Little hope for democracy to survive

Little hope for democracy to surviveLittle hope for democracy to survive

'Money is power, freedom, a cushion, the root of all evil, the sum of blessings' - Carl Sandburg. Money has blessed people and money itself is...

"Money is power, freedom, a cushion, the root of all evil, the sum of blessings" - Carl Sandburg. Money has blessed people and money itself is blessed. The lucre of gold always was dearer to the mankind. Temptation is such that - for riches - it often overrides morals and values in the one in pursuit of wealth.

I had been on a visit to Kerala to attend a business seminar in 2009 and came across another one on "Role of Money Power in Elections" to be addressed by Justice G N Ray and organized by the Kerala Journalists Union in Palakkad and decided to make the best of the both and also to meet my journalist friends.

Justice Ray had then lamented that the money power was corrupting every institution including the elections and called upon the journalists to do some introspection about their role too. Till date nothing has changed and if something has really changed, it is only the nature of the media.

Raids are reported religiously and handouts given by the authorities find mention in the media. However, we all know how it is reported instead of getting a truthful coverage. It may belong to any candidate of any party but, the media dutifully presents it sticking to its political (could be caste and religion too) commitment.

This is a paradigm shift in media functioning in the country and nowadays priorities have changed from journalism related news to nationalism related stance. Protesting voices are prejudged and branded as anti-national very easily.

No one questions the right of the newspaper to have its own political beliefs, but a newspaper (media) is under an obligation to convey to the public fair and accurate reportage on public issues and policies etc., more so, during the process of election as elections have a far reaching consequences on the preservation of democratic fabric of the country.

Debates over a period have led to at least identification of paid news syndrome, but 'pamphleteering' has not stopped in the country by the media. Today independent media has become an orphan and is sustaining with great difficulty while the so-called mainstream media is basking in the glory of screen limelight.

After the 15th Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, aptly recalled in the first session of the Parliament "the growing use of money power in elections, muscle power, these are developments which need to be tackled, if we have to maintain the health of our democratic polity".

A past report of the National Election Watch comprising a coalition of civil society organisations thus stated: "If you are worth Rs 50 million, you are 75 times more likely to win the elections to the Lok Sabha than if you are worth one million rupees.

The net worth of 543 MPs of the 15th Lok Sabha itself was about 80 billion rupees. We have to wait for the latest worth of our MPs as nominations are still underway and there should be little doubt that this figure would have been not just doubled but crossed a few more times of the same.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a legally binding treated ratified by 148 states, as well as the three main regional human rights instruments - the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Rights - all guaranteed electoral rights.

The same instruments also guarantee the right to freedom of expression and the right of the public to receive information and the right of the media to impart information. Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the right to freedom of expression thus: Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The responsibility of ensuring free and fair elections with purity and impartiality of the electoral process is not only that of the Government, the Election Commission and that of the political parties, but also of every individual and institution and also that of the media as the fourth pillar of the democratic edifies, as stated by Justice G N Ray in that seminar mentioned above.

Sadly, every institution is corrupted today and there is little hope for democracy to survive in the country unless the voters perform their duty honestly without falling prey to the lucre of notes. That duty is a sacred duty and one should not shirk away from discharging it ethically and morally.

Jai Voter, Jai Democracy!

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