Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ode to 2014 India Lok Sabha Elections


“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not the President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country”
Franklin D. Roosevelt 

There is a lot we can and should be critical of in India, and god knows we are all good at that, but let us for a moment also give credit where it is due and marvel at what we can achieve when we put our minds to it. Not sure if any other country in the world could have pulled this off, just based on the sheer logistics of it. I mean the US even had to have one of their recent elections decided by their Supreme Court.

The 2014 Indian elections are the largest in the history of the world. Yes, the history of the world, with approximately 815 million people eligible to vote. To put it in perspective, that is more people than the entire population of Europe.

The election will cover voting for 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, across 35 States and Union Territories. Nearly 10 million officials (including police and security personnel) will be deployed to facilitate free and fair elections. Constituencies vary vastly, not only in voter size but also in accessibility. Malkajgiri in Andhra Pradesh is the biggest Indian constituency in terms of voters, with around 2.95 million eligible voters. Lakshadweep is the smallest with 47,972 voters. In Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh, Hukani polling station has 22 registered voters, and officials have to travel 22 km on foot to get there (source: Reuters)

Electronic Voting Machines are being used in all of the 930,000 polling stations that have been set up across the country. Basic Minimum Facilities for polling stations will include drinking water, shed, toilet, and ramp for disabled voters. Voters will also have a “None of the Above” option on voting machines.

The voting has been broken into 9 phases or poll days starting with the first Poll Day on 7th April, 2014 (Monday) and the tenth (last) Poll Day on 12th May, 2014, with the results being announced on 16th May 2014.

There have been a number of reported poll violations that include booth capturing, bogus voting and intimidation of voters across half a dozen states, but “what is true, though, is that these violations have been brought to light by the EC's staff and cameras, which has allowed them to be dealt with swiftly.” (source: Scroll.in). However, in any undertaking of this magnitude there are bound to be some missteps and problems; what is commendable is how swiftly the EC has taken action and dealt with them.

The Election commission has gone through great pains to ensure free, fair, peaceful and participative elections; which in their words “are the life force of democracy”, and I think we can all agree that they have done a tremendous job and the world’s biggest democratic election process is something we can all celebrate and be very proud of!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Open Letter to Narayanaswami Srinivasan, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)


“As he was valiant, I honour him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.”
William Shakespeare 

Dear Mr. Srinivasan,

The tragedy in this saga is the fact that the sport that you were meant to champion and steward has been the greatest victim of your hubris. We realise that money can buy many things; votes, support from local, regional and even international cricketing boards but what you have never understood is that it cannot buy you the one thing you covet most – respect. 

Granted money also buys you the illusion of power, and make no mistake that it is nothing more than an illusion, because it is based entirely on surrounding yourself with spineless sycophants who will march to your tune, follow your orders and fill you with hot air – as long as you keep lining their greedy and sweaty palms and not a moment longer. You see it is only your money that these people respect, and not you. If this type of power is all you seek, then I feel sorry that you will never know what it feels like to truly earn the respect of people, based on your deeds and your actions; the only real and lasting respect in this life.

The respect to which I refer could have been earned by building a true legacy for the BCCI, by furthering the cause of cricket and doing right by it. This honour is earned by putting your country and our sport first. It is an honour reserved for men who are willing take on the greatest mandate the BCCI has ever had in its history, and use it to put India and Indian cricket on the world stage. For years global cricket was dominated by a small minority of overlords in England and Australia because they had the financial muscle to call all the shots. Even though it was the contribution of many other teams and boards that enabled the growth of cricket, the power structure remained unchanged. 

Then came an era of explosive economic growth in BRICs which helped open the floodgates of fan support in Asia. Along with the tide of fans came a tidal wave of advertisers and marketers falling over themselves to write large cheques to the BCCI for a small share of the billion plus Indian eyeballs and wallets. It is easy to discount another very important reason for this cricket frenzy and that is the men who wore the Indian blues with great √©lan on and off the field during the same time. I am talking not of our current young Turks who earn six figure paydays for IPL matches but of the men who played this sport because it was their passion; Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tedulkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh to name a few, can be credited with lifting India on their able shoulders; their dedication, integrity and hard work took Indian cricket to its zenith, thus giving the BCCI a mandate that a single cricket board will likely never again have. 

However, under your stewardship the BCCI chose to exercise this authority not by showcasing our largesse as a nation or by commanding the world’s respect based on our actions but by embarking on a small minded, medieval and myopic grab for power. Your BCCI focused all its efforts on gaining control over cricket’s governing body, the ICC, fought for more revenues (BCCI already has more money than they know what to do with), threatened meeker boards to submit to your whims and fancies, and bullied everyone into allowing you to be crowned Chair of ICC.

For years the BCCI opined about how poorly all the non-white teams were treated; about how the sub-continental boards were underrepresented and never given a voice. For years we complained about the fact that there were no TV cameras at the World Cup we went on to win, when India and Kapil Dev outplayed Zimbabwe, as it was not considered an important match for the ICC to waste precious resources on. Under your stewardship of the BCCI, India had a chance to shine by presenting ourselves as a beacon of fairness and integrity. We had a chance to lead by example and show the world that when the tables turned and we had the decree to lead, we did not spend our time trying to even old scores or by seeking revenge. But that we showed our one-time oppressors how everybody deserves to be treated - based on their contribution to the sport and not based on the colour of their skin or the thickness of their accent. 

We had a chance to demonstrate that we can take the high road, the path less traveled and carry even those who once exploited us, showing them a better way forward. You could have brought the minnows of cricket in from the cold and leveled the playing field forever. After accomplishing all this you would have likely won the ICC chair on merit and based on overwhelming support from every cricket board in the world. 

Then you could have focused the ICC’s energies along with the BCCI’s financial muscle on spreading cricket fever into the untapped meccas of football. From Europe to South America, you could have recruited the game’s greatest ambassadors and dispatched them to spread the cricketing gospel; through IPL style exhibitions games designed to light a spark in young impressionable minds the world over; at a time when many are losing faith in the religion of football based on their sports own recent scandals. 

This, Mr. Srinivasan, could have been your legacy for the BCCI, for Indian cricket and for India. And it is for squandering this opportunity that you owe your countrymen an apology before you go quietly into the night.

Yours Sincerely,
A Cricket Fan

READ Cricket's Obituary: Demise of a Gentleman’s Sport