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Election: Soul Of Democracy

Increasingly Manipur is witnessing a plethora of seminars, symposiums, discussions; debates etc to understand and deal with the myriad of problems and issues besetting the State and Manipur have no dearth of such issues, which do not warrant the situation to be discussed in any open forum. Whether these discussions and seminars have helped or not is a different matter, but at times it is a little disconcerting to see the same faces again and again speaking forth on topics as different as the insurgency movement and peace and the need to protect the environment and the growing pollution and sometimes even on HIV/AIDS and to top it off Human Rights.

To the non-natives, who come here often to attend such seminars and symposiums and share their thoughts and ideas, it may appear that Manipur is short of people who have a good grasp of the reality going on around as well as articulate enough to express them. The recent Development Seminar held at Imphal and Ukhrul and attended by high ranking Government officials including the Union Home Secretary is a case in point and whether Government officials are capable of thinking out of the box and bold enough to experiment with new ideas and approaches so that something comes out after all the hours of listening and talking in some high class venue, remains to be seen.

There are reasons why we have decided to comment on the numerous seminars and other discussions held, for we are yet to fulfill our promise given earlier to the readers that a very important and valuable input submitted by an elderly gentleman  is with us awaiting the final brush of finesse. Call it the culture of procrastination, or the Manipur Standard Time or to be more blunt and more sincere call it plain laziness or lethargy, we are yet to complete the process of giving the finishing touch, but our promise that it will be presented before the readers to read through and digest accordingly still stands.

Our apologies apart, the write up or commentary from the elderly gentleman has come to our mind at this moment against the backdrop of the preparations being made by the Senior Citizens For Society to hold a Consultation program on Electoral Reforms in India. Electoral Reforms is the topic which the said elderly gentleman has studied thoroughly and come out with a scientific and logical explanation, on how the present ills dogging the electoral system can be checked and negated.

The Senior Citizens for Society have also got the timing of the Consultation bang on target, for it is scheduled to be held on October 30, when the five phased general election in Bihar will still be on. As the State to send the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha, only after Uttar Pradesh, any election in Bihar is deemed important, not only because of the number of MPs it sends to the Lok Sabha, but also for most of the ills associated with election in India such as booth capturing, rigging, kidnapping, coercion etc are somehow identified with this State. It was not for nothing that someone well known once said that the number of people killed in the ‘disturbed Jammu and Kashmir’ in a year is lesser than the number of people killed during each election in Bihar!

The very fact that a group of elders, who have come under a common umbrella and have seen what life is all about, should find it necessary to organize a Consultation program on electoral reforms says many things about the largest democracy in the world. Other than the fact that India as a country has not gone the way of countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh, which have seen its more than fair share of democracy being usurped by the military, there is nothing much to write home about the democracy that we practice here. To rid the ills, eating away the vitals of society and Government institutions, the correction process has to start from the election of the candidates itself. It seems an insurmountable problem, but it is not altogether impossible to usher in changes in the electoral system, which in turn will have a profound impact on the governance of the country or how the Government institutions function.

The inputs or ideas which the elderly gentleman has given us and which are awaiting the final touches give enough food for thought. There may be no foolproof system or hundred percent practical system, which may lead to something called electoral reforms, but this should be no reason why efforts should not be taken up to correct the flaws in the system. We all talk about the culture of muscle and money power. Can a system be worked out to counter this, in such a way, that money or muscle power will have no bearing on the outcome? We have to think out of the box and go in for some extraordinary measures for the odds we are facing are not ordinary.

The Senior Citizens in their invites given to the press as well as in the form of a press release has raised the question of where all the local area development funds of the MLAs and MPs go. If global surveys taken up by independent entities are anything to go by, Indians score very high on the corruption chart and the country too lies somewhere at the bottom of the table in the list of the least corrupt Nations. No tin-pot dictators, no Blood Diamonds, but India has had enough experience of this type, which may come in different avatars. Let’s hope that the proposed Consultation program on October 10, throws up some interesting and practical view points, which can address the root cause of the many ailments afflicting the India of today, especially its election system.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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