether literate (educated?) or not - vote, we MUST. No matter that 100,000 people turned up at the Gateway - even if ALL of them go to vote - they would STILL not be able to vote IN (or vote OUT) a candidate of their choice. It is going to take much more than this. The Gateway march and the human-chain link (inspired by the Hands-Across-America of 1986) is just symbolic of public sentiment.
Such gestures at best provide a cathartic outlet for people - and gives them a sense of belonging and also of 'being-in-control' of the situation. God .. very therapeutic, in such troubled times. But to actually expect CHANGE to happen by just this much? ... sorry to burst your bubble - but it's going to take a lot more!
And we must vote for SOMEONE. I hear a lot going around on the 49-O (negative vote issue). And just for the record it is not 'Section 49-O of the Constitution' as is being made out in many blogs. It is "Rule 49 (O) of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961". This allows a legitimate registered voter to register his intention of NOT voting for any of the candidates appearing in the list. In fact, but having to 'register' your name itself is a violation of the 'secret ballot'.
There is NO legislation (or Court ruling) which states that a large (or majority) number of NO-votes would displace the winning candidate. We will not get better governance by continuously THROWING out the bad guys - we will get good governance by BRINGING IN the good guys. Think about it...
3. Having 'educated' the masses and ensuring that we vote in (or out) the right (or wrong) politicians, we must ensure that we keep the bureaucrats in check. RTI is a good tool, if used effectively and wisely, to ensure that none of these guys 'get away' with their wrong doings and their lethargy.
The common man does have this strong weapon to actually rein in the rot. Ok I admit that its implementation has not been as it should be and there are Info Commissioners who are reluctant to penalise the bureaucrats (since most of them belong to the same brotherhood!) But its there - available and we can start making those changes - one baby step at a time.
I'm not naive to know that the above is easier said than done - but we need to start thinking on these lines (IMHO) and change WILL happen.
How long do we keep playing into the hands of sectarian groups and keep blaming religious groups and 'foreign hands' for the mess we are in? What's happening in Orissa, in Bihar, in Assam and in Chandrapur - has got next to nothing to do with a 'foreign hand'. We must stop blaming Pakistan or any other country for our own failings to curtail inland disharmony, violence and criminal activity.
How many more times do we subject peaceful and pious muslims to also wear black bands on Eid to 'prove' their Indianness? How many more times do North Indians have to 'prove' that they are from Mumbai and 'feel' for Maharashtra?
What's next .. the Catholics and Christmas? ... when there were the series of blasts in Mumbai in 1993 - I don't remember any call for the Hindus to wear Black bands during the subsequent Holi?
Let us stop this nonsensical, misdirected effort and get down to doing the things we really need to do! I'm angry .. and upset ... and hurt ... yet, what am 'I' doing about it, besides ranting on my blog, and that too, in my SPARE time??
I have often asked myself, "Would I leave everything and join politics?" ... tough call ... and I have always been guilty of answering "NO!"
Because the system is such that it makes you CHOSE!
Why does one have to make a choice to enter politics?
Why can't he/she do it alongside whatever other responsibilities he/she has?
When will this system change?
In developed countries, ordinary working class citizens can also participate actively in the Political process - and become Senators (without being made to CHOSE between their vocations and politics). Sure, Obama can't dream of doing anything else once he's elected.. but the rest of the Senators can!
When we are able to do this we WILL have a new breed of people in politics. This is what will give rise to a new breed of thinking - which will have the wherewithal to CHANGE the system, to make it more 'people-friendly' - after all, we all DO want a better place to live in, for us and our children.
So while we must douse the external fires, we must keep the inner ones burning brightly, and use it to kindle awakening - and awakening that will empower us to build the foundation blocks for the next 100 years.
Why do we need to wait for a symbolic date or year - let the New Year begin TODAY and let us make a NEW YEAR's RESOLUTION right now!
Well ... and that's how I feel ...
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