2006 – The year of the common man
The year 2006 has been a mixed one for our country with many lessons learnt and many mistakes committed due to a sense of wanton negligence and oversight. At the end of it, it would not be incredulous if I venture to say that 2006 was when the Indian public realized its true potential, stood up and got counted.
The absolute freedom that a democracy in itself provides was felt like never before and the collective conscience of the public was shaken by some incidents that tested the credibility of the judiciary. Celebrities and media joined hands to bring to public attention events which would have otherwise remained under covers. They were helped by films like ‘RANG DE BASANTI’ which heralded a new age in Hindi cinema – the age of experimentation leading to some meaningful socially relevant movies.
Thanks to the increasingly watchful media and the press, the politicians and the judiciary had a lot to answer for. Here, I have taken some incidents that have caused the common man to rise to the occasion and challenge the authorities.
- When the
Narmadacontrol authority (NCA) gave the green signal for the dam height to be increased from 110 to 122 meters, NBA activists under Medha Patkar gathered in the capital to voice their protest. They were supported by bollywood actor Aamir Khan and finally the centre was pushed to act. A review committee found that most of the resettlement work in MP was only on paper.
- In what is even now regarded as the phase II of Mandal, widespread protests against reservations were witnessed this year, throughout the country when the Human resources minister Arjun Singh proposed that 27 percent of seats be reserved for OBC students in higher educational institutions. While the media was one-sided in lending voice to the anti-reservation forum, the government for its part held on to its position and refused to give a lending ear to the protestors for a long time. Finally, in response to mounting pressure, it was agreed that the seats for the general category would not be affected and a parliamentary standing committee was established to propose a solution for implementing the quota regime. The protests were primarily because of the manner in which the centre sought to introduce the system with least regard for the students who would be at the receiving end.
- In what can be regarded as the ultimate triumph of the common man and Justice, the Jessica Lal and the Priyadarshini matoo cases saw Justice done. When the media drew public attention to the shoddy investigation of the
police in the Jessica Lal case, celebrities and the middle class joined hands and forced the reopening of the investigation. Though some sections believe that the media are guilty of carrying out a trial before the judges have their final say, a visibly relieved Sabrina Lal (sister of the deceased Jessica Lal) thanked the media without which, she believes that Justice would have been impossible. Delhi
- This year also had some reasons for the Indian womenfolk to be happy about. By passing the prevention of women from domestic violence act 2005, the Government has attempted to empower our womenfolk to stand up for their rights. This forward looking law will go a long way in encouraging suffering women to file complaints of harassment.
- 2006 has also seen a refreshing change in the way films are perceived by the public. Apart from RDB, ‘Lage raho Munnabhai’ has also contributed immensely in changing the way films can be made so that they are socially relevant instead of being mere entertainers. For once, the average film buff was treated to a dose of Gandhigiri, a term to which no Indian is a stranger now.
As the year ends, one feels that the common man has reinvented his role in the Indian democracy – from that of a mere spectator to one of an active decision maker watching every move of the authorities and ever ready to question their motives and actions when situations warrant. While this augurs well for the Indian democracy, the political class has disappointed once again – the centre could have been a little more responsive to the concerns raised by the public and the opposition could have been a lot more responsible.
It would be fitting to end this article with an extract from Nobel laureate Jose Saramago’s ‘The Double’: “According to popular wisdom, you can’t have everything, and there’s a good deal of truth in that, the balance of human lives is constantly swinging back and forth between what is gained and what is lost, the problem lies in the equally human impossibility of coming to an agreement on the relative merits of what should be lost and what should be gained which is why the world is in the state it is in.”
One can only hope that in the coming year, the people in positions of power are willing to acknowledge their mistakes and try to rectify them.