A test for electoral representatives

| July 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

A test for electoral representatives. Pushpa M. Bhargava, The Hindu, July 20, 2002, p.16.

It is strange that we have tests and/or interviews for most of the worthwhile positions of responsibility in the country, but we have no compunction in electing people to our Parliament and State legislatures who may not be able to answer questions which a good high school student would be able to answer.

NOTHING IN the world of today is totally apolitical. Therefore, to achieve lasting solutions to the problems that our nation is facing — such as education, water, energy and corruption which are at the top of the hierarchy of our problems — and which we have not been able to tackle successfully in over five decades of our Independence, it is imperative that we first change our political processes. The first step in this direction has been taken by the Supreme Court at the initiative of a number of responsible and committed NGOs when it passed the order on May 2, 2002 relating to electorate’s rights to information regarding the criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities, and educational qualifications of prospective candidates for election to Parliament or a State legislature.

As we expected on the basis of the present composition of the State legislatures and Parliament, the Government at New Delhi dilly-dallied in implementing the order. Fortunately, the second important step in the direction of improving our political process was taken by the Election Commission when, on June 20, 2002, it decided to implement the order of the Supreme Court on its own, without awaiting an appropriate directive from the Government of India. (A bill has since been drafted to nullify both the Election Commission notification in this regard and the Supreme Court order).

I now wish to suggest a third step: an examination for all those desirous of being elected to any political or civic office except the Panchayats and the Panchayat Samities (the first two tiers of local self-government) where, by and large, the electorate has a reasonably good personal knowledge of the candidates. The questions in the proposed examination would obviously need to be different for election to Parliament, a State legislature, a Zilla Parishad, or a municipal corporation.

Indeed, it is strange that we have tests and/or interviews for most of the worthwhile positions of responsibility in the country, be they in the civil service, foreign service, police, forest service, bank service or even science (for example, the tests for entry into agricultural research under the Indian Council of Agriculture Research or research in establishments of the Department of Atomic Energy) but, we have no compunction in electing people to our Parliament and State legislatures who may not be able to answer any one of the following 12 questions which have been framed randomly and which a good high school student would be able to answer:

(1) Draw a rough map of your State giving the relative positions of, say, four or five of its districts, and name the States that border your State.

(2) Name our country’s neighbours the boundaries of which are contiguous with ours. In which States of India are the following located: Ajanta and Ellora caves, Mahabalipuram, Jama Masjid, ruins of Nalanda, Dilwara temples, Somnath temple, Belur and Halebid, Kanha sanctuary, Jim Corbett National Park, and Kancheepuram which is famous for its sarees.

(3) Name five important well-documented events, reasonably interspersed in time, in the entire history of India.

(4) Name two each of famous (preferably no longer alive) Indian scientists, writers, politicians, musicians, dancers, painters and industrialists of the 20th century.

(5) Name the seven continents, and five countries each in Africa, Europe and South America and their capitals.

(6) In history, what have been the following famous for: Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Abraham Lincoln, Annie Besant, Madam Curie, Benito Mussolini, Alfred Nobel, Adolf Hitler, Karl Marx, Kalidasa, Thyagaraja, Guru Nanak, Ho Chi Minh, Zoroaster and Winston Churchill?

(7) Out of the following numbers select one of which the square would be less than the number: 10, 1, 0.1, 100, 1000.

(8) State five important problems of your State for solving which you would like to devote your time if you are elected, along with a brief statement of the strategies you would adopt for their solution, milestones in time, and the manner in which you would like to be assessed by your people in respect of your performance.

(9) Name ten inventions of the 19th and the 20th centuries that have transformed our lives.

(10) Arrange the following Indian rivers in the order of north to south, stating whether they fall in the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal: Krishna, Narmada, Cauvery, Indus, Ganga and Sutlej. Which are the countries through which the Brahmaputra flows?

(11) Name five major imports into and five major exports from India in terms of materials and products.

(12) Name five major Indian industrial houses. Which are the areas represented by the following five industrial majors: Cipla, Dr. Reddy’s Lab, MRF, Amul, Shanta Biotechniques.

The test should be conducted periodically (say, once or twice a year) by the Election Commission, with the same security as for the ballot papers. The pass marks could be initially, taking ground realities into account, 20 per cent; I believe this itself would rule out over 80 per cent of our present incumbents. These low pass marks may rise to 80 per cent in the next ten years or so. Those who fail must not be permitted to contest, and given not more than one additional chance to pass. There should be a reasonable fee for taking the test.

The results, with the marks scored by each candidate, should be announced in the newspapers and on the web, and could even be put on the voting paper! It would be interesting to see how many people vote for those who have managed to get just the pass marks of 20 per cent. I have far greater trust in the sanity of our voters than of our legislators of today.

PUSHPA M. BHARGAVA

Courtesy: The Hindu

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A test for electoral representatives. Pushpa M. Bhargava, The Hindu, July 20, 2002, p.16.

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