Common man Grappling with Distorted Democracies:

Common man Grappling with Distorted Democracies:

Democracy is the system in most of the countries around the world. Democracy helps citizens to choose their leaders to run the government, where a party with majority that is more than half will get to rule. We were taught this, since our school days. I still remember a subject called ‘Civics’ in my primary school curriculum, exclusively meant for teaching democracy, constitution, executive, judiciary, bureaucracy and elections. 

Prime Minister Modi met US president Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris in Washington, a day before UN general assembly, where they underlined the need for strengthening democracy and respecting human rights. Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi termed India as “the mother of all democracies”, in his address on 25 September 2021, in United Nations general assembly. I don’t agree with his statement completely.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25 2021.
Photo credit: AFP

The idea of this article is not to creep about a statement made by our Prime Minister. It is meant to reveal the lack of integrity in democratic values, across the globe.

India could be “mother of all the democracies” in books, but what is practised is distorted democracy. It is same in all the countries where democracy is the system including India, United Kingdom, USA and Pakistan. Afghanistan also had democracy a couple of days ago. In all these countries, distorted democracy is the order, although the level of distortion differs depending on the factors like education, maturity, law enforcement and so on.

The world where we live is changing rapidly. We use advanced technology in our daily lives. It makes our life a lot more easier than what it was in the past. We get used to it and it becomes part of our lifestyle. We use 5G mobiles and internet which enables us to do a surgery remotely. We use advanced gadgets like smart phones, smart speakers, smart watches, headphones, TV’s and augmented reality.  Insurance companies will give discount on health insurance premium based on number of steps you walk everyday and they track your footsteps using smart wrest band. Doctors can monitor our cardiac health condition remotely with the use of technology. Google assistance and machine learning allows us to live care free to some great extent. But with all this comforts and luxury comes a new age threat to our privacy, where someone can literally track and monitor everything we do in our lives.  

Pegasus software from NSO, a Israeli company is the most recent cyber surveillance that has come into light.
Hundreds of phones belonging to journalists, activists, politicians and diplomats has been hacked  by governments, using this Pegasus software. Pegasus is classified as a weapon. It can read messages, can record and monitor calls, it can turn on the phone remotely and record videos and take pictures, without the knowledge of the target. It is said that the Pegasus technology was used by government of India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Hungry,  Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, France and the list goes. Most of these countries have ordered enquiry into it after the revelation. In India the government informed supreme court that they cannot reveal information which could be a threat to our national security. Same could be the explanation by other governments who used this software. I don’t understand the logic in several nations sharing the information which could be a threat to their national security with Israel. A Israeli company having access to information about diplomats and politicians from different nations is a bigger threat than espionage. Such technology used on foreign diplomats meant to detect espionage, to track dreaded criminals and terrorists is good, if it is indigenously developed by a nation. But Israel having access to information from several countries who purchased their software to snoop people around the world is not at all acceptable. More than fifty thousand people were on list, including French President Immanuel Macron. This is not the first revelation of such snooping. Edward Snowden's revelation in 2013 about NSA snooping and Wikileaks tells that it’s primary target could be dreaded criminals and terrorists. But we see a kind of insecurity among the ruling class across the globe and it makes them target activists, journalists and public figures through cyber surveillance.

Along with such snooping, the governments are trying to control main stream media and social media websites. Social media feeds are being controlled by governments, where they decide what people should see and shouldn’t see on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Facebook is engaged in submissive business practice where they tend to be biased. Lawmakers in United State grilled Google CEO Sundar Pichai, before US presidential election to ensure that Google is not biased in feeding news about the election. 
Google is impartial and is among the online platforms which are trustworthy. Other platforms will be a nightmare for those who doubt Google. 

All democratic countries in the world will have elections, once in four or five years, where people get to vote for a political party of their choice. People make their choice based on what they see on internet and in news. Governments exerting pressure on media, internet, snooping and targeting journalists and activists will make elections and democracy meaningless.

Would you believe, if you were to read something like Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister of Srilanka on 9th January 2015 and it was due to some fixing job from outside Srilanka to help some powers in the corridor? We have super powers and semi powers in the world. But it shouldn’t come in their way, when people get to elect their representatives once in four or five years. It cannot be a score settling game to adjust with their strategies. This is just an imaginary example, but those in the fray knows what I am explaining. This scenario is just an example of how external forces will influence elections. And that makes it a distorted democracy. 

India:

Distorted Democracy in India, a poison for farmers:  

India is a democratic country, where a party with majority will get to rule. Even today 65% to 70% of voters in India are farmers. Since independence, there was only one major reform to regulate the market for selling agricultural produces, which is APMC Act. If one were to look at the number of scams the ruling governments were involved, starting from Bofors scam, then it is more than one scam per each elected term. And APMC Act did not do much to protect farmers from “buyers market” , than making it legal. Then came the  new farm laws in September 2020. It change the beneficiary of exploiting farmers. Farmers went on protest for several months and there wasn’t any assurance so far by the government. The concept of silencing the voices of majority and neglecting their genuine need is actually distorted democracy.

In India we have agricultural ministry and several departments like irrigation department, horticulture department, agriculture department etc. Despite their existence, there are several ways in which the farmers are being taken for a damn ride. So there is a need for a central agency to regulate these department’s activities. A central agency which will focus more on research and development in agriculture and to dictate norms for agricultural inputs. 

We have finance ministry in every state and in union government and there are hundreds of bureaucrats under finance ministry. Yet, we have RBI to regulate banks, IRDA to regulate insurance and SEBI to regulate stock brokers and traders. Then why don’t we have a central agency for agricultural sector, which is the occupation of at least 65% of our population?

It is not possible to depend completely on organic farming. It is inevitable to use chemical fertilizers to produce food stuff in adequate quantity. However, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides should be reduced as much as possible. The pesticides sprayed on vegetables will leave a residue, which can remain in it even after washing them and we end up consuming them. People should understand that a tomato with a worm in it, is more edible than those which are rich in pesticides. Excessive use of pesticides on vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, for which pesticides are sprayed once in two days are actually not good for human consumption. Indian pesticides market is free for any company to sell any pesticides. Some of those pesticides are harmful and will cause ailments like cancer. Existing departments are not successful in containing it. Often people get to know about the adverse affects of such harmful chemicals only after using it for years and will have hundreds of victims.
Picture of Endosulfan victims.

Endosulfan tragedy in Kerala is an example and it takes years of legal battle to ban the use of such chemicals. And companies who sell them use different names after court banning a particular brand. Hence, there should be a central agency, who can check the stocks at any chemical pesticides seller and can take punitive action against those engaged in such malpractice. The agency should be the governing body under whom the research and development happens and should be entitled to ban the sale of any such harmful chemicals. These harmful chemicals used in the farm will not only destroy the vegetation, water bodies and affect the health of farmers who are 65% to 70% of our population, but they will affect the consumers as well. 

We have agricultural department to help farmers in testing the soil to use fertilizers appropriately and to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers. But the uneducated farmers are either unaware of it or the people in agriculture department are not helpful in educating them. Excessive use of fertilizers will increase the input cost of farming, other than spoiling the fertility of soil. So a central agency in every state who will have a team to do research, to help farmers, to audit the works of Agriculture department and to regulate farm inputs is inevitable. 

 We see American companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemicals (company responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy) selling pesticides which are banned in USA and several other countries. Monsanto is known for BT cotton, where farmers who purchased cotton seeds were used for research for several years, to develop BT cotton on trial and error method. We also see them selling GM mustard by silencing the court, committees and concerned departments.
Agent Orange is a harmful chemical used by US air force to spray on bushes to destroy the hideouts of Vietnam Guerrilla fighters. Now the left over is diluted and sold in countries like India by name Round-up. Round-up is a herbicide meant to destroy unnecessary weed and grass. The Round-up will also destroy the fertility of soil, because it kills microorganisms and agents who help nitrogen fixation and various other natural process. It kills butterflies, insects and bees, who help pollination. All this practices are harmful for farmers as well as for those who consume farm produces and to the nature. Poor uneducated farmers cannot really fight against these issues. Therefore, the union government and our Prime Minister who believes in democracy should consider forming a central agency for helping farmers who are majority of voters.

Kerala:

Is it the end of Congress in Kerala?

Democracy cannot function properly, unless we have a strong opposition, the watch dog. People in Kerala were smart to elect LDF and UDF alternatively, except this time. There are number of reasons for Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s victory in election for the second consecutive term. Some of the reasons are that people in Kerala were extremely happy about his rule in the state for five years and the way disasters like Covid-19 and cyclone OKHI were handled. People lost confidence in Congress and there were internal rivalry in Congress leaders. People in Kerala found LDF as better option to counter BJP and Sangh Parivar from polarizing the state.  

Kerala stands at number one position in India in several parameters and human development index’s like infant mortality rate, primary health care facilities, per capita income, standard of living, literacy rate, etc. We need to understand that these achievements cannot be considered as achievements of LDF alone. It was both LDF and UDF government who ruled Kerala alternatively and people of Kerala are responsible for this success. It is extremely important to have a strong opposition, which people can see as an alternative and for the effective functioning of democracy. West Bengal was ruled by left front for seven consecutive terms and Bengal lacks development in every sphere. Thirty four years is a very long term to transform a state, but the left front failed to deliver.

Indian National Congress has become less relevant in India, since it lost to NDA in 2014 general election. On the other hand, BJP is increasing it’s strength in Kerala like rest of India. BJP is approaching minority communities and their priests to garner support for their party in states like Kerala. As a result, we see George Kurian becoming a BJP leader. Recently, many Christians lit candles in church on Modi’s birthday.
We see a tendency of minority communities in India joining BJP and Sangh Parivar as an alternative for Congress. It helps them to protect the interests of their respective community, other than getting a chance to become a senior leader of BJP in states like Kerala. 

The turn of events which took place in Kerala Congress after it’s defeat in the state is even more worrisome for Congress workers and leaders. To begin with Ramesh Chennithala is a better chief ministerial candidate than Murali and VD Satheesan. Chennithala who served as home minister of Kerala in Oommen Chandi’s cabinet, is more acceptable than the other two leaders. Ramesh Chennithala is a strong opposition leaders and has more potential to win the next election, than any other Congress leader in Kerala.
Rahul Gandhi and the central Congress leadership’s decision to elevate him to national politics as general secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC) to settle the score in Kerala will backfire. Giving incharge of Punjab or Gujarat will not help Congress much because, Punjab is already a troubled water which Rahul Gandhi himself is struggling to deal with. And Gujarat is BJP bastion, where Chennithala cannot  do much with he not being good in both Gujarathi and Hindi.

At the same time Congress in Kerala can split further and can become more weak, in the absence of Chennithala. A strong opposition from now is the only way to win next election in Kerala. Congress in Kerala may have to deal with another problem they created when they were in power in Kerala last time. K.M.Mani the chairman of Kerala Congress, one of the main faction of Kerala Congress had brief stint as a minister in the CPI(M) led LDF ministry in early 1980. He then been a minister for 24 years in various ministries. He had a chance to become Chief Minister by toppling the then UDF government, before retiring from politics and life. 
 
Congress leadership in Kerala and at the centre were clever to trap him in a bribery case, where the bribe amount was one crore. It is known to everyone in Kerala that one crore is too small an amount in 2014 for a leader like Mani to take as bribe, to get caught while his party is in power and when he is a minister. He could collect much more than that from party workers and supporters in a week’s time. K.M.Mani is no more and the Congress in Kerala is vulnerable than ever. So Mani faction of Kerala Congress going for an alliance with LDF will result in Congress in Kerala going out of power for several years. And it is very likely to happen. It is an option for them to make an alliance with BJP and NDA as well.

Oommen Chandy won’t be interested in becoming the Chief Minister again after another five years, considering his age and health.  And how far the Congress can depend on their ally Muslim League, after five years is something unknown. As rightly said by the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that, “Muslims in Kerala don’t require ‘Muslim League’ to live peacefully, but “Muslim League” is dependent on Muslims for their party’s survival. So Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala working together in Kerala is the only option to strengthen Congress and to win the next election. Congress leaders like Rajamohan Unnithan exhibiting their arrogance in the party will only make it worse. 
I am not bullying your ability to think, but your leaders are:

Above pictures becoming national news, talks volumes about the attempt by both ruling NDA and the opposition to divert the attention of people from pressing problems which I can list a few.
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