#MyVote2019 – 'Hope Quota For Poor Works'

Banani Mukherjee Das, 31, Public Relations Manager in Kolkata Though I don’t have a keen interest in politics, yet I keep myself updated with current affairs, both nationally and internationally. The last five years have been so eventful that even a person completely uninterested in politics would have to take sides. One can’t remain neutral anymore. I must clarify here that I am neither a fan of Modi nor of Rahul. In fact, I feel a candidate other than these two, one who is more balanced, would be better suited as our next Prime Minister. I hope 2019 gives us just the right kind of leader. In 2019, I am looking for a well-informed government that has an understanding of the needs of the both the masses and the classes. Because both the segments of society are important for its proper and smooth functioning. I am deeply disappointed at the way religion is being brought into the mainstream discourse by almost every party worth its weight. Also, even though Kolkata is safe for women, the goings on in the rest of the country when it comes to women’s safety, especially that of young girls, do sadden me. It’s time the government also gave a thought to mass sensitisation, apart from just strengthening the anti-rape law. To Modiji’s credit, many government offices have pulled up their socks when it comes to punctuality, sensitivity and getting the work done on time. However, his silence on many major issues do rankle. Of course, there is this decision to allocate 10 per cent reservation for economically poor just before the Lok Sabha elections. I believe it is a good idea but the timing is suspect. Even when the idea of reservation was implemented in the beginning, the motive was to help the economically weaker sections of society. I hope the reservation for the poor works out well. But the Prime Minster should seriously consider the rise in the prices of LPG as well as petrol which have almost doubled. This is what is pinching poor and middle-class households a lot. My own finances are stretched. Even in a relatively cheaper city like Kolkata, I am spending more than Rs 3,000 per month for my daily commute to office. Aur LPG ke dam ka to kehna hi kya? (the less said about LPG prices, the better). The government should think about the common man. Narendra Modi didn’t think about the common man before taking a huge step like demonetisation. The worst affected were the daily wage labourers whose many a working day were lost because they were required to stand in line to exchange notes. And even if they did find work, they couldn’t be paid easily because either their pay masters didn’t have cash in right denomination or they preferred to use it as a ploy to delay payments. The poor knows little when it comes to online modes of payment. At a personal level, my banker husband was really overworked for several months in the period, until things settled down. I hope we don’t have to go through this ever again. As an individual voter, I would like to see better public transport facilities in Kolkata. I have to change as many as four autos to be able to reach work on time because the buses are so packed during morning rush hours that it is almost impossible to board them. Hope the political parties are listening. But as an educated, informed and compassionate voter that is not where my concerns end. I would like to vote for someone who cares as much for my neighbour as much he/she cares for me, somebody who promotes the politics of love.]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Create Jobs, Not Hatred’

pakodas. But this made me very late. It was already dark and the roads were almost empty. As I walked alone, I saw a group of men huddled near the temple. One man in the group near the temple looked at me and shouted. “Aye, come here!” I was a little scared. I hesitated, but I walked towards him. He asked me my name. I replied, “My name is Ali.” In a flash of a moment, I felt a stinging slap on my face. I was in utter shock, unable to move or react. The other men in the group controlled him and asked me to run away. Years later, I am still recuperating from the shock. Why would somebody hate me without knowing me? Just because I am a Muslim? My next question is why would anybody hate another person on the basis of his/her religion? I am Ali Abbas, a social worker by qualification. I live in Hyderabad and work as a coordinator with an environmental NGO. And this year, in the Lok Sabha Elections, my vote will go to anyone who can answer the questions mentioned above and put an end to the politics of hatred, which has become a norm these days. With just a few months left to the Assembly Elections, I decided to start a campaign against the politics of hatred, which seem to escalate before every election. Sample the following stimulating quotes from some of our hate-mongering politicians: “If one Hindu girl marries a Muslim man, then we will take 100 Muslim girls in return … If they [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men.’ ‘Remove the police for 15 mins, we will finish off 100 crore Hindus’ ‘We do not want unrest at any cost, but if you want to test Hindus, then let’s decide a date and take on Muslims.’ I bet, even if you consider yourself a devout person, a true Indian and have some moral values, your head will hang in shame after reading these quotes. The context of these quotes does not matter. Nor does it matter, who said what. But what matters is– and at the same time is rather disturbing is the fact that in a secular democracy like India, this kind of hate-mongering is getting popular. It is a known fact that to reap political benefits certain political parties and politicians are playing Hindu-Muslim hate politics. The purpose of these hate politics is clear. It is to polarize people on the basis of caste and religion and force them to vote for a particular political party or a politician of a certain affiliation. And sometimes, politicians use it as a diversionary tactic to avoid/ circumvent crucial issues concerning the common people. With 93 attacks as till 26 December, the year 2018 saw the most hate crime motivated by religious bias in India in a decade. About 30 people were killed – the most since 2009 – and at least 305 injured in such attacks. What have we reduced our country to? The general election is round the corner and there is already rise in hate speeches by certain politicians. To cite an example from Telangana, my home state, T. Raja Singh, the lone Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA in the 119-member Telangana assembly, refused to take oath from Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, a six-time MLA from the All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), who was appointed as the pro-tem speaker. Raja Singh is infamous for his speeches and had openly declared that he would not take oath from the Muslim pro-term speaker. Now, we have to decide whether we fall into the pit of hatred again or encourage politicians to talk about the issues which concern us, the common man? The Modi government recently tried paying some attention to the common man as well through the 10 percent quota in jobs for the economically weaker sections (EWS), but it just seems to be a populist stunt to garner votes. To implement a scheme like this, it very important to define the EWS category. The parameters set to define the EWS category can vary from place to place. For instance, a person with an annual income of Rs 8 lakh maybe considered poor in an urban area, but in a rural set-up, with low cost of living, it may be a different story altogether. Besides, does the government have the capacity to promise jobs to all candidates who fall under the EWS category? The central government for instance has 4 crore jobs, can it accommodate the 40 crore people through the EWS quota? Can it force the private sector to create these many jobs? How do we ensure demand and supply? These factor need to be thought through. After all, reservation for everyone is actually no reservation. India doesn’t need such populist measures. What India needs is for people to be more tolerant and cooperative led by politicians, who do not preach hatred. Ask yourself… what does an enemy of the nation want? That we are divided; we fight amongst ourselves and never develop. All those politicians spreading hatred for personal and political gains are the biggest enemies of the state. India needs ‘vikas’ but we cannot usher in development in an environment of intolerance, distrust and hatred.   NARRATOR’S NOTE: Kindly support me in my campaign against Hindu-Muslim politics of Hate by signing the petition on Change.org Save India from Hindu-Muslim politics of Hate. I appeal you that next time you hear a hate speech by any politician, condemn it. ]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Coalitions Help Democracy’

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Anzar Quazmi (55), Mosque Imam, Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh)   I have witnessed formation of several governments in New Delhi and in states. And I have come to the conclusion that a government with complete majority – be it Congress or Bhajpa – turns autocratic when it has an absolute majority. This is against the grain of jamhooriyat, democracy. It is always better to have a coalition government where the alliance partners keep working as checks and balances in the government and arrive at a broad consensus on policy issue, which is what democracy is all about. Neither Congress nor the BJP has done anything for the minorities and majority alike other than holding them out false fairyland. For decades, the Congress’ main slogan was `garibi hatao’. But the poor remain marginalised even today. Likely, BJP shouted `sabka saath sabka vikas’ from the rooftop in 2014, but this also remained a mirage’ the poor, down-trodden remain as neglected and as oppressed as they were four and half years ago. Political promises, slogans, speeches mean little to us now as they never materialise. Successive governments have done nothing for the upliftment of the oppressed class, religion no bar. I often wonder why the people cannot see through these false promises in all these years. Sixty years after Independence, we are yet to fall into their traps, year after every five years. Mister Modi talked about his humble background but does he realise that the biggest impact of demonetisation was on the poor and I personally experienced it. I have seen small businessmen running from pillar to post to bring their business on track when demonetization happened and later coupled with GST, many lost their livelihood. Who will compensate for their losses? Political parties draft manifestos that only talk about the poor and the down trodden these document remain where they are printed – on paper. Not even 10 per cent of the promises have ever been fulfilled. That is why I advocate a coalition government to rule New Delhi. That will purposely pursue a programme which has a wider appeal and leaves no section of society (call them their respective vote banks, if you like) behind I am not going to press NOTA ever, as I have full faith in electoral politics; my only hope is to find a benevolent and decisive leadership. For me, the Congress and the BJP and ek he thali ke chatte batte (two sides of the same coin).]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Modi Made False Promises’

Ashok Rathi, 55, Retired Army Officer, Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh)   ‘Minimum government, maximum governance’ was an oft-repeated sentence by Narendra Modi while campaigning for Lok Sabha elections in 2014. Do you believe he has kept his promise? The other slogan which had caught the fancy of most forward-looking people in the country was ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas.’ Has that happened? I see no change at the ground level. In my opinion, the condition of the aam aadmi has remained the same, if not worsened, over the last five years. I feel disappointed by the current NDA government at the Centre because they had sold many a dream to the voters and had heightened their expectations. Nothing came out of these promises. Modi did generate a lot of hope among masses. And those dreams and hopes lie deserted today. Corruption has become a hallmark of our everyday lives; there no jobs in the market and the youth are feeling increasingly dejected by the day. When I go to press the button on voting machine, these things will weigh on my mind and others. They will pay the price for these unkept promises dearly. Another major fault of this government was that it doesn’t look before it takes a leap. Demonetisation is a prime example. It was announced and executed in such haste and without proper preparation, that till date even government managers have not been able to make any sense of it. And I feel it is the poor people who suffered the most due to demonetisation, though the middle class suffered a lot as well. However, for people who live a hand-to-mouth existence, even a day without work (which was spent in standing in line for their hard-earned money) means going without food. And we all know the whole thing took more than a month to settle. Which means poor people lost many working days. And now the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) says nearly 99% of the scrapped notes have come back into the system. So where’s the black money now? Vanished into thin air? It was an empty exercise after all. Also, the government had said that it would crush terrorism, Naxalism, fake currency etc., but all that turned out to be overestimated as well. WE are in a strange position. The farmers are not getting proper prices for their yield and common man says prices of commodities are rising. Where are the regulators? Also, as a retired person, I am not happy with the rise in petrol prices. The government is in a position to reduce the prices and should seriously think about it. In 2019 we need a government with a vision, one that is humble enough to learn from the past and courageous enough to take decisions about the future with confidence. We need a government that understands agriculture and empathises with farmers, for agriculture is the backbone of our economy after all. Rahul Gandhi needs to be a bit more polished before he can be taken seriously by the people. (The narrator did not wish to share his photograph. LokMarg has used a representational image.)]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Modi Backers Get Violent’

Arif Jabbar, Street Vendor, Morena, Madhya Pradesh I know very little about politics and political agendas of our leaders. But what I have been watching on TV channels and heard from people around me, there is little doubt that poor Muslims are living under a shadow of fear ever since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Many Hindu brothers see Modi as their hero. Modiji is a hard-working man but does he realise that his supporters are a violent lot. And his coming to power has given them a licence to target Muslims. I will give you a recent example. There was an election rally of (former) chief minister Shivraj Singh two months back in Morena. Young men came roaring on bikes, raised slogans of Modi jindabad and created an atmosphere of fear among us street vendors. This happens each time there is a BJP-VHP function. Police also becomes helpless when these men come in large groups, with BJP flags on their bikes, and cause trouble. All kind of men come to my stall for snacks. Many of them are passionate about Modi’s leadership. They just cannot listen anything against him. This kind of unconditional passion can easily turn into fanatical behaviour. Is Modiji not aware of this, I doubt. Now that elections are approaching, I worry if political groups will stir up communal sentiments once again. I have two sons and a daughter. I want them to study and get a good position in society. This is what every father of any faith would want – a peaceful and respectful life for his children. But every time I see media reports of lynching and violence over cow slaughter, I fear for the safety of my own family. Modiji is the topmost leader of the country, shouldn’t he spare a thought about our fears and concerns? Rahulji abhi young hain (Rahul Gandhi is still young). He carries no malice but he will take more time to challenge Modi in terms of vote catching. Politics is full of shrewd and cunning people. If you want to survive in this field, Rahulji will have to learn their tricks. Last time I went to vote, they said my name was not on the rolls. I showed them my election card, they said the ward does not carry my name. My entire family’s name wasn’t there. I returned without casting my vote. We are poor people, we are not like service people who get an off from work on polling day. We have to make preparations for the evening for our daily bread. We cannot spend long hours for inclusion of our names on the rolls. Mostly, this work is done by political volunteers. Hopefully, I will be able to cast my vote this time. Part of my family lives in Itawah, Uttar Pradesh. They are traditional supporters of Samajwadi Party. But here, they have no presence. So the choice falls back on the Congress. I pray for the well-being of my country and for this I do not think that the BJP is the right choice to be elected to power.  ]]>

#MyVote2019 – 'Modi Made Govt Staff Work'

Meena Singh, Upper Division Clerk, Lucknow   I have been in government service for a decade and half. I have witnessed the callous attitude of state employees, rampant corruption and indiscipline very closely. One thing that I can tell you with conviction that the (Narendra) Modi government has genuinely tried to bring about a change in sarkari work culture during its (nearly) five years of rule. In my own department, I would notice the lower level staff never came on time and left at their own will. During winter, the offices will go empty after barely an hour of work, as most of the staff, from Section Officer to Chaprasi (peon), will spread out on the lawns under the sun. Those associated with employees’ welfare groups were the worst to handle with. I remember some of them would dare even IAS-level officers to take any action against them. Things gradually began to change after Modi Sarkar came to power and in October, 2104 our office was equipped with biometric attendance machines. Last year, even the state government offices followed this practice after Yogi (Adityanath) became UP chief minister. I guess more than the machine, it was the message – Modi means business – that went down at every level. Har dawa kadvi hoti hai par asar karti hai (medicinal pill may be bitter, but gives positive results in the long term). Initially, a lot of babus were skeptical in our office too. They said this will not last. But many of us, including me, welcomed it. I am not saying our department performance has improved drastically but earlier the errant moved without any fear of action. They were shameless. I saw people asking for chadava (bribe money) as if they were demanding legitimate wages. Now, babus have been advised to even follow social media to ensure that any negative feedback does not reach the higher-ups. Every time, our family finds some work stuck in a government office, my son advises me to put the name of department and official concerned on Twitter. So, in a way, the machinery is becoming responsive. Today, the work-shirker know they are on the wrong and may get penalized. There has been inquiry ordered against several babus I know. Now, the bribe is asked in hush tones. The corrupt has fear of government in mind. This is no mean achievement, in my opinion. And I give Modi ji 100 per cent credit for this. Another change is the cleanliness in our offices. When I had joined work, we used to carry our own dusting cloths with us to clean our chairs and tables. The safai staff would just not budge. Swachh Bharat mission has given us a big relief. There are random ‘safai audit’ and the errant staff is warned. Besides, there is a behavioural change among the staff about cleanliness and hygiene. I know it will take several decades for our government employees to come clean. The system will not change with just one Modi. But at least there has been a step towards that direction. My vote goes to Modi ji. He definitely deserves a second term.  ]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘Modi Can Steer Well'

Sanjay Kumar Mandal, 45, Truck Driver in Bihar I have been driving trucks for nearly two decades now and I believe the same skillset is required to run a nation. Of the last five years that I have seen of Modiji, I can tell you he is an able driver, steering Hindustan on the right path. It’s the vehicle that he has been handed down needs some repair – a lot of repair actually. I find Modiji’s personality somewhat similar to mine. I was born in a poor family but I never let that stop me from dreaming big. I am a self-taught person like him. And I continue to learn new tricks of the trade with each passing year. I feel our PM is a go-getter too. However, I feel he needs to be clearer about the goals he wants to achieve. If he gets a second term as our prime minister, he should focus on the development of one sector at a time and not open too many fronts simultaneously. I don’t think there’s another leader of his calibre in the political field today.  Rahul Gandhi or any other leader from BJP or the Congress, are not even close. Modiji also knows how to communicate and connect with the masses. Rahulji seems to be a nice person, but he does not have a powerful presence. And in a country as huge as India, where people with a million viewpoints reside, one should be smart enough to appeal to all viewpoints at least a little. Ab market me Modiji ka sikka chal gaya hai, toh unko hatane ke liye Opposition ko apne me bahut parivartan lana padega (Modi has gained currency in Indian market. The Opposition not only needs to be confident, but also appear confident before the masses). Modiji should tone down his confidence just that little bit. That he was confident about demonetization is okay, but that he sprang a surprise on people was not okay. During demonetisation I had to go completely hungry for one and a half day. Truck drivers are most of the times driving their vehicles to unknown places and during such tough times (like demonetization) strangers aren’t very helpful. I would not like to go through such a surprise ever again, no matter how much I respect the PM. We need a leader who has both good intentions and is also smart enough to make good strategies to execute those intentions. The rise in petrol prices has been a difficult one to bear for most people and the government should definitely look into it. Though the petrol prices don’t affect me directly as the owner pays for the petrol and other overhead expenses, yet it does affect the rest of my family of 11 members. I don’t have much idea about GST, but I soon need to learn about it because I want to start my own business in a couple of years. I am with Modiji on all his policy decisions and want him to repeat the term in 2019 as well.]]>

‘We Can Survive GST, Not Hate Politics’

Khurram Mirza, 32-year-old Entrepreneur, Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh) The rise in right-wing nationalism is a phenomenon not only restricted to India, but is finding resonance worldwide. In our country, this started taking an aggressive form since May 2014, when (Narendra) Modi government came to power. I am a Muslim but earlier I didn’t need to prove my Indian-ness constantly. However, since 2014, the main issues related to good governance like health, education and development have been pushed to the background while identity politics has been brought to the forefront. You only have to browse through social media platform to witness this rising phenomenon. Now, our religious identity has taken over our national identity. A lot of people find it easy to openly generalise/stereotype an entire community based on the act of an individual from the community.  Aren’t there black sheep in every group, every collective? Knowing each person individually takes a lot of courage, persistence, openness and compassion while judging others is easy. The ruling party is using technology brilliantly to propagate this judgemental attitude and I believe that the Opposition can stake a claim to power in 2019 only if they also use technology in equal measure to propagate the good values and counter BJP. I want the Opposition, especially Congress, to be proactive rather than reactive. I want them to make their own policies, forge their own path rather than taking actions based on the actions of the BJP. I believe people take all that Congress has done for granted. Apart from the physical infrastructure to the education infrastructure to development policies for the poor and the marginalized, the Congress has managed to give direction to such a huge country. They are not perfect, they made mistakes and they should own up to it. The very technology that Modiji and his party are putting to such good use today was also brought in by Congress – remember Sam Pitroda during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure. Let’s not live under an illusion, ultimately when no one is left to hate, it turns inwards and also starts affecting the people who started hating other people first. We are Indians, and it is a beautiful feeling to perceive poetry, food, music, literature, fashion and psychology and philosophy the way we do. No matter who comes to power, love should be number one on their manifesto. Things like demonetisation, rise in petrol prices, the confusion over GST, we can live with. What we can live is disharmony in society. We all want peace and love. I hope we all make a sensible decision in 2019.]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘I Will Press NOTA Button'

Narendra Singh, 26, Restaurant Employee, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) I completed my graduation in business administration from Jiwaji University five years back. Fresh out of college, in 2014, I voted for (Narendra) Modi. His speeches inspired me. He rose above caste, religion and talked only about development. That was the agenda I too expected from our country’s leaders in 21st century. I even travelled to Uttar Pradesh to attend one of his rallies in March 2014. Mesmerised by the response he drew from the crowd, I felt he was the destiny’s child who would change the way we live in India. I even fought with my parents, who are Congress supporters for generations. But sadly, even with Shivraj Singh in the state and Modi at the Centre, little changed for the common man in my region; I am sure the story is same everywhere in the country. Worse, we are now lynching people for cows, organizing crowds for Ram Temple and building statutes. Whatever happened to the development model! Since March 2014, I have learnt a lot about how politicians of all hues, be it Congress or BJP, thrive on sweet words and golden dreams. In the last five years I have been searching for a respectable job. I can speak fluent English, I have done MBA too. But where are the jobs Modiji promised? In the last four years, I have taken numerous examinations for a sarkari naukri, I have applied in every company from Dilli, Mumbai to Bengaluru that was looking for fresh graduates. Every day I would check my email for a positive response. Finally, look what I am doing here – he points to the ladle and dishes he is carrying – serving daal baati choorma. We own some farm land but the people managing it tell us that the yield is only falling while the cost of seeds and fertilisers are shooting up. For the past three years, there is no income from the land. My family’s favourite pastime is talking about our Bhadoria Rajput lineage. I have begun to feel sick now listening to those stories. Politicians tell us false stories about the future, and voters like my family stay drunk in their false glorious past. The present remains bleak. I will give you my personal example. Several years ago, there was a buzz in my native town that the land near the highway would become costly and builders will be paying handsome money for it. There was euphoria among land-owners. They kept counting their chicken before they hatched. Till date, there are no other takers to those tracts of land. Few understand that real estate business is in poor shape. But people are living in the hope of selling it one day and make good money. This is how politicians keep the voter on the hook – with hope of a better future. This is the lesson I have learnt which no university will ever teach you. I am happy that there is NOTA (none of the above) in the voting machine now. That is where I plan to press my finger.]]>

#MyVote2019 – ‘BJP Did Well in Healthcare’

Dr Virendra Verma, Senior Resident, Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University I have witnessed people with heart ailments begging for treatment in front of helpless doctors. There are countless requests for monetary help and discounts in medicines and other products that are used for implants, especially heart. When I judge a government’s performance, I weigh it on the steps taken in the direction toward a welfare healthcare system. In this regard, I hold Modi regime has performed well. The revision of stent prices was a revolutionary decision taken by the government. I have seen patients giving blessings to Modi. Earlier, stents were dubiously priced high and beyond the reach of the poor and lower middle class patients. Things drastically changed when the Centre standardized the stent prices. Even people from low income groups are able to opt for a stent placement. I would like to share the story of Shanti Singh, a patient from Varanasi who came to Lucknow for treatment. When she came here, the price of one stent was about Rs 1.5 lakh. After we gave her an estimate, she quietly went back home. However, after the prices were revised, Shanti came back to us and this time the entire cost of her treatment –which included installing two stents in her coronary arteries, medicines and hospital stay — totaled just Rs 70,000. Next, the Ayushmaan Bharat health scheme is a revolutionary step towards providing comprehensive healthcare services to this country’s citizens. A majority of the beneficiaries under this scheme are able to get themselves treated at private hospitals, which are bound to entertain them without any excuse. This takes the load off government hospitals to a great extent. And we can improve our performance. Private hospitals did have initial objections, but now they have no other choice. A friend of mine who runs a private hospital in the neighboring district was forced to allocate a sizeable number of beds for the beneficiaries of this scheme. He was rather perturbed by this but gradually he had to get accustomed to it. Also putting most of the life-saving drugs under direct price control and opening of Jan Aushadhi Kendras at government hospitals will surely be another feather on the cap for the BJP government. I will undoubtedly support a repeat term for the Narendra Modi government.  ]]>