Crime probably does pay
It's hard to reconcile what we are taught in schools with a reality where criminals stand a higher chance of becoming successful
The elections depressed me for all kinds of reasons. There was the noise, for one, because candidates have been trained for years to believe that those who shout the loudest are the only ones who will be heard. There was the assault on our eyes at every street corner, where illegal banners publicised photographs of smarmy men and strange women, their hands folded, smiling as if to con us into believing they will remember any of us after they step inside Parliament.
There were the jingoistic rallies full of lies and bluster, where we were all encouraged to suspend disbelief and cheer for people who don't even read their own manufactured manifestos. There was the relentless rancour on television and newspapers, with politicians doing their best to go lower than their competitors and say the kind of things most of us would shudder to even think about. And then there was the relatively new phenomenon of online outrage and manufactured news, from staged videos to doctored clips, flooding our inboxes and WhatsApp group chats at all hours. I envied those who managed to ignore it all.
I suppose it wouldn't have been so bad if the people standing for elections were decent human beings. They told us they were, of course, and paid a lot of other people to praise them constantly, but everyone with a fully functioning brain knows that these were hardly the best and brightest that India has to offer. It's why a recent analysis of candidates' affidavits couldn't have come as much of a surprise to anyone who read the reports. Apparently, 21 per cent of candidates (340 of them) declared they were facing criminal cases, of which 14 per cent (230) were facing serious criminal charges.
In other statistics no one bats an eyelid at anymore, 25 per cent (392 of 1,594 candidates) declared assets worth `1 crore or more, with some political parties fielding 90 per cent of people with these kinds of declared incomes. I often think about why so many people with incomes that exceed what most of us will earn in a lifetime, magically find themselves with tickets to political parties and invitations to the Rajya Sabha.
Some of them probably do it because they genuinely want to effect change, of course, but it's hard not to be cynical about these leaders because they rarely offer results.
More worryingly, it's the majority of candidates who are so obviously far from qualified that make millions of Indians apathetic towards politics and political life in general. It explains why barely half of us bother voting. When machines are rigged, booths are captured and voter IDs stolen and manipulated, the only question that comes to mind is 'why bother?'
Indians who are convicted are debarred from contesting elections for six years from the date of conviction, but only if they have been sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more. This is an interesting loophole because everyone knows how quickly our courts work, allowing thousands of potential convicts enough time to get along with the business of leading constituencies before the law catches up to them, if at all. It's why so many candidates face serious criminal charges such as murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, or crimes against women, but win tickets with impunity nonetheless.
We are constantly taught about how crime doesn't pay, how we should always respect the law and stick to what is right. At the same time, we are part of a system that constantly and consistently rewards those who bend the rules.
Our ministers in charge of education don't bother getting an education themselves, our ministers in charge of finance don't have a background in economics, some leaders refuse to show us their qualifications, and a few others accused of crimes such as murder and extortion blatantly lecture the rest of us about what it means to be patriotic.
Maybe we should do away with the pretence of choosing the best Indians to lead us. Most of us know that the best Indians avoid politics like the plague or choose to leave the country altogether because they have no hope of being able to change anything for the better.
Maybe we should stop asking candidates to tell us what they earn and what they have been accused of because none of these declarations seem to affect voters, who choose rhetoric and dialogues over work that leads to genuine results.
And maybe we should stop telling our children that crime doesn't pay, because our politicians and leaders prove that the opposite is true.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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