I haven’t opined on Indian politics for a while. To tell you the truth, I’ve been ruminating, taking it all in. And here are some randomly picked thoughts from the thousands that buzz around my head.
#1 Let’s stop comparing AAP’s Delhi election win with the 2014 general elections!
I’m really tired of the over-analysis, the conspiracy theories and the general building up of expectations. The truth is that any new government will take time to settle and move forward. And really, can we compare Delhi’s politics with India’s? My quick thoughts: The AAP win is a good jolt for the BJP and hopefully has sent them scrambling to their desks to actually bring out the many policies that are “being worked on” at this time. For AAP, my big question is: Is there a method to Kejriwal’s politics or is it a case of learning to swim so you don’t drown! I’m hopeful, but given his huge mandate, I’m afraid citizens will have to play the triple role of whistleblower, class monitor and audience-giving-polite-applause! Not something we’re used to doing really!
#2 Young people’s politics is confusing and their apathy disappointing
I’m constantly apalled at the strong streak of conservatism among the young today. On Valentine’s Day, I met a young neighbour and asked after her V-Day plans. She didn’t have any. And what’s more, she told me her parents were devastated and upset about her being single and not so ready to mingle! Survey after survey of youth in India have pointed towards a tendency to support the status quo. The Yuva Nagarik Meter survey brought out in Jan 2015 showed these disturbing trends among Indian youth, trends that are consistent with other surveys in recent years:
- Youth are ignorant about basic civic issues like democracy, rule of law and human rights
- They are dimly aware of citizenship: “Only 35 percent of high school students consider themselves citizens of India. Nearly three fourth do not know that the legislature is responsible for enacting laws,” as per a Huffington post report
- They have internalised stereotypes on gender and social justice- 50% are intolerant of migrant workers from other states, many believe that “household help do not have the right to demand minimum wages”
#3 Youth apathy combined with high expectations impacts poll results
I’m not surprised therefore, that we are seeing more absolute mandates than before when elections happen. I think young people are impatient for change but might not really want a radical rethink of positions. Also, they (and it’s not just the young) are given to pass quick judgements and move on if their expectations are not met.
#4 How much does your politics alter your perceptions?
I’m not a BJP supporter and certainly not overawed by the PM’s rangeela personality and flavourful brand of politics. I have a number of friends who are in the opposite camp as well. Many of these left-leaning friends of mine have been upset about something. They claim that previously ‘moderate’ friends who voted for Modi on the plank of development must speak out against the BJP’s divisive politics. There’s a fair amount of hurt going around and the PM’s very recent press statements on religious freedom will, I suspect, add flame to the fire rather than settle things down.
I’ve been arguing with the moderates and leftists among my friends, who tend to shout down anything Modi says or does, on the need to give a fair hearing to the positions brought forth by the current government. Critique them by all means (if possible, constructively), but being obstinately obstructive might not really help! And I’ve been trying hard to follow my own instincts, that tell me that an unconsidered extremist position is a bad one, whether your politics is conservative or liberal is besides the point.
Diversity, dissent and consensus building- Taking forward ratings for affordable housing- Aug 25, 2012
No matter how complex something is, it is always a satisfying experience when a diverse set of people succeed in bringing their dissent, doubts, agreements and opinions on the table in a friendly and civil manner. I was happy today to be part of a consultation process where honesty and bluntness was received in good taste and criticism truly appreciated. We were at a peaceful quiet location, at a campus called Visthar, in a village somewhere near Bangalore airport. The workshop was about getting feedback from experts on a rating for affordable housing. I have mentioned this before on my blog, this rating that is being developed under the aegis of the Ashoka Housing for All Initiative and bring partnered by Tuv Rheinland, a large certification body.
Affordable housing is a complex subject, rife with conflicting opinions and plenty of skepticism. In fact, the most positive aspect of being part of this rating process is the hope and positivity in the group. Today’s experts had among them people who had made affordable projects happen as well as those who had contributed to various pieces like standards development, design innovation, community mobilising, etc. The positivity is a marked change from previous meetings in which the subtext was always a disbelief that affordable housing could really be catalysed via a rating. I guess the buy in comes in slowly. I don’t know how and when these ratings will be finalised and implemented, but the roadmap looks clearer and quite doable. When people at opposite ends of the spectrum agree to disagree rather than lock heads indefinitely, darkness turns to hope and the impossible begins to look possible!