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Participatory Democracy…

February 3, 2009

The participation of the citizenry in the electoral process is a direct indicator of the health of a democracy. The higher the participation, the more vibrant will be the democratic process. Mere participation by itself is not enough. One needs to have enlightened participation in order to ensure that the citizenry make an informed choice. Increasingly elections have resulted in making our democracy, representative of the moneyed and the elite few. It should be the collective responsibility of each one of us to make sure that we make the Indian Democracy a truly participatory one. One needs to begin with the elections as an event and take forward the process by engaging our elected representatives on a continual basis.

India in going through exciting and paradoxical times. On one side, we have so much and yet so little. We have the highest scientific manpower in the world today and at the same time we are grappling with the issue of illiteracy. Even today 74% of our rural women are anaemic and we have been able to completely immunize only 42% of our children. We have the technology to go to the moon, but are battling the issue of poor sanitation. Two Indians are represented in the list of the top 10 richest men in the world today, while 25% of the world’s poor live in India. More than 35% of Indians do with less than 1000 KCal per day. The irony of the situation is that we are no longer as poor as we thought. While we have made great economic progress, we are now faced with poverty of value based leadership. Most of what we are today is the direct result of poor and bad governance over the last 20-30 years. Nations who have made enormous social and economic progress have been able to do so only because they have had responsive and responsible governments. While we cannot wish away the role of the elected representatives in Governance today, we need to ensure that we hold them accountable to the performance that the situation demands. We need to engage with them on a continual basis and work with them in ushering in true participatory democracy where each one of us has a say in the development processes that affect us. All this begins with the kind of people we chose to represent us. Mere complaining on what we get will not change the situation. We need to now involve ourselves constructively in understanding the people we will vote for, assess their capabilities, and give them a chance to explain their vision to us and interact and partner with them in making sure that they deliver on the promise of good governance.

Come let us all join hands in ensuring that we each one of us take on our civic responsibility seriously and begin by making informed choices. Let us not forget that we will only get the leaders we deserve.

– Balu

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