The Fourth Estate!

The term Fourth Estate or fourth power refers to the press and news media both in the explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognised as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.

The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The equivalent term “fourth power” is somewhat uncommon in English. Still, it is used in many European languages, including German (Vierte Gewalt), Spanish (Cuarto poder), and French (Quatrième pouvoir), to refer to a government’s separation of powers into legislativeexecutive, and judicial branches.

Our society is made up of the different type of people who have various skills. It is necessary and essential for the smooth functioning.

When I was in college, getting to know the cricket score of matches played in the West Indies was a chore. On the third page of the Times of India, there used to be a small one column headline and four or five lines, giving brief details of the latest score known as at 2 am! Getting the information on the radio news was not done- for whatever reason. Speed of getting the news has improved to the degree that younger people can not fathom.

Things started changing slowly, and the number of outlets sharing the information multiplied. Competition brought good functional changes, but the Internet arrived, and the rest is history.

The quality of journalism has suffered. Precisely because there are hundreds of outlets where there used to be a handful, the pressure and competition to be first with big stories are very intense- breaking news? Quality Control has suffered as a result.

Objectivity has suffered to the point where it barely exists. It started quite a while ago, and in the Internet Age, it is pervasive. In many instances, it is difficult to distinguish news from opinion. I suppose the news has simply followed politics and the rest of society to a very polarised place. But it’s an ugly phenomenon, and both sides participate in this sad thing, equally.

For the last few years, I used to follow news on the Internet, but my primary source was the newspapers. With COVID pandemic, I started watching the news again. Has it changed? Now on TV news, a stage is reached that after every alternate news item, they claim that there is “breaking news!” The breaking news could be “Mumbai is likely to get torrential rains after four days! Or it could be “a tempo rams into a car in the main square!” Oh, who cares! “Rishi Kapoor died 15 minutes back” could be breaking news but not everything can not be breaking news. Experts say that breaking news concept is because of the competition. It is the race to be the first to report anything and everything. What happens if you are the second or the third? Nothing. Mr Modi is going to talk to the nation at 8 pm. It is touted as breaking news. It is no doubt a vital news item, but he is giving such talk regularly during COVID times. So at 8 am, the news can be told without “breaking news” or for that matter breaking sweat!

The news is supposed to be informed, but nowadays Newspapers, Magazines, TV channels and websites have become extremely polarised. News organisations like Reuters are now rare. Each new channel, whatever is the media, gives their opinion. They have their “experts” in every field, who have reasonably good command on the language of communication. Their main ammunition is that they should be able to shout if they are on TV Channel. Each of these TV channels has a group of set experts; these are both for and against the topics. But these experts are generally fixed. The TV channels and websites have their fixed “management policies”, but I call them agendas. NDTV is against Modi/BJP and for Congress/TMC and other parties who are opposition currently. India Today seems to be in flip flop mode but leaning more towards the current opposition parties. The chief anchor Rajdeep Sardesai follows channel policies, but on a personal level, he has written a book about Modi’s victory- How Modi Won India-2019! There Rajdeep praises Modi- no qualms about what Rajdeep says on the TV and what he used to say about Gujarat riots.

During the discussions at the prime time, it is good to have people with a different viewpoint. There are representative of political parties, and if they give extreme views, I am okay with that. It is their business to look each other down. They stick to their party’s tagline, and these discussions are their day to day work. But when experts like Yogendra Yadav says that the current government has not done anything in the last six years, then you have doubts in your mind if he is working with a plan. Again, I have no issue with this, but he should not call himself an independent thinker.

The way the anchors ask questions to the panellists, and the experts- say BMC commissioner, it feels as if you are observing an inquisition. The questions asked, and the tones are not in a good test. What is the job of a news anchor? He is definitely not GOD! The role of the anchor is to take a news item or an event, and take it to a group of experts, or individuals and discuss it. Based on the discussion, summarise what is concluded. Sometimes, the panel tends to get into a fighting mode or a shouting match. The anchor needs to control challenging behaviour. But what I have observed is that some of the anchors try to push their channel’s agenda, they browbeat the participants. At the same time, participants are equally bad. There was a discussion about George Floyd killing and protest by someone from India on twitter. Those with agenda were shouting, saying that people have time to protest about Floyd, but they did not have time to protest against attacks on minorities in India. These two are independent things. But this group of people bring every subject ending with how India hates minorities.

Another tribe I see on the TV channels is people who support actions by nations against India. Still, when asked opinion about some events in India, they speak in a vague language and take a circuitous route of arguing about irrelevant things. When the anchors request them to reply to the question asked, they start shouting and say, “You are not allowing me to argue.” We can go on and on about this subject. Almost no one is willing to give a balanced view on any topic.

There is an interesting phenomenon that is happening. News is reported by TV channels, newspapers and news websites. But Google search, and Facebook who “show” this news as reported by XXX Times, get all the advertisements. It is because people use the search engine for multiple purposes so advertisers, advertise with them and less with other media. They get revenue per click. The phenomenon is creating stress in the News business. There is nothing that they can do about it.

Friends, these are the mediums we live with, in today’s times. What directions these will take is anybody’s guess, but one thing is sure News business is tough, competitive and cutthroat! But many things that I see and read are no more appealing; every time you read or see something, you get a feeling that it is displayed by an organisation which is “sold.” For a long time, reading newspapers every day and on any Sunday morning was a ritual. I am not talking about technology. I am equally comfortable reading on a cell phone or a tablet. But that feeling of “sold” takes away all the enjoyment. What is your opinion?

 

Reporters and their ilk! 

What is a reporter? Who is a reporter? A reporter is a person who reports, especially one employed to communicate news or conduct interviews for the press or broadcasting media. Now the definition of press, broadcasting media itself is changing. Methods of collecting information to reach the readers are fast changing. am confused about what a reporter is. 

In mythology, the well-known reporter was Narad Muni. He was known to pass on information (or rumours) wherever he went.  

Narad was a master of the Sankhya and Yoga systems of philosophy, conversant with sciences of war and treaty and proficient in concluding by judging things, not within direct knowledge. He knew about the six sciences of the settlement, war, military campaigns, maintenance of posts against the enemy and strategies of ambushes and reserves. He was a thorough master of every branch of learning. He was fond of war and music; he was capable incapable of being repulsed by any science or any course of action. But he was cursed by Gods that most of the people will not believe in whatever he said.  

Jornalism2

It looks like the definition of today’s reporter! The knowalls! In the western media, the days of printed news are numbered. The simple reason being the proliferation of news apps and online portals. The young people and millennials read their news online. In western countries, the concept of receiving printed newspapers at home and office are almost gone. Old school people like me still prefer to “read” the paper as the newspaper is called. 

A nephew of mine once (ages back) told me a story; he had just started to read newspapers. I told him that something is wrong in the story about which he spoke. The nephew said, “But Pramod kaka, I read it in today’s paper, so it must be true.” I told him, “I will give an advertisement in the same newspaper tomorrow and declare that my nephew is an idiot. Tomorrow it will become true because it is printed in the paper. Buddy, the reporters, can and do make errors.” He said, “Now I understand.” The story is shared just to indicate how we were trained to believe in the printed word. 

So what is it that the reporter supposed to do? With the internet, everything is changing very rapidly. News media was described as the fourth estate of society. The first three being the clergy, the nobles and the commoners. The fourth estate was news walas and the media. But now the internet is defined as the fifth estate. The internet is rapidly changing the way the fourth estate works. Don’t be surprised if the fourth estate becomes the poor cousin of the fifth estate.  

Journalism1

But what are THE reporters doing in India Many of them look as if they are descendants of Narad. They think they know every subject in the world. Not only that but they are experts in all the issues. 

There are exceptions to this rule. We have Sunandan Lele who has been reporting on cricket for a long time. But he sticks to cricket all the time. Besides reporting, he writes a few articles, but those too are about cricket. Harsha Bhogale is another such expert who talks, gives commentary, writes only about cricket. But these are honourable exceptions. There may be a few in other fields too. It is no surprise that Sunil Gavaskar talks, writes only about cricket; he was India’s cricket superstar in yesteryears. 

But some of them do not follow basic rules. There was a news item in the papers today, which was a statement made by Alia Bhat. Newspapers reported that she was hurt during the shooting of some movie. Alia Bhat has given a statement, “I request people to check before referring to some news. What happened was that during the shoot, my old injury started “talking” again.” When people come to know about an accident about our near one, we become anxious. Till all the near ones come to know that it was the old injury, they keep on calling. Why not check before reporting? It is simple logic. It is ok to “talk” about affairs, flings and so on. These are part of Bollywood glamour folklore. But in this case, too, there should be a limit. They should not hound a person like it was done recently in the case of Meghan and Harry. Imagine the mindset of Prince Harry. His mother, Diana, was bothered by press people and the Paparrazi. She died in a car accident while Papparzi were chasing her. During his childhood and adolescent years, Harry has seen that the press behaved with Diana poorlySimilar behaviour with his fiancé and later the wife Meghan must have brought those memories back. He ultimately withdrew from the royalty!  

The argument put forth by the news people is that they are doing their job; it means that they have to earn money for their channel/paper by means fo ensuring that TRP (Target Rating Point) remains high. Nowhere has anyone told them to break the privacy of anyone. A few years back, they used the telescopic lens to photograph Kate, the Princess of Oxford, in the privacy of her beach. One person’s rights cannot be at the cost of another person’s privacy. It is said that this is the cost of being a celebrity. A celebrity is also a human being. In the case of Harry, he is a celebrity because he was born in a royal family. He loves his privacy more than his celebrity status.  

About TV channels less said, the better. The duties of a journalist are to uphold truth, unbiased reporting, serving the public as a watchdogToday these things remain only on paper. In today’s times, both anchors and the owners of the organisations are hypocrites. They are highly opinionated. Republic TV, India Today, Times Now and NDTV are at the forefront of this reporting. Today while watching the news on NDTV, during break they showed Kanhaiya Kumar reading the preamble to the constitution. Do we need to know whom NDTV is supporting? I am okay if they formally work as a mouthpiece of a particular party. But don’t call yourself a leading channel for the betterment of society and following responsible journalism. What does one say about Arnab GoswamiRajdeep Sardesai used Modi’s victory in 2019 to write a book “How Modi won India?” His twitter handle says that the only ism I am following is Humanism! Modi is right for the business, but when it comes to politics, anything that suits on a particular day is the direction Rajdeep’s ship takes!  

What should we make of all these complex issues? Which news to believe? Okay, there are some sites which tell us about false news and false photos. How do we know the exact situationThe good idea is to see the websites of established newspapers. They at least give the news correctly. Their analysis, justification, commentary will be as per their leaning left/right or centre! BBC at least tries to be balanced, sometimes. But New York Times and Washington post are dead against us on almost everything. The articles in such papers are written by people of Indian origin who live in the US. There was an article written by Kashmiri Pandit scholar lady. Living in the cool climes of the University, she claimed that nothing wrong has happened with Pandits. They have excellent relations with Muslims in Kashmir. She is a third-generation US citizen! 

What is the solution for you and me? Don’t believe things on unknown social media forwards. When it is reported that all the Bollywood is against something, it translates into 15/20 of social media savvy guys are writing and making a show. Someone does it because that person’s movie is being released. There are 5 lacs (five hundred thousand) people working in Bollywood. Some people want top cricketers and Bollywood stars to comment on every subject. The wise ones don’t because they know their limitations. They have expertise in a different area. Common people are made to protest blocking main roads in the dead of winter. It is continued for months together. All the “Leaders” sleep in their cosy homes in warm blankets. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Racism-the uncouth behaviour!

https://www.indiatoday.in/trending-news/story/conductor-asks-girl-to-get-off-train-in-new-zealand-for-abusing-indian-passenger-speaking-in-hindi-1580618-2019-08-14 

I read this disturbing news in India Today, the other day. A person of Indian origin was travelling on a train in New Zealand. He was speaking on his cell phone to someone in Hindi. A sixteen-year Caucasian girl did not like this and told him, “You go home to your country.” The incident was reported by another passenger to the lady train conductor. The lady reached that compartment. The girl was still ranting. There were arguments, but the conductor was very firm. She made the girl get down mid-way. She also said that the girl might be paying customer, but that does not give the girl a right to misbehave with other passengers. The train was held up for almost twenty minutes, but other passengers did not mind that.  

I had complex thoughts in mind. I was pleased with the approach of the conductor; at the same time, I was distraught with the behaviour of the sixteen-year. The young girl has hardly had any worldly experience, but what made her behave the way she did. In the modern world, we see a lot of immigration. People migrate for better opportunities, or for seeking political asylums. People get posted to different countries on projects for three to six years. But then I realised that there are various  “isms” in our lives since time immemorial. We have casteism; we have “colour” ism!  

The most famous incident of racism was when Mahatma Gandhi was asked to get down from the train in South Africa in 1893 from “whites only” compartment. The event made a remarkable influence on Gandhi’s thinking about racial discrimination. But it took another hundred years for apartheid to end in South Africa. The trouble with these changes is that they sometimes go to other extremes. Cricket team in South Africa must now have a certain percentage of people of colour. The result is that many white players in South Africa now retire at a young age when they see that they may never get to play for the nation and move to England to play county cricket. 

It is very similar to casteism issues in India. But all these isms are there from mythological days in Indian history. The origins of the caste system in India are shrouded, but it seems to have originated more than two thousand years ago. Under this system, which is associated with Hinduism, people were categorised by their occupations. Although originally caste depended upon a person’s work, it soon became hereditary.  

ism1.jpg

All the points mentioned in the above slide are self-explanatory. But I was not aware of the Guild theory.  

The guild is an association of craftsmen or merchants formed for mutual aid and protection and the furtherance of their professional interests. Guilds flourished in Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries and formed an essential part of the economic and social fabric in that era. 

The details of evolutions explain to us how such practices came into existence, but the natural differentiation based on various things were used by some groups of people to their advantage. Some over a period decided that a particular group of people was better than some other groups. A specific trade was thought to be superior to other groups. You had fishmongers and ironsmiths. You had traders, and you had warriors. As time passed, some of these trades started appearing sexy! A warrior was always thought to be superior to most other people. They started looking down at other people. Many things and events were not understood by people due to lack of scientific knowledge. Some people who had better intellect started the concept of God to explain mysterious things in terms of God’s wrath. You had floods, the rain God was angry with you. You had significant fires; fire God must be appeased.  

This concept of God and religion was taken over by some smart people. They learned the written scripts and became priests. Religion and Priests created Brahmins who took the position at the top of the pecking order. They chanted hymns; they had an explanation for unexplained troubles. They were considered one rung below God. Such pecking orders became caste systems and depending on their importance,  the people earned respect 

At some stage, people also started understanding that nature has an evolutionary system. Theory of Darwin, The Survival of the Fittest, began to be recognised by humanity. In some cases, the humans became physically healthy, and in other cases, they became mentally superior.  

The classic definition of Brahmanism is the complex sacrificial religion that emerged in post-Vedic India (900 bc) under the influence of the dominant priesthood (Brahmans), an early stage in the development of Hinduism. 

But any group of people who had better intellect created progeny with even more superior humans as far as intelligence was concerned. It was well explained by Darwin’s theory. Families of warriors produced even better warriors. Families in trade had better traders in the next generation. The evolution continued.  

But worst of the thinking in evolution remained based on colour. The Gods shown in pictures always had fair skin; demons had dark skin. Male Gods were cleanshaven, but the demons had big moustaches! Scientifically, the colour of the skin was explained by the areas where humans lived. Where the Sun was harsher, the more Melanin was present under the human skin. The people living in cold climate had less Melanin as the Sun was rarely harsh. So we have Goras and KalasOn top of this, the white race became meat eaters because of the weather conditions and other circumstances. The eating habits lead to the white race becoming bigger and stronger. The white people because their colour and healthy physique were looked at as a superior race. Let us not forget that the discrimination based on colour is followed everywhere. The Dilliwalas call people from Southern states in India as “Madrasis”, as people from old Madras have been traditionally dark in colour. Ratna Rajaiah, my favourite blogger, who lives in Mysore, has written a funny take on how South Indian ladies use talcum powder to look fairer, called “Ode to Talcum”!  

https://ratnarajaiahblogs.blogspot.com/search?q=let+us+talc 

Will these “isms” ever go away? I don’t think so. After a couple of hundred years after the abolition of slavery in the USA, do you think that thinking about darkskinned people changed in the Southern States of America? In northern states in India, especially in Bihar and Bengal do you think feudalism is dead? No way! You need to go 30 km from major cities, and you would know that things have hardly changed. The hierarchies will continue based on Caste, Colour, Occupation and Religious hierarchy. Mind you, some things never change.  

I will share a story with you. Jaya had led a team of engineers more than 30 years back to the USA. There was one smart engineer who was from the state of Bihar. During training class, he would have his coffee with a loud slurping soundAfter a couple of days, at the hotel, Jaya brought this out in discussion and explained to the gentleman to avoid the noise. He immediately agreed. He said, “Madam, you know that I come from Bihar and nobody ever told us about public manners. But now that you have explained, I will immediately change. For me, coming to Pune for the job itself was like coming to the US! Now in the US, for me, it is like arriving on the Moon. How much can a person change? But I will try my best!”  

But my blog cannot be an ode, but it shows the bad aspects of our beautiful world! 

 

 

 

 

 

Status Quo, Election-nama!

Status Quo means the present state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues. In life, we humans try to avoid change and want the status quo. Such a status quo is what politicians always hope to achieve. When the status quo is maintained, life becomes easy for them to manage. India gained independence in 1947; we were a vast nation with a significant population. British had plundered the national wealth for their benefit. Add to this the partition that created a new nation Pakistan. The Indian nation survived the first fifteen years on the goodwill of millions of Hindu Gods! There were crises after crises which were somehow overcome with the help of the United Nations and other countries like the USA and Russia.

British had left behind the legacy of brown sahib’s in the form of Indian administrative service. The charismatic leadership of Nehru took over the reins of running the nation. Majority of people poor and rich, both were awed by Nehru and the ICS/IAS officers and their ilk. After Nehru’s death, with a small break, his daughter took over the Prime Ministership. It was the Dynastic succession, and all others were treated as commoners. Commoners had no chance! Running a Dynastic style strives for the status quo, to hell with India, especially poor and uneducated Bharat. To maintain the status quo, you need sycophants. Suddenly, training schools giving a degree in sycophancy mushroomed! Ironclad administrative infrastructure and the sycophants made sure that the whole country was anaesthetised! Whatever the kings and queens did was accepted without much challenge. Masses were kept uninformed and poor! Those questioning the royalty were steamrolled! A minor spectre of a group of people challenging the Dynasty was a blink on the horizon with a couple of seats in the Loksabha, in early ’80 s!

The nation was on the growth rate of around 2%, which many called as Hindu Growth rate! In 1992, India had to take significant loans against the national gold reserves. We were forced to improve laws to make the atmosphere business friendly. After a gap of a few years, the Dynasty again took over as if the nation was bereft of competent and capable leaders. The dynastic grip led to the birth of influential regional leaders. The era of coalition governments had started. Still, the status quo was primarily maintained by the rulers with license raj and coterie of prominent businesspeople. Nation had started growing at a faster pace from 2% to 7%. The more rapid growth was the result of changes in laws and the birth of the IT industry where Indians showed a flair to shine! The world started to notice India and many multinational companies started coming to India. Still, the dynasty rule by proxy came back with a break of five years. While they ruled, the status quo was maintained. But during their latest, ten-year stint, many scandals and financial irregularities came out. The scandals finally broke the stranglehold of the family, and the current government came in power. But this new government was the culmination of the spectre that was seen as a blink in early ’80 s of the last century. Modi took over as the prime minister in 2014.

It became evident that the new government wanted to do things differently to change the way of people’s approach. They wanted more participation from people; they did many things to bring back the anesthetised population to senses. But dynasts and their coterie treated this victory as beginners luck. They were a bit stunned with the idea that a non-Delhi person with no propah English accent became the prime minister. This person was neither Oxford-educated nor was he from a great family lineage. The rulers of India have to be Oxford/Harvard guys as they had to handle the IAS led infrastructure. The administrative gang was one group which knew that once they came out of Mussoorie school, they were the kings! No one in this world could touch them except for transferring them. How can a senior bureaucrat be expected to reach his office every day at nine am and swipe his card? On top of this, there were stories that their team of servants was likely to be eliminated. Please read the article below on the subject.

https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/modi-government-lok-sabha-elections-2019-indian-bureaucracy-ias

Combination of status quo raj and relaxed approach to administration was one of the primary reasons India was able to continue with large scale corruption, loan frauds which remained hidden due to quid pro quo approach by business people and administrators/bankers. The group of dynasts and administrators was complimented by the creation of a group of media gang which is now infamously known as Khan market gang. Khan market gang supported the dynasty and their coterie irrespective of results of their work.

Along with the new government came up another group, which came to be known as “Tukde, Tukde gang”, came to the fore! This gang was leftist, liberal and generally sympathised with anything that was done against the government, including armed rebellion. Showing support to proven terrorist was their specialisation. This gang was not afraid to go to jail. In real life, they were perpetual postgraduate or doctoral students. They got free publicity from the media all the time. Their main aim was to keep turmoil boiling, under the guise of liberal views.

During the current election campaign, all the above were anesthetised into thinking that what Modi government had been doing, was despised by the common man. There was a big hoopla about how the days of the government are numbered. Regional satraps like Naidu, Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and others started behaving as if it was only a question of crossing 23rd May to start taking oath in the new government at the Centre.

They never knew what the population of India was thinking. The highly educated, middle class, poor all were enlightened by the revolution of social media; caste, was not in the equation this time. Caste politics was thrown out of the window. Citadels were flattened, dreams of the above gangs were shattered. Campaigns reached such low levels that the prime minister, the chief ministers and other senior people were openly called thieves. The opposition parties continuously kept on challenging the Supreme Court and Election Commission with frivolous petitions.

The opposition parties had raised the temperature of the system in general. They created hype and started believing it. Rajasthan chief minister had claimed that since Congress had won the state election only six months back, they will win all 25 Loksabha seats in Rajasthan. They lost all!

When the exit poll results started coming out, there were indications that current the BJP government could get 300 plus seats. At one end of the spectrum, the figure was around 240, and at the other end, it was 350. The 350 number predicted by Axis/India Today combination was trolled by saying that they were “sold”. The “knowledgeable” gang of reporters/experts started sharing their knowledge and opinion that these are final days of Modi government. Anaesthesia effect was seen again. In the end, Axis/India Today predictions were vindicated.

Friends, I can keep writing on a lot, on this subject. What I have written is not about parties, candidates, results etc. But I tried to write about how the nation was put out to sleep by a combination of Dynasts, non-flexible bureaucrats and their ancient systems formalised by British, to suit them. Later the team of Liberal, foreign-trained Oxford or Cambridge educated media experts joined the bandwagon. All of them supported the old style, Dynastic style of working and put everybody to sleep. Unfortunately, they also went to sleep and did not know that India had moved on. The opposition simply did not accept these figures. Mamata Banerjee went to the extent of saying, “All this is gossip which I don’t believe. But I am afraid by calculating these extravagant figures, the ruling party will hack EVM’s all over India and cook the figures to match exit polls.”

There is one funny side to hacking theory. Rahul Gandhi lost in Amethi but won in Waynad with the highest margin. Supriya Sule, Pawar’s daughter, won but his nephew lost. Which EVM’s were hacked?

Finally, when they woke up from the deep slumber on 23rd May, 303/353 and 17 times 0 and few times 1 per state were the numbers that became famous! Majority population had woken up, and they have given BJP a mandate to take them on a progressive path for the next five years. I hope that the opposition team also wakes up, pulls up their socks and forms a robust and healthy opposition with constructive politics! Jaihind!

Tango- the Elections!

My friends Nandu suggested I share my views about the Indian elections with others. I am allergic to politics, though I have voted in every election since I became eligible to vote. Maybe I am allergic to politicians! I don’t know; I am confused. Democracy is a necessity of our lives like Roti, Kapda and Makan (Now the latest additions to the need are cell phone and internet!), i.e. Food, Clothing and Home! (For my non-Indian friends!)

Why did I give the title, Tango – the Elections! Meaning of Tango is a ballroom dance originating in Buenos Aires, characterised by marked rhythms and postures and abrupt pauses. In a democracy we expect the ruling and opposition parties to perform the Tango, sharing their views of how to run the country; but our politicians have gone for the last part of the definition, “abrupt pauses”. They take abrupt pauses, change directions, from gentlemanly behaviour switch to use of nonsensical use of language. The attacks this time have become personal, and it appears that there is no end to it! Bad words are used against very senior leaders, Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers. What direction are we taking? There was a verbal diatribe on a lady candidate, below the belt, literally! No pun intended!

When I was in school, India had become independent, and people were thrilled to be allowed to vote. Democracy continues very successfully. (Except for a hitch in 1975) India has adopted electronic voting ahead of all the countries in a big way. We don’t use ballot papers.

I read a story told by Chidanand Rajghatta, TOI US correspondent. He was called in a University to speak about modern election systems in India. At the end of his speech, he was asked to advise the Americans. He said (tongue in cheek), “Outsource elections to India”! There were huge claps all around!

The voting method is where all confusion starts. When parties win elections using the current process, they are ok with the technique. But when they lose the elections, the same method is declared as the vilest system. It gets challenged in the Supreme Court- they have promptly thrown out the petition. Parties catch hold of some engineers who are supporters of that party. These engineers make a big drama of how hacking is simple etc. To overcome such issues, sometime back Election Commission declared a date on which all the parties could come together and prove to EC, how hacking could be done. Not even one political party registered for the event. We make millions of financial, purchasing transactions electronically. Passport system in India is entirely electronic. In India, Visa on arrival is given electronically. But our politicians periodically challenge the electronic process, as an election stunt!

Another issue that is seen this time is the defection from parties. It is on the rise and shows that people are only interested in standing for elections and not working for the party. The usual sprinkling of cine stars is there, and a retired cricketer has also joined the fray.

Another significant change, to worse, is attacking the independent institutions. Decisions given by Election Commission received comments that it is working for the ruling party. Similarly, Supreme Court judgments were twisted to make claims that suit the arguments of the parties. Supreme Court took these people to the task, is a different issue, but such twisted statements waste the time of the Supreme Court.

One state that has galloped ahead of others in “reforms” is West Bengal. Many summers ago, Gopal Krishna Gokhale had said, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” Bengal is the land of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekanand,  Netaji Subhashchandra Bose; it is the Bhadralok (prosperous and educated people), Calcutta was India’s capital at the time of British in the initial phase. All industries started in Bengal first.

https://indiatoday.app.link/ylVjmRhPKW

The article in India Today tells us about the anarchy in Bengal. It is titled, “How to rig elections, Bengal style”! I will not go into details as the report covers what is happening today in Bengal during this election. It will suffice to say that the Election Commission acted “Suo Moto” or on its own and disallowed election campaign meetings on a day before the last day, to prevent further anarchy. The indication of such a situation was seen for many years. During the change of government last time, there were attacks and murder galore which continued all through. Shifting of Tata Nano factory to Gujarat was the clearcut signal to the powers that be! But they were too busy appeasing their electorate, and god knows who! I hope India does not start thinking like Bengal, in future!

Another first in this election is that none of the experts can predict anything. No waves are seen, no indication is seen from any patterns in voting. The voter is the ultimate God, who does not talk to anyone. As usual, the caste, religion equations are being discussed, but nobody can come to any conclusion. Most crucial conclusion every expert is saying is that an unstable government will bring chaos to India, but it appears that the opposition may not be able to form a stable government.

In large cities like Pune and Bangalore, voting % seems much lower than most other places. These two cities are cosmopolitan, and the migratory population is very high because of the easy availability of work. The community is young, and for both towns, the voting day created a long weekend. People went away on holiday. Plus transient nature did not allow people to change their voting location from their original city to the adopted city. Times of India has started a new slogan, “Let your vote travel with you”! In days of internet and computers, people should be able “to carry their vote” with them to where they are staying. Technologically it is possible, but the Election Commission needs to change its laws and people should be educated to change their thinking. This change can be connected to something straightforward and doable. For example, if you file your IT reruns from a city A, this can be shared with the Election Commission to change your place of voting. It is just a way it can be done, but it is doable.

What can be done about the criminal records of candidates? Our laws need to tighten further. Another observation is that many candidates become very rich in between two elections. Most of these people never go to the office like you and me; they are not known to have businesses, but where does the wealth come from?

I have discussed mainly systems in Indian elections. One more thing that needs to be tackled is why not hold national as well as state elections at the same time. It will save a lot of costs. Last national election cost Rs.3800/ crores i.e. US $ 0.5/ billion, in 2014! We can assume a 20% increase in five years. If both elections are held together, there will be substantial cost savings. But somehow many political parties are against this. Probably this the cost of democracy!

All said and done, warts and all, we all should be proud of the democratic process India is following. Voting this time is done in seven rounds; these many rounds are needed to manage logistics! After all, we have states like Bengal leading the nation!