By Lohita Turlapati:
India, the country that promises to its citizens the rights to equality in gender and opportunity; to freedom of speech, choice, life and liberty; to cultural and educational rights; to fundamental rights. India, the democracy that empowers it citizens to elect their leaders, who stand to represent the citizens. But, are they really a true representation of the country and its people? Are our leaders really close enough to relate to the citizens or mere elocutionists?
As India warms up to what is being called the world’s biggest elections in 2014, the closer state assembly elections scheduled for November are said to be indicative of the outcome of the general elections in those states. Yet, there seems to be something amiss in the very people we are expected to elect. A recent press released by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Chhattisgarh Election Watch (CEW) has brought out an analysis of the self-sworn affidavits of all 143 candidates who are contesting in 18 constituencies during the first phase of Chhattisgarh State Assembly Elections.
Where India’s office bearers are expected to stand for equality on all grounds, there we see only 11 women out of 143 candidates contesting in the first phase of the Chhatisgarh elections. Twelve percent of the candidates contesting in the second phase of the Assembly elections have criminal charges against them while 22 percent are billionaires. The irony in this is that, in 2012-2013, 22% of the Indian population has been calculated to be below the poverty line.
While we are struggling to ensure freedom without fear for women, fighting the rising crimes, murders and robberies and talking about capital punishment to be given to criminals, there are certain special citizens who are ‘punished’ with political power. Of the 840 candidates analyzed, 98 have declared criminal cases pending and 60 are facing serious criminal cases, including murder, attempt to murder and crime against women. What’s more, 88% of the candidates have educational qualifications of 12th pass and below.
Ronald Reagan once said “the government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives”. However, it seems our leaders are so persistent on countering this statements, that they only seem to be interested in running their own Machiavellian schemes, rather than cater to the sufferings of a country struggling to balance its own scale. If India is indeed on a road to development, to economic stability, to becoming a safe, secure, country with a stable future, how is it that millionaires and criminals are lining up to enter our state assemblies? This is the scenario with only one state, but there is no doubt that the same will be mirrored in the remaining state elections as well.
We have heard the contesting parties promise a seemingly secure future to the country, ofÂ ‘sacrificing their dreams for ours’ and of India’s need for a dream team and not a dirty team to progress. We need to ask ourselves, if these are really the only people who are willing to make up the so-called ‘dream team’, then where are the competent ones? As we get closer to making the choice that will define the next five years of our country, it is time to remind ourselves that we are a nation that has a government, not the other way around and the need of the hour is to direct our country and its government along the right tangent, and to ensure this “We must act today, in order to preserve tomorrow”.