Elections have arrived once again. We shall vote for our representatives after weighing our choices and scaling the pros and cons. Our indexes will be swayed by what appeals to us the most, what we feel is the party or candidate with the agreeable foresight for the state, constituency and the people (or so it is said). Issues that have been hanging in the air and clogging our thoughts are to be addressed, or so we hope. ‘Development’ is a word that occurs at every gathering around this time that even the microphones know the spelling. Development of infrastructure and beautification projects are hyped about in towns and district headquarters and roads are promised of being paved in villages and rural areas. However, the pavement for the oppressed and marginalised is still naked and bereft of any substantial gravel.
Jobs have been promised from all parties but workers rights are still being ignored. Employment doesn’t stop at giving someone an occupation. Working conditions, living wages and equal pay for equal work, to name a few, are fundamentally important aspects to ensure not just a frail “employment” but a secure environment for the employed to flourish and take part in the economy. We all know how exploited labour is in many sectors, with minimum wages hard to even get, whilst disposable and unprotected contract workers comprising most of the workforce. When we are not arming our people with the required tools to partake in the economy, how is it still a surprise that our markets are slumping?
When it comes to the coal industry, we cannot deny that it is an important cornerstone of the economy. It provides jobs, generates revenue and so on and so forth. Whilst tribals in other regions are advocating for the protection of their land, we see how the elites in our state are exploiting their own “tribal” identity and using the rhetoric of indigenous right while actually vying for its desecration. Additionally, coal mining drags with it feudal-like conditions for immigrant and non-immigrants labourers alike, without substantial protection for their lives, protection and safety. With the BJP promising an upliftment of the ban on coal mining and the NPP working in tandem with them, we need to reassess the issue from an economic perspective without disregarding the duty we have towards protecting the environment and ecology.
Nauseatingly, the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently visited the state capital to release BJP’s vision document. Whilst the BJP are the only party still to mention anything related to women’s rights and empowerment, they have set a standard so low, it almost sweeps the dust with the ineffective and minimally short-term programme of providing one sanitary pad for each woman in a BPL household. The audacity to offer one packet of napkin per household instead of advocating for the removal of the essential item from the “luxury” list of taxed products, which makes it inaccessible in the first place, shows how out of touch policy makers are with women’s issues. Also, it is outrageous to think that this facade of a statement is the (only) prominent point in relation to women’s issues when last year, we saw an unprecedented rise in crimes related to sexual violence towards women in our beloved matrilineal state.
It seems that around the election period, the public servants and public alike get a high off the electoral politics. There is a sudden upsurge for politics itself and its participation. It does bring about a togetherness, one cannot usher that away. The eagerness of the people to partake in the democracy is commendable but elections are just a facet of democracy. Democracy is not confined to just elections. The periodical participation with politics points to the fact that democracy is viewed only at its infantile stage. More disturbing is the public’s seemingly intoxicated behaviour every five years over cult-ish political figures who sway around with colourful manifestos which melt away out of our consciousness and theirs. Our representatives should not only be held accountable every few years and our participation with governance should not be confined to such illusory forms of engagement, where lies heap upon lies to eventually wire in disappointment after the concluding 5 years.
When we leave our houses to cast our votes, let us remember the spirit of democracy that illuminates our paths as we approach the booths. Let not that spirit be clustered and crushed in the upcoming months and years after the election is done and dusted.