Analysis: You Don't Have To Be A Legislator To Bring About Social Change

Analysis: You Don't Have To Be A Legislator To Bring About Social Change

With the failure of a large section of the mainstream media in exposing such issues, it is left to the public at large to use social media to bring to light problems at the local level

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Friday, March 15, 2024, 11:01 PM IST
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Representative Image | Wikimedia Commons

It is election time in the country and it is also the time for political parties, leaders and candidates in the Lok Sabha election to make tall claims and false promises.

Elections are an opportunity for many to announce schemes that they know cannot be implemented. It is the time for them to first identify a problem or a series of problems and, if problems do not exist, create a bogey of a problem which may or may not be existent, and offer a solution for it. Almost all those in politics, especially those who have attained the position of leaders either within the political party or at the state or national level, have ensured their success by making promises or offering solutions to problems, whether real or imaginary. They know that the winner in electoral politics is often the one who makes promises and not necessarily the one who has made a contribution to the nation or the development of society.

When it comes to the development of society, we are a long way away from truly inclusive development. While the country has seen the development of infrastructure in urban areas, large parts of rural India have been kept away from the fruits of development, which is not and should not be confined to construction of roads, bridges and airports, but includes sectors like health, education, housing, sanitation, potable water and food. On that count we are far behind on the international scene.

However, international certification is secondary; what we see is more important than that. Though a large section of the mainstream media has failed to throw light on the real situation in the country, or on the failure of various political parties and governments in taking care of the basic aspects of development, there are some stray reports related to these issues. For example, rather than opening more schools in rural areas to ensure free education to the children there, there are reports of schools closing down, the poor conditions of schools, schools with a single teacher or schools without proper infrastructure.

The reduction of scholarships for students belonging to underprivileged sections of the society is another major cause for concern.

Some political parties are more interested in construction of places of worship, instead of temples of learning. Claims of setting of construction of All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or similar institutes for vocational and advanced education have turned out to be fake — with even a Member of Parliament from the constituency in which the AIIMS is claimed to have been set up raising the issue in the Lok Sabha and showing photographs of a vacant plot of land, sporting only a signboard with All India Institute of Medical Sciences painted on it.

With the failure of a large section of the mainstream media in exposing such issues, it is left to the public at large to use social media to bring to light problems at the local level, but unfortunately social media is flooded with non-issues, false information, distortion of history and religious frenzy with hate communication.

Almost all aspiring to grab power mention that they want power to ensure development of the country and to extend social justice — and one such politician is Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who stated this recently. Unfortunately, a sizeable section of the electorate believes such statements and vote for the party, only to wait for a renewed chain of such promises in the next elections. Fooling the electorate is part of electoral politics in the country these days, but by claiming that it is not possible to bring about development of the society or country without the opportunity to form the government or at least be a member of a legislative body, Pawar is insulting the thousands of social and political activists in Maharashtra, active currently or in the past, who have made immense contribution to society.

With his claim, in one stroke Pawar is nullifying the great work of social reformers and social activists like Dhondo Keshav Karve and his wife Iravati, their son Raghunath Karve and his wife Malati, Baba Amte, Baba Adhav, Abhay and Rani Bang, Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Medha Patkar, just to name a few.

There are thousands of activists, who are not members of legislative bodies but have made contribution even to the political fabric of the state and the nation. Such people do not need electoral power, their work and the people’s support gives them the power and soon they become the power centre, within their domain. Some activists in Maharashtra or in other states have forced the government to either incorporate new laws to give social justice or to undo injustice prevailing in society. On the other hand, on some occasions, the struggles and campaigns led by such individuals have forced governments to withdraw laws that were either anti-people or were draconian.

Only an ungrateful society or individual, not wanting to acknowledge the work of such activists, can make claims that development and reforms come only through electoral politics. No doubt there are some advantages of being a member of legislative bodies, but that is when the elected representatives are given opportunities to raise issues concerning the public at large or to debate on laws being introduced in the legislative bodies; this is found to be lacking in the country. This is seen even from the statements of elected people’s representatives from opposition parties till they join the ruling alliance.

People should be honest in saying that they are in electoral politics to be corrupt. A couple of years ago a video interview of a candidate, who was honest in stating that he was contesting the election to make money and work only for himself and his family after being elected, went viral on social media. Voters rewarded his frankness by defeating him.

The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi

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