08 April 2009

elections, environment and corporate democracy

I'm going to start off this post by saying that I'm not politically minded nor am I well-aware about current political scenario. So this is an attempt at a stab in the dark at what I perceive and what role the current elections could play. Bear with me.

The 15th Lok Sabha elections are round the corner. All the parties contesting the elections have already come out with their respective election manifestos. The manifestos give public a sneak-peek at the agendas of each party.

In a recent poll campaign, about 10,000 college students across the country, some of them are first-time voters had signed on letters to the leaders asking them whether their parties have taken any policy regarding environment and climate change. The letter stated that environment must be a major issue in the manifestoes of the political parties. It is not only issues like climate change and renewable energy resources that require immediate attention but also issues like pollution, waste management, forests, wildlife issues and various inter-linked social problems that are vital for consideration.

It is very clear that solutions to environmental issues can not be achieved only through awareness. They have to be backed by political will. Hence, the new government must make it very clear that it is prepared to address these issues by introducing positive initiatives. But prior to that, the national parties must come up with a clear vision on the above issues through their election manifesto. After all, ‘would be’ leaders should know the importance of understanding, vision and commitment for the issues of livelihood and ecological sustainability. Hence it is very important to make environment concerns a voter's agenda.

However the current political scenario is one of utter disillusionment. People have no faith in their leaders and the leaders only want quick-fix solutions to a variety of problems which they try to achieve by giving away free food and other 'goodies'. Obviously this only aims at exploitation of the poor. Instead if funds could be diverted towards the education of this sector, there is no bounds to where we can go as a country.

But the question of whether corporate democracy or apathy is holding the country back is out there for debate. Democracy is a noble concept but as a form of government, rarely works much like many other political platforms. But it is the best we have for now and the way we work around its limitations is the key to a viable future. It is now supremely obvious that economic growth and ecology are intricately linked. But until people at the grass-roots are educated, this concept will be lost to them.

Even if parties do put in eco-friendly aims into their manifestos, how many actually get done? it is very easy to promise something in the run of running for office but most of the promises are forgotten even before the chosen person has taken the oath of office. Disillutionment is easy. So is apathy. And in order to hold these parties to their promises, the only viable thing that works is public pressure. Even the most powerful political party cannot stand in the face of disapproval of a billion people. Ultimately its not choosing someone who can best deal with these challenges. It is spreading awareness so that public pressure demands the best solutions from whomever is elected.

India is still a young country. It is a country than can learn from its own past mistakes and the mistakes of other countries. It is a country with people intrinsically wanting a better life and needing a little help in finding the path... maybe to greatness. It is a country of hope, of fatalistic attitudes. It is a country whose people have immense courage and heart-breaking humanity even in the face of soul-crushing poverty. We can have the whole future because we have such an unbelievably rich past. But like all best made plans, there are obstacles. It is in the hands of the people to move away from the cheapening of democracy and choose the form of democracy that is full of the ideals it promises.

Into this heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

- Rabindranath Tagore

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