Illiteracy and ignorance are a stigma on the nation and the root of all evil prevailing in India. Therefore, elections can also be cleaned by liquidating illiteracy among our countrymen and leaders. All politicians should have a good qualification, with a high percentage of marks. Also, they should have no criminal record and they should give the Election Commission the proof that they are good citizens. Moreover, each politician should be made to take an examination about the countryís economy and geography every five years, to make sure that our leaders remain competent throughout. If the bureaucrats are chosen from among the best in India, why not the leaders? There should be a retirement age for politicians. If educated and well-informed persons contest elections, it will surely be a more clean fight and not like the elections these days, which are fought solely for acquisition of power and not for the welfare of the country.
Candidate has overall responsibility
Whatever rules and regulations the Election Commission has made for conducting elections, we should respect those. It is the responsibility of the nominee or the candidate to allow himself and others to do campaigning fairly and peacefully, so that the general public is aware of the right party symbols and the correct way to vote. They should not violate the rules of the elections by alluring the poor people with money, food, clothes, etc. Secondly, the candidates should not make promises that they are not ale to fulfill later if elected. It is the responsibility of the government and even the candidate to organise such camps and training for the illiterate voters where they can acquire a proper understanding of the signs, symbols and policies of all parties. There should be a proper distribution of voterís photo-identity cards and every voter should get these, so that all could participate in this democratic exercise completely. Hence, we can say that from the beginning of the election process and till its end, every candidate needs to maintain peace and let elections be done in congenial atmospheres, in keeping with the rules.
Have death penalty for offenders
Corruption is a tree the branches of which are of an immeasurable length, so said Beaumont and Fletcher. The laws are made by Parliament, which allows many of the criminals and corrupt to find their way to the temple of democracy. Leaders in Parliament who make the laws leave many lacunae, which suit them later when they have to escape criminal conviction and the long arm of the law. The present Prime Minister, for instance, is a helpless person, who can never assert his authority for the fear of the fall of his government. India, to my mind, may have many Manmohan Singhs, but can never produce another Lal Bahadur Shastri, who lived and died with an impeccable integrity and illustrious image. His honesty and humility would always be remembered by the future generations. The Congress may not remember him now, but the masses are certainly not likely to forget him ever. I suggest a strong step to deal with the mess in the election process. The law should clearly state that the persons contesting elections should not only be honest, but also be seen as such. Any deviation from such directions would attract death penalty. Such high-profile cases of corruption should be handled by specially contrived election courts for speedy justice, like it is done by the military court martial, whose decision is delivered within a month. If even some of the corrupt politicians are hanged, I am sure, not only the corruption but also its associated crimes can be controlled in less than a year. Lodging politicians in rest houses by converting these into jails should be completely banned. Sadly, the present government is the weakest government since the Independence, with Sonia Gandhi operating it with the help of a remote control.
MULTAN SINGH PARIHAR,
Check the influx of black money
The elections can be made clean only if the leaders taking part in this exercise have a clean image. At present, politics in India is a roaring business and the vote is a saleable commodity. The turn has to be reversed before it is too late. Let it be ensured that history-sheeters, tainted characters and Mafia goons are kept away from the election arena. The intellectuals, educationists, social workers and bureaucrats with proven track record should be encouraged to enter politics. Those with criminal record should be debarred from fighting the elections. If Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are any lesson, the Election Commission and the apex court should take immediate stringent measures to cleanse the Indian political scene. The lawbreakers become lawmakers through the route of politics, which is unfortunate. Black money plays a major role in funding election campaigns; therefore, its influx needs to be checked. The poor and the illiterate voters are lured to sell their votes. Worst still is the division of voters on caste lines by the vote-hungry politicians. The two-party system is the only way out to check the menace. The minimum qualification for becoming an MP or an MLA should be graduation. Voterís photo-identity cards should be made mandatory for casting the vote.
Break the axis of evil
Election and corruption have become epidemics in tone and tenor; in structure and shape, in system and society of India. It is, however, not easy to say that elections in India are today free and fair, after looking at some of the recent operations. There should be proper mechanism, fully functional and fully equipped to fight the embedded nexus between "neta, lala, babu and goonda". The inextricably interwoven mire of corrupt practices among the Indian voter are invariably linked with five major players of corruption in politics. For instance, a neta gets financial support from a business house to meet the expenses of election. In return, the "lala" gets political shelter to protect his "black money" through the nexus between the bureaucrats and the dada. The Dawoods and Telgis are brothers in arms in politics. By putting a proper check on the nefarious designs of these five big players of corruption, elections in India can be made clean, free from deep-rooted social disorder, mafia, musclemen and money.
EC should be autonomous body
All parties should respect the Election Commission and obey its orders. For this to happen, the Election Commission should be far from the shadow of politicians and should take absolute powers in its hand. Else, the Constitution should be amended to provide the Election Commission with more powers. The Election Commissionís decision on the conduct of elections should be treated like the decision of the third umpire in cricket. You are out once you are given out. There should be minimum possible expense on elections, as the present expenditure is a criminal waste of money. Results of opinion polls and pre-poll surveys should not be declared before the voting is over. The elections should be arranged only after a certain minimum gap. There should be no relaxation in rules for accommodating a candidate with a criminal background and more strict rules should be made and implemented to discourage such elements from entering politics. Every citizen should cast his or her vote. The people will have to unite to root out the poll pangs. There should be a daily prayer for politicians, in which they should recall their duties towards the nation.
Nab goons during elections
The elections these days have become costly and knotty affairs. All situations in an election scenario appear more like the screenplay of a masala film. There is a lot of goondaism, excessive waste of money, free flow of wine and now women, too, are circulated like betel leaves among the power brokers and touts. The standard of elections in India has come to naught. From a child to a 90-year-old man, everyone has an interest in elections and everyone tries to extort something or the other for himself alone from the elections in India. To make the elections clean, not only will the government have to play a role, but also we as individuals will have a great role to play. A special organisation should he set up to conduct a free and clean elections, as the EC alone cannot do enough. The new organisation should check the illegal production and circulation of alcohol, money, and other items during the elections. There should be a complete and clear ban on all such tools of corruption, especially in the election days. During elections, the anti-corruption wing should remain alert and let no bad element or influence disrupt the polls. The Election Commission should make its rules stricter and more rigorous, without which there will be more cases of cheating and booth capturing. The buck should begin with the local administration. First of all, the administration and the poll staff should be made clean for us to have clear and fair elections.
K. S. THIND,
Penalise voters who abstain
Voting should be made compulsory. The names of the defaulters should be struck off the electoral rolls. The defaulters who seek re-enlisting should be made to pay a heavy fine as fee for re-enlisting. Those want to compete in the elections should be made to sit in a test of knowledge of the Constitution. In this way, only the well-informed and knowledgeable persons will be chosen as representatives of the people. The qualifying marks in this test should not be less than 60 per cent. The Election Commission of India should conduct this test. There should be two rounds of electionóin the first round all the contenders would be allowed to compete, but only that candidate would be declared elected who secured more than 50 per cent of the total votes polled. In case there is no such candidate, there should be a second round of election in which only the top two contenders should be allowed to compete. In this way, the 50 per cent plus condition will not be overlooked and the real representative of the majority of the people will get elected. These measures, if adopted in a proper and practical way, will clean the Indian elections to a great extent.
K. L. ARORA,
Media has a role to play
Media can play a main role in ensuring a clear election process. In last yearís elections, we saw how the media kept a watch on the assets of our candidates for the seats of MP and MLA. However, that was only the first step and the media is expected to do more. It can provide us with knowledge of every aspect of the character of our political leaders who are fighting elections. We can keep track of the political record of a person only through the help of the media, which aids us in electing able, honest and dedicated leaders for our country. For all this to happen, the media should be honest and impartial. A newspaper or a news channel, which is directly or indirectly affiliated to any political party or ideology, canít provide us with objective information regarding that political person, party or ideology.
Stop all and sundry from entering politics
Politics has become everyoneís cup of tea. The reason behind it is that everyone now believes that might is right. Gone are the days when leaders devoted their entire lives to the welfare of the people of the country. The whole scene has now changed for worse. Everyone is in race for the seat during elections. The people find it difficult to join other fields, but joining politics or fighting elections seems to be a piece of cake. The reason for that is simple, yet often overlooked. Hardly any formal education or basic qualification is required to join politics. To make elections clean and clear, the most important step to be taken is to specify some basic educational qualification for candidates. It is often seen that undertrials or persons with criminal background enter politics and do a roaring business. Each candidate should be asked to obtain a clean chit from his or her constituency. During elections, law and order should be maintained strictly. No relaxation should be given to the people who indulge in violence and rigging during elections. Moreover, it becomes the moral duty of our political parties that they should say "no" to the persons who are found to be insincere towards performing their duty. Last but no the least, an age limit should be fixed for contesting elections. This will give youngsters and honest people a chance to enter mainstream politics and make elections a clean affair.