Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Run Parliament Run!!

I assume most of you would be well aware of the ‘Mass Bunk Syndrome’ and many of you would have been at least a part of it or something similar at least once in your life. To the uninitiated ‘Mass Bunk’ is a term used for collective action on the decision of not attending a particular session or a class generally by a group of students (but can be done by any group of people). I am not sure if you would find this definition anywhere else as it is a result of yours truly’s firsthand experience. Obviously the term has its origin in ‘Bunk’ but has evolved to embody the spirit of collectivism. Those who have had a tryst with the syndrome would agree that the act could be used to group’s advantage in a lot many situations: in an ‘all important’ India Pakistan cricket match to the legendary telecast of ‘Disco Dancer’ on national television to playing a game of soccer (football) instead to escape from the threat of a sudden class test and what not. Despite its usefulness, most of us understand our responsibility and bid adieu to the concept once we graduate to the professional world. But some could not or rather ‘do not want to’. I would come to this specific point later – I had to explain one more term before arriving at the crux of this article. Before I do that, let me ask you a question – How many of you equated ‘Mass Bunk’ with ‘Strike’? While they may appear same as both are expressions of cumulative decision of ‘abstaining from something’, there is one glaring difference – ‘Mass Bunk’ is generally executed unannounced to the authorities (or is carried out with tacit understanding of both the parties) while ‘Strike’ is generally a declared phenomenon.

Another term which I want to bring in before making my argument for the article is ‘Examination Boycott’. I am sure many of you would have heard the term but may not have been a part of. I have never been a part of this syndrome but would like to sum it up on the basis of hearsay: an act of stalling the examination (process) by a group of examinees on certain pretext which may or may not have the support of the entire set/ majority of examinees. This has been an effective tool to delay / derail (whatever suits you) the examination process by a group of students in following cases: questions not adhering to the syllabus, sudden realization (mostly at the examination center) of lack of adequate preparation or in some cases to exercise / showcase certain clout in university / colleges. Now this again is generally restricted to one’s student life as there is little patronage for such activities in life’s other phases.

I believe that most of you would agree that as one move on in life, the priority changes and things like ‘Mass Bunk’ and unnecessary ‘Boycotts’ take backseats. But some of us do not want to part ways with things ‘immature’. Think hard – Don’t you feel that our elected representatives have resorted to both the above tactics to paralyze the parliament for last two weeks? And it is this very fact which disturbs me the most – Why our leaders resort to methods in the ‘temple of democracy’ which we find inappropriate to employ at our workplace?

There have been explanations to the act: The principal opposition party states that it wants to corner the ‘ineffective and corrupt’ government and hence boycotting parliament. Now this is strange – I always felt that the best way to corner a government would be to ask difficult, pointed questions on the floor of the parliament and holding it accountable. It appears more as if they do not want to attend the proceedings and hence has taken a collective decision on the same. I must confess that there have been times in my student life where I have enjoyed the fruits of a successful ‘Mass Bunk’ without giving much thought on the consequences – however, such collective action never cost the Indian exchequers INR 2 crore a day. Monetary loss due to stalling of Parliament would accrue to thousands of crores of rupees even if we take the period of 2004 – 2012 (the period for CAG evaluation of Coalfield allocation which is causing the recent uproar). I am curious if any authority has been given a mandate to audit this and bring the guilty to the books. In coming days, someone can also term this as scam – What with our leaders wasting the hard earned money of our people without carrying out the duty for which the money was apparently spent.

It is not also about only about cornering the government – Sometimes, a party would boycott the parliament because it does not want to face difficult questions on the floor of parliament. Now you can draw the corollary to the ‘Examination Boycott’. In this particular case, I think, it is as much about ‘cornering government’ as ‘to avoid difficult questions’ which might have motivated the principal opposition party to take the current stand. You cannot blame them solely – in the past, the current ruling coalition has resorted to similar tactics. These acts have somehow blunted the perceived supremacy of parliament as is reflected in the recent agitations of Anna Hazare and Ramdev.

My sole argument is that in order to avoid wider chaos (and our entire neighbourhood is chaotic), it is important to maintain the supremacy of parliament. It is important that people respect the parliament (and legislative assembly for that matter) as institution(s) and have faith in the parliamentary process. Unfortunately, there is a ‘perceived sense’ of disillusion (especially in youth) and the political parties across spectrum share the ‘shame’ of disappointing the nation. Today, as a nation, we are fighting a flagging economy, high inflation, internal security threat, corruption and what not and thus a few important legislative interventions is the least we could expect from our representatives.

I appeal our leaders and representatives (as if they are going to read it but just for the sake of bringing a definite closure to this idea) of shedding their affinity for tactics like ‘Mass Bunk’ and ‘Boycott’. Parliament is ‘temple of democracy’ as it assures the citizen of this country that their issues / concerns are being addressed by the political establishments. A proper functioning parliament assures us that ‘everything will be fine’ and we should focus on our work leaving all the worries behind. ‘Mass Bunk’ and ‘Boycotts’ are tools for immature – one would not like to believe that (s)he has sent an ‘immature guy’ as a priest to the highest temple of democracy. How much does it take to act with decorum and engage in positive discussions related to the country? (Of course I am assuming that one who reaches such a high institution would have basic skill sets to carry out these duties). It is time that leaders of this country listen to the chant of ordinary citizens ‘Run Parliament Run!! Run Parliament Run!!’ and act accordingly.

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