Whether its television or newspapers or social media or e zines, one encounters Section 66 A of the IT Act in all one's meandering journeys these days. Some commentators have read the said clause, some haven't, some understand it, some don't, some are genuinely concerned, some are not, but every one is talking about it. We owe a debt of gratitude to K Chidambaram, B Thackeray, and Mumbai Police. Had it not been for these worthy men, each one of us would have remained in blissful ignorance of Section 66 A ----- till dragged to the nearest police station for reason of an offending FB post!
Have we asked ourselves the reason for such ignorance? There are more than 40 Bills which are either pending introduction in the Parliament, or have been introduced and are to be passed. Other than the Lokpal bill, which erupted into national conscience thanks to India Against Corruption, most of us would be hard put to name even 2 or 3 pending Bills. As for the provisions of these Bills, the level of ignorance will be even higher, notwithstanding the fact that when enacted into law, these will directly impact our lives, our rights, responsibilities and privileges.
The media too remains mostly silent ---- neither the national newspapers (with exceptions like The Hindu) nor national TV channels carry any discussion on proposed legislation. All the discussions take place, if at all, post facto.
Is it the case that we are too busy to keep ourselves abreast of developments in at least one or two large areas of public policy? I think not ---- middle class lives are far more comfortable and far less tedious than they were 30 years ago. We have plenty of leisure. What we do with our hours of leisure is, however, dictated by an almost frantic attempt to have "fun"---- lots of television, lots of shopping, lots of eating out, lots of sight seeing in India and abroad, in short, lots of stuff that places no burden on the mind. None of these activities is undesirable per se ----- but the fact that this is what we mostly do in our leisure hours and have totally dissociated ourselves from the making of public policy is disastrous for the nation. The educated middle class owes it to itself and the nation to make an effort to learn, perhaps master, those aspects of public policy that do not require expert knowledge ----- even esoteric subjects like atomic energy have some aspects that a layman could acquaint himself with if he tried. It is only a well informed citizen who can trigger/participate in public debate on issues of public importance. That such public debate can influence policy is something all of us have seen vis a vis the Lokpal bill, which would have remained in hibernation had the ordinary Indian not begun talking about it in every nook and corner of the country. It is only when each one of us begins to participate in policy making to the best of his ability that more such successes will happen, and there will be an enrichment in the quality of our lives, the future of the nation, and the legacy that we leave behind for the next generation.
There are some excellent online resources to aid one in this effort ---- one is http://www.prsindia.org/,which aims to increase public engagement on issues of national importance.
Let us not leave the task of nation building to the government -----let each one of us also assume that responsibility.