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Saturday, September 25, 1999
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Electoral research needs control

THE reasons put forth by the Election Commission for imposing controls on electoral research are sound. Whether right or wrong, prophecies can fulfil themselves just because these have been made. The pollsters’ partial forecasts can influence the behaviour of different types of voters in later phases of the election process. This stands the predicted winners in good stead. In a heterogeneous country like India, the voters speak all sorts of languages and dialects. The standardised questions used in the interview schedules are understood in different ways by the respondents. Their on-the-spot translation by the investigators makes the matter worse. Among others, this makes the rate of no-response high. The situation at the time of casting the secret ballot is not the same as answering a strange inquirer’s intrusion. The presence of third person at the time of data-collection makes much difference.

Moreover, the sampling procedures used by the researchers create distortions. The large size of the electorate in India makes the sampling-frame unmanageable. Sample-size alone does not make a sample representative of a broader universe. The should-form of the procedure of selection is often different from its is-form. In countries like India, the prevailing job skills and work values of large research teams do not allow them to function rationally. Hastily trained investigators — so many of them are required for a large-scale survey — cut corners here and there, distorting the outcome. There are a hundred and one reasons for taking the forecasts made by exit polls with a pinch of salt. These are neither valid nor reliable.


Long-standing injustice

Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal are rightly proud of being the most advanced states in India. These states have granted pension even to their rural, illiterate elderly citizens. This noble step had enabled these unprotected, socially and economically marginalised persons to improve the quality of the lives, by giving them support for financial security, health care, shelter, welfare and protection against exploitation. These states have also extended pensionary benefits to employees of government recognised and aided institutions. This admirable step has enabled the retirees to overcome stress due to changing socio-structure, high cost of living and environment of consumerism leading to health hazards.

A microscopic minority of these elderly persons who devoted their lives to the service of these government recognised and aided institutions but retired in pre-pension introduction days, can be seen still smarting under the cruel blows of state apathy. In the first place, these elderly persons are too few in number to put up an effective, joint front. Secondly, there is nobody to fight for their cause. Thirdly, they themselves suffer from lack of mobility. Fourthly, they have spent their meagre savings on construction of petty dwellings, marrying off their sons and daughters, meeting medical requirements and other social obligations. Fifthly, their meagre savings have been devoured by rising prices. Sixthly, the cracking of joint family system has sent most of these retirees reeling down the drain of neglect and apathy. In this evening of their lives, they stare vacantly at the gathering darkness in their lives with stark apprehension and utter frustration.

To ameliorate their suffering, to undo the long-standing injustice done to them and to bring cheer in the lives of this fast dwindling category of retirees, the government will do well to evolve some formula, allowing a flat rate of pension in a slab system applicable to retirees of government recognised and aided institutions.

The Punjab government has recently granted pension to aided school teachers at par with their government counterparts with effect from 1.1.96 (Tribune dated 2.4.1999). This is a highly commendable step. It shows that Punjab has profound respect for its nation builders at the grassroots level. But the teachers who retired from government recognised and aided schools prior to 5.2.1987, are still being denied all pensionary benefits. This injustice done to this dwindling category of a few hundred aged teachers in Punjab cries for redressal, even at this belated stage, since this auspicious year 1999, is conspicuous, not only as the “International Year of the Aged,” but also as the “Tercentenary year of Resplendent Khalsa”.


Congress grass

There is menacing growth of parthenium or the congress grass all over this small but developing township. Following Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) directions to remove all sorts of encroachments like fences, hedges, plants etc in the residential areas, the maintenance of small gardens as platforms outside the homes is very difficult; resulting in an untidy and worn out look!

Besides, since there are no steps being taken by the authorities concerned to remove either the Congress grass or the dry hedges which adorn most of the vacant plots and open spaces available in this so called Paris of India; stray animals are usually found roaming around or lying down in the already fellow gardens outside homes. The parthenium and the hedges need to be removed.


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Lengthy election

The 13th Lok Sabha election has seen much violence, bloodshed, bomb blasts and kidnapping. The total election process from the Ist day of voting (Sept 5) till the results are declared and a Government is formed may witness further increase in death tolls. It is free for all, including the supari contract killers who are making capital out of election necessity. Today they create chaos in one state and tomorrow they move to another. It is a continuous process till the last man casts his vote.

The phased election process was the creation of extrovert Seshan and introvert Chief Election Commissioner Gill has given more currency to it. The nation has witnessed the election since 1952. Total election process and results was an exercise of a few days. Now for the total two months there is no Government. No decisions are taken. Files are lying dumped. Everybody is in a dilemma.


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A violation

The Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission has conducted interviews for certain gazetted posts of school lecturers during the election campaign. It is a violation of the code of conduct. Moreover, instead of 65 posts advertised for physics and chemistry, the final results of 70 posts have been declared. On the one side the government says that the state is facing a financial crunch. On the other hand posts are being increased just to please the supporters.

It is surprising that most of the selections pertain to the wards, relatives and supporters of the ruling party. Had T.N. Seshan been there, such backdoor entries, and selections at such a critical time, would have never happened. The Election Commission should immediately order status quo in respect of such selection, lest the public is constrained to raise a voice of protest even against the EC. Even during college selections, candidates of ruling party were selected.



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