By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Ever since I wrote my last Friday’s piece urging more and more townsfolk to shed their apathy to our elections and come out of their comfort zone to cast their votes, I have found myself at the receiving end of their angst. My inbox is full of letters, just a few praising my point of view but most telling me how unfair our polls and politicians are to the so-called ‘elite’ of our country. Friends who call me up or whom I meet on the street tell me that I have written very well but that I have focussed on only one side of the story and have thus been insensitive to how most of the non-voters feel.
So here I am now writing the other side of the story which is what bugs them most but I have very little hope that someone on the other side of the fence will even notice what I write, let alone act upon it. And, let me admit very honestly that on many counts if not all, I find myself completely agreeing with their point of view although I have never missed voting at any of our elections, major or minor, ever since I became eligible to vote.
Today most urban people feel that our elections instead of being an exercise to provide good and effective governance for our country are just a drama, stage managed by our politicians to please the masses where a majority of the votes lie, and garner power and money for themselves. It is also an open secret that except perhaps for a handful of the few honest ones among them, scattered unnoticeably across the length and breadth of our vast country, all our elected representatives of all parties end up making massive fortunes out of their political careers however brief. There is simply nothing like a less honest party or a more honest party.
For all those who start with nothing on hand, it is a ‘rags to riches’ story and for all those who start off already rich, it is a ‘riches to more riches’ story. Every sweat-browed and hoarse-voiced man on the street who walks barefoot in the hot sun canvassing for them, holding aloft their party flags, knows this fundamental truth but continues to do it election after election just because he harbours the fond hope that his own fortune lies around the next corner!
The justification that our urban people give for not bothering to cast their votes, let alone taking an interest in our elections is that the outcomes do not make the slightest difference to their own lives. And, they are not very wrong too. They very rightly feel that none of the manifestos of any of our political parties talk of anything that aims at giving them a decent and comfortable life or even the justice and security that they expect as honest tax-payers. Most importantly, irrespective of whether they are ruling us or aspiring to rule us, their policies do not promote hard work and honest toil which help in making our people hard-working and productive.
Through full-page advertisements, those in power only tell us how many free schemes they have introduced while all those who are hoping to come to power tell us how they plan to outdo them with more freebies without realising that they are only killing honest toil. They simply do not talk of what they have in plan to make the lives of honest, hard-working tax-payers better. In this vital area all that we find is a deafening silence…, a complete vacuum. As things stand now, tax-payers have to fend for themselves and go about their lives with almost no help from the government.
While most people respect those who respect the law, we find that more than half of our politicians have criminal backgrounds and are still able to continue contesting elections just because our lax laws, conveniently framed by them, allow them to do it as long as they are not actually convicted. When this is the grim scenario, is it any surprise that many people shun our elections and prefer not to vote. Every one of our political parties only talk of heaping more and more free sops at the doorsteps of their supporters in a ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch your back’ policy. And they do all this only with the honest tax-payers’ money while doing almost nothing for the tax-payers themselves.
Our poor no doubt lead difficult lives and they deserve to be helped to survive and sustain themselves but the way our successive governments have been doling out their various welfare schemes while promising them more if elected to power again, is actually a very counter-productive exercise. Most people who work hard to lead reasonably good lives and who pay their taxes reasonably honestly wonder why anyone in his or her senses would like to go out and work when everything including food grains, cooking oil, gas, electricity and education for their children with all its accompaniments like books, bicycles, laptops, uniforms and mid-day meals come to their doorsteps free of cost?
Are we not promoting a ‘no-need-to-work-anymore’ culture and an over-indolent lifestyle with our over-indulgent largesse?
Very recently while sipping some tea at a village tea shop, where I had stopped, I asked the owner how his business was. He smiled and said that while it was good enough to give him a decent life it was nothing like the roaring business that the liquor shop across the road was doing. When I asked him the reason for this disparity he said that with the government giving everything free, these days most people had no use for the money they earned than to spend it on liquor every evening.
He said that even people who never used to drink so far had now become habituated to liquor just because they had lesser need now to provide for their families. He seemed to have a made a very valid point because when I turned and looked at the shop he pointed to, there was a crowd of people with currency notes in their outstretched hands jostling over each other to draw the attention of the solitary shop-keeper to their desperate daily need !