Friday, June 22, 2012

Nothing but the s(h)ame!

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran.

The political scenario and the election cloud is the same as the outside world, as Loyola goes to the polls today to elect their next students' union.

     When I was checking out notifications in Facebook, I found several posters of the Loyola Students' Union 2012-2013 presidential candidates being shared by my friends. They contained the candidates photos which were highly modest and appealing, with some of the best inspirational and revolutionary quotations said by great people. I wondered if this is just for a students union election. Social networking sites are used in wide prevalence to develop a cult of personality to lure the voter friends. Some of them even started such a movement well ahead of the elections. And not to forget, group messages remains to be the popular mode of election canvass for the candidates. Somehow they get the mobile numbers of the students, our cell phones are flooded with SMS, sent via internet.

  Politics remains to be the same everywhere, wherever it exists. Elections comes up with a glut of discrepancies, failing to meet the real ideals of it. They have fool-proof strategies to reach to different groups of students to win their votes, a sign of vote bank politics. And the disheartening fact is that, money plays decisive roles in working out these strategies. Every presidential aspirants make out plans well ahead (a year before) and executes them cunningly. They reachout to acclaimed and influencial students of every classes who assure a hefty number of votes, win their support and do everything to keep them engaged till the time of elections. Modes of incentives for those vote organisers ranges from cash to festive treats. And especially for the hostel voters, it is specifically Briyani - they usually lease out some restraurants in the locality on the day when hostel mess remains closed! Sometimes, the list extends further to include alcoholic drinks as well. It is very interesting yet shocking for me to see how the scene is quite consistent to the politics and elections outside.

     In Loyola, the students' union remains to be something that has nothing to do for the betterment of the students. For most of the students, the students union is of no importance on their academic and personality development arena. It is widely criticised that the union is active only for two projects every year - the 'Ovations', the cultural extravaganza of the college while the other is fund raising dance mela, the 'Ignite'. There is very less transparancy and accountability with regard to these two projects, which often on the move with lakhs of money. They lavishly spend on stage decorations and designs, and in bringing famed celebrities who claims to be 'celebrities' themselves and the union takes pride in it. When a body of students is elected for students and by students, don't they have the responsibility of serving the students by taking part in their development? The college currently faces a trend of declining pass-percentage of the students in every departments and classes unlike ever in its history. When union takes ultimate pride on the success of cultural extravaganzas, they equally have to shoulder the students failure in academics as well.

     The candidates themselves are not clear and sure of what their policies and ideologies are and what they are going to do for their student community once they come to power. Their real motives and expectations are of totally different side, defying principles many times. When I addressed a question to all the candidates about what novel ideas, projects, and initiatives do they propose to improve the students' academic and personality development, their response simply baffled me. The most famous presidential candidate ( a claim according to the noise that their supporters made) responded that the college provides everything for students development and it would be fine if they utilise that properly. He was of the idea that there is no necessity for the union to undertake such initiatives.

     The election process in Loyola is full of falacies too. The mechanism is serious biased, infected with hidden agendas and gratifications of certain people. It looks like the college management wants the students representation for namesake, since UGC insists on it. The election process is not at all taken seriously, which is considered as a monotonous ritual. Even at the manifesto talk, the election commission of Loyola was so eager to finish off the programme, with very minimal time for the students to get to know about the candidates. If we seriously analyse the recent students union elections and their results, some trends are obvious. Firstly, most of the presidential elect are from one single department. Secondly, every presidential elect is from elite family backgrounds. Thirdly, it is widely accepted that the one who is successful in the presidential race has lavishly spent ( or invested??) on elections. Fourthly, it seems like a student from poor economic and social backgrounds cannot be successful. There is no mechanism either to make them enter the office. Fifthly, physically challenged students are not included even in the cabinet.

     "The manifesto talk at Bertram hall a day before elections must be abolished and must be given atleast a full day for the students to get to know about the candidates", said a senior professor. It remains to be a great mockery to the whole concept of the campus election. The students are supposed to know about the contestants only at the talk, but the management is not aware of the fact that we know at least months back. The poor attendance of students to the talk program is a testimony to the fact that they scorn it. The hall had only the supporters of well-to-do candidates, for which they are paid I heard! They applaud, shout, ridicule and poke fun at other candidates when they speak. Instead, the candidates must be allowed to canvass at least three days earlier of the elections. It is the duty of the college management to publish full details of the candidates including their academic performances, attendance and disciplinary records, family background and income details, etc.

     The aristocratic trend of the presidency of union is unhealthy to a setup that tries to bring out and execute the democratic ideals at the college level. Family income ceilling must be determined for the office bearers of the union. I would be happy even more if the management reserves the president and other key portfolio for students hailing from weaker economic and social sections of our society. For an institution that claims to uplift the less-privileged, such measures cannot create discomfort, unless until its true motives or the agendas of the people in power remains different from what they say. A provision like the 49-O of the in our Indian Conduct of Elections Rules is also a necessity.

     I am an ardent admirer of my college, the Loyola. For a person who hails from several hundred kilometers to study here, just for the fame and glory the college once had, the existence of such fallacies and mockery is disheartening. Being one of the top colleges of the nation, the management must recognise its responsibility to be perfect in all areas. Our teaching community must understand their responsibility to propagate the conscience and moral values to their students.They must eliminate the politics existing between themselves and put an end to their insensitivity to immorality that abound in the campus.