By definition, a referendum is a general vote by the electorate on a single political question that has been referred to them for a direct decision. Till a few days ago, referendum was just a term in my political science text book, but it became a reality only after I read about “Brexit” (Britain leaving the European Union), so I did a little bit of reading and came to a few conclusions.
India is the largest democracy in the entire world and we have different political parties to cater to different social groups. In such a situation, the Parliament House is rid with fierce competition to stay in power – this results in a very slow decision making process. When a situation comes to hand, political leaders spend more time pointing fingers and playing the blame game than discussing how to resolve the problem. A direct poll could help in taking a decision that is consensual to a larger population. When citizens are directly involved in the decision making process, the core of democracy comes alive.
On the other hand, in a country where most adults are politically uneducated, a common citizen may not have the knowledge to take such a decision. Often, the turnout of voters is low, and the final outcome is too narrow and ultimately leads to indecisiveness. Conducting too many referendums could be tiresome and would result in the people being unresponsive and apathetic. A referendum consists of a simple yes or no question which cannot unravel the complex problems that a country faces.
Holding a referendum is rare, but not unheard of in India. The joining of Sikkim into the Republic of India and well Goa forming its own state rather than merging with Maharashtra are examples in which referendums were used to take a decision. As mentioned by a prominent journalist, “India, unlike Europe, doesn’t take chances. Referendums were called only when the result was known.”
Hence, I believe that while referendums inculcate the essence of democracy, political leaders and the government must employ them for appropriate problems and not just as a political ploy to influence the population.
Just a Smile
Gurgling giggles, cheeky smirks, wide grins, deep chuckles, and loud guffaws are all a part of our routine “happy” mannerisms. But nowadays, finding a true smile is rare.
A real smile is born from our heart and causes the corners of our lips to turn up, but its journey doesn’t stop there – it continues to travel up to our eyes and is expressed in the form a jolly twinkle. A true smile is infectious and lights up the room. A simple smile accompanied with a reassuring pat on the back or an encouraging nod can do miracles on our soul. It knits loved ones closer, and dissolves ugly spats. It gives us the courage to face our inner demons.
The importance of smiling has practically been boiled down to a science. It expands the lungs, releases a type of neurotransmitter called endorphins which are natural stress busters, and it generates positive energy within us. In a nutshell, smiling makes us feel happy and lead a pleasant life. We adults ought to take a lesson from children and learn to smile more.
As soon as you wake up, before you do anything, head over to the mirror and give yourself a wide grin. You are sure to have a positive attitude no matter which side of the bed you wake up on!
One moment every thing in your life is going well; you are getting excellent marks, your mother buys you a new iPhone, you go out to the mall with your friends and are just enjoying life. All of a sudden, your entire world crashes down because you lose someone or something that you have always loved. You close your eyes shut thinking that it was just a horrible nightmare; you hope that once you open your eyes, everything will be back to normal again.
When we lose something that we love or admire, someone important in your life,
we first feel emotionless, completely engulfed in shock, and we wonder if it really happened or if our imagination has gone wild. As we slowly snap back to reality, we feel so many emotions simultaneously. Anger. Pain. Disbelief. More shock. Instead of bottling up your emotions and retrieving yourself from your friends and parents, let your feelings free and share them with a well wisher. Psychologists even say that holding back emotions increases the chances of strokes.
Always remember; moping and self pity do not help you get back on the track. Everyone has depressing moments sometime in their life, but it is important not to let you denial and anger conquer your mind. Move forward and continue with you normal life. But this does not mean you should forget the past in order to block out painful memories; if it is hard to remember something, it is even more difficult to forget. Cherish these moments even if they are bitter or you will regret it later. It is vital to have the elements of all emotions in life.
No matter how many hardships you face in life, face them bravely, and prove that you can get over them by continuing on with your everyday life.
Question Authority: Better for the Society? (published by the Hindu newspaper on 5th October, 2012 – check Links page)
Did you know that you have the power to question even the Prime Minister of India about his actions? Asking questions is not only a human characteristic, but it is also a basic human right, especially in a democratic country like our own, where the opinion of a common man makes a difference. For this reason, the government provides “Right to information” as a indispensable right to every citizen of a country, using which, he can question every prominent official and bureaucrat; this allows transparency in all major matters. It is the weapon of a citizen to question so that the answer can throw light into any matter of doubt. After all, government officers elected by the populace are answerable to the people and have to respond to the peoples’ questions and qualms.
Citizens have the power to inspect, inquire and take notes on tasks of the authorities so that they can analyze their performance. This reduces corruption, embezzlement, and the amount of black money circulating in the economy, and thus aids the economic growth and development of a country. Some may say that questioning the powers is disrespectful, but in the past, this has proved to bring about many positive changes in our world. For instance, countries like India were able achieve independence from the British rule when people like Mahatma Gandhi questioned the high officials and authorities. Also, women in the USA would not have been able to get their right to vote if they hadn’t inquired the establishments. On the other hand, it must be understood that in some cases, information must remain confidential. Even authorities have certain constraints due to which they cannot publicize all data.
But remember your duty as a civilian in Benjamin Franklin’s words- “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”
My Vision for Independence Day
The modern society sees Independence Day as just another date of the year where we all gather, and as a formality don clothes in our national colors and wave our country flag. But one look back into history, we see that Independence was a long and arduous struggle to drive British rule out of our country. Our ancestors have fought laboriously for liberty , and it is indeed a great privilege to live as free people, but as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Our country is truly independent only when we have relieved our country of its poverty.”
True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the base from which dictatorships are made. After the strenuous efforts to create the Republic of India, the last thing we would wish for is a country where the citizens are treated as slaves. We celebrate the fact the India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but we completely ignore the poverty ridden population who remain behind the curtains. India is respected for her children who are taught ethics and good moral values from tender ages, but in some areas of this same country, we see the crime rates sky rocketing. There are countless other problems that pose as hurdles to our country’s path to development, but what do we do about them? Sit back and relax while leaving the problems to those who care? Remember Gandhiji’s famous words, “Be the change that you want to see.” So this Independence Day, my vision for our country is that us all join hands –with no discrimination amongst castes, religions, languages, and gender—and work towards a better and stronger nation.
Traditional Vs. Modern Society.
One day, my grandmother and I were arguing over what I should wear to a function. She wanted me to wear a traditional salwar kameez. I wanted to wear a comfortable kurti over a pair of jeans, and so I refused to don the traditional clothing. My grandmother gave up, sighed, and said that the youngsters of the twenty first century were idolizing the westerners and that human race was already half dead when we spend hours on the computer. I immediately got defensive, and I deliberately looked at the cell phone in her hand and retorted, “I doubt you had a cell phone in your days grandma,” and left the room. But when I found myself pondering over what my grandmother said, I began to realize the adverse effects of modern lifestyle.
We blindly imitate the Western people just because we think it is more “cool”. And for this reason, things which reflect our heritage and customs like religious practices, clothing, beliefs, and languages are gradually fading away. Sometimes, I feel shameful not knowing my own mother tongue properly. At some point, these things will completely vanish and future generations will not even know traditional practices, let alone experiencing them.
It is true that gadgets and technologies introduced in recent times have made our life much easier and they have certainly made our world a “smaller place”, but we can’t ignore their drawbacks. Now a days, we spend way too much time on the computer and spoil our health. When I visited my cousins in the countryside, I marveled at how close and intimate they seemed to be, and regretted that I could not share the same lifestyle. In the cities, where we are engrossed in our own hectic schedules, we hardly find time for our own family members, let alone friends and neighbors.
Our ideal way of spending free time in the city is to watch a movie, or play a video game on the computer. But when these technologies were not available in the past, our ancestors used to spend their time playing games and chatting with people, face to face. We feel proud to be communicating with so may people around the world at the same time through social networking websites, but what we don’t realize is that we are creating false friendships and wasting valuable time.
I am not saying that you should completely leave modern lifestyle, and live like how people used to in the 1970s, but respect your heritage. Don’t drown yourself in fresh gadgets. Spend time with your family and friends. In Walt Disney’s words, “We shall remember that our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.”
Empowering the Girl Child
When we are young, one of the first thing that we learn to say is the word “mother.” Even in the world of scriptures, the first thing we learn is “Mathru Devo Bhava,” which means, “the Mother is equivalent to God.” In a world where the mother or a woman in general plays such an important role, isn’t it absolutely necessary to educate them?
Today, I Geethika Simma, feel extremely privileged to be educated. In India, only about 50% of the female population is educated, while more than 75% of the men are literate. Why have we neglected women’s education for such a long time?
Educating the girl child plays an important role at various levels in society; it is useful to maintain a sense of discipline in the family, improves the country’s economy, and is beneficial for the society in general. It is said that when you educate a man, you only teach an individual, but when you educate a woman, you instruct an entire family. All in all, providing a woman with knowledge is like opening a door of wisdom and new opportunities.
We’ve downtrodden upon the women in our country for centuries together, and it is high time that we put an end to it. The first step is to spread awareness about this issue. Support and encourage women in your own family to go on to do their higher studies. Treat her with the same respect that you would give to any other person. Let us stride forward towards empowering the girl child.
Diversity at the Cost of Unity?
India is a country with people from a wide range of castes and religions, where they all follow different customs and traditions. Diversity is the one thing that best defines our nation. But is it right to break our nation into pieces and pit people of different social groups against one another under the context of diversity?
Unity plays a major role in the development of our nation. Unity is the one and only element that brings us all under the same umbrella and work towards the welfare of our nation. Without this glue that we call unity, our country would face the threat of disintegration.
In order to promote unison, we must learn to accept other. We must develop a strong and unbreakable sense of fraternity. We must put aside any grudges that we may have against others, and think of ourselves as only the citizens of our nation. We must strive for the development of our motherland, and always keep Benjamin Franklin’s wise words in mind, “United we STAND, Divided we FALL.”
Youth and Politics
In our country, most of the population is below 40 years of age. Then why is it that most of our leaders are above 60 years old? Isn’t it rather ironic that an “experienced” politician’s career is at its apex at the same age when the common man generally takes his retirement?
The adjectives that come to our mind when we think of the word youth are energy, enthusiasm, diligence, intellect, and spirited. This is exactly what our country needs – strong, young leaders who personify these characteristics. There are only a handful of young leaders today like Rahul Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, etc., but they are only on the political scene because they belong to families that have strong influence in the field. It is practically impossible to find a young leader with no political background.
Why is it that the youth in our country are so reluctant to step into politics? One reason is that the youth in our country are simply not interested in politics. However, we see that they actively participate in showing their discontent in issues like reservation, Nirbhaya, and corruption. Another reason for this deplorable political scene is that youth who are willing to help the society are not given opportunity to prove themselves under the context that they lack experience.
If the youth in our country are given an opportunity, they may be able to change the political situation in our country for the better. Youngsters are said to be very creative, and their creativity may offer effective solutions to various problems that impend our society. This doesn’t mean that older people should be completely pushed out of politics; in fact they would serve as valuable mentors and guidance counselors to young leaders.
Youth can do a lot more than just casting their vote. They can help in raising awareness about numerous social issues in their community, educate the illiterate about politics, and raise their voices against corruption. We shall all look forward to the day when we see young leaders making our country a better place to live.