To Vote or Not to Vote?

This year’s elections have seen the maximum use of media that one could not have imagined previously. Apart from the usual means of propagation by the usual political parties, we have seen a rise in the number of new parties who claim to be different from the regular politicians. They claim to be different and promise to do things differently. One thing that is definitely in their favour is that most of these parties are formed by educated professionals, who believe in making a difference. Among the parties that I know in Andhra Pradesh is Loksatta. About their leader and party initiator:

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan is a physician by training who went into the Indian Administrative Service in the aftermath of the Emergency and failure of the Janata Experiment. He was a topper in the IAS exam. During the 16 years of distinguished public service in various capacities, he acquired a formidable reputation in the State of Andhra Pradesh.

To read more about him, please check this link

For all these years, the educated middle class was never considered important by our politicians and it has come to this that the word politics is considered a dirty word. No one from respectable families, without any kind of political lineage would enter politics. You might be interested in changing the system and have tons of ideas in order to improvise the existing systems, but your voice was never considered so important, as to even give it a minute. NGOs and other voluntary organizations are and have done their bit, in spite of the discouragement and the apathy they face from the people in power – let me not call them Government.

If today there are movements like Jagore, which is doing its best to educate and bring this middle class to vote, especially the first time voters, then it is due to a bunch of passionate and educated people, who are working very hard for this. The recent globalization, exposure to the world at large post the liberalization era has done a great deal of good to our country, but we still have miles to go before we sleep. When I, as an Indian step out of India and see what people have achieved in their land through proper planning and most importantly a love for their motherland, it makes me wonder as to why we – Indians –

  • the largest democracy in the world
  • the nation which develops the best technical solutions for the world
  • the country with the largest English speaking population

Cannot do good for itself. It is not because we cannot do it. The answer simply lies in the fact that either we do not love and take pride in our motherland or as we know it, corruption and sloth is so in grained from the license era that our politicians and babus cannot get themselves to work again.

A good case in example would be the Andhra Pradesh Government’s Chief Electoral Officer’s website that can be used by ordinary people to check if our names are part of the voting list. If you look at the site, it is not even of third rate standard for which I am sure the Government, oops, the exchequer that’s us, most have paid a ton of money. The search criteria by which one can find their names is based on one’s house number. I must enlighten you here that Hyderabad (am not aware of other places) is renowned for some of the most complex house numbers. An example would be: 12-4-149/B/L.  It is not something that one can remember very easily and having moved into a new apartment, I am not sure what could be the house number that the Government records would take for mine. I am totally lost here. Coming back to our website, when I went over to visit the office to submit my voter registration form, the place was extremely chaotic. The person who gave me this website, I could clearly make out, had never used a computer. There was another lady sitting in front of a system, but did not even know how to browse. I am not blaming the individuals, but just looking at the system made me feel so sad.

I am hoping to vote this time and yes – Loksatta is my choice. But I was doubtful till a few days back, if I could actually vote. The problem is the website never showed up anything when I tried to search and the helpline number I called, the folks were polite strangely, but I couldn’t get any info. Fortunately, my parents had registered my husband and my names sometime way back last year and it is due to that that our names are now in the voting list. The irony is that the same folks had visited our home again in October and took our photographs, but those never did make it to the list. I wonder what happened to those applications. My concern is that things need not be this disorganized. Agreed our population is huge. But, if some private company, lets say Infosys or Wipro or TCS were given the contract to take care of developing a robust site with a good search and made online application (which by the way is available in the site I mentioned, but never worked) workable, we could have achieved a lot more.

The Lead India campaign is another pertinent one and the questions they raise are so hard-hitting, that I hope this time on, the Governments do respond to some seriously good governance.

After all, if India is one of the youngest countries, then why on earth does it have the one of the world’s oldest parliaments?

The urban middle class forming an important chunk of voters in this year’s Lok Sabha polls, with 22% of 543 LS seats being in the urban areas, it is time each one of us votes. Every vote counts and it is one of our primary rights towards making a difference in the way our country works.

Jai Hind!

Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA)

I happen to attend a Leadership program for the Tibetan Women’s Association. Least to say, it was a wonderful experience that very few trainers in the corporate sector can hope to get. It is more than just the training experience that I wanted to talk here. 

On the 50th anniversary of Tibetan occupation by the Chinese, there was a lot said by some of the most leading newspapers such as the New York Times and the UK Times and quoted one of the most prominent speakers of Tibetan struggle – His Holiness The Dalai Lama. When I attended this program, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet the Tibetan women and know more about their lives. I realized how disconnected we are from the rest of the world. At least, most of us remain apathetic to the concerns of others, or in a more mellowed tone, I would say, we remain preoccupied with our own lives that we do not recognize or understand the depth of other’s problems and concerns.

I realized for the first time, how much we should value the independence that we enjoy today. When I spoke to the Tibetan women, they told me that many of them have to live in India, away from their families, in order to pursue their education. Their calls are screened and hence can barely talk anything more than just pleasantries. Written mails are also scanned by the Chinese Government and hence cannot even write proper mails. Some of them try to send them through their fellow Tibetans who might be visiting Lhasa. But, this opportunity is also rare and not often a very safe means. The Chinese Government could improve the Tibetan region with the latest infrastructure facilities, but what use is it, if the basic human rights are curtailed? Some of the women we spoke to felt curtailed and always felt inferior or may be less privileged to be living outside their homeland.

In the course of the program, these women came up with their stories. Some had to leave their parents behind in the pursuit of a better life and to continue to help free Tibet and some had been orphaned. Dharmsala in Himachal Pradesh is the center for all the activities for the Tibetans outside Tibet and it is also the official seat from where H.H The Dalai Lama operates. There is a boarding school which is run by the Tibetans, for the Tibetan children. This school takes care of all the requirements of these children and enables them to stand on their feet. The primary mode of teaching is Tibetan for these children in the boarding schools and they are taught of Tibetan culture and values. They seem to have one issue, when mingling with Indians, especially in the north that of the Hindi language. Well, most of the South Indians are also a part of similar conflict when trying to speak in Hindi. These students also practice Buddhism. Some of the students of the boarding school later become the teachers and we had one such lady amongst us. These women might look frail and quiet in appearance, but there is something very strong inside them that evokes respect for them.

I met a dynamic young lady who had represented Tibet at various international forums and now works in a NGO. She shared her experiences with us. She and her sister were orphaned and somehow managed to run to India. They received extreme care and affection from the boarding school that they did not miss their family. One can see the pain and anguish in many of them, but on the same level they are women one would want to be associated with. She and a group of friends started a Tibetan Radio – Voice of Tibet.

Their objective is:

Voice of Tibet’s main objectives are to provide a channel for unbiased information and news to the Tibetans living under Chinese oppression in Tibet, to help preserve the threatened Tibetan culture, to educate the Tibetans in internationally acknowledged human rights, to inform about democracy and the democratic institutions of the Tibetan exile community, and to help prevent conflicts and discrimination. Another main objective is to improve communications within as well as between the Tibetan exile communities.”

Another young lady was a practicing physiotherapist who regularly takes time out to do some free service for various people. There was also a bright software engineer and budding statistician and many others who still have the spirit of Tibet going in them and would someday want to see a free Tibet. Amongst them, were also some who don’t connect with Tibet and are apathetic to its cause. It is obvious to have such feelings, if they are born outside Tibet and have experienced a free life here in India. It is not easy to continue to fight for freedom while living outside your homeland.

Honestly, this experience made me grateful for my freedom and also made me realize how much we abuse it. I feel that the Tibetans should receive all the support and they should continue to fight for their freedom. It is every individual’s birth right and the Chinese Government can never be supported for any kind of justifications they might give.

Signing off with a fervent wish for a free Tibet!