On August 29, 2017, the financial capital of India, Mumbai was brought to a standstill by heavy rainfall. All it took to sink the city of dreams, was 300 mm of rain. At least 20 people have lost their lives, and many are reported missing.
It was déjà vu for Mumbaikars. Something quite similar yet more severe had transpired July 26, 2005, when the city received 944 mm of rain in 24 hours taking a huge toll on the city. The rainfall spelt disaster, killing 450 during the floods and another 248 later.
Twelve years and a government change later, little appears to have changed in terms of preparedness. Even the TV debates on the topic seemed to be a repeat telecast of 2005. Condolences to those who lost their lives were given in sombre voices by each political party’s spokesperson before the debate turned into a free for all screaming competition.
Each party declared the other has been an utter failure in handling the situation and proclaimed themselves to be the true messiah of the masses. The rains however on both the occasions have literally poured water on the tall claims of preparedness of both the parties.
Mismanagements like these are neither exclusive to Mumbai nor limited to natural disasters. From the routine monsoon floods in Bihar to rail accidents, building/infrastructure collapse, riots and stampedes, the array of mismanagements is wide and diverse. The question to be asked then is why do things never change? Why is it the same story every time irrespective of who the ruling party is?
The answer to this can be found if we analyse our attitude towards politics and the politicians. Based on that approach our entire population can be broadly divided into two sets of people – The pariahs, those who don’t care about the electoral matters and the idolizers, i.e. those who are mesmerised by political personalities. There is a third category as well but since they seem to be a handful in number, let’s deal with them later. First, let us look at the two prime categories.
Many of us don’t like to burden our minds with questions like who our leaders are, what credentials do they have and how good or bad of a job are they doing. For them, election day is just a holiday, and they don’t exercise their right to vote. These people fall into the category of political pariahs. Some of them even proudly proclaim to hate politics and at the drop of a hat say that nothing good can ever happen in this country and politicians have taken the country for a ride.
When they hear of any calamity or adversity, they just shrug it off. For them, it’s something that always happens to others, and they never think that they may find themselves in a similar situation someday. It certainly doesn’t behove those who not perform their duty to vote, to expect that our politicians will do their jobs seriously.
Our ignorance and indifference are used against us, and people need to realise this. I would urge people who are indifferent to start caring a little at least and start voting consciously after analysing the merits and demerits of each candidate. There is no point complaining until then. If you don’t like politics and don’t bother to take the initiative, then you will end up being governed by people inferior to you.
The second set of people are the polar opposites of the first. These are the political fan boys, the idolizers. In their eyes, their favourite political party or politician can do no wrong. While blindly idolising them, they forget that politicians are elected to serve us and the interest of the nation, not rule us, and so they should be judged on their merits and not on their personalities, eloquence of English, or the dynasties to which they belong.
Majority of an idolizer’s time is spent either defending his/her favourite or clashing with the other idolizers of different parties on social media. This fighting for politicians based on blind idolization is akin to a bar debate between two drunks about who the better pugilist is, Mayweather or McGregor.
In the process of trying to defend the honour of their respective idols, the drunks get into a fist fight of their own. When they wake up from their drunken stupor, they realise that all the fight left for them was a hospital bill to pay while Mayweather and McGregor both walked away with a $100 million each.
The same thing happens when we mindlessly fight among ourselves. The nation suffers, while those entrusted to govern it walk away with the jackpot that we financed with our taxes.
When disaster strikes, it is a fellow citizen who is found volunteering to help, and of this, we should be proud. In dire straits, we should be able to keep our differences aside and do the needful. Similar was the case in Mumbai rains this year. People took it upon themselves to help those who needed it.
Now tell me, how many politicians did you see wading through sewer water helping out others or offering food and shelter in their personal capacities at their bungalows? None I guess. On the contrary, politicians can usually be seen doing an aerial survey of flood affected areas, with a photograph of them looking out of their helicopter window with a much practised and perfected solemn expression.
There is a third set of people that I mentioned in the beginning, ones who are a handful in number compared to the other two. These people are the rationalists; ones who judge the politicians based on their merits and use their right to vote judiciously. They are aware of their rights and duties. The rationalists in a way can be thought of as an intersection of the two majority sets. They care enough to know who they are voting for and at the same time are aloof enough not to be infatuated by personality or dynasty.
I hope that this tribe of rationalists grows, that people make judicious use of their right to vote and stop being political pariahs in their own country. On the other hand debate and dissent both are a must for a democracy to thrive but in the process let rationality of thought prevail. Don’t just blindly idolise. Otherwise, you will end up like those proverbial mice following the pied piper-ultimately falling off the cliff.