Archive for the ‘Indian Politics’ Category

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in Indian Elections

March 26, 2017

Introduction:
In the recent elections to five provincial states of India, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were used for all the voters. After the massive victory of central ruling party, BJP, there were many baseless complaints about EVMs, raised by responsible politicians, including sitting and former chief ministers. Though they did not provide any proof of rigging of the machine, their allegation surely creates some doubts in at least some small sections of the people. There are many features in the EVM which prevents any type of mechanical, electronic or network based fraud. The actual Balloting Unit (BU) is only a slave unit to the main Control Unit (CU). The micro programmed chip which resides in the CU is manufactured and programmed abroad. Once programmed, it cannot be altered in any way. The CU does not have any remote input and hence cannot be controlled from remote by any network device. There are many tests done at the booth level before the machine is put to use. These tests are witnessed and approved by the booth agents of the contestants, before the machine is finally sealed off securely and thereafter, will be always under the watchful eyes of police, election officials and the agents of contestants till the results are downloaded and declared. All these features are generally accepted and agreed upon by all the politicians and the voting public. However a few doubts are expressed in the following areas.

The Doubts:
The program inside the CU could be biasetowards one particular button. This doubt is easily answered, as button numbers of candidates of different political parties are different at different constituencies and doing an en-mass biasing of buttons is not a choice at all. In addition a mock polling test is conducted one hour before the polling in front of the agents and officials, with more than 50 votes polled at random and the results shown to all. After this test the CU is sealed and secured. There is a demo of this mock polling, available on U-tube as below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWn4Yn1XoYY

The following are some of the questions answered by Election Commission in their website:

http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/evm.aspx

Q11. Can booth – capturing be prevented by the use of EVMs?
Ans. By booth-capturing, if one means, taking away or damaging of ballot boxes or ballot papers, this evil cannot be prevented by the use of EVMs as EVMs can also be forcibly taken away or damaged by miscreants. But if one looks at booth capturing as a case of miscreants intimidating the polling personnel and stamping the ballot papers on the symbol and escaping in a matter of minutes, this can be prevented by the use of EVMs. The EVMs are programmed in such a way that the machines will record only five votes in a minute. As recording of votes has necessarily to be through Control Unit and , whatever be the number of miscreants they can record votes only at the rate of 5 per minute. In the case of ballot papers, the miscreants can distribute all the 1000 odd ballot papers assigned to a polling station, among themselves, stamp them, stuff them into the ballot boxes and run away before the police reinforcements reach. In half- an –hour, the miscreants can record only a maximum of 150 votes by which time, chances are the police reinforcement would have arrived. Further, the presiding Officer or one of the Polling Officers can always press the “close” button as soon as they see some intruders inside the polling station. It will not be possible to record any vote when once the ‘close’ button is pressed and this will frustrate the efforts of the booth-capturers.

Q21. Is it possible to program the EVMs in such a way that initially, say upto 100 votes, votes will be recorded exactly in the same way as the `blue buttons’ are pressed, but thereafter, votes will be recorded only in favour of one particular candidate irrespective of whether the `blue button’ against that candidate or any other candidate is pressed?
Ans. The microchip used in EVMs is sealed at the time of import. It cannot be opened and neither any rewriting of program can be done by anyone without damaging the chip. There is, therefore, absolutely no chance of programming the EVMs in a particular way to select any particular candidate or political party.

Q24. In the conventional system, it will be possible to know the total number of votes polled at any particular point of time. In EVMs ‘Result’ portion is sealed and will be opened only at the time of counting. How can the total number of votes polled be known on the date of poll?
Ans. In addition to the ‘Result’ button, there is a ‘total’ button on EVMs. By pressing this button the total number of votes polled upto the time of pressing the button will be displayed without indicating the candidate-wise tally.

Q28. In the conventional system, before the commencement of poll, the Presiding Officer shows to the polling agents present that the ballot box to be used in the polling station is empty. Is there any such provision to satisfy the polling agents that there are no hidden votes already recorded in the EVMs?
Ans. Yes
Before the commencement of poll, the Presiding Officer demonstrates to the polling agents present that there are no hidden votes already recorded in the machine by pressing the result button. Thereafter, he will conduct a mock poll by asking the polling agents to record their votes and will take the result to satisfy them that the result shown is strictly according to the choice recorded by them. Thereafter, the Presiding Officer will press the clear button to clear the result of the mock poll before commencing the actual poll.

Q29. How can one rule out the possibility of recording further votes at any time after close of the poll and before the commencement of counting by interested parties?
Ans. As soon as the last voter has voted, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the ‘Close’ Button. Thereafter, the EVM will not accept any vote. Further, after the close of poll, the is disconnected from the Control Unit and kept separately. Votes can be recorded only through the . Again the Presiding officer, at the close of the poll, will hand over to each polling agent present an account of votes recorded. At the time of counting of votes, the total will be tallied with this account and if there is any discrepancy, this will be pointed out by the Counting Agents.

My Suggestions:
In addition to all the above features, to improve the voter confidence, Supreme Court had ordered a system called Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). Under this system, the Balloting Unit, BU, includes a sealed printer with a viewing window and sealed box underneath where the paper strip falls after Voter verifies his voting preference as printed therein. This will help in actual counting, in case of any major contest about the result. Though it is not clear how this system will be used when it comes to wider use, my suggestion is the following:
These voting slips should actually be counted as a sample in some random booths to check whether it follows the general trend of voting pattern in the respective areas of polling. For example we may decide on actual slip counting, in 10 polling booths in a bye-election, in 30 polling booths throughout the state in a state assembly election and in 100 polling booths throughout the country in case of parliamentary elections. In case of any major discrepancy in voting trends, more PU’s may be examined for further investigation. In case of any legal demands, full counting of the slips may also be ordered by the court. This would definitely improve the confidence of voters and candidates on the EVM procedures.
Here is my another suggestion to increase the voter confidence: it is to allow for mock-polling within the actual polling period also. Two such intermediate mock polls may be allowed at the times chosen by the agents. During this mock poll, the times of the commencement and end of mock poll, and the actual voting pattern may all be noted and stored in the control unit (CU), for later verification at the time counting . During these intermediate mock polls, say for about 15 minutes each, actual polling may be stopped and resumed immediately afterwards. The CU programme should include a feature to find the ‘RESULT’ between different times also. This will help the agents at the time of final counting, to check and verify whether the intermediate mock poll results tally with what is already noted down. This timed counting feature will also help to detect other polling frauds, if any, found in future.

With this feature, the results when downloaded will be interpreted as in the example below:
TOTAL
Total votes polled – 1,25,372.
This may be verified against actual votes polled added with total intermediate mock poll votes polled.
RESULTS
Intermediate mock poll results are first retrieved from CU, as below:
1) From 11.30AM to 11.45AM – 57 Votes – Party-wise : A – 25, B – 18, C-4, D-10
2) From 3.15 PM to 3.30 PM – 66 Votes – Party-wise : A – 20, B – 22, C-11, D-13
Total – Mock Votes – 123 – Party-wise : A – 45, B – 40, C-15, D-23
Verified with the actual Test data and found correct by Election officials and agents.
RESULTS (ACTUAL)
Actual votes polled – 1,25,372 – 123 Mock Votes = 1,25,249
Party wise votes:
A – 36,253 – 45 Mock Votes = 36,208
B – 42,117 – 40 Mock Votes = 42,077
C – 26,318 – 15 Mock Votes = 26,303
D – 20684 – 23 Mock Votes = 20 661
Total – 1,25,372 – 123 Mock Votes = 1,25,249
Accordingly B will be declared as the winner.

Conclusion:
It is sincerely hoped this will convince all the political parties about the use of EVMs. More than that, voters will not have any doubt on the election process. What is required is for the machine to be redesigned in a way that you may get the results in a time tagged manner. As far I could see, the counting procedure does not seem to include any facility for printing of the result. Such a facility may also be considered, as manual noting down of the result form the machine display is susceptible to human errors and mischief. It is now for the Election Commission and EVM designers to take up the issue. Long live Indian Democracy.

Post Script:

As I published the above blog on EVMs on 28th March 2017, I was disturbed to know from the media about the recent fiasco of EVM/VVPAT in MP, while testing and demonstration. VVAPAT was apparently found to print the same election symbol irrespective of the button pressed on Balloting Unit. The Election Commission has not only not offered any explanation for the fiasco, they stayed away from assuring the voting public any credible investigation. This definitely reduces the confidence of Voters like me on these machines. I also understand the concerns of politicians. However the solution is not to discard the EVMs and to go back to cumbersome Paper ballots. On the contrary we should find ways of improving the reliability and tamper-proof quality of EVMs. None of the politicians have suggested any solution but only blamed Election Commission. Response of EC is also far from satisfactory. While it is okay for normal politicians to immediately ask for debunking of the EVMs (with or without VVPAT), I thought, we can do something better than all of them. We can suggest solutions to make these machines better. As a voter I want the EVMs to continue with more improvements as we go along.

I have already suggested two solutions as above. The first suggestion is as explained in earlier paragraphs to allow for intermediate mock polls at random times during polling. My second suggestion was to decide on the operation VVPAT machines and declare openly about the mode of its usage, post completion of counting. Now my third suggestion is to improve the operation of VVPAT itself. Actually, the news came about the VVPAT fiasco, as I was posting this suggestion on VVPAT.

VVPAT machine is connected at one end to Balloting Unit (BU) and at the other end to Control Unit (CU). When voting button is pressed, the BU prompts the VVPAT printer to print the slip, which goes into the box after verification by the voter, (if at all he is smart enough to verify and report in case of any mismatch). VVPAT also sends this voting info to CU for recording it as a vote cast. Here is the catch. As a voter I prefer to verify what is recorded in CU and not what was registered in BU/VVPAT. Hence my suggestion is: Connect BU directly to CU as existing in the normal EVM. Connect VVPAT to CU and let VVPAT print what is recorded in CU after the vote is cast. Additionally, VVPAT can have another output to BU to blink the vote-recorded button LED for 6 Secs. This way voter will find it easy to verify the functioning of EVM, thus boosting his confidence level. Having a VVPAT machine in between Balloting Unit and Control Unit, introduces a source of tamper and hence must be avoided.

Presently VVPAT machine is connected as below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The voting process will be:

– Press the required button in BU

– Look for the VVPAT to printout your selection

– Check whether your selection is shown correctly in the printout

– Look for the printout slip to get cut properly and falls down in the sealed box below.

Now you may leave the booth.

Suggested change is as below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When connected like this, flow of voting information reverses. VVPAT will be able to now print what is registered in the Control Unit instead of what is selected in the Ballot Unit. We can use the ballot button lamp more intelligently as per the voting process described below:

– Press the required button in BU

– The blue LED behind the button will light up

– The CU will register your vote and communicate the same to VVPAT and the BU

– The Blue LED will start blinking six times to indicate your choice as recorded by the Control Unit

– At the same time VVPAT will print out the selection as recorded by CU.

– You may verify both as above and leave the booth.

I request the media and other powerful NGO for democracy to take up this suggestion seriously and improve the reliability and tamper proof nature of EVM and VVPAT machine. Let us make our electoral democracy fair and just.

Suggestions for Indian Govt. led by Shri Modi

June 10, 2014

Some suggestions for Shri Modi Govt. 

L V Nagarajan

Following are the suggestions from a law abiding tax payer and citizen of India for effecting a visible change in governance as promised by Shri Modi. These suggestions have already been conveyed to BJP Communication Cell. Any suggestions, which are agreeable and can be implemented by an executive order, should straightaway be implemented instead of the usual procedure of forming reform committee etcetera. Such usual procedures will only lead to delay and eventual loss of focus.

1.0 Electoral Reforms:

All Chief Election Commissioners for the last 20 years or more have complained that political parties lack the will to implement the electoral reforms already accepted by all concerned. Even such a small change like introducing NOTA option required a Supreme Court order to get implemented. While all the recommendations of electoral reforms may be reviewed in the present context, at least a few of them should be straightaway implemented without endlessly waiting for such a review. I have suggested a few of them below:

a)      The multiplicity of candidates is somewhat making our democracy meaningless. We have to find ways to avoid (or at least reduce) the same. Following measures may be considered:

–        Increasing the security deposit to about Rs 1 Lac or more

–        Consider loss of security deposit for all candidates who come 4th or below

–        We may give time for final withdrawal of candidates from contest till a few days before election, with an incentive of return of deposit. (With the use of EVMs, the candidates list can be modified even just a few days before the elections)

b)        We may introduce some additional eligibility criteria for the candidates. Education, experience, service record, moral background will all form part of such criteria, as below:

  1. For candidature to Parliament: Graduation or membership of a state legislature for at least 5-years.
  2. For candidature to state legislatures: Graduation or (High School education plus membership of local bodies for at least 5-years) or (membership of local bodies for at least 10-years).
  3. For candidature to local bodies: High school education or previous membership to such bodies for five years.

With the above scheme, even an unschooled common man can become an MP within 15 years, with his service record of electoral office.

2.0 Judicial Reforms

Number of criminal and civil cases pending in all our courts in India exceeds several lacs as per some reports. Out of these, number of cases pending for the last ten years or more exceeds one lac. We all know that justice delayed is just denied. Justice delayed for more than ten years is not only denial of justice, but also a promotion of injustice. With our very low conviction rate and. with our judicial procedures so delayed, people boldly commit illegal activities with the surety of enjoying the benefits of such activity for a long time before law and justice catch up with them. Hence it is very essential to reform of judicial system to ensure prompt conviction and timely justice. I have following suggestions:

a)      All civil cases of more than ten years duration should be referred to special panels of juries constituted in every panchayat of the country. The jury should consist of a district magistrate and several people of the district who command the respect of the local people. The jury should concentrate more on an acceptable compromise than on the disputable legalities. They should try and clear all the case in one hearing without allowing adjournments.

b)      All criminal cases of more than ten years should be referred to special fast-track courts constituted in every district. Special justices should be appointed if needed. These courts should hear all the cases on daily basis without allowing any adjournments except the ones required by the judicial process. They should try and clear the cases within a maximum of 4 hearings.

c)      On completion of the above process, need for special panels of juries and fast track courts may be reviewed and the same reduced or dissolved completely. Any case that exceeds the ten year pendency limit should be referred to such fast track courts in future to ensure timely justice.

3.0 Income Tax reforms 

Personal income tax is said to make a very small contribution to the national exchequer. However for the tax-paying middle class citizens it is a major out-flow from their finances. Moreover filing income tax returns, managing the Tax deduction at source and waiting for refunds are all occasions for great stress for the tax-paying aam-aadmi. Considering the fact that this middle class is the one that otherwise contribute a lot to the national exchequer by way of other indirect taxes like excise duty, service tax, sales tax and other municipal taxes the government should act with grace on their income taxes. Some of the immediate steps to be taken are:

a)      The income tax exemption limit should be raised immediately to Ra 5 Lacs from the current assessment year itself without waiting for the budget. It can be reconciled easily in the budget as and when it is made. It will relieve a large number of people from the periodic stress they undergo. Proportionately, tax saving investment limit under section 80C may be increased to 2 Lacs.

b)      TDS should be totally abolished for bank deposits, especially for senior citizens. Most of the retired people live on their interests from deposits. With inflation overtaking the interest rates, already their quality of life is permanently on the decline. With TDS you really put them to increased stress. Submitting form15G/H and keeping them up-to-date, banks struggling to manage these TDS deductions may all be avoided by this step. The present tax exemption limit of 2.5 lacs does not at all match with TDS for an interest income of Rs 10000 per quarter. Hence TDS should be totally abolished for bank deposits.

c)      Income tax refunds are never taken seriously by the government. Several millions of rupees are held up by the Govt. and this money belongs to law abiding tax-payers. If releasing large amount of refunds poses any financial strain on the govt., I have the following suggestion: Refunds may be paid to the parties by way of cash coupons of several denominations, which can be used by them for any future payment to the government – like registration charges, stamp duty, advance tax and self-assessment taxes etc.

More will follow.

 

Democrazy

February 17, 2012

Democrazy

L V Nagarajan

Democracy is any form of governance in which all the subjects can directly (or indirectly) participate in the decision-making process. It may be government of a country or just a small association like housing societies. Housing societies, for example, have only a few members and it is fairly easy to involve every member in the decision process and make the process more meaningful by even educating them on the subject matter. This may be termed as Direct Democracy. Larger the number of members, even a housing society, needs a managing committee with representatives selected through an election or a consensus. This may be termed as Representative Democracy. Larger the numbers of citizens, greater are the difficulties on the implementation of a direct democracy, especially in all the wings of a national government such as legislature, judiciary and executive. Representative democracy is a form of governance by the people through elected representatives. This is the most common system found in today’s democratic states. These representatives are elected by the people for a typical duration of four or five years. During this period they are supposed to represent the people who elected him, in all governmental process. But none of the democracies in the world has made this obligatory on the representative. Once he is elected, he is simply left on his own for the whole tenure. A representative is usually proposed as an electoral candidate by a political party and once he wins, he is expected to be more loyal to his party than people who elected him. This loyalty to the party is very well ensured in some democracies by enactment of anti-defection laws and the like. But, what about loyalty to his electors? At least some democracies do care. To ensure real democracy and to give voice to the people during the tenure of a not-so-loyal representative(s), these democracies allow three forms of political actions. They are known as Initiative, Referendum and Recall.  In political science, the initiative (also known as popular or citizen’s initiative) provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote (plebiscite) on a proposed statute, constitutional amendment, charter amendment or ordinance, or, in its minimal form, to simply oblige the executive or legislative bodies to consider the subject by submitting it to the order of the day. A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may be the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, or simply a specific government policy. A recall is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote (plebiscite), initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition. (ref: Wikipedia).

Even without these forms of political actions namely Initiative, Referendum and Recall, the ‘representative democracy’ has found overall acceptance among citizens, political analysts and politicians in many countries. However, there are continuous attempts by civil societies and citizens’ groups, to improve this election process, to get the same closer to real democracy and to ensure higher empowerment of citizens. One of the major deficiencies of current electoral system in many countries is that there is no guarantee that the elected representatives have a majority mandate from his electors. This is highly apparent in a multi-party democracy, where the winner gets only about 40% votes. Though higher than his opponents individually, it is lower than the 60% obtained by the combined opposition. In some democracies, to ensure that the winner gets a real majority mandate, elections to key positions are held in several rounds to eliminate all other candidates except the top two. Repeated rounds of elections for every constituency will be impractical and also be highly expensive. Neither can we force a two party system on any state, as, by itself, it is un-democratic. On further review, even in a two party system, a real mandate, though more probable, cannot be ensured. It is possible that a party with lower percentage of popular votes may win more number of constituencies to form a government. This has happened even in several advanced democracies in the world.

Proportional Representation based on popular votes is the usual solution proposed by many. A simple proportional representation (PR) system, which elects representatives based on party-list of candidates, seems to be less of a democracy, as the candidates are totally decided by the political parties and they are even less accountable to the electors. But several improvements have been done to this system to make this more democratic and these modified PR systems have been adopted in many European countries, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. (For a very good description of how these systems work, please refer to:

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/polit/damy/BeginnningReading/howprwor.htm.)

To illustrate my point about the two-party democracy and its inadequacies, let us consider the following extreme scenarios. The only two parties, say, the Greens Party and Saffron Party, have popular votes of 51% and 49% respectively, overall in a total of 100 constituencies of a State. In an extreme case-A, let us consider Greens have 100% of support in 51 constituencies and Saffron have 100% of support in the remaining 49 constituencies. Greens will form government with a majority of 51 seats. It is fair enough, but not desirable, because the state is split vertically. In the extreme case-B, let us consider Greens and Saffron have perfectly uniform support of 51% and 49% individually in all the 100 constituencies. Greens will now form government with 100% victory. Saffron will be considered to have been rejected by the people. Here again, the state stands divided, horizontally, shall we say. Luckily, in a diverse population, the supports for Greens and Saffron are neither like case-A, nor like case-B. Even under such conditions, case-C throws up a paradox. Here we consider Saffron to have 55% vote in 60 constituencies and 40% in the remaining 40, amounting to 49% vote overall. Consequently, Greens will have 45% vote in the above 60 constituencies and 60% in the remaining 40, amounting to their overall vote share of 51%. Now Saffron, with 49% vote-share, will form the government with a massive majority of 60 seats, and Greens, with 51% vote-share, will be considered routed in the elections. Here comes the moral of the story. To avoid such a situation every party will withdraw their efforts from places where they already have major support and concentrate on where they are weak. While in one sense it is good for democracy, it may also lead to ‘vote-bank’ politics and appeasement of a few constituencies.

Hence we may conclude that a two-party system is not as great a solution, and at the same time multi party system is not as bad, as both of them are made out to be. The fault is in the electoral system. While it will be too drastic a change for any large country like India to adopt any of the existing PR (Proportional Representation) systems, some kind of proportional representation will have to be adopted early to avoid such problems as party misrepresentation, and the under-representation of political minorities, racial minorities, and women. As an Indian voter I suggest, the following simple changes in the electoral system initially for legislatures and parliament.

As of now members of Rajya Sabha (Council of States) are elected by elected representatives of legislatures, who themselves are elected by a miss-represented majority vote of the citizens. The Rajya Sabha consists of 233 elected members. The quota of members for each state is determined based on population of each state. The elected members of the respective state legislative assemblies elect their quotas of Rajya Sabha members on the basis of first transferable vote. Most of the time the parties know exactly how many of their own nominees can be elected by them and they nominate as many and get them elected by issuing a whip to their legislators. Occasionally they nominate one or two extra persons, to garner the possibility of obtaining the splinter votes of smaller parties who have no sufficient strength to get there own men elected.  Hence it will be fair to say that even these 233 elected members of Rajya Sabha, (RS), are mostly nominated by political parties and their election process is a mere formality. In the present system where a third of the members of RS retire every two years, the RS elections could happen twice or thrice during the tenure of a state assembly. Some times it may occur at a point when a state assembly tenure is about to be completed before a new general elections. It is possible that after the new elections the composition of parties in the new assembly could be vastly different, though the comparative percentage votes polled by them may not be as vastly different. This situation is particularly true in a multi party democracy.

Here is where my suggestion comes in. To get a fair representation, at least in the Rajya Sabha, we may decide on the quota of members for each political party based on amount of popular votes polled by them in the most recent assembly elections. For instance if we take the case of Tamil Nadu, it has a quota of 18 elected members in Rajya Sabha. When a third of them, i.e., 6 members retire, as per the present (2012) strength of parties, the assembly will elect 4 members of ADMK, 1 member of DMDK with the help of others, 1 member of DMK with the help of others. Their percentages of votes polled in the recent 2011 assembly election are respectively, 38.4, 7.9 and 22.4. But the Congress Party which obtained 9.3% votes does not get a Rajya Sabha seat. As per the proportional representation system, the allocation of these 6 seats will be: ADMK-3, DMK-2, and Congress–1. The parties will straightaway nominate their members without any election per se. If Tamil Nadu’s full quota of 18 seats is allocated this way, it will be as: ADMK – 8, DMK-5, Congress-2, DMDK-2, and PMK-1.  This reflects the will of the people more evenly in spite of the electoral alliances. In most of the matters Lok Sabha has overriding powers over Rajya Sabha, and hence, this higher degree of split membership will not hamper the present way of functioning of the government. Even as of now the ruling congress party has only 71 seats in Rajya Sabha, less than a third of total strength. BJP has 51 seats. There are 25 more political parties having seats varying from 1 to 13.

To find a similar way of proportional representation at the state level, we should make it constitutionally obligatory for the states to have legislative councils. As of now only six states have legislative councils (J&K, UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh). The upper house or the legislative council has limited legislative powers, and was primarily intended for consultations and can not hold up legislation passed by the legislative assembly for more than a few months. The Legislative Assembly is composed of members directly elected from individual constituencies. Whereas the Legislative Council consists of members indirectly elected: by members of the Lower House, by nomination of the State government, and by elections from specially designated teachers’ and graduates’ constituencies. Alternately, member-ship to the legislative council may be based on the percentage of popular votes polled by the parties in the most recent assembly elections. Exact mechanism of allocating these seats and the process of election/selection can be decided upon after obtaining some experience with the similar process for the Rajya Sabha as suggested earlier.

Apart from obtaining an equitable representation for all political parties and minorities, this system will have many long term advantages. All parties will try to have a broad based support instead of a localised support, because even in regions where they lose the elections, the votes obtained by them has still some value in boosting their percentage of popular votes. Voters also will be encouraged to vote for a party even if their candidate is likely to lose in a particular constituency. To be considered for proportional representation, we may stipulate, a party should contest a minimum number of seats and in them it should obtain a minimum percentage of votes.

Bitter Harvest

February 28, 2010

I read this article Bitter Harvest by Radha Rajadhyaksha, in Time of India dated 28th Feb 2010. It is about ‘Nero’s Guests’, Deepa Bhatia’s award-winning documentary film centering around farmers’ suicides, in rural India. I am quite moved by this article and I hope to see the DVD also. I give below a few excerpts from this article for your quick view.

Says P. Sainath, a Magsaysay Award winner and a chronicler of the unending human tragedy that’s unfolding in rural India, “There are 311 billionaires in India, a survey says this is the fourth happiest country in the world, and we had not one but two fashion meets this year.’’ The scathing sarcasm is laced with anger: “It’s very clear who the government exists for. When the sensex fell a few years ago, it took two hours for the then finance minister to come to Bombay by a special flight to hold the hands of weeping billionaires. It took ten years for the prime minister to visit farm households in a state where over 40,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1995 according to government data.’’

Now to visuals of a hungry child asking his mother for food, now to cattle patiently ploughing the soil:

Mute calves from Warhad are we

Watching the plunder of mother’s milk

Drenching the earth drop by drop

With our sweat yielding pearls

Yet our babies in hunger fret.

(Warhad is a village in Maharashtra)

 
There’s a clip of Sainath’s address to Parliament where he talks of how farmers were forced to kill themselves because they couldn’t get 8,000 rupees at a decent rate of interest. “And after covering such cases, I come back to my house and get a letter from my bank offering me a loan for a Mercedes at six per cent interest, no collateral required. What kind of justice is there in such a society? What kind of justice is this?’’ he demands agitatedly as Rahul Gandhi and Mani Shankar Aiyer look visibly uncomfortable. 

Deepa closes her film by cutting back to the question raised at the beginning: Who were Nero’s guests? Sainath then relates the true story of Nero, the notorious Roman emperor who, faced with a paucity of lighting at a grand party, provided it by emptying his prisons and burning undertrials at the stake. “The guests at the party were the elite of Rome, and to the best of our knowledge, nobody protested,’’ Sainath says. “I always wonder what sort of mindset it would require to pop one more grape as another human being bursts into flames.’’ Parallel drawn, he pauses for a second, and then continues: “We can differ on how to solve this problem, on even our analysis of the problem. But maybe we can make one starting point: we can all agree that we will not be Nero’s guests.’’

You can revisit your conscience by logging on to http://www.nerosguests.com. You may by the DVD and Part of the proceeds will go to farmers’ families in distress.

Candidate’s Manifesto

November 22, 2009

 

The following should become a part of election manifestos of all political parties. If the parties do not agree, at least all the candidates with conscience may adopt these as their manifestos in addition to their party’s. No party will object to these. I wish Congress and BJP will take lead in this during the next elections to any State assembly or any bi-election. Or any activity groups like AGNI may insist an undertaking on this basis from the candidates. Or, better still, Election commission may insist on all candidates to accept such an undertaking in writing.

 

During the election process:

  1. I will abide by the election norms in all respects
  2. I will not spend more money than stipulated by the election commission.
  3. I will spend only legal and accountable money in the elections.
  4. I will not bribe voters to vote for me, nether I will bribe election officers for any special favours.
  5. All my election speeches will be decent. I will not make any personal attacks on my opponents.
  6. I will totally avoid violence during the whole election process.

 

After I am elected

  1. I will spend at least 100 days in a year in the constituency
  2. I will maintain an attendance of at least 90% when the elected body is in session
  3. As an elected representative, I will conduct myself with decency and decorum during the above sessions and in my private and public life
  4. I will always place my constituency above my party; and my party above myself
  5. I will not engage in corrupt practices; neither will I encourage them in others.
  6. I will respect the principles of democracy and will not in any way encourage hero worship of myself or others.
  7. I will endeavour to be free of any bias based on caste, creed or religion

Even if half of the contestants are convinced to adopt such a manifeso and even half of them implement the same sincerely, it will make a great difference to the body politic in India.

 

A Candidate’s Budget for Indian Elections

February 19, 2009

The Election Commission has put a limit on election expenses. In the case of Parliament Elections, the election expenses in all the major states are limited to Rs. 25,00,000 for each constituency. But everybody including the election commission knows that this rule is rarely respected by any candidate including those of the recognized political parties. The actual expenses by each serious candidate exceed several crores of rupees. There are many questions here for which nobody seeks answers: what is the source of such money being spent in the elections, how do these candidates or political parties plan to recover such amounts spent, how do these political parties (including the opposition) create funds for the next election, are there any accounting or auditing of such funds? This is one area where all political parties, ruling and non-ruling, collude together and keep the people in the dark, both literally and figuratively. It is illegal money that is spent illegally as above. No finance minister ever questions the legality of such big sums of money or its nexus with illegal and criminal activities in the country. No surprise then, that Indians hold about Rs. 6,40,000 crores in Swiss Bank accounts, according to an official report by Swiss Government !. Unless election expenses are actually reduced to a more reasonable level, there is no way to reduce the influence of criminals on party politics and to help a meaningful democracy emerge in India. Now let us try and see what is the reasonable level of election expense is for a parliamentary candidate. Let us make an election budget. Hopefully this will help some people seriously thinking of contesting the elections, say as independents.

 

The election expenses can be put under many heads as below:

 

1

Election Deposit

Rs. 20,000

2

Rallies and Public Meetings

Rs. 2,75,000

3

Transport

Rs. 4,87,500

4

Banners, Posters, Notices and other publications

Rs. 10,05,000

5

Computers and communications

Rs. 3,00,000

6

Expenses towards guest speakers, volunteers, political workers and election agents

 

Rs. 2,25,000

7

Election Offices

Rs. 50,000

8

Miscellaneous Expenses @ approx 5%

Rs. 1,37,500

 

Total

Rs. 25,00,000

 

 

 

 

The above planned estimate of expenses is based on calculations as given in the Appendix. These estimates can be adjusted according to actual field conditions and the types of constituencies, urban, semi-urban or rural.

 

We, as voters, should not expect the candidates, especially serious independents to spend the above amount, out of their pockets. Then it becomes an investment for them and naturally they will look forward to profiting from his office as elected member of the house. This will lead to growing corruption. Hence as voters we should donate major portion of the above amount. Here is guide to independent candidate to mobilize resources for the above amount:

 

From 10 proposers at Rs 10,000 each                                          Rs   1 Lac

From 10 major industrialists and land lords at Rs 40,000 each – Rs. 4 Lacs

From 30 major business men @ Rs. 20000 Each                        Rs. 6 Lacs

From 100 major shop owners @ Rs. 6,000 each                        – Rs. 6 Lacs

From 500 small shop keepers and business men @ Rs. 500     – Rs. 2.5 Lacs

From 5000 well employed people @ Rs. 100 each                    – Rs. 5 Lacs

From Rallies, public meetings, and road shows @ Rs. 500       – Rs. 0.5 Lac

(10 x 3000, 25 x 500, 100 x 80)

Total                     – RS. 25 Lacs

 

We may not be able to collect all this at one stretch. The candidate should create an election fund to be managed by one of his supporters. He should send appeals to all prospective doners. He should publish periodic accounts of the fund’s income and expenses. As his presence on the election scene gets stronger, more and more people will come forward to contribute.

 

Election Count down and Cash Flow

 

Days to Polling

Activity

Expense

Income

Balance

40

Donations from 10 proposers

 

100000

100000

 

Advance from own resources

 

100000

200000

30

Filing of Nomination

10000

 

190000

 

Security Deposit

20000

 

140000

29

1st Public Rally in HQ of Constituency with 2 big posters

10000

 

130000

 

2 Big posters

16000

 

114000

28

Meeting 2 Major industrialist and obtaining donations

 

80000

194000

27

2nd public relay in 2nd big town

10000

 

184000

27

25 small posters in minor towns

25000

 

159000

26

2 public meetings in minor towns and 10 road shows

11000

 

148000

25

3rd public relay in 3rd big town

10000

 

138000

 

10 More Big Posters

80000

 

58000

24

Meeting 4 major industrialist and obtaining Donations

 

160000

218000

24

2 Public meetings in Minor Towns

6000

 

212000

23

4th public relay in 4th big town

10000

 

202000

22

Printing of 10,000 appeals

20000

 

182000

21

5th public relay in 5th big town

10000

 

172000

 

1000 Mini Posters

80000

 

92000

20

1 Public meetings in Minor Towns

3000

 

89000

20

Donations from 10 businessmen

 

200000

289000

20

Hiring 10 cars/Jeeps for 10 days

100000

 

189000

19 to 10

2 public meetings in minor towns and 10 road shows everyday

110000

 

79000

18

Meeting 4 major industrialist and obtaining Donations

 

160000

239000

17

Hiring of all 200 bicycles for 10 days

100000

 

139000

16

Donations from 10 more businessmen

 

200000

339000

16

Election Offices 50 Nos.

50000

 

289000

15

Printing of remaining 33 big posters

264000

 

25000

14

Donations from 50 major shops and 100 minor shops

 

350000

375000

13

6th public rally in 2nd big town

10000

 

365000

12

3000 copies of manifestos

30000

 

335000

11

30,000 bit notices

30000

 

305000

10

10 cars/Jeeps for next 10 days

100000

 

205000

9

Donations from remaining 10 businessmen

 

200000

405000

9 to 1

10 road shows everyday

45000

 

360000

 

Hiring of 25 Autos for 20 days

87500

 

272500

 

Hiring of all 200 bicycles for 10 days

100000

 

172500

 

Donations from 5000 people at Rs100 each

 

500000

672500

 

Computers and communications

300000

 

372500

9

7th public rally in 3rd big town

10000

 

362500

8

Printing of remaining 300 small posters

300000

 

62500

8

8th public rally in 4th big town

10000

 

52500

7

Donations from remaining 50 major shops and 400 minor shops

 

500000

552500

6

9th public rally in 5th big town

10000

 

542500

6

Printing of all 1750 remaining mini posters

140000

 

402500

4

10th public relay in HQ town

10000

 

392500

 

Collections from Rallys and meetings

 

50000

442500

4

Last 20,000 bit notices

20000

 

422500

2

Payment to all guest speakers, volunteers and agents

225000

 

197500

1

 

 

 

197500

0

Election day – Misc Expenses

127500

 

100000

 

Advance from own resources returned

 

-100000

0

 

 

 

 

0

 

Total

2500000

2500000

 

 

 


Campaign Strategy:

Apart from organizing public meetings, rallies and road shows, a candidate should also have separate face-to-face meetings with different sections of society as below:

a)      Politically and socially active people of the constituency

b)      Teachers and college students

c)      Farm labourers and other workers

d)     Artisans like, masons, carpenters, painters, black smiths and gold smiths.

e)      Fabricators and owners of small workshops and garages

f)       Hoteliers, restaurants and shopkeepers

g)      Senior citizens

h)      Women activists and women associations

i)        Religious groups (Care to be taken to avoid appeals on the basis of religion)

j)        Cultural groups and troupes

k)      Employees from Govt and private enterprises

l)        Tax payers…..etc.  

 

The above will help him understand his constituency better and would also help him draft his manifesto (which will be released just two weeks before the election date).

During the campaign, care should be taken to avoid association with criminals and corrupt people in general, especially the already notorious ones. One should also avoid being identified with any special interest groups or any vested interests.

 

It is earnestly hoped that this draft budget for election expenses will encourage honest and socially active independents to come forward to fight the elections and the corrupt political system. We should reduce the need to spend so much on elections to make it as a democracy for the people, of the people and by the people. The people should aspire to do more than just vote. Of course more importantly all people should vote. Jai Hind!

 

Moral Policing

February 16, 2009

Moral Policing: This has been rendered as a dirty word, especially after the recent happenings in Mangalore. Lots of people have written for and against the so called ‘pub culture’. Saris and chaddis of pink colour have been exchanged. When the dust has settled down, it is time to look at ‘moral policing’ with a more clear vision. I present to the readers excerpts from three reports which appeared coincidentally on the same Mumbai issue of Times of India dated 9th February 2009. They are:

 

Pub as a sign of freedom

 

   It is clear that what happened in Mangalore was terrible and the perpetrators of the crime must be punished. Our problem is increasingly not that we are becoming more intolerant as a society (a favourite question for TV panel discussions), but that we are becoming more tolerant of symbolic intolerance. We tolerate publicity seeking nonentities too much, giving them way too much leeway in mounting these symbolic assaults on basic freedoms. We are afraid of giving them salutary punishment and end up creating monsters who gradually turn real.

   And then, there is the larger question. It is one thing to uphold the principle that every individual has the right to exercise his or her freedom to do whatever is legal, including having a drink at a pub without being questioned, molested or beaten up. Drinking as a sign of freedom is one thing, but to literally promote the
cause of drinking is quite another. No one can be prevented from drinking, but that doesn’t quite translate into everyone being encouraged to do so. The principle needs vigorous upholding, the practice not necessarily so. Just as banning depiction of smoking on screen can be opposed as a violation of a basic freedom, but that cannot mean we should promote the act of smoking—we cannot confuse the principle with the practice.

 
   From the looks of it, we live in a time when it is important to celebrate things like bar girls, drinking, sexual openness as marks of freedom. The same fervour does not extend to issues like the right to dissent or the right to free information (the RTI is the result of action by committed groups and not any mainstream media action). The idea of freedom seems to have gone through an interesting transformation. In popular imagination, it no longer exists as an idea in its capitalized, lofty avatar and is instead pursued as a set of pleasurable activities in our everyday life. Freedom has implicitly become synonymous with the freedom to have fun without hindrances or challenges.


And who can challenge the fact that what we called the middle-class Indian way of life till a few years ago, looked upon drinking as an undesirable social evil. It is not unnatural for a large part of India to be uncomfortable with a change that they are neither prepared for nor comfortable with. That doesn’t give them a right to beat up people, but surely they have a right to hold that view and pursue all legitimate means of promoting their beliefs.
To dismiss these by labelling them as right wing reactionaries who are coming in the way of India’s progress could well be an act of self-deception.


Freedom comes from being independent-minded, and that means liberation from biases of all kinds and the ability to genuinely appreciate all sides of an argument.

 
santoshdesai1963@indiatimes.com

 

‘Governance has to be consensual’

 

   Justice Chandrachud said there are “essentially three forces that are shaping the times we live in—politics, economics and technology”.

 
   A networked society is increasingly becoming the trend and the assumption in such a scenario is that equal access to information and technology will enable good rule of the law.

 
   Yet, he said ironically, “these are also the times when it is commonplace for women to go for a drink to a pub after a hard day’s work only to be pulled out and thrashed in the name of shaping the morals of society’’, and also the times “where you have a government banning a movie only because it can’t control a likely outcry or when “15 policemen are killed by Naxalites’’.

 
   “As a result, there is a huge disjoint, as it were, between a society and the self-proclaimed protectors of morality,’’ he said.

 
s.deshpande@timesgroup.com

 

Universal Religion Is Moral Behaviour

Acharya Mahaprajna

 

The word ‘religion’ is ingrained in our psyche. It is because of over familiarity that people feel less inclined towards religion. Today religion is acceptable only on the basis of experimentation. At one end are people who want forever to keep to tradition. They do not want any change. At the opposite end are those who reject religion. Both these extreme viewpoints are incapable of creating a balance.

 
   If acceptance of the hereditary character of religion is not desirable, its rejection is altogether undesirable. No one who thinks in the language of unity, harmony and love can ever reject religion. In the absence of understanding the distinction between institutionalised religion and religion as spirituality, people make the mistake of rejecting religion.

   A religion divorced from spirituality is shackled by externally imposed rules. Religion ought to be the culmination of independent awareness and not an imposition. When people regard themselves as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, they do so because of genealogy, not religiousness. Genealogy can be a source of inspiration to religion; it cannot be its soul. The soul of religion is spirituality. Only that person is religious who experiences spiritual awakening, irrespective of genealogy.


   No system of government can pose a challenge to a religion that is spiritual. The question of protecting religion arises only when religion is supposed to have an existence separate from that of the religious person. Bliss and spiritual alertness are the soul of religion.

 

   Morality is a relative term. If socially approved mores are deemed morality, their form can never be unchanging. Morality as end-result of religion is assessed not by social beliefs but by personal purity. There is no place for exploitation, oppression, arrogance and frenzy in the behaviour of a religious person. Propriety, truthfulness and simplicity constitute morality. Shall we call him religious who does not reflect the spirit of religion in his behaviour?


   Religion is first reflected in morality and only later in worship. Will a mansion without a strong foundation endure? Can a structure build on worship without morality be able to afford proper protection? In the absence of morality, the place of worship will tumble and religion will not be safe on this earth.

 

Having read the above reports, one can see clearly the concepts of social behaviour, morality and spirituality. They are in a way interlinked. Religion does not enter the picture here, at least, not yet. Having agreed that morality is important for the development of an individual, it quite clearly needs a mentor, a period of introspection and some training. Shall we say we need a guru, not necessarily a religious one? Then we would not need the self-proclaimed protectors of morality and we can show them the door. We will be our own police to protect our morality. Yes we need moral policing, but it has to be from our own realized self. Moral Policing is, after all, not a dirty word.

Human Rights Violation of Sri Lankan Tamils

February 12, 2009

In Times of India dated 11th Feb 2009, Mr. G. Parthasarathy, a former diplomat, has written an article on Sri lankan issue. The first part of the article traces the violent history of LTTE and Prabhakaran. In the next section, he warns India and the rest of the world not to take LTTE and Prabhakaran lightly. He also warns about the fallouts of such an attitude in Tamil Nadu, India and rest of the world. In the last section, he enumerates a precise solution for the Sri Lankan problem. He strongly advices India and the rest of the world to enforce the implementation of these steps on Sri Lankan Government. I have given below the extracts of the last part of the article. Will India listen? 

“New Delhi has to work with the international community to address Tamil aspirations. Sadly, past Sri Lankan efforts to forge a consensus for a political settlement have failed. It would be important for Sri Lanka to implement the provisions of the “Constitution of the Republic of Sri Lanka Amendment Bill” of August 3, 2000, and effectively end human rights violations of innocent Tamils. The implementation of this Bill, together with enforcement of the 13th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution, 1988, will largely address Tamil concerns. Tamil would join Sinhala as an official language of the country and there would be a merger of the northern and eastern provinces with a single provincial administration headed by a chief minister. The merger will remain in force till a referendum in the eastern province is held to decide whether its people want a separate province.”
   “Recent developments in Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives have shown that democratic change is best effected when India works together with the US, the EU and Japan, who are major aid donors, to address issues of democratic freedoms. With Sri Lankan armed forces surrounding Kilinochchi, the operational capital of the Tamil Tigers, the US government said: “The US does not advocate that the government of Sri Lanka negotiate with the LTTE. However, we do believe that a broad range of Tamil voices and opinion must now be brought into the political process, to reach a political solution that Tamils inside and outside Sri Lanka see as legitimate”. The major aid donors and India share a common interest in democratic freedoms, stability and ethnic harmony in a united and pluralistic Sri Lanka.” 

For reading the full article please follow the link below

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Daily/skins/TOI/navigator.asp?Daily=TOIM&login=default&AW=1234450749578

L V Nagarajan

 

Democratic Revolution

January 21, 2009

Democratic Revolution

 By the people, of the people and for the people.

It was a day in July 2008, when political corruption was demonstrated in the central hall of Indian Parliament. I felt so disturbed I wrote a blog giving my thoughts on electoral reforms that could put democratic process back on track in India. (https://lvnaga.wordpress.com/category/indian-politics/)

One of my friends, who read the blog, appreciated the suggested reforms. But he said that these reforms have no chance of being implemented because it is basically against the interests of those who are supposed to implement the same. They will kill these proposals with glee. Even the honorable speaker looked the other way when the enquiry was ordered for money-for-vote scam in the parliament in July 2008. The present political system should be dismissed lock, stock and barrel before we can introduce any reforms in our political process. We cannot wish away the politicians. We the people will have to work within this system to overthrow the same. It has to be done democratically and that is what I call democratic revolution. General elections for choosing the next parliament is just round the corner. This is the best time for us the citizens to act. We should defeat all political parties in these elections!

Can we do anything at all? Yes We Can!

If at all any body can do any thing about this it is only we, the citizens. We can consider it as the second freedom struggle- freedom from the tyranny of politicians, freedom from the biased press, freedom from the pseudo intellectuals, freedom from thugs and criminals who are given free entry into our political process, freedom from corrupt bureaucrats and freedom from greedy business men.

Can we fight these people? Yes We Can!

It is not sufficient for India to have one Obama. We need many Obamas. Let us think of a few ways how we can defeat this system with the resources we have. The biggest resource we have right now is “The Parliamentary Elections – 2009”. This is the best tool we have to drive out this political mafia from our system. We should remember the present government is already a minority government. In the last elections only about 58% of the eligible voters voted. Congress party led by Italian born Sonia Gandhi obtained only about 26% of the votes polled, i.e., only about 15% of the eligible voters. The BJP led by Lahore-born Advani polled even less than this. Other smaller parties shared the rest of the spoils. 42% of the eligible voters did not vote at all. Assuming only half of these people voted for good independent candidates, the political parties would have all lost the elections. Under these circumstances, if we use the full potential of the electoral tool we have, we can drive out all these people who are colluding with each other to sustain this defective, fault-ridden, corrupt system to their advantage.

But can we do it? Yes We Can!

I have evolved a process to take this democratic revolution to its ultimate success. It can ofcourse be refined further by greater minds and be executed by stronger leaders. I have summarized the process of democratic revolution in the following ten steps.

 1. Let us all take a vow not to vote for any political party in the next elections. At worst we will only vote for the best of the independents who are contesting.

2. Let us form small groups of activists within our parliamentary constituency. This citizens group will, from right now, search for a suitable independent candidate and encourage him to contest the elections with our support. You may evolve a set of criteria for selection which may include- educational qualification, social awareness, record of service, popularity with the local people etc.

3. The man we select will naturally not be able to spend as much as a political party. Hence we should start a constituency-wise Election Fund on his name and obtain donations from the people of the constituency. This will make the people feel that the candidate is a ‘people’s candidate’, owing allegiance to People and not to any political party or leader.

4. We should give widest publicity to the asset-statements supplied by all the political candidates at the time of their nominations. People should know the so called representatives of the poor people- how wealthy they are and how did they obtain this wealth. We should educate the public – how much the political candidates are spending for getting themselves elected and how do they propose to earn them back.

5. During campaigning we should publish periodically the running expenses on elections as incurred by our ‘people’s candidate’. Make the people understand how much others could be spending compared to the expenses of ‘people’s candidate’.

6. The citizen’s groups in each parliamentary constituency should meet and draft a people’s charter, which will become the election manifesto for ‘people’s candidate’.

7. All over India there are many organizations like AGNI (www.agnimumbai.org) who wish to empower the people in the political process. We should approach them for help in this process.

8. All the inducement (legal and illegal) to the gullible voters are paid out of money illegally obtained by the political parties from the governmental process. They are people’s money both in the case of ruling parties and the opposition parties. This fact should be brought to bear on people’s minds as a major reason for rejecting them.

9. People should be educated that their vote is secret. Even after accepting inducements forced on them (some times by taking a satya-praman in return), they can vote freely to any one he or she likes without any fear or guilt.

10. The citizen’s group should keep close touch with the local election officer and apprise him of the election irregularities committed by political parties.

Can we really do all this? Yes We Can!

We should be able to suggest some independent, good and efficient people around India who could be supported to contest the next lok sabha elections as an independent. I am starting the list with ten people – I expect others to add to it and make it at least to three hundreds.

1. Kasturi Rangan – Aero-space scientist, Scientific Adviser to GOI.

2. Narayana Murthy – Chairman Infosys.

3. Justice Srikrishna – Retd. Supreme Court Justice

4. Medha Phatkar – Environmental activist

5. Burkha Dutt – Journalist

6. Rahul Bose – Actor

7. Revathi – Actress, had contested elections earlier as an independent.

8. Chandrashekar – Former Thane Municipal Commissioner responsible for Thane development.

9. Prof. M S Swaminathan – Agricultural Scientist and Ecologists, Magsaysay award winner.

10. G R Khairnar – Former Deputy Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation

Let us add more people to this list. Let us include people from rural areas also all over India. Let us add this up to at least three hundreds.

YES, WE CAN!

Jai Hind

L V Nagarajan

20.01.09

A precise solution to the current Sri Lanka – Tamil problem

November 3, 2008

 

I am giving below the recent discussion I had with Mr. Rajiv on the Srilankan war on Tamil insurgents. Apart from the subject matter, the tone and the open minded manner in which the discussion proceeded are just exemplary. I wish to share the same with my readers. 

 

darashikoh Says:

From : http://rajivsramblings.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/

Today’s Hindu editorial has ably enunciated what the precise solution is – in terms of India’s response to the Sri Lankan problem.  Before I elaborate on this: out here in Chennai – I can see a lot of literature which has suddenly exploded ………which supports the LTTE cause.  It is more like the local government is hand in glove with this whole thing.  It is difficult to believe that if the government does not support LTTE as a banned organisation ………….then such literature proliferating so liberally ………is very scary indeed. 

It is more so evident in the small time newspaper stalls.  Although I cannot really read the Tamil headlines ……….the pictures depict a more sympathetic picture of this gruesome organisation. 

I’m just wondering why the local Congress party has not got its reaction together.  Yesterday there was an incidence of vandalism to the statue of Rajiv Gandhi – and a few local congress supporters were protesting about it today.  Beyond that the party needs to get its act together to counter the political wave in favour of the LTTE.  It is only the AIADMK which has taken a strong and firm stand on this issue.  For one thing – those LTTE sympathisers strongly think that Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was justified and that he deserved it.  This kind of thinking is appalling – and goes against the overall thinking across the country that the assassination was wrong and that the LTTE should be punished for it.  

Now coming to the solution which was laid out in today’s Hindu editorial goes as below:

In the first place, no comfort should be given to the LTTE, which is a terrorist organisation banned in 30 countries, including India.

Secondly the Indian commitment must be to finding a solution that envisages devolution of powers to the Tamil regions within a united Sri Lanka, which would mean giving no quarter to the demand for an independent Eelam.

Thirdly, mainstream political parties in Tamil Nadu need to make a sharp disctinction between the current military plight of the LTTE and the displacement and suffering caused by the conflict, affecting an estimated 230,000 Sri Lankan Tamils.

The right response for Government of India and the people of Tamil Nadu would be to offer food, clothing, medicines, fuel and other essential goods as well as other logistical facilities required to reach them to the people through the Sri Lankan government whose President Mahinda Rajapakse has declared his commitment to bring their hardship to an end “in a short time.”

 

 

Nagarajan Says:
October 27, 2008 at 12:18 am

 

In a feedback to Times of India news item, I had sent the following comments. It was kindly published by them. Your may also may find this interesting.

 

L V Nagarajan, Mumbai, says: “I read the story and all the comments. I have following questions which need answers: 1. LTTE is declared as a terrorist organisation. In the last 10 years, what are the terrorist activities in which LTTE is involved, especially outside Sri Lanka? 2. Our beloved young prime-minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE sympathiser, possibly as a plot by LTTE. How many lacs of Srilankan Tamils should die as a revenge for this grave crime by LTTE? 3. When Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka can consider pardoning Nalini who was directly involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, why the Indian government can’t pardon unconnected Srilankan Tamil people and help them in a humanitarian way. Or, was Sonia’s pardon only a political gimmick? 4. Indian Government has intervened many times in the past, in Tamil struggle in Srilanka. Almost all the time the effort was against Tamil interests, (except during a brief period in Indira Gandhi’s time.) Why should they fight shy of intervening now? Is it in respect to the memory of Sri Rajiv Gandhi? 5. Srilankan Tamils are of Indian origin. Have not the government of India acted more sympathetically towards other people of indian origin struggling in other countries? 6. When some body raises these questions why should they be considered as sympathisers of LTTE? (I am Not a sympathiser of LTTE). Is it because, as of now Srilankan people’s only saviour is LTTE? I do not know. I only hope the innocent Tamil people of Srilanka find an early solution to their struggle. God save them.”
[24
Oct, 2008 0208hrs IST]

I really would like to know your answers for the above questions, so that I can correct myself if I am wrong.

 

darashikoh Says:

October 28, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Nagarajan,
Here is my response to your questions:
Question:
How many lacs of Srilankan Tamils should die as a revenge for this grave crime by LTTE?

Answer:
You are connecting the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to the continued Tamil civilian casualties which continue to happen there. This is wrong. India’s response to the mistake of the LTTE was to ban the organisation and draw itself out of the conflict. What you are connecting of the assassination to the casualties is not correct. The casualties are happening at both ends. There have been quite a few Sinhala casualties as well as many Tamil casualties. So this is part of the war. Drawing the Indian Govt. and congress party into this is wrong.

Question:
3.
When Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka can consider pardoning Nalini who was directly involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s assasination, why can’t Indian government pardon unconnected Srilankan Tamil people and help them in a humanitarian way.

Answer:
Nalini’s pardon was only from Priyankas side. The Congress party and the government and the nation have not forgotten/forgiven the assassination. LTTE does not regret the assassination (despite the claims by late Anton Balasingham). They feel bad about the fact that they got further alienated because of this. That is the only thing – otherwise they have not truly regretted. The attack on Rajiv Gandhi’s statue is some indication of what the sympathisers feel for the incidence.

Question:
Is it because, as of now Srilankan people’s only savior is LTTE?

Answer:
India genuinely feels for the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils. We are sending in a lot of aid and help. However it is wrong to say that the only saviour of the Sri Lankan tamils is the LTTE. This is wrong. There are other Tamil political parties like EPRLF, PLOTE etc. which participated in the multi-party elections in east Sri Lanka and won as well. They are running the local government there. LTTE have always tried to be the single representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils by eliminating/assassinating other representatives of the Tamils. This has always been wrong. This is one more reason why the LTTE should be crushed totally and other Tamil political parties should be nurtured to bring about a true democratic multi-party system with enough powers devolvedagain within the ambit of the Sri Lankan federal framework.

 

Nagarajan Says:
October 28, 2008 at 4:02 pm

“India’s response to the mistake of the LTTE was to ban the organisation and draw itself out of the conflict”. – That is the objective of Srilankan army also. But to this end helping the Srilankan army is not correct. We tried once and failed miserably.

“The casualties are happening at both ends. There have been quite a few Sinhala casualties as well as many Tamil casualties.” – There is a difference between ‘quite a few’ and ‘many’; and again between army casualty and civilian casualty.

“Drawing the Indian Govt. and congress party into this is wrong.” – I did not draw Congress party into the discussion. Now I can say, Tamilnadu Congress is conspicuous by its absence of any sympathy towards Srilankan Tamils. Is it super patriotism or pure and simple sycophancy?

“The Congress party and the government and the nation have not forgotten/forgiven the assassination. LTTE does not regret the assassination (despite the claims by late Anton Balasingham).” – Yes, there are others outside the congress and government who have not forgotten Rajiv’s assassination, including me. Rajiv was our prime minister not only congress’s.

“The attack on Rajiv Gandhi’s statue is some indication of what the sympathisers feel for the incidence.” – True. I fear Rajiv’s sacrifice in obtaining a solution to this problem may come to a naught, by the present attitude of congress party.

“India genuinely feels for the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils.” – Is it so? Then why it needed such a show of sympathy from Tamilnadu and a threat from DMK to make even a symbolic move towards peace and relief?

“There are other Tamil political parties like EPRLF, PLOTE etc. which participated in the multi-party elections in east Sri Lanka and won as well.” – Yes, but I do not hear about them much nowadays. Is Govt. (or Congress party!) in touch with them?. What do they feel about the present conflict?

Apart from these comments I agree with all the other things written by you (say about 80%), including the suggested solution. Thanks for taking my comments seriously and replying. Happy Diwali and Jai Hind!

 

darashikoh Says:
October 29, 2008 at 4:47 am

Question: “India’s response to the mistake of the LTTE was to ban the organisation and draw itself out of the conflict”. – That is the objective of Srilankan army also. But to this end helping the Srilankan army is not correct. We tried once and failed miserably.

Answer: India’s response was due to LTTEs action. Between the period of IPKF withdrawal and assassination – India was still involved politically in negotiations etc. However post assassination – we withdrew completely. This was solely because of the mistake done by the LTTE. That Sri Lanka also desired that outcome is incidental. Besides we need to remember that the sovereignty of that nation has to be respected. In fact even now – despite whatever overtures we are doing of pushing for a political solution/humanitarian aid – it is well within the integrity of the Sri Lankan nation and still respects its sovereignty. We need to remember that we cannot exert direct pressure on them. We can only issue demarches and summon their commissioner. Beyond that we can extend aid and material.

Question: “The casualties are happening at both ends. There have been quite a few Sinhala casualties as well as many Tamil casualties.” – There is a difference between ‘quite a few’ and ‘many’; and again between army casualty and civilian casualty.

Answer: Yes I agree with you on that. I don’t deny that. But there have been Sinahalese civilian casualties as well – due to bombings from the LTTE. HoweverI agree with you that the scale of the Tamil civilian casualties is much higher.

Question: “Drawing the Indian Govt. and congress party into this is wrong.” – I did not draw Congress party into the discussion. Now I can say, Tamilnadu Congress is conspicuous by its absence of any sympathy towards Srilankan Tamils. Is it super patriotism or pure and simple sycophancy?

Answer: The Government of India(GOI) along with the foreign minister of Sri Lanka have issued a joint statement expressing concern on the humanitarian crisis, escalated by these on going tensions. Prior to that, they issued a demarche to the commissioner to highlight India’s concern in this regard. I agree with you that all this happened because of the flexing of the political muscle of Tamil parties in Tamil Nadu. That the Tamil Nadu Congress party was conspicuous – well I agree with you that they did not take any stand at all (whereas even the AIADMK took a definite stand on this issue). However our concern shown at the national level by GOI – to some extent mitigates it. But you are overall right on this.

Question: “India genuinely feels for the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils.” – Is it so? Then why it needed such a show of sympathy from Tamilnadu and a threat from DMK to make even a symbolic move towards peace and relief?

Answer: Yes I agree with you that without the threat this would not have been highlighted.

Question: “There are other Tamil political parties like EPRLF, PLOTE etc. which participated in the multi-party elections in east Sri Lanka and won as well.” – Yes, but I do not hear about them much nowadays. Is Govt. (or Congress party!) in touch with them?. What do they feel about the present conflict?

Answer: There was an interview given by Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan – the chief minister of East Sri Lanka and head of Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) – in The Hindu – dated 27th October.

http://blogs.thehindu.com/delhi/?p=4918

They participated in the election – won it and are now running the government. They have some concerns (which all governments do) – which they hope would be resolved in the near future. However the democratic process has been a success – and time will tell about the magnitude of the success. Elections, democracy, peace, development – this is the way. In fact just yesterday 4 of their members were killed by the LTTE in Batticaloa and 5 more were kidnapped. The LTTE continues with its agenda of trying to be the sole representative of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. They don’t want to give democracy and peace a chancewhen it excludes them. http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20081028_06

Please also read the interview of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in today’s Hindu:

http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/29/stories/2008102955181100.htm

I liked your last line. Happy Diwali and Jain Hind to you too!!!