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Chai And Pakoda Diplomacy

Chai And Pakoda Diplomacy

It is shocking to learn that the saga of governance in India is all about histrionics and rhetoric with a fair dose of theatrics thrown in to assist the political grandmasters to play to the galleries.

Promises of our leaders remain confined to time-frames. But with no definite action plans towards achieving those objectives, these pledges only tend to remain intangible hopes and dreams for the populace that somehow never materialize. Those who have mastered the art of political deception will readily agree that this ruse is a great asset and without the dangers of getting cornered for any delays in realization affords our political class immunity from any accountability.

If as haloed an assemblage as the Parliament of the country could remain unaffected at the manner in which the ruling ‘elite’ tackles burning issues that confront the country today, what needs to be said of the hoi polloi as mute spectators of the sordid drama !

By turning the attention of the entire nation towards who should have been the PM of India seventy years ago, it is appalling to note that the leader of the ruling dispensation is more concerned about setting the tone for a reified national discourse when he should have been allaying apprehensions over issues that the countrymen seek sensible answers for.

Paper slogans and obfuscation seems to be the hallmark of the ruling front. Remaining unaffected by the plight of the citizens due to many of its flawed policies, the government however continues to be highly effusive about its politics of  Chai and  Pakodas - as if holding parleys over a cup of tea and snacks have solved any of the country’s problems!

  Is explaining a plunging Sensex and the ever-inflating unemployment scenario that effortless? Now we have the ‘evil laugh of Shurpanakha’ adding a new dimension to the gender-politics very obvious in every section of the Indian society today. Reference to the sister of demon king Ravana has ostentatiously elevated Renuka Chowdhury to the status of a feminist icon.

With the former Congress Minister set to move a privilege motion in the house on the issue, the decks are being cleared for a new controversy that will rage on for quite some time. When will our elected representatives actually get down to doing the work they are elected for!

With news that PM Narendra Modi may not wait till 2019 for the general elections, the spotlight will once again be on the course of action by the Election Commission of India that will go into making the entire process a smooth affair.

It is in the midst of such a scenario that news that a federal judge in USA ruled that Florida’s system of restoring voting rights for felons who have served their time is arbitrary and unconstitutional and needs to be changed as soon as possible gained headlines recently.

While this ruling should send us Indians a timely reminder of the fact that it is not uncommon to have criminals kept away from their active involvement in the election process in many countries, the observation that Florida’s ‘Felony Disenfranchisement’ policy is flawed should make us ponder over our elections where every possible attempt is made by various political parties to bend the rules to accommodate those with criminal antecedents in the election fray in spite of recent judicial decisions that disallow such practices.

The purpose behind the enactment of such laws is to keep away criminals from a system of governance where those elected by the masses go on to represent them in the high seats of power which will ultimately lead to the criminalization of politics that the country is much at pain to abort. But money and muscle-power as essential components of any election process in the country which has enabled parties across the political spectrum to garner ‘valuable votes’ have been the bane of this so-called great democracy.

Of course there is no Constitutional bar to someone with a criminal record becoming the President of USA, but with the exclusion from voting of people otherwise eligible to vote due to conviction of a criminal offence, there is every indication that there is a fair amount of resistance to criminalization of politics in the USA.

Our laws on the other hand, though being more stringent on those contesting elections with criminal conviction in Indian courts impacting their ability to stand for elections, have failed miserably to bring about any discernible changes! No matter how sincere the efforts, without a political will such ‘reforms’ cannot create an atmosphere conducive for free-and-fair elections in the country.

If that’s not all! To the best of my knowledge, Aadhaar Card is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India to the residents of India after satisfying the verification process laid down. Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident of India, may voluntarily enrol to obtain Aadhaar Number. It may be used as a basis identifier to roll out several government welfare schemes.

Now, the ‘resident’ aspect of this unique identity is what appears to be debatable in such cases. If a person by virtue of the nature of his employment resides in a particular area would that be an eligible criterion for his/her Aadhaar registration? Hence it did come as a surprise to learn that resident foreign nationals irrespective of their citizenship are permitted Aadhaar enrolment if they meet the stipulations of having resided in India for at least 182 days in the preceding 12 months.

However the manner in which the government is going ahead full steam to ensure that the delivery of all financial and other subsidies, benefits and services to the citizens of the country is linked to their Aadhaar, it does leave a quintessential Indian livid at the prospects of sharing this process of gaining the important and unique ‘instrument of identification’ with people of foreign nationality.

Moreover, with the matter of the ‘sanctity’ of the unique identity embroiled in various controversies, the Aadhaar issue appears to have more-or-less taken a ‘permanent residency’ in the courts of law. Besides, the apex court of the country time and again negating the government orders vis-à-vis the compulsions of citizens obtaining and linking Aadhaar card to various services appears to be justified considering revelations that it has primarily become a tool for exclusion rather than inclusion from the system due to the flaws in the ‘unique’ process.

Even as the Supreme Court finds itself overburdened with challenges to the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, the country is swamped by reports about various weaknesses of the Indian government’s project to give every citizen a biometrics-linked unique identity. Does the country need foreigners to add to the melee! From good to bad to worse, the government has virtually been on reverse gear, back-pedalling on all its promises, compromising on some of the legislations enacted and giving an all-new meaning to the term ‘tolerance’. How does it proffer to be one different from its predecessors!

(Published on 12th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 11)