Saturday, October 23, 2010

Aspiring councillors are a disappointment


By Shevlin Sebastian

When I am about to reach N.S. Soumya’s house on Kunjan Bawa Road, at Kochi, I see her poster. I am taken aback by her youth. Soumya, 24, is the youngest candidate in the Cochin Corporation elections; she is standing from the Ponnurruni division for the Scheduled Caste seat.

I have a sudden crisis of confidence. I call up my wife and say, “I have my doubts about meeting this girl.” She asks me why. “She is so young, I am not sure she will be able to answer my questions,” I say.

“You are being prejudiced,” my wife replies. “Be a professional and do the interview.”

And thus, reluctantly, I go in to speak to her. Eventually, Soumya gives intelligent replies. But when I step out I feel depressed. If she wins, the responsibility of solving the problems of the division -- choked drains, bad roads, water-logging and the mosquito menace – will be in her inexperienced hands. What can she do? Probably nothing, because the job is far too big for her.

The previous councillor was Deputy Mayor Mani Shanker, a seasoned politician. But you have to drive on Subhash Chandra Bose Road, like I did, to know what a horrible mess it is in. If somebody like Shanker is unable to solve the problems, what can young Soumya do?

And to think that in the nearby Panchavadi Colony, and other affluent areas, there are so many talented, well-qualified and competent people of the upper middle class who live there. They run top-flight companies and businesses with efficiency and aplomb. But none are bothered when it comes to improving the civic facilities. They have left the responsibility to this kid, even as the UDF is happy to play the caste card.

What about Jeemon Thomas, a candidate in another division? He has not seen the inside of a college. When I ask him for his e-mail id, he gives a blank look. So there is every probability that he does not know how to use a computer. And if he wins, can this person with no managerial expertise be able to improve the infrastructure? The chances are not very bright, I fear.

And then there is Meena Jacob, who has only studied till Class 10. A beautician, she is the UDF candidate for yet another division in Kochi. When I ask her about her experience, she says that she has been on several resident and Parent-Teacher association committees. So, once again, a person with near-zero experience in management will be trying to solve the very serious problems of her division.

Of course, there are competent and educated people, with lots of experience, who are contesting, like P.C. Cyriac, the former Chief Secretary of the Tamil Nadu government. But they are in a minority. And Cyriac is standing as an independent. Can he convince voters to think out of the box, and not as members of UDF and LDF vote banks? Cyriac would definitely hope they do so.

My contention is that the middle class should stop mercilessly criticising the sorry state of the civic facilities in the city and the state. Because it is quite clear that they have abdicated their social responsibilities, and allowed people of questionable calibre to occupy powerful positions in the municipal corporations in the state.

It is time that the brightest talents in the middle class ventured into electoral politics, both at the corporation and the state level. It is only then that we will be able to achieve the Kochi and India of our dreams.

(Some names have been changed)

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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