Commonsense can improve quality of our lives

Commonsense can improve quality of our lives
THis column begins the year wishing its readers a very happy 2013. Or perhaps, a new and improved year. Or a more peaceful one. Or, and this is as mundane as it can get, a year full of commonsense.

The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that if our nation had a bit more of this uncommon commodity, the better off, we would be. A strong dose of commonsense would improve the quality of our lives right across the board, in each and every aspect of living.

For example: why are there so many slums and shanties in our towns? Because there is no affordable housing for the poor. Why is there no affordable housing? Because the government doesn’t give enough incentives to developers to build them. Why don’t governments give this incentive? Because they want slums to come up as vote banks. What’s the solution? To give votes only to homeowners. Is that unfair? Possibly, but there must be some minimum qualification for a vote.

Why are our roads so full of pot holes? Because municipal officials are hand in glove with contractors. The latter pay bribes to the former, and get away with shoddy work. The solution? Each contract to compulsorily carry a clause of rectification and penalties, making it so expensive for contractors to do shoddy work that they will stop doing so.

Why are there so many incidents of road rage? Because standards of driving are appalling and there is a complete lack of courtesy on the roads. How do you improve that? By making driving tests absolutely stringent, especially for professional drives like taxi-drivers and truck-drivers, among others. Why are our driving tests so cursory at present? Because the regional transport offices are grossly understaffed. The solution: a fixed percentage of car registration charges/road taxes to be given to RTOs.

Why are women unsafe in every part of the country? To start with because no one is afraid of the law. Why is no one afraid of the law? Because policemen can easily be bought. Besides which, the ordinary policeman is not only poorly paid, he is also not trained for the job at all, nor is he given special education that will change his inherited mindset about women. Another case in point: the force has been recruiting more and more policewomen, which is the right step for the protection of women. Yet these policewomen are so unfit for the job and so poorly trained, that in a recent demonstration in Mumbai, the crowds molested the women in khaki.

Talking of women’s issues, what stopped our so-called ‘Young Turks’ like Rahul Gandhi from taking the initiative after the recent gang rape in Delhi? Why didn’t they get together, cutting across party lines, in response to the anger and despair of young people all over the country to draft out a national manifesto? Do political party lines become more important than national issues?

Why do our political leaders come out with outrageous statements, especially when dealing with human rights? That’s because there is no minimum qualification needed to be a people’s representative either at the state or national level. Shouldn’t people who become our leaders and make legislation that affect millions need the minimum qualification of a degree?

Why do our judges, especially at the higher levels, constantly interfere in the role of the government? Shouldn’t their first priority be in the clearance of the massive backlog of cases in all our courts, from the lowest to the highest? Shouldn’t that be the first job of any new Chief Justice of India?

Why have our news channels become views channels? Don’t the channel CEOs realise that people are now reaching a total frustration point with the shouting matches that engulf our so-called ‘News Hour’, and pretty soon they will pick up their remotes and switch off? I could go on. But I will stop (unlike TV anchors) and wish you a happy New Year instead, full of cheer, commonsense and silence. zz

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