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We need data protection and privacy law

Protecting individual’s right to privacy is a fundamental right

Privacy is an entitlement of every free man and woman. Article 21 of the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is the heart of the fundamental rights. It states that, no person shall be deprived of his or her life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Right to privacy, i.e. safeguarding of personal information from public domain to avoid unwarranted interference, is an integral component of Article 21 of the Constitution.

In the era of internet induced information explosion, right to privacy extends to protection of personal data on the web domain. On the one hand, science and technology is revolutionalising our lives and on the other, privacy has become a luxury in this digital era. The recent revelation that Facebook has been allowed by WhatsApp to use the personal data of users for commercial purpose has once again revived the demand for a stringent privacy law in India.

Facebook has been given access to the names, phone numbers and other personal data of millions of WhatsApp users for advertising purpose. Sharing this kind of metadata may give Facebook a better view of users’ online communication activities, affiliations and habits, but it runs the risk of making private WhatsApp contacts into more public Facebook connections.

In India, over 70 million people are using WhatsApp. Facebook has more than 142 million active users in India out of which at least 133 million users are accessing the site through mobile phones. Therefore, the access would have implications for millions of users of the social networking sites.

Besides risks relating to individual privacy, lack of data protection has serious security implications also. With the advent of technology and e-commerce, the problems related to the same are also increasing day by day. India itself has faced a tremendous increase in cyber crimes and data stealing.

The cyber protection cells have witnessed various instances of data theft recently. Some recent press reports have indicated that 2014-15 saw the largest number of incursions and hacks into government websites. It’s obvious that this lack of accountability to individual data poses a significant risk to the individuals and agencies concerned. In 2015 itself, the websites of TRAI, the Indian Army, JNU, ISRO and CBI websites were hacked.

India presently does not have any express legislation governing data protection or privacy. Unlike the EU, India does not have any separate law which is designed exclusively for the data protection. As of now, the issue of data protection is generally governed by the contractual relationship between the parties and the parties are free to enter into contracts to determine their relationship defining the terms personal data, personal sensitive data, data which may not be transferred out of or to India and mode of handling of the same.

Prior to 2011 the situation of the laws related to data protection was very vague and ambiguous. The relevant laws in India dealing with data protection were the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the (Indian) Contract Act, 1872. However, both these Acts were not fully equipped to deal with data protection and privacy. The concept of “personal data” is not even defined in the IT Act.

In 2011, India felt the need for a strict and stringent data protection law. Thus, a new set of rules named the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011 came into picture. A draft was prepared in 2011 with the objective to protect individuals against misuse of their personal data by government and private agencies, including unauthorised sharing of Aadhar data of Indian citizens. The scope of the bill was later expanded in 2014 to include all residents of India, citizen or otherwise.

There is an imperative on the part of the government to expedite formulation of a legislation that will guarantee protection to individuals against breach of their privacy through unlawful means.

India, being the host and the biggest platform of data outsourcing needs an effective and well formulated mechanism for dealing with these crimes. In the absence of a specific legislation, the Indian software and outsourcing industry has been taking initiatives on its own that would provide comfort to the foreign clients and vendors.

The National Association of Service & Software Companies (NASSCOM) has been the driving force behind many private sector efforts to improve data security. For sustaining and encouraging the BPO boom, India needs to have a legal framework that meets with the expectations, both legal and of a public nature, as prevail in the jurisdictions from which data is being shipped to India.

In practical terms the biggest hurdle for India is to have its framework of domestic data protection laws officially adjudged and publicly perceived as “adequate”. A dedicated data protection law would give further impetus to not only the outsourcing industry but to the foreign direct investment policy at large.

Undoubtedly, the concept of data privacy and protection is at a nascent stage in India. But, the lack of a comprehensive legislation pertaining to privacy and data protection has been a matter of concern. A new legislation dealing specifically with the protection of data and information present on the web is the dire need of the day. At the same time, the new legislation should maintain a balance between individual privacy and tightening its grip on the increasing rate of cyber crimes.

The minister of state for Personnel, Jitendra Singh, had informed Rajya Sabha in August, 2015 that the Centre was in the process of drafting a legislation that will guarantee protection to individuals against breach of their privacy through unlawful means. It has been more than a year since Digital India was launched.

The need for a robust and comprehensive privacy legislation to protect the rights of citizens is imminent at this stage. India is a signatory to the TRIPS and is, therefore, bound to have its domestic laws conform to the requirements of its Article 39, which deals with protection of undisclosed information.

With the passage of time, India has seen the emergence of various legal challenges pertaining to preservation and protection of sensitive personal data and information. Keeping an eye on its recent data misuse scams and also to protect individual’s right to privacy which is treated as part of fundamental right to life, the government should come up with a comprehensive data protection policy.

No legislation is effective without making sure it can be implemented. Therefore, a specialised agency should be created under the act with enforcement powers to regulate, monitor, set standards and investigate complaints.

Srouce – http://www.mydigitalfc.com/op-ed/we-need-data-protection-privacy-law-896

Modi government’s Pakistan policy is marred by confusion

Ordinary Kashmiris, prisoners in their own houses, are sandwiched between the terrorists, separatists and security forces.

The decision to send an all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the ground situation is a welcome step by the government, even if it came two months after the protests began in the Valley. It is a step in the right direction which will help in arriving at a political solution to the impasse. The 27-member delegation should meaningfully address the unrest that has already taken 73 lives and will build the road to sustainable peace in the Valley.

If we see the timeline of the Kashmir problem since July 8, when militant commander Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces, we will find serious inconsistencies and contradictions in the government’s response in handling of the protests in the state. There is a palpable sense of policy confusion.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of political outreach and dialogue with the protesters, Union home minister Rajnath Singh invited non-Kashmiri Muslim leaders to consult with them on the path to be taken in Kashmir, thus, trying to project a community-based solution to the problem.

The Union finance minister, on the other hand, spoke in an altogether different voice. There is an obvious ambivalence in the utterances of the Central leadership and between the Central and the state leadership in Srinagar about the resolution of the problem.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)

A coherent framework is missing in the process. Confusing signals are making it difficult to bring about sustainable peace in the Valley. Secondly, the words of the government are not yielding any result because they are not backed by genuine action on the ground.

So far as strategy is concerned, the Modi government is banking on the 2002 Vajpayee formula of “Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”. But the problem is deep-rooted this time around. So, out of the box thinking is required which is nowhere to be seen either in New Delhi or Srinagar at present. There is much that the Modi government and the Mehbooba Mufti government can do in Kashmir. Hoping that normalcy will return to the Valley after the youth get exhausted and that the protests will lose momentum is not a strategy but symptomatic of lack of ideas and political will.

So what is the solution? The path to sustainable peace in Kashmir lies in a separate but integrated plan of action for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the separatists and for Pakistan and the action plan must be followed by courage for serious action on the ground.

When we are talking about dialogue, we will have to have a dialogue in a democratic way. The contours of dialogue must be defined. We should have dialogue with an open heart but not without exercising our minds; otherwise the consequence will be similar to that achieved by the home minister during his last visit to Srinagar. An open invitation for talks was sent on Twitter when there was no internet in the Valley. He himself was not clear about the parameters of the talks. Violence continued unabated even during the visit of the home minister.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir are looking for a permanent and lasting solution. Ordinary Kashmiris, prisoners in their own houses, are sandwiched between the terrorists, separatists and security forces. They are facing the worst economic crisis ever.

But what needs to be understood is that the depth and intensity of alienation among the youth of Kashmir is real and enduring. The challenge is to engage the youth in the Valley through confidence-building measures. Their psychological integration with the Union of India is the lasting solution to the problem. And for that, we need to first understand what their aspirations are.

The trust deficit between New Delhi and Srinagar should be made so strong that it is not cracked by the centrifugal forces. We have to abandon preconceived notions and prejudice, and have to collectively overcome the “we versus them” syndrome in the Valley.

During the UPA government, a series of round table discussions were held as confidence-building measures among the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Revival of such strategies would help to strike a psychological cord with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The formula for political solution should be accompanied by measures for economic development of the state for real time effectiveness of such a solution. The government ought to keep in mind that the youth of Kashmir are unlikely to respond to economic packages until a political solution is reached.

Like in any other state, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are sensitive to the incidents and utterances in other parts of the country. So the domestic policy of the Central government should be in sync with its Jammu and Kashmir policy. There is every probability that a conciliatory approach towards the Valley will be negated by a polarisation strategy in other states. Rather, it will deepen the crisis.

Pakistan’s meddling in the internal affairs of India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, is an open secret. By appointing parliamentarians as special envoys “for fighting the Kashmir cause in different parts of the world”, Pakistan has reignited the agenda of portraying Kashmir as an international issue and to impress upon the United Nations, through its well-wishers, for its intervention in Jammu and Kashmir. But Pakistan should remember that the UN Resolution of 1948 has specifically stated that Pakistan should withdraw its troops from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Therefore, by refusing to withdraw its troops from PoK, Pakistan has violated the UN resolution.

Then how to deal with Pakistan? The Pakistan policy of the Modi government is marred by confusion and inconsistencies. The comprehensive dialogue process now appears to be in dead water. Till now, the Modi government is yet to effectively utilise back channel diplomacy for talks.

This mechanism was extensively used during the tenure of Manmohan Singh and proved to be effectual. The UPA government, throughout its tenure, sustained the peace process either by talking to the Kashmiris or to Pakistan. The situation in Kashmir today is a reminder that it is in India’s interest to do so. The present government will have to evolve a consistent policy to deal with Pakistan. An integrated approach to address the political and economic realities of the state only will yield the desired result.

Content Source – http://www.dailyo.in/politics/narendra-modi-kashmir-pakistan-hurriyat-upa-nda-pok-united-nations/story/1/12766.html

Why is Kashmir Burning? We need Solutions:

The turbulence in the valley subsequent to the encounter of Burhan Wani. Hizbul Mujahidden commander is a reflection of the failure of law and order mechanism in the State as well as administrative machinery of the Centre. 30 lives have been lost and many more are injured. Besides, the economic loss is there. What else we are waiting for?

Recently, there were intelligence reports regarding polarisation of youth in the valley. Whether any action was taken by the Government and corrective measures were initiated in this regard is not known. The polarised discourse and flip flop regarding talks with Pakistan provided oxygen to the separatists to fuel the situation for the worse. The intensity of the youth unrest, particularly in Southern Kashmir, is a matter of serious concern.

Wani created more terrorists after his death than during his lifetime. Until now, we were worried about terrorism across the borders but if the recent incidents are of any indication, then popular support to militancy in the valley is a more serious threat. If we still remain indifferent to the situation, the result which is there for all of us to see would be repeated more often.

Also Read – Faultlines: Jammu and Kashmir

There is no doubt that the Indian security forces are committed to protect the unity and integrity of our country and to safeguard people. Both the military and the Government should ensure that no opportunity is given whereby their sacrifices are exploited by those who intend to subvert India’s interests and the development of the State.
First of all, the military needs to assess the number of terrorists and their operational details and accordingly the counter terrorist operations may be planned to avoid loss of civilian lives in the operation. Be it in anti terrorist operations or counter insurgency operations within Naxals, this has to be a must. Apart from preventing loss of innocent lives of civilians, this will also help the military and the police to prevent loss of lives of their personnel as well.
The NDA Government in the Centre and the alliance in the State have failed to implement even the doable promises they made to the youth of the State. Therefore, lacking of political approach to solve the Kashmir issue is one of the major reasons for the present day imbroglio. Another area that needs immediate concern is the high rate of unemployment among the Kashmiri youth.

With the number of registered unemployed youth crossing 6 lakh mark, Jammu and Kashmir has the highest unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent in comparison to its four neighboring states. A serious thought should be given to provide employment opportunities to the youth in the region, both educated or otherwise, which cool down the temper. Probably, the Prime Minister should experiment his Skill India and Start Up India missions in Jammu & Kashmir.

President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh – A Manufactured Crisis

The elected government of Arunachal Pradesh was martyred on the eve of the Republic Day despite having a majority. The Centre is trying to defend their move under the garb of governor’s report about the alleged deterioration of law and order situation in the State. If the governor is fearing for his life in a peace loving state like Arunachal Pradesh, I doubt what he will have to say about Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra which are table toppers in the ranking of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) crime data.

Article 355 and 356 should not be interpreted as wanton invasion by the Centre on the authority of the State government. These articles are not in the constitution to be used as tools by the central government to destabilise state governments and to further their political agenda. It was very much clear from the debates of the Constituent Assembly that the Centre will have to respect the limited autonomy of the States irrespective of whether it has been specified in the Constitution or not.

Article 356 can be imposed only when a situation arises in which the government of the State cannot be carried on as per the provisions prescribed in the constitution. In this case, the government has the majority of the House, the State is being run in a peaceful manner, yet President’s rule has been imposed. The BJP is making a desperate attempt to show its presence in the north-east and knowing their fate in Assam, the BJP made an effort to break the Congress party in Arunachal but could not form the government because of the anti-defection law. Therefore, the only political option left with them was to impose central rule.

* The author is a Supreme Court lawyer and National Media Panellist, the Indian National Congress. The views expressed by the author are personal.

President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh – A manufactured crisis

The elected government of Arunachal Pradesh was martyred on the eve of the Republic Day despite having a majority. The Centre is trying to defend their move under the garb of governor’s report about the alleged deterioration of law and order situation in the state. If the governor fears for his life in a peace loving state like Arunachal Pradesh, I doubt what he will have to say about Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra which are table toppers in the ranking of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) crime data.

To my utter surprise, the governor has cited the picture of a Mithun being slaughtered as evidence to support his perception that law and order situation in the State has deteriorated to the extent that President’s rule should be imposed. This shows his limited knowledge on culture and mythology of Arunachal Pradesh.

A bovine species, Mithun, is intrinsically related to the socio-economic lives of people of the state. They celebrate its birth and arrival and at the same time feel honoured to sacrifice the animal and offer its meat in community feasts. Mithuns are also given as bride price in the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. So, to link it with law and order situation of the state has no justification. The governor has definitely erred in this while recommending President’s rule in the state and at the same time, the haste in which the centre accepted the recommendation speaks of its political bias.

Coming to the constitutional provisions, the powers and position of governor in a state does not extend beyond advice of a democratically elected government and this has been established by the Supreme Court judgement.

Governor is bound to act according to the advice of the council of ministers. Now, under what provision of the constitution, did he unilaterally summon the assembly and decided the business of the House? Things should have been put on hold after the Gauhati High Court had directed for keeping the orders of the governor for advancing the assembly session in abeyance. Irrespective of his ideological affiliation, the position of governor demands the person to shed his bhakti towards his ideological patrons and uphold the principles of constitutionalism. For the sake of propriety, the occupants of constitutional positions are expected to rise above party politics and stay away from political manipulations and not to magnify them. Secondly, how can a deputy speaker overrule speaker’s decision and reinstate the suspended members? In parliamentary procedure, speakers’ decisions are treated as precedents for conducting proceedings.

The legality of such a decision is questionable and I hope Supreme Court will definitely look into this. It is the floor of the House and not the perception of the governor which should decide whether the government enjoys confidence of the majority or not. Supreme Court guidelines in the S.R.Bomai v/s Union of India case have been completely overlooked both at the time of recommending and imposing Article 356 in Arunachal Pradesh. If there was a constitutional crisis, that constitutional crisis was manufactured by the Modi government through the governor to destabilise the democratically elected government of the State which still enjoys the confidence of the House.

Arunachal Pradesh has also its strategic importance as it shares borders with China. So, by creating an artificial crisis in the State, both the Central government and the governor have put the security of India under potential threat. Now, things are out in the open and China must be observing the developments in the bordering State very closely.

Article 355 and 356 should not be interpreted as wanton invasion by the centre on the authority of the state government. These articles are not in the constitution to be used as tools by the central government to destabilise state governments and to further their political agenda. It was very much clear from the debates of the Constituent Assembly that the Centre will have to respect the limited autonomy of the States irrespective of whether it has been specified in the Constitution or not.

Article 356 can be imposed only when a situation arises in which the government of the State cannot be carried on as per the provisions prescribed in the constitution. In this case, the government has the majority of the House, the State is being run in a peaceful manner, yet President’s rule has been imposed. The BJP is making a desperate attempt to show its presence in the north-east and knowing their fate in Assam, the BJP made an effort to break the Congress party in Arunachal but could not form the government because of the anti-defection law. Therefore, the only political option left with them was to impose central rule. This is precisely why the words of caution and wisdom of the President of India were ignored to fulfil their political agenda.

The attempt of the Modi Government to rule Itanagar from Delhi is violation of the spirit of the Constitution and disrespect to the will of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. When the matter was sub-judice and the constitution bench of the Supreme Court was about to hear the matter, the centre should have waited for the final judgement before taking a call on imposition of Article 356 in the state. The spirit of cooperative federalism ingrained in the constitution and recommendations of Sarkaria Commission were thrown to the winds while dealing with Arunachal issue. Supreme Court has already observed that that President’s rule in Arunachal is a matter of grave seriousness and I hope the government in the centre will teach a lesson after the final verdict will be given by the apex court. However, the mindset of the BJP towards cooperative federalism is a wakeup call for the regional parties also because Arunachal Pradesh may not be the last stop for Modi government.

* The author is a Supreme Court lawyer and National Media Panellist, the Indian National Congress. The views expressed by the author are personal.

Source: http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/president%E2%80%99s-rule-arunachal-pradesh-%E2%80%93-manufactured-crisis-38401

Political and correct

Educated young people have finally arrived where they can be real game-changers: the political arena.

A resident doctor at GM Hospital in Dibrugarh, Assam, Bhaskar Papukon Gogoi drives-a Chevrolet Beat-to the tea gardens in and around the district at least twice a month. At the gardens, he offers and organises free medical assistance for workers. It’s a habit he developed in 1999, when, as an MBBS student at Dibrugarh Medical College, Gogoi worked briefly for the UNICEF. When he cannot offer an instant solution, the 31-year-old BJP member uses his political connections to make things move for the poor.

His trips are less frequent these days. Being a core team member of the state BJP’s “Assam Nirman (development of Assam)” dialogue series, Gogoi is busy mobilising support across the state through social media platforms. “My day has three compartments: from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. I read-both political and medical books-then work at the hospital from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. From 2 in the afternoon till I go to bed at night, I devote myself to party work,” says Gogoi, a first-generation politician who feels politics is a force multiplier for the kind of work he wants to do for the underprivileged.

He epitomises a new breed of professionals and qualified young Indians. Despite the opportunity to shine in another career path, these young women and men have chosen politics as their profession.

From police sub-inspector P. Rajeev, 37, who, tired of corrupt politicians, quit his job to join politics and became an MLA from Kudachi in Karnataka to MBA student Ritu Panchal, 21, the sarpanch of Bhidhavad in Madhya Pradesh, these people do not believe in merely making noise from the sidelines as spectators. They want to be part of the system and push for changes, and at the micro level, to begin with.

“The condition of villages, especially the women, is terrible. I decided to enter politics as it is extremely important to address the problems of rural areas,” says Nupur Malav, 30, member of Bundi Zila Parishad, Rajasthan. Malav, an engineer who also holds an MBA degree, quit her job at Instrumentation Limited in Kota to contest the civic polls.

In Assam, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was only 32 when he created history in 1985, moving from a hostel room in Gauhati University to the chief minister’s residence after leading the six-year-long Assam agitation. And as recently as in the last couple of years, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took the intersection between youth and politics to a new level.

Take Sarita Singh, 28. Inspired by Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade in 2011, she decided to enter the political arena to be an agent of change herself. Armed with post-graduate degrees in Political Science and Sociology from Delhi University, she defied pressure from her non-political family, joined AAP and today is the MLA from Rohtas Nagar constituency in Delhi.

“Incidents like the mass protests seeking justice for the December 16 gang-rape victim in Delhi and the Anna Hazare movement provided a platform for youngsters to be active,” says Sanjay Kumar, Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, and author of Youth and Electoral Politics: An Emerging Engagement. “That is why votes cast by the young are rising in recent elections.”

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The success of AAP and its novel approach to politics-based more on service delivery than visionary ideologies-have, in fact, heralded a silent inflow of young and educated people to politics. For them, politics is not about philosophy, it’s a tool of efficient governance. They do not discuss Karl Marx or free market economy; they want to root out corruption from local offices, ensure that government services reach the underprivileged faster and elections are won on a single parameter-performance.

They do not want a political theory to articulate their agenda; they prefer to use technology to make things happen. “The first beginning was perhaps made by the introduction of the RTI Act, which empowered citizens with information,” says Sudha Pai, rector and professor at the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi. In fact, this fight for right to information eventually culminated in the formation of AAP, the political party.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, attributes the origin of this trend to the awareness spread by social media. Pai looks at it from another angle. Drawing a parallel with the increasing number of start-ups, she says youngsters are increasingly willing to take risks, and they feel there is a career in politics. “If this trend continues, it will bring young, honest and committed people to politics,” she adds. Kumar says the hesitation in the minds of the young is dissolving: “There are several examples of people who have left lucrative careers, tried their fate in politics, and succeeded.”

Hailing the arrival of the youth in the political arena, Union Petroleum Minister and senior BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan says India today requires novel and unconventional ideas, coupled with technological solutions such as social media platforms, to unleash the true potential of the country’s resources. And who better than the educated youth to travel this path, he adds.

But the most significant differentiator between earlier generations of young politicians and the current breed is the scale of political platform. The new generation is ready to wait for the big picture to evolve, and many want to make an impact where it’s the most direct and personal-at the grassroots. The emergence of this trend was most visible in the rural and urban civic bodies elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan this year.

Those polls saw an unprecedented number of educated and professionally qualified youngsters in fray-and a majority of them from families with no political background. Although Parliament has failed to pass the law to reserve 33 per cent seats for women, states such as MP and Rajasthan have reserved 50 per cent seats for women in municipal and gram panchayat elections. “In MP, women hold almost 52 per cent positions as newly elected public representatives,” says H. M. Mishra, Director, Bhopal National Institute of Urban Governance and Management (NIUGM).

In neigbouring Rajasthan, 17 of 32 members of the district council of Ajmer are women. Of these, 11 are graduates, two post-graduates and one holds a doctorate degree.
In MP, the NIUGM has done a study on social, economic and political situation of the newly elected representatives of local bodies. The study says only one of 778 municipal corporation councillors in the state is above 65 and 317 are between 36 and 45. The youngest, municipal councillor of Khandwa Sagar Anil Artani, is only 21.

Only two of the 14 municipal corporation mayors are above 56. The study also finds that of the 778 elected municipal councillors, 77 are graduates, 38 post-graduates, 18 lawyers and three engineers. Only nine councillors are illiterate. The trend is visible in gram panchayat elections, too.

So why are the young stepping into an arena with so little visibility? Panchal explains: “There are no roads in the village, and girls are not sent to school. These grim realities kept haunting me and I thought I must do something. So I chose this path.” The narrative will not be different for most other newly elected young netas. In Rajasthan’s Alwar district, nursing student Santosh Kumari, 22, had to fight a long, lonely battle to get young women in the village registered as voters before she got elected sarpanch of Bichpuri gram panchayat in Neemrana.

“I succeeded in changing the mindset of the villagers,” Santosh says. Like her, Anjana Meghwal, 32, the new district chief of Jaisalmer, plans to work for empowerment of women through education. Meghwal has done MA and B.Ed, and also cleared the Rajasthan Civil Services examination.

Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor, says part of the credit for this positive development must go to the electorate, which is becoming more educated and professional. Alongside, the growth of the economy in the last 25 years has expanded the middle class section, which is no more a tiny section of the electorate. “The expectations from politics have changed, as people look for governance and performance,” Tharoor says. “They want politicians to talk knowledgeably about issues. This calls for a different type of politician.”

While many see this as a healthy trend of political parties posing faith in the youth, critics are not convinced yet. A Congress MP, who is also a general secretary of the party, says, “Only elections at the grassroots level are open to individuals without a political background. Can we imagine Digvijaya Singh’s son contesting the municipal polls? Did Jyotiraditya Scindia or Sachin Pilot ever contest municipal polls?” The argument is not without merit.

As against the civic polls in MP and Rajasthan, only 69 of 543 Lok Sabha MPs are between 25 and 40 years; as many as 346 are above 50. Only 12 per cent BJP candidates who fought the Lok Sabha polls were aged between 25 and 40. The Congress fared slightly better at 14 per cent. For AAP, the figure was 31 per cent.

Political analysts blame this on the organisational decay of political parties across the country. “Which political party can claim to have functionaries at every village, block and district of the constituencies it represents? Let there be internal democracy first; participation will increase,” says Amit Prakash of the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU.

But the biggest deterrent to educated young professionals joining politics still remains the financial implication, and no one seems to have cracked the code yet. Pai finds support to her idea of state-funded and regulated election campaign from Prakash, who believes that if the taxpayer’s money can be used to give corporate subsidy to the tune of Rs 5 lakh crore in the last three budgets, the government can well spend Rs 1 lakh crore annually to fund political parties.

Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh says one has no place in politics if he or she doesn’t already have a substantial source of income. “You must be capable enough to take care of yourself and your family before you decide to join politics to serve society. If you don’t have that ability and still want to join politics, go to RSS,” he says.

BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, however, believes political parties need a support system to sustain talent by taking care of their minimum functional needs. “The BJP,” he says, “has an elaborate support system for such people.”

There is a view that recent laws passed by Rajasthan and Haryana governments, mandating minimum educational qualification as a prerequisite for contesting panchayat elections, are likely to give a further fillip to this nascent yet encouraging trend. Although the Supreme Court has upheld the Haryana government decision, political scientists warn against such an “exclusionist” trend in a democracy. “When you start distrusting demos (the common people), you are no more a democracy,” says Amit Prakash.

The debate may go on, but there is a distinct change in the approach towards politics, mostly propelled by disillusionment with the current political leadership. It’s the growing impatience with the slow process of deliverance, eagerness to be a part of the decision-making process and take responsibility that is driving this change. According to Tharoor, there may be one generation to go before we truly see a critical mass of politicians of this kind. But what cannot be denied is that a beginning has been made.
-with Manasi Sharma Maheswari

Source-http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/political-and-correct-young-politicians/1/559091.html