The Ballot Is Stronger Than The Bullet

If you don’t vote, you don’t count – Nancy Pelosi

Quite a few of us well meaning citizens have stayed away from participating in politics in any meaningful way. More or less, we’ve made ourselves comfortable with the idea of being ‘apolitical’ given all the not-so-delightful connotations that come with being associated with anything political, and rightfully so.

Anyone who grew up watching Indian movies in the 90’s would hardly have any delightful recollection of watching a movie where the role of a politician was worthy of any emulation. A politician in a 90’s Bollywood movie would usually be a lowlife who was using all power towards his/ her self-interest, and would engage in any manner with those under his duty (think the weakest of the weak, and the poorest of the poor who could do nothing for him/ her) only at the time of garnering votes.

Most of us never really paid attention as to why some of the most corrupt and most incompetent people flocked to this arena, where attaining leadership powers mostly meant the power to flock across in VVIP entourages, whilst the welfare (welfare != advertising) of the masses who voted them into power were met with disdain. We ‘apolitical’ citizens just actively stayed away from it all : I do concede that in true patriotic spirit, we did indeed some times put up some incredibly viral posts from our Facebook/ Twitter/ LinkedIn/ Instagram/ Snapchat accounts , and more than a few times lighted candles and marched in unison when the occassions demanded it… all this whilst muttering to ourselves that ‘Is Desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta’ (nothing good can happen with this Nation).

So regardless of whether we learn about conditions where people have to turn to protest to ensure survival in a country they call their own; political parties field candidates with alarming criminal records (bribery/ corruption/ rape/ violence against women/ assault/ murder/ kidnap/ any other criteria which qualifies and encourages them to apply)* ; massive scale of inefficiency and corruption across political parties, delightfully glossed by marketing and media spends; marketing of covert military operations for political purposes; elected representatives, answerable to the citizens, staying mum on pertinent national issues, and so on and so forth; we choose to go about things indifferently, rarely pausing to reflect on the qualifications, credibility or actions of those ‘we’ send to power.

* Gentle reminder that all these incredible folks ‘we’ vote for, are now involved in policy and decision-making, planning and implementation, added to the management of State and National Funds, which would directly/ indirectly impact the Nation; and should they choose to, also have the power to channel their own family and retirement funds.

National Flag - India | Picture Credit : David Peterson, Public_Domain_Photography, Pixabay
National Flag – India | Picture Credit : David Peterson, Public_Domain_Photography, Pixabay

India has never really been a poor country

If one were to observe and analyze the quantum of the State Budgets and the power the elected representatives have towards revolutionizing the affairs of the State : Should the money reach the right places for the benefit of the citizens, the possibilities are overwhelming.

Case in Example:

The union territory of Delhi (not even a State) has a State Budget of INR 60,000 Crores (~ USD 7.5 Bn)

Within just past 3-4 years in Delhi, with a government elected post the India Against Corruption movement, there has been incredible transformation across education, healthcare, water, electricity amongst others.

In education alone, 26% of the State Budget has been allocated towards investments in all things Education – This impacts 1031 Delhi Government schools and 15,00,000+ students enrolled there. For healthcare, the allocation stands at 12.7% of the State Budget, and which has opened up ‘Free Healthcare’ (checkups, medicines and 212 lab tests) for all citizens in Delhi.*

There is a transparent report by the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi with solid background sources, which showcases all the work done across the sectors.

*An impact no Philanthropic act/ Non-Profit can mimic at this scale, and within this time frame.

Should we look nearby towards Madhya Pradesh : The State Budget there is approximately 2,00,000 Crores (~ USD 25 Bn). However, the state education, healthcare and electricity remain how it used to be for what one would expect from a Government institution over the years.

If you didn’t know this already : Banners, Newspaper Ads, Campaigners, Crowds, News Companies and News Sites can be bought and controlled; and news headlines can be marketed. What is difficult to replicate is actual on-the-ground work executed and citizens actually benefiting from them.

Some of us believe in philanthropic routes to give back to the society, but from whatever little I have observed and understood, there is no way that Philanthropy / CSR can fix this at scale.

India Overall CSR Spend = INR 50,000+ Crores
State Budget for just Delhi, India = INR 60,000 Crores

It’s hard not to do the math – Add in the State Funds for 29 States and 7 Union Territories, along with the National Funds and you start getting an idea as to how much money never reaches the beneficiaries and us citizens, ‘Every Single Year’.

Teachers and Young Schoolgoers Saluting the Indian National Flag on India Independence Day | Picture Credit : Mizanur Rahman, Facebook
Teachers and Young Schoolgoers Saluting the Indian National Flag on India Independence Day | Picture Credit : Mizanur Rahman

They say one should be careful when picking their fights – Choose which fights/ wars you really want to fight : Some wars are inevitable when we look ahead into the future, with the Demographic Dividend (no more an opportunity, but more and more of a liability the further we delay any worthwhile action), unemployment, poverty and potential civil riots staring right back at us.

If people don’t vote, everything stays the same. You can protest until the sky turns yellow or the moon turns blue, and it’s not going to change anything if you don’t vote

– Dolores Huerta

The next generations should not bear the brunt of our unreflective decisions simply because we did not go about doing our basic thinking and acting for ourselves. Leaders will come, and leaders will go – Our actions and values passed down and impacting the next generations, will remain etched in history (unless some powers spend a lot, to change that too).

We are here only for 50-70-90 years : Use your time, energy, actions… and votes, wisely.