Sunday, April 6, 2014

I Propose........

Someone asked an interesting question on Quora today. It was badly phrased, sounded more challenging and angry than anything else. 

There should be exam for contesting elections or not?

Reminded me of some tea advertisement about a year ago. Something that said, "to phir neta ban-ne ke liye exam kyun nahi?" 

I could be wrong about the tea and the specific quote. 

I'm notoriously wrong where it comes to advertising. But I'm write about the context. 

My first instinct was to say -- Yes there should be! 

Till I read the answer by Ashok Gupta who essentially said that in a democracy, everyone, including illiterates and farmers should have representation. 

I agree. He's right. 

Of course Mr Gupta enthusiastically went on to say Gundas and criminals should be allowed too, but I'm going to demur on that. 

However, it was a good question and it got me thinking. 

They are in our lives- Intimately

Politicians don't just create and implement policy that determines the future of our country. 

These are distancing words -- 'policy' and 'country.' We can't really wrap our heads around something so distant and abstract.

They make us lose sight of the fact that obscure and often complex policies and politicians effect our personal future. Our kids' futures. 

That they effect our everyday lives intimately.

They determine how much we pay for our electricity; what our shopping malls store and how much we pay for a bar of soap; the crimes we're arrested for; how we're treated by government servants.

In a quasi-controlled economy like ours, they even effect how much healthcare costs; or the kindergarten fee we shell out for a decent education. 

So before we vote for them, politicians certainly owe us a few answers. More - we have a right to demand it of them. 

And specific answers. Not election rally shilly-shallying and chest thumping. Not even the between-the-lines reading of a political manifesto. 

But look-us-in-the-face and tell us kind of answers. 

So should there be an exam? 

For all those contesting elections 

I propose that...

1. There should certainly be a basic literacy test

In a complex policy environment, no politician should be allowed to sign and pass files he cannot fully read and understand. 

Government "servants" like peons are required to have these basic requirements.  Xth pass -- as they say. 

It is unthinkable that we don't ask this of ministers who sign hundreds of papers requisitioning thousands of crores of our money  on a regular basis. 

Or of an effective opposition that is supposed to understand the very same policy papers.  

2. There should probably also be a basic reasoning and analysis test. 

I know, I know. This is jumping the gun. Which I am aught to do. We'll probably get there in a century or so. 

But seriously -- should we really be okay with no reasoning and analysis skills?

If you don't agree it's okay. But at least think about it for the next decade or so, wouldja?

For the chief Prime-Ministerial candidates

I propose.....

1. A Cambridge style series  of debates on pre-determined and specific policy issues for the main contenders. 

 (The US does it already, so this is not a fairy tale) 

2. Each speaker should get a predetermined time to state his specific policy/stand on the specific issue at hand.  

The speaker MUST stop after the buzzer or face a muted mike. 

3. Each speaker also gets rebuttal time to either rebut another speaker or the allegations made against him. 

Here too, he MUST stop after the buzzer or the mike automatically shuts down. 

4. Each debate should last for an hour and must deal with at least 6 key policy issues that will then reflect in the party's manifesto. 

5. Each debated is moderated by a moderator who has only two jobs
  1. First, to work the mikes so that no one exceeds the mandate on time. 
  2. To merely read out audiences questions vetted by someone bright, like sociologist Ashish Nandy in the background and passed out to him on a tablet or piece of paper. 
6. The Moderator does not get to voice his own opinions. This rules out most current TV Anchors. 

7. No debate participant is allowed to walk out mid-way. He signs a release beforehand saying that if he does so, he should agree to being called a coward. 

8 . The debate should ideally be aired on the most popular Hindi and English news network Channels and Door Darshan. 

I think this is achievable. What do you think?

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