Educated Sarpanch and Illiterate Voter… and Compulsory Voting!

Not very long ago, the Gujarat High Court stayed the Gujarat Government’s attempt to make voting compulsory in State’s Local Body Elections.

Only three days ago, the Supreme Court upholds Haryana law which makes education must for panchayat candidates.

Educated Sarpanch, chhavi rajawat, sarpanch, Illiterate VoterNot commenting on the judgement(s) itself — As the only criteria Courts take into account, while giving a verdict are the rule books and ; what is Statutory and what is Constitutional –Lets move further.

And lets discuss the consequences of the judgments.

… and let the logic prevail

When the Gujarat Government made the voting compulsory in Local body elections; it looked coercive.

Why? As you can’t push a person out of their homes to cast his/her vote. A person becomes eligible to vote; it’s his/her will to vote or not.

This makes sense, as if voting is made compulsory, it will be difficult to know when the voting is taking place as a willing exercise, and when it’s taking place through an administrative diktat.

If Compulsory voting makes sense to anyone; then the limited applicability of NOTA (None Of The Above) option on ballot papers and EVMs, must make sense as well (Right now, NOTA doesn’t have the power to cancel an election. That’s if, more than ‘X’ percentage of voters opt for NOTA, the particular booth or Election will get cancelled.)

But to majority of people limited scope of NOTA and staying of compulsory voting makes sense. Why? As they don’t defy logic. If negative voting in terms of NOTA is encouraged, then that will be a regressive step. The affirmative action is : More people should choose a candidate.

In the same way, the affirmative action with respect to voting, will be to allow people to cast a vote, only if they want to.

Now lets come to the Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015. The Act requires that general must have passed Class 10th examination while women and Dalit candidates have cleared Class 8th. Dalit women candidates must clear Class 5.

The above Amendment Act is actually a reflection on the Haryana government.

Why? As on the very face of it, it looks regressive (returning to a former or less developed state or times).

The step is regressive, as it’s not increasing the right to contest Elections in a democracy, but limiting it.

In a country where at least half of the population is still illiterate, making formal education the criterion to become a representative or leader of the people, is regressive. What is affirmative Action, make an illiterate person contest election; and if he/she is rejected by the electorate, then let him/her think, as to why people rejected his/her candidature.

The step is negative as well. As, proactive steps are those which ’empower people’. This means bringing the weaker, poor and non-privileged population to the lead people.

Some examples will help us understand this better.

It’s better to elect an Illiterate Woman or an illiterate poor to the Pachayats, without bothering too much about proxy rule(her husband working on her behalf) or inefficiency. As, not every illiterate woman will allow her husband to work on her behalf. There will surely be some winners, who will tell their husbands, to let them work or will tell husbands to move aside. And this is empowerment.

The same applies for a poor man. The moment he takes the reins in his own hands; real empowerment happens. And hence, encouraging an illiterate or non-privileged person as representatives is a proactive Step.

The Supreme Court Observation that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad” ; doesn’t seem to hold Universally. When? The moment we start defining what is meant by ‘Education’.

I was born and brought up in a city. I may have basic to advanced understanding of many things; but do I have any knowledge about Agriculture?

The answer is obvious.

If tomorrow, I want to become a ‘Pradhan’ of some village, I will have to learn as much about Agriculture and everything rural; as a village person has to learn about things taking place in the World. But good thing is, both of us will learn. It depends how you ‘Define Education’.

The moment we restrict Education to just formal education, we become selfish. In a sense that, I with formal education will cleverly learn every thing from a villager, and when it comes to her turn, I call her illiterate.

A similar logic holds for the discretion between ‘Good and Bad’. You will find truck loads of people with best education the World, taking bad decisions, in life, Career & politics. The wrong decisions in a sense that they proved inefficient for both self and others. At the same time, you will find many people with no formal education, succeeding.

We can vouch for formal education, when 95 out of every 100 people in the country are put to schools and ensured formal education by the State (Country’s Government). We must understand that there are many factors which make people skip school.

In one of the TV News Channel debates, the very educated (in Formal Education sense) Chhavi Rajawat, the sarpanch of her village Soda, 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Jaipur, emphasized on the need to elect Educated people to the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions. With a business degree and education abroad, Ms Rajawat has done very good work in her village. And that’s commendable. The people of her village chose to elect an educated person, and there is nothing wrong in that. But there’s still a perceivable disconnect in how Ms. Rajawat sees development in rural India. She tries to see order.

A few years ago, Ms. Rajawat in a TV Channel debate, complained as to how Government rules, stopped her from using a JCB for some village project. As per rules, the task must be completed through manual labour.

It’s true that what a JCB can accomplish a task in a matter of hours; which the humans will take days to complete. But, it’s not about saving time. It’s about generating employment. When country like India insists on manual labour, it does so, to give employment. Else, majority of the population will remain unemployed.

The question of planning both in Urban and Rural India, comes from within. Yes, we as a Nation are different from other Nations. With 125 crore plus population, it’s ineffective to plan villages. The more developed a village will become in terms of connectivity; and spatial planning; the more rich & poor divide will increase.

This can be understood, as I undertaking the annual house cleaning exercise. The moment a room becomes more ordered, two cartons of things which don’t fit in this order, have to be removed from the room. But Indian villages and cities are different; they can’t throw out the population which doesn’t meet this order aesthetics. They have to live in the same disarray (untidiness or stat of disorganization). This acceptance for disarray applies to our villages even more. As the Nation’s food basket, is connected to our villages. Many big and small farmers are contributing to the Nation’s food basket. The more the rural people look outwards, the lesser will be their enthusiasm to grow crops; which will be a real risk for the country.

To conclude, voting and elections, become more affirmative, when the lowest person in the social hierarchy gets a share in them. In a country, with half of the population still illiterate, it’s not good to make formal education a criterion. Especially when people with no formal education managed to elect people with formal education. Hence, why such a distrust on their Wisdom. If they don’t want an illiterate to be elected, they will not elect him.