Friday, May 1, 2009

Holidays are for idiots

Once more, Mumbaikars gave a vivid demonstration of their sense of priorities. A holiday was declared on April 30 so we could vote in the General Elections, but more than half of us did not vote. Strangely, the non-voters did not show up at their offices demanding they be allowed to work instead! All in all, it was a wonderful exhibition of the core Mumbaikar philosophy "I don't give a flying f..." (in Marathi: आय डोंट गिव अ फ्लाईंग फ...).

Why do we need to declare a holiday on election day? Wouldn't it be enough to offer employees two hours off on that day on strict condition that they actually vote? This would need to be demonstrated by showing up the next day with the tell-tale ink line on their left middle finger. Employees who claim they were unable to vote as their name did not appear on the voter list could be required to provide a cell-phone video of themselves arguing with an election officer.

Actually some private companies did give just a couple of hours, or adjust shifts, so it was -- as usual -- the sarkari sector that generously awarded the holiday.

For residents of the South Bombay constituency, the number of "idiots" was more than 50 percent, closer to 60 percent in fact. The papers went on and on about how it was a four-day weekend and people would naturally want to go on vacation, as if to suggest that the ones who stayed behind to vote were the true idiots. And I love the way well-meaning social groups pleaded with people to vote in the early morning before leaving for their vacations, as if to acknowledge that vacationing was the main priority and voting a mere side-issue.

There is however one positive outcome from all this. The next time people from Malabar Hill go around lighting candles at the Gateway of India and saying "we will never forget" (and creating traffic jams by parking their Toyotas all over the place), we can perhaps slap a few of them, not very hard but just hard enough to jog their memories.

16 comments:

Yayaver said...

our educated middle class and elite media is impacted only if something happens to or done by rich, pretty and english speaking populace.For these residents of the South Bombay constituency,a line from hindi poetry..चुल्लू भर पानी से बुझाने आग गाँव की
चल पडी टोलियाँ अमीर उमराव की..

jatkesha said...

I am just amazed as to why the Indian government cannot make voting compulsory. It just beats me. They can pass an anti-defection law and strengthen the prospects of their own parties but not make voting compulsory. What is more funny is that they don't want to allow the option of 'None of the above' in the elections.

Do you want the employees to show their left middle finger like this? Imagine employees showing it to their boss.

Rahul Basu said...

Harsh, verry verry harsh, Sunil Bhai! Eet ees mai daymocratic right not to vote for all these idiots....

Just one vital missing point from your post -- did you?

As for me, we go to the polls on 13 May and the TN Election Commission has removed my name from the rolls. So I am relieved of the necessity to decide which table thumping Tamil Eelam demanding crackpot I should press the button for.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Rahul: I don't know what's harsh about suggesting that the great Indian salaried class either vote or go to office on election day. Or is it harsh to merely bring up the possibility that they have any responsibility at all?

As for myself: yes I voted. Being in Maharashtra I got my middle finger inked.

As for yourself: change is imminent. As far as I can make out from the net, your MP (and Union Cabinet Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways) is to change his constituency this year and stand from Sriperumbudur despite having been elected four times in a row from Chennai South (which I assume is your constituency). Therefore, if you can manage to restore your name to the voters' list, you can hopefully choose a fresh face this time!

Shubashree said...

Dear Sunil Mukhi,

I don't know if yu remember me.. I was at IMSc. I'm impressed this informative one-liner about South Chennai... Though, does Velachery come under Sriperambudur or South Chennai? Rahul Basu would have an impressive Choice in S.Ch.- L Ganesan (BJP TN pres. who seems to have placed his trust on the elite of Chenn., strangely!) and others... Come to think of it, L Ganesan was (is?) a non--Tamil-Eelam-demanding crackpot!

B. SUNDER said...

"Vote do! Vote Karo! It is your right! You have no right to question if you don't vote...!" etc. etc.

I have been hearing(sometimes listening) about these slogans for quiet some time now, since Tata Tea started "jaago re" campaign. This time the urge/request/persuasion through many forms with help of technology(sms etc) has been very overwhelming. Add to this a mail about 49-O where you don't have to caste a vote according to constitution of India itself; LOL! Yes I agree democracy is such that one should vote to have the right candidate. But I must say that is not enough! If people united in their demands then this statement makes sense. When there is a disparity in "junta's" needs(& I don't mean aam aadmi but evrybody) the democratic system is in a forever chase of despair and hope. Hence what people from S. Mumbai want may not be the same for people from N. Mumbai and that is what happens when two different leaders get elected wherein to make up the majority this demand of people is ignored and what is left is how much the MLA makes in Lakhs or Crores to join the party so that he could retain his post and also be part of that demand to be fulfilled which his constituency doesn't even have. Hence people don't vote Dr. Sunil!

Even if we have perfect leaders (I mean in terms of Vision and command over their Aims for the nations in terms of true life long service) like Sardar Patel or Pt. Nehru still this persuasion is not so apt.

I think and think, but perhaps due to lack of experience I am not able to conclude that whether there could be any better system than Democracy. Mind you, every system has its advantages and disadvantages. But there has to be the best which has not yet come for so many years.

Did I vote? :D

Rahul Basu said...

I hope you have seen Naresh Fernandez's completely cliched and fatuous Op-Ed in the New York Times. Who is this new talking head anyway - described as editor of TimeOut. Methinks he should take one.

Rahul Basu said...

Indeed I no longer have to vote for T. R. Balu (how do you know I did earlier, isn't my vote confidential?). In a political class not known for its efficiency, Baalu as he is now known, plumbs the depths. He has managed to derail one of the few successful infrastructural projects of the NDA, the Golden Quadrilateral project.

Anyway this issue is moot, since I have no say anymore in who we get.

Ramanan said...

interestingly Wikipedia has a wiki on voter turnout and studies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout

Sunil Mukhi said...

Rahul: I just read Naresh Fernandes's article and while it hardly covers new ground, I thought it was nicely done and made its point. Readers can find it at this link.

Personally I think the description "cliched and fatuous" applies to the excuse "I don't vote because the candidates are not good enough", a view which enjoys a strange popularity for something so manifestly crackpot.

Shubashree said...

Dear Sunil,

I think Fernandes's article hints at a few real reasons for not voting. It's a myth that your choice is a secret. There are a range of mechanisms to probe people - from covert provocative chats in offices to downright intimidation of folks from less-organised sectors. Of course, what's applicable in this to the average office-going-type/social-animal is carrying home and inked fore-finger read "middle-finger to mumbai")would give room to deliberate harrasment, of gentler beings - until one feels - what the hell is lost if I doesn't vote? BTW, in the last-but-one Lok Sabha Election, the ballot boxes were placed in separate smaller cubicles and each cubicle bore the name of the apartment block it was meant for - all this makes it such a disturbingly transparent process!

Anil said...

Sunil, one of the factors that influences the percentage turn-out is the credibility of the electoral rolls. I am pretty sure that my family members and I (total of 5) are still on the South Bombay electoral rolls, although we no longer live in Bombay. No doubt this applies to many others as well. Hence the list of "eligible voters" may be artificially swollen, leading to the conclusion of a "low turn-out". A partial solution would be to permit "absentee voting" as in many foreign countries.

Ramanan said...

Everyone has been saying that "Vote" etc but I share the apathetic feeling of Mumbaites. The turnout doesnt really matter at all. It is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for "Change". Plus of course people do not lose the right to complain because they are paying taxes. I would say that high turnout is a causal phenomenon - when there is good governance, people automatically come out and vote, instead of the other way round. In fact even Sheela Dixit came on TV (either CNN-IBN or NDTV) and said that the turnout is not important. She even suggested that there is so much confusion about the 3rd and 4th fronts that people didnt really get inspired to go out.

I had a completely different problem (though it might sound like an excuse) - rules about staying in one place for 6 months continuously and I had recently shifted to another suburb. I could have taken the effort of travelling 20 km twice (registering+voting) but didnt get inspired to take so much effort.

Cheeta said...

Actually, I didn't quite get the point Naresh Fernandes was trying to make. In particular, I couldn't make out his rather confused last paragraph, in which he appears to mix up democracy with government and, whichever he means, says that it has both failed and been responsive. Can anyone elucidate?

And after sixty years and more can we at least agree that what we practice in India with democracy is surely more than an experiment?

dilawar... said...

The best thing about Indian Democracy is that only poor people vote. And they are the people who should vote. Other's can protect their interest by themselves. Remember after demolition of slums in MUmbai, elites went to high court asking to strip off their voting rights since they are depressed. The media did not even give a damn about them (It made news since it was too big to ignore).

Ashim said...

The sad part is that the generation of 80's that is my generation isn't that politically active. Voting is in many ways reflective of ones own political ideology which in turn for a democracy decides how the country policies are handled. The depressing part is none of the people give a damn. If they dont have an ideology why should they vote. Anyways we are a young democracy, we will require time to develop certain qualities which actually will strengthen the country.