Swaraj India VP Shalini Malviya’s article: My Vote, My Life

Swaraj India VP Shalini Malviya’s article: My Vote, My Life

My Vote, My Life

“On January 26, 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognising the principle of one man-one vote and one vote-one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man-one value.” Words of Dr BR Ambedkar, as he rose to put forth the draft of our Constitution in the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, were to be treated as words of caution, words as guide to the political leadership that aimed to steer India out of its multifold disparity to a country breathing equality.


Since then, India has practiced “One Vote, One Value” as it goes to hustings every five years, and reveled in keeping its promise to keep the democracy alive. But how far are we in realizing the true meaning of this promise? Is the vote now just an instrument to gain electoral success? And hence the valuation of vote is now seen as a collection of a certain class, caste, community of voters to arrive at an equation of demography that decides the candidates to be fielded, their merits hardly a matter of concern. The objective of “One Vote, One Value” stands “How Many Votes to Get Elected”.

The objective possibly was to ensure that power through people shall emphasize the thunderlying commitment of “One Vote, One Life”. Life here meaning Right to Dignity, to Education, to Health, to Justice, to Employment. However, after 7 decades of freedom, we have been treated like driftwood where all the above have been elusive to the majority of Votes.

 One Vote – Value or Life

It is an open secret that opportunities of education, health and employment are hugely disparate in India. The Government expenditure on health and education stay below 4%. But Out of Pocket Expenditure on both the segments by the citizens continue to rise. This disparity is spread over multiple layers – rural/urban divide, gender-, caste-, class-, community-divides. Governments are evidently disinterested in keeping their part of the commitment to the ones who elect them. Lack of infrastructure and inadequate response has only added to the insecurity of the electorate. The elected try to hoodwink the voters with non-issues and rhetoric, so much so that the electorate appears to be in a state of narcotic stupor. Even mass deaths of infants and babies in Gorakhpur fail to stir them. Nowhere do we consider that these lives lost were to be the citizens of tomorrow. A closer look reveals that the children belonged to the segment that lives on bare minimum. Is it that this disdain comes from the deep seated inequality in our psyche, where we have a different value for each life?

A peek in the jails of our country again expose the discrimination of the judicial system. A high profile star gets bail within hours of being sentenced, but lakhs of under-trials languish in Indian jails. Most of them belong to marginalized sections of Indian society. They at times spend more time as under-trials than they would, had they been convicted! They lose their productive years, livelihoods, families and communities as they await their fair trials. The bigger danger is when the Highest Court seems to discourage the use of Public Interest Litigations to seek answers from the elected.

The new mantra of “Vikas” is adding to the disparity. The western models being imposed to reach higher economic indices disregard the truth of the majority of population. Jobless growth is mocked at by senseless advice of “Pakodas” and “Paan ki Dukaan” by the highest executive. Is this a manifestation of “I don’t care” attitude? And above all, is this the truth of our democracy beyond all the sloganeering and massive rallies? There is an effort to create binaries in a country that lives in multiple societies. The effort is to confuse the electorate and devalue their own voting capacity. The intention is to convert an individual into a part of a mob where thought is enslaved. The idea is to “Dedemocratize” the courage of the founding fathers.

Look around us! We will see our “One Vote” becoming a part of  “A collection of Votes” which then gets “Power” to the one who dilutes our “Vote”. The courage to see “My Life” as “My Vote” now stands challenged. I am not Me. I am a Cocooned Indian who shall always be kept cocooned, as an opportunity, which is my right, is now being given to me as a dole. The one we elect reigns over us as a benevolent Ruler. He is an Avataar, not an elected representative. My legitimate right is a boon granted to me.

In this journey from courage to meekness, India is on its way to losing its spirit. It is at the crossroads of confusion where individual life is now at stake. The deafening noise around us has muted the voice of rationality. Intentional divisiveness has led the Indian Democracy to the path of moral turpitude.

Our strength waning, we need a “Gandhi” to awaken our inner strength, a “Bhagat Singh” to demand the rights of an individual and above all, the spirit of “Vivekanand” to revive the “Indian” in us. Are we ready for it?

Photo credit: Al Jazeera photographs of Indian Elections in 2009 

National Vice President of Swaraj India
A postgraduate in biophysics, she has worked as a Senior Scientist in IIT Delhi

The author’s views are personal.