Dr. Ashwin Mahesh and Dr. Meenakshi Bharath discussed about the real meaning of “Government by the People” in a pulsating interactive session organized by Bangalore International Centre on 24th April, 2012 in the evening in its Auditorium. The well-attended session was moderated by Mr. Aditya Sondhi.
Initiating the discussion, Mr. Sondhi raised the interesting issue as to whether some functions of governance could be outsourced to the Civil Society, and if so, under what circumstances.
Dr. Ashwin Mahesh referred to the very common feeling among several well-intentioned people that, more often than not, the chosen/elected representatives of the people are not in sync with the hopes, aspirations and wishes on majority of the people and sought to clarify as to why this is so. He felt that this was largely due to the lack of interest in majority of the people in actively participating in the governance in local self-government bodies and keeping themselves detached. This in turn leads to governance being in the hands of those who either do not understand the issued involved or who do not have any stakes in such issues. The solution, according to Ashwin, is to get involved, participate actively in issues along with stake-holders and generally keep oneself engaged with activities associated with governance in local affairs. He emphasized that it is possible to engage with governance issues in local bodies if one is serious and establishes himself as a problem-solver who is keen to collaborate with others, instead of being a cynical and detached arm-chair critic. He pointed out that such participation by more people helps, as well as disciplines, the executives and the decision-makers as several facets of administrative issues could be looked into from different perspectives. He gave the example of Civil Society representatives in Bangalore actively collaborating with the Traffic Police and other Traffic Authorities in suggesting a more rational and more cohesive traffic movement pattern to show that such involvements are not only possible, but also desirable. As he forcefully argued, increasing the number of problem-solving people with the decision-making process will vastly increase the process of solution of problems and bring people much closer to the concept of government by the people where the people play a more dynamic role as Change Agents.
Dr. Meenakshi Bharath carried this argument forward by giving her own personal experiences of getting involved with several local issues which have their own impact on governance. She talked about how several volunteers like her actively took up the work of correction of voter’s list and registration of new votes. She lamented the fact that there are several people who criticize the people’s representatives for their inaction or wrong action who do not care to check whether their names are in the voter’s list or do not exercise their franchise even when they are registered as voters. She felt that before indulging in such criticism the people must ponder as to whether they have fulfilled their own obligations as citizens. She emphasized that participation in governance must begin with involvement with local issues which touch both individuals as well as others. She gave the example of how people complain of pollution and environmental degradation without considering how they are all contributing to it by indiscriminately and unscientifically disposing their garbage in their backyard without any segregation. A greater awareness and a better involvement with the community need could be achieved by segregating dry and wet garbage and by involving with the decision-making process within the community to dispose-off such garbage in the most rational and non-polluting manner. Meenakshi emphasized that with greater involvement more and more people get conversant with governance issues at various levels.
Ashwin interjected by pointing out that if we want good candidates to represent us in the various levels of representative bodies, we must create good candidates from amongst ourselves, and that would be possible when more and more people take active interest in governance through involvement, association and participation.It was a fascinating discussion and there were lots of heads within the audience, nodding in agreement with the views expressed by these two social activists.